Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him.The Solitariness of Principle
In this story of the Persian Empire it is related how Haman, the king's chief favourite, felt insulted because Mordecai the Jew neglected to give him sufficient honour. His wounded dignity demanded revenge, but could not be satisfied with merely inflicting punishment on the man who had offended him. Because Mordecai was a Jew he would have the indignity wiped out by the extermination of the whole tribe. So Haman, by a little judicious flattery of the king, by misrepresenting the character of the Jewish exiles who lived within the bounds of the great Persian Empire, got a decree against them. 'There is a certain people dispersed among the provinces of thy kingdom, and their laws are diverse from those of every people.' It was a false charge as Haman put it, implying a Jewish conspiracy against the Empire. But in another sense it was true. The Jews were a separate people even in the midst of the Persian Empire, with rites and ceremonies, and religious beliefs, and practices of their own. The same sort of charge was made against the Christian Faith in the Roman Empire, with the same falseness and evil purpose, and with the same inherent truth. Christians were persecuted and harried because of their singularity, because they were in Rome and yet did not do as the Romans did.
I. Progress is ever got by dissent. There must be points of departure, lines of cleavage, difference; or else there is stagnation and ultimate death. It is from singularity that the race has hope for the future. Great movements of thought have ever sprung from dissent. Our Christian religion lays greater stress than ever on the solitariness of principle, making it even an individual thing instead of a racial difference, as with the Jews. The Church is set in the world as a model for the world, a great object-lesson to induce it upward to a higher level of thought and action. And what is the Church but a certain people whose laws are diverse from those of all other peoples. But the Christian faith, with its doctrine of the special illumination of the Holy Spirit to the receptive soul, goes even further, and puts the emphasis on the individual, making the soul responsible to God alone. It enforces the imperative of principle, calling a man out, if need be, to stand alone, making him, it may be, diverse from all people for conscience sake. A great soul is alone. From the very nature of the case greatness in anything isolates. A great man is always, to begin with, in a minority. Commonplace men on the whole prefer the commonplace.
II. But this singularity must be the fruit of principle to be worth anything; it must be for conscience sake. The diverseness from all other people must be in obedience to laws, which make their irresistible appeal to conscience. If it is due to desire for notoriety, or through eccentricity, it is beneath contempt. But the cure for such is simple. This weak craving for notice will be curbed by the thought that all singularity carries with it a corresponding responsibility. It tunes the life to a high pitch; and failure is all the more pitiful. It demands stern adherence to principle. It fixes a more inflexible standard. The only excuse for laws diverse from all people is that they should be higher laws and be obeyed with wholehearted loyalty, and the very moral necessity laid upon a man's conscience to be singular. The unflinching advocacy of an unpopular cause for conscience sake gives to the character strength and solidity.
—Hugh Black, University Sermons, p. 77.
References.—III. 8.—A. P. Stanley, Sermons on Special Occasions, p. 98. III. 12-15.—A. D. Davidson, Lectures on Esther, p. 128. III. A. Raleigh, The Book of Esther, p. 69. IV. 1-9.—A. D. Davidson, Lectures on Esther, p. 128.
And all the king's servants, that were in the king's gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence.
Then the king's servants, which were in the king's gate, said unto Mordecai, Why transgressest thou the king's commandment?
Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him, and he hearkened not unto them, that they told Haman, to see whether Mordecai's matters would stand: for he had told them that he was a Jew.
And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath.
And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai.
In the first month, that is, the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar.
And Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king's laws: therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them.
If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed: and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king's treasuries.
And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews' enemy.
And the king said unto Haman, The silver is given to thee, the people also, to do with them as it seemeth good to thee.
Then were the king's scribes called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and there was written according to all that Haman had commanded unto the king's lieutenants, and to the governors that were over every province, and to the rulers of every people of every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language; in the name of king Ahasuerus was it written, and sealed with the king's ring.
And the letters were sent by posts into all the king's provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey.
The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people, that they should be ready against that day.
The posts went out, being hastened by the king's commandment, and the decree was given in Shushan the palace. And the king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city Shushan was perplexed.