1. One who returned to Jerusalem and Judah in 537 B.C.E. after the 70 years of exile in Babylon. (Ezr 2:1, 2) Mordecai was a prominent Israelite and leader who assisted Zerubbabel and was distinguished in the initial genealogical enrollment of the reestablished community in Judah.—Ne 7:5-7.
2. “The son of Jair the son of Shimei the son of Kish a Benjaminite” (Es 2:5), an older cousin and guardian of Esther. (Es 2:7) Mordecai is portrayed solely in the Bible book of Esther. The book recounts his prominent part in the affairs of the Persian Empire early in the fifth century B.C.E. Evidence points to him as the writer of the book of Esther.
Some doubt the authenticity of the book or that Mordecai was a real person. Their objection, that he would have had to have been at least 120 years old with a beautiful cousin 100 years younger, is based on the erroneous assumption that Esther 2:5, 6 denotes that Mordecai went into Babylonian exile along with King Jeconiah. However, the Bible’s purpose in this text is, not to recount Mordecai’s history, but to give his lineage. Kish may have been Mordecai’s great-grandfather, or even an earlier ancestor who was “taken into exile.” Another view, harmonious with Biblical expression, is that Mordecai, though born in exile, was considered to have been taken into exile in 617 B.C.E., since he was in the loins of his ancestors, as yet unborn.—Compare Heb 7:9, 10.
Loyal as Servant to the King. In the account, Mordecai, although a Jewish exile, was a servant of the king. He heard that Queen Vashti had been deposed by King Ahasuerus of Persia and that all the beautiful young virgins throughout the empire were being brought together so that from among them a replacement might be found for the queenly office. Mordecai’s cousin Esther, a girl “pretty in form and beautiful in appearance,” was introduced into the candidacy for queenship, but her Jewish background was not revealed. (Es 2:7, 8) She was selected as queen. Mordecai continued in his duties, “sitting in the king’s gate,” when information was brought to him that two of the court officials, Bigthan and Teresh, were plotting to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. He warned the king through Esther, and his act of loyalty was recorded in “the book of the affairs of the days.”—Es 2:21-23.
Refuses to Bow to Haman. Subsequent to this, Haman the Agagite was made prime minister by Ahasuerus, who ordered that all in the king’s gate prostrate themselves before Haman in his newly exalted position. Mordecai staunchly refused to do so and gave as a reason that he was a Jew. (Es 3:1-4) The fact that Mordecai based his action on this reason proves that it had to do with his relationship, as a dedicated Jew, to his God Jehovah. He recognized that prostrating himself before Haman involved more than falling down to the earth for an exalted personage, as Israelites had done in the past, merely acknowledging such a one’s superior position as ruler. (2Sa 14:4; 18:28; 1Ki 1:16) In Haman’s case there was good reason why Mordecai did not bow. Haman was probably an Amalekite, and Jehovah had expressed himself as being at war with Amalek “from generation to generation.” (Ex 17:16; see HAMAN.) It was a matter of integrity to God and not a political issue on Mordecai’s part.
Haman was infuriated, particularly after he realized that Mordecai was a Jew. So great was his hatred that the enjoyment of all his power and privileges was spoiled as long as Mordecai sat at the gate and refused to bow before him. Not limiting his vindictiveness to Mordecai alone, Haman extracted a decree from the king for the destruction of all of Mordecai’s people in the realm of Persia.—Es 3:5-12.
Used in Delivering Israel. In the face of the edict to destroy all the Jews in the empire, Mordecai expressed faith that Esther had been brought to her royal dignity at this very time for deliverance of the Jews. He showed Esther her weighty responsibility and directed her to implore the favor and help of the king. Although it jeopardized her own life, Esther agreed to follow through.—Es 4:7–5:2.
Most timely for Mordecai and the Jews (for it was on the very issue of Mordecai’s loyalty to the king), King Ahasuerus’ attention was providentially directed, during a sleepless night, to the official book of records of the state. The king was thereby reminded of the fact that Mordecai had not been rewarded for his past service, that is, for uncovering the seditious plot of Bigthan and Teresh. At this the king desired to honor Mordecai grandly—to the mortification of Haman, who was commanded to arrange and announce this honor publicly.—Es 6:1-12.
Esther succeeded in indicting Haman for gross misrepresentation and calumniation of the Jews and for treacherous scheming against the king’s own interests as well. The enraged Ahasuerus ordered the death sentence for Haman, and the 22-m-high (73 ft) stake Haman had erected for Mordecai was used to hang Haman’s own body.—Es 7:1-10.
Mordecai now replaced Haman as prime minister and received the king’s own signet ring for sealing state documents. Esther placed Mordecai over the house of Haman, which the king had turned over to her. Then Mordecai used the king’s authorization to issue a counterdecree giving the Jews the legal right to defend themselves. To the Jews it was a light of deliverance and joy. Many in the Persian Empire aligned themselves with the Jews, and when Adar 13, the day for the laws to take force, arrived, the Jews were prepared. Officialdom stood behind them because of Mordecai’s high position. In Shushan the fighting was extended for another day. More than 75,000 enemies of the Jews in the Persian Empire were destroyed, including the ten sons of Haman. (Es 8:1–9:18) With Esther’s confirmation Mordecai commanded the annual celebration of the festival of the 14th and 15th days of Adar, the “days of Purim,” for rejoicing and banqueting and giving gifts to one another and to the poor. The Jews accepted and imposed the festival on their offspring and all those joining themselves to them. As second in the empire, Mordecai was respected by God’s dedicated people the Jews and continued working for their welfare.—Es 9:19-22, 27-32; 10:2, 3.
A Man of Faith. Mordecai was a man of faith like those spoken of by the apostle Paul at Hebrews chapter 11, though not mentioned there by name. He displayed courage, decisiveness, integrity, and loyalty to God and his people, and he followed the principle later expressed by Jesus: “Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Mt 22:21) He and Esther were of the tribe of Benjamin, of whom the patriarch Jacob had prophesied: “Benjamin will keep on tearing like a wolf. In the morning he will eat the animal seized and at evening he will divide spoil.” (Ge 49:27) The activity of these Benjamites was in the evening of the nation of Israel, after their kings were no longer on the throne and they had come under Gentile domination. It is possible that Mordecai and Esther had the privilege of destroying the last of the hated Amalekites. Mordecai’s interest in the welfare of his countrymen indicates that he had faith that from among the children of Israel would come the Seed of Abraham to bless all families of the earth.—Ge 12:2; 22:18.