Esther 3

Esther 3 is the third chapter of the Book of Esther in the Hebrew Bible or the Old Testament of the Christian Bible.[1] The author of the book is unknown and modern scholars have established that the final stage of the Hebrew text would have been formed by the second century BCE.[2] Chapters 3 to 8 contain the nine scenes that form the complication in the book.[3] This chapter introduces Haman the Agagite, who is linked by his genealogy to King Agag, the enemy of Israel's King Saul, from whose father, Kish, Mordecai was descended (Esther 2:5–6).[4] The king Ahasuerus elevated Haman to a high position in the court, and ordered everyone to bow down to him, but Mordecai refuses to do so to Haman (3:2), which is connected to Mordecai's Jewish identity (as Jews would only bow down to worship their own God (cf. Daniel 3); this indirectly introduced the religious dimension of the story.[4] Haman reacted by a vast plan to destroy not simply Mordecai, but his entire people (3:8), getting the approval from the king to arrange for a particular date of genocide, selected by casting a lot, or pur (one reason for the festival of Purim; Esther 9:24–26) to fall on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, Adar (3:7, 13).[4] The chapter ends with the confused reaction of the whole city of Susa due to the decree (verse 15).[4]

Esther 3
Megillat Esther 3.l.jpg
An intricately illustrated early 18th-century manuscript scroll of the Book of Esther.
BookBook of Esther
Christian Bible partOld Testament
Order in the Christian part17


This chapter was originally written in the Hebrew language and since the 16th century is divided into 15 verses.

Textual witnessesEdit

Some early manuscripts containing the text of this chapter in Hebrew are of the Masoretic Text, which includes Codex Leningradensis (1008).[5][a]

There is also a translation into Koine Greek known as the Septuagint, made in the last few centuries BCE. Extant ancient manuscripts of the Septuagint version include Codex Vaticanus (B;  B; 4th century), Codex Sinaiticus (S; BHK:  S; 4th century), and Codex Alexandrinus (A;  A; 5th century).[7]

Haman's promotion and Mordecai's refusal to honor him (3:1–6)Edit

Shifting the focus from Esther and Mordecai, this section describes Haman the Agagite which would be "the enemy of the Jews".[8] Haman's displeasure of Mordecai's refusal to bow down to him turns into an evil design to wipe out the whole people of Mordecai.[8]

Verse 1Edit

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.[9]
  • "Did… promote": or from Hebrew "made great"; NAB "raised…to high rank"; NIV “honored.” The promotion of Haman here has a striking irony to the contribution of Mordecai to saving the king's life (recorded in 2:19–23), which goes unnoticed.[10]

Verse 4Edit

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.[11]
  • "Mordecai": a name that reflects the name of the Babylonian deity Marduk; a possible common custom of many Jews at that time to have 'two names: one for secular use and the other for use especially within the Jewish community', but there is no record of Mordecai's Jewish name in the biblical text.[12]

Verse 6Edit

But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.[13]
  • "Disdained": Hebrew: "disdained in his eyes".[14]
  • "Destroy": or "annihilate".[15]

Haman's plot against the Jews gains the king's consent (3:7–15)Edit

Haman carried out his design by first casting lots to choose the suitable day for execution and then persuading the king to issue a decree to assure the implementation of it.[16]

Verse 7Edit

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.[17]
  • "The twelfth year of king Ahasuerus": This year refers to ca. 474 BC.[18]
  • "Pur": The term פּוּר (pur, "lot") is an Akkadian loanword, so the narrator explains it in Hebrew ("that is, the lot"). The plural form of this word (i.e., Purim) later refers to the festival celebrating the deliverance of the Jews (cf. Esther 9:24, 26, 28, 31).[19] The Greek historian Herodotus attested the casting of lots to determine a suitable day for carrying out a task by an astrologer among the Persians.[8]

Verse 9Edit

[Haman said:] "If it please the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay 10,000 talents of silver into the hands of those who have charge of the king's business, that they may put it into the king's treasuries."[20]
  • "Talent": Each was about 75 pounds or 34 kilograms.[21] By comparing the value of 10,000 talents of silver to the annual income of the Persian empire, which according to Herodotus (Histories 3.95) was "14,500 Euboic talents", it seems that Haman is offering the king a bribe equal to two-thirds of the royal income.[22] Doubtless this huge sum of money would come from the anticipated confiscation of Jewish property and assets once the Jews had been annihilated.[22] The mentioned large sum of money may indicate 'something of the economic standing of the Jewish population in the empire of King Ahasuerus'.[22]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Since 1947 the current text of Aleppo Codex is missing the whole book of Esther.[6]


  1. ^ Halley 1965, p. 238.
  2. ^ Meyers 2007, p. 324.
  3. ^ Clines 1988, pp. 387–388.
  4. ^ a b c d Meyers 2007, p. 327.
  5. ^ Würthwein 1995, pp. 36-37.
  6. ^ P. W. Skehan (2003), "BIBLE (TEXTS)", New Catholic Encyclopedia, 2 (2nd ed.), Gale, pp. 355–362
  7. ^ Würthwein 1995, pp. 73-74.
  8. ^ a b c Clines 1988, p. 389.
  9. ^ Esther 3:1 KJV
  10. ^ Note [b] on Esther 3:1 in NET
  11. ^ Esther 3:4 KJV
  12. ^ Note [a] on Esther 2:5 in NET.
  13. ^ Esther 3:6 ESV
  14. ^ Note [a] on Esther 3:6 in ESV
  15. ^ Note [b] on Esther 3:6 in ESV
  16. ^ Clines 1988, pp. 389, 391.
  17. ^ Esther 3:7 KJV
  18. ^ Note [a] on Esther 3:7 in NET.
  19. ^ Note [b] on Esther 3:7 in NET.
  20. ^ Esther 3:9 ESV
  21. ^ Note [a] on Esther 3:9 in ESV.
  22. ^ a b c Note [a] on Esther 3:9 in NET.


Further readingEdit

External linksEdit