Haman is one of the major characters found in the book of Esther. The setting for the events of this book is the Persian city of Susa, during the reign of Xerxes. Xerxes ruled Persia from 486-465 B.C. There seem to have been Jewish exiles who did not return to Jerusalem during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Instead, they remained in exile enjoying peaceful relations with a measure of religious autonomy among the people of Persia. Some served in the king’s palace as did Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah did during Nebuchadnezzar’s reign.
Vashti disobeys the king’s orders
It was at this time that queen Vashti refused to carry out the king’s wishes. She refused to be present when the king asked her to put her beauty on display for all the people to see. The king, after consulting his advisers, decided that Vashti would not enter his presence again. His advisors further suggested that he find a new queen to take Vashti’s place (Esther 1:10-19)
Esther becomes queen
Later, the king commanded his personal attendants to search throughout the kingdom for beautiful virgins who could fill the position of queen. Mordecai, a Jew, who worked in the place had a cousin by the name of Esther. He had raised her after the untimely death of her parents. She was very beautiful and was picked along with other girls to begin preparation for the possibility of being chosen as queen. Esther was entrusted to a group of women who ensured that she had her special food and beauty treatments. Mordecai visited her from time to time to see how she was doing but he asked her not to reveal that she was a Jew (Esther 2:1-10). When the period of beauty treatments was over, Esther was taken before the king. The king chose her over all the other girls and so he made her queen (Esther 2:11-18)
Haman enter the picture when king Xerxes elevated him to a position above all the other nobles. The king instructed that officials at the gate should kneel and honor Haman when he approached them. Mordecai refused. His religion had taught him that only God should be treated in that manner. The officials serving at the gate tried in vain to persuade Mordecai to comply with the ruling but he adamantly refused. He was prepared to take any consequences that would follow. Haman could not allow Mordecai’s refusal to honor him persist. In his anger and bitterness, Haman did not just seek to punish Mordecai fo his perceived misdeed; he hatched a scheme to all Jews from the kingdom. He used his position to approach the king with an accusation against all Jews and persuaded the king to sign an edict giving the people permission to slaughter all Jews in the kingdom (Esther 3:1-14).
Pride and bitterness engulfs Haman
Haman’s response to Mordecai’s refusal to kneel to him says much about the fleshly nature in man. Haman was working at the palace all along without a problem. Once he was elevated, trouble ensued. Haman was no longer an insignificant palace worker, he was now somebody and everyone had to know it. The pride and arrogance that was lying dormant deep in Haman began to surface. He insisted on being on being kneeled to and honored. He lost sight of his true purpose in the palace – to serve others. Instead, his focus shifted to having others satisfy his ego and highlight his self-importance. The scourge of pride had taken him over. Humility vanished from his life.
Haman’s pride and his desire for honor led him to plot the destruction of a people because one man refused to make him feel like what he thought he deserved. Bitterness now fueled his unrighteous indignation against a people who had done him no wrong.
Haman pursues his goal
Haman did not know that a Jewish queen was in the palace. The only one who knew this was Mordecai. Haman had no idea the steps were being taken to counter his plot. In his pride, he now felt that Queen Esther was in his corner since she had invited him to a banquet with the other officials (Esther 5:12). Although Mordecai’s refusal to kneel to him deflated his ego and made him angry, Haman took pleasure in the thought that soon Mordecai would not be around to spoil his joy. Every opportunity he had, he would boast about his wealth and the honor he had received from the king. When he discussed his problem with his wife and friends, they encouraged him to build a gallows to hang Mordecai on (Esther 5:13-14).
Haman’s pride deluded him into thinking that he would win. He and those who supported him saw nothing wrong with putting an end to all who stood in his way. How deceived he was! If we allow pride to control us as it did Haman, then it will deceive us and take us to our destruction.
Haman gets A hint of things to come
The following day, Haman came to work confident that his plan was on course and that he would soon see victory over Mordecai and the Jews. By chance or Providence, Haman had just entered the palace court intending to obtain permission from the king to hang Mordecai on the gallows he had recently constructed. The king had something different on his mind, however. The king called him in and asked him what he thought should be done to honor a man who pleased the king. Haman, in his pride, thought that the only man the king could be referring to was himself. The man was simply full of himself. So Haman, with joy and exuberance in his heart told the king to give the man a royal robe, let him ride on the king’s horse, and allow the king’s nobles to accompany him through the streets proclaiming that that was the way the king chose to honor the man he delighted in. “Go and do it to Mordecai,” the king ordered Haman (Esther 6:4-10).
Instead of Mordecai kneeling to Haman, Haman now had to carry Mordecai through the streets for all his friends to see. This had to be horrifying for Haman. He was humiliated beyond anything his foolish pride could have ever brought him to contemplate. Pride was beginning to pay its bitter wages. Yet that was not the end.
Haman pays the ultimate price
After taking Mordecai on the ride through the city, Haman was so humiliated that he went home and sought some consolation from his wife. While he was talking to his wife, the king’s aide came to pick him up for the banquet to which the queen had invited him. At the banquet, the queen was able to get an audience with the king in which she petitioned him to give her people the right to defend themselves. She also exposed Haman as the culprit who hatched the plot to kill all the Jews in the kingdom. Haman tried to plead for mercy but the way he acted was misconstrued as sexual assault on the queen. For that, the king ordered him taken away and hanged on the very gallows he made for Mordecai (Esther 7:3-10).
Pride had led a man to his own destruction on the same gallows he built for someone else. What a sad end for Haman!
Implications for us today
The story of Haman carries a lesson that should never be allowed to fall on deaf ears. It is a story that repeats itself over and over again in the lives of men and women in this dark and sinful world. Sadly, the scourge of pride has also raised its monstrous head among the people of God. God is no respecter of persons. God is serious and he is consistent. He will not tolerate pride amongst his people.
God not only instructs his people to avoid pride, but to humble themselves under his mighty hand (1Pet.5:5-6; James 4:10). Keeping oneself humble is the way to eventual promotion in God’s scheme of things (Matt.18:4). God wants his children to love mercy and to walk humbly with him (Micah 6:8) even as he humbled himself and became obedient to the cross for our sakes (Phil.2:8). Paul urged followers of Jesus Christ to clothe themselves with humility among other virtues (Col.3:12).
Haman’s life is not an example of what Christians ought to follow. His life is a warning to all who would allow pride to rule their lives. Prideful, boastful arrogance is a stench in the nostrils of God. Haman’s life is proof that pride leads to all sorts of other evils that God will not allow to prosper. Humility is the way to a far better future.