Haman’s “Pride Goes Before Destruction”
THE Bible reveals Satan as having been the covering cherub for the first human pair, and as saying in his heart “I will be like the Most High”. And he was determined to realize this ambition even though it meant plunging every last one of God’s intelligent creatures, both visible and invisible, into destruction. A character with a like disposition, whose record is also found in the Bible, was Haman. Because one Jew, Mordecai, refused to bow down to him he made a conspiracy to wipe out the whole race of God’s typical chosen people. And not only that, but, being a man of great wealth, he was willing to pay eighteen million dollars into the king’s treasury for the privilege of doing so! But Haman was made to know the truth of the Scriptural proverb: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” (Prov. 16:18, An Amer. Trans.) Even as Satan himself will be made to know it, and that in the not far distant future.
The account in the book of Esther reveals that Haman was the son of Hammedatha, and an Agagite. He therefore belonged to the race of the Amalekites, which people had violently opposed the Jews on their way to the land of Canaan, and concerning whom Jehovah commanded Moses: “Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” (Ex. 17:14, Am. Stan. Ver.) He was a prince who lived in Shushan, the capital of Persia, toward the beginning of the fifth century B.C., at which time Xerxes ruled over the 127 provinces of that empire, extending from Ethiopia to India.
Haman doubtless was present at both of the feasts that King Xerxes made for his princes, rulers, nobles, etc., in the third year of his reign to celebrate his victories over his enemies, and which feasts together lasted 187 days. Being a prince he was also among the favored guests attending the banquet that the king had made in honor of his new queen, Esther, who replaced the self-willed Vashti. But due to Queen Esther’s discretion Haman did not have the slightest suspicion that Esther was a Jewess, was in fact none other than the cousin of Mordecai, ‘the Jew who sat in the king’s gate.’ Neither is it likely that he knew of the service that Mordecai had rendered King Xerxes in revealing a plot on the part of two of the king’s chamberlains to kill him.
It was after these things that Haman was advanced to chief over all the princes, making him grand vizier. Proud, vain and hungry for adulation and praise, most likely it was at Haman’s own suggestion that the king issued the command that all his servants should bow down to Haman. And all complied, with the exception of Mordecai the Jew, who, having God’s law to guide him, consistently refused to do obeisance to Haman.
When this was brought to Haman’s attention and he saw that ‘Mordecai did not bow down or do obeisance to him he was filled with rage’. And his rage was so great that he would not content himself with merely destroying Mordecai: “He thought it beneath him to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had told him Mordecai’s race. So Haman sought to destroy all the Jews who were throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes, even the people of Mordecai.”—Esther 3:1-6, An Amer. Trans.
Of course, Haman could not carry out such an ambitious scheme of murder without official sanction and cooperation, neither could he reveal his own petty and personal motive for this malicious action. Being a superstitious pagan, he first sought the cooperation of his gods by having lots cast before him to determine the most auspicious time for the carrying out of his murderous conspiracy. Then he appeared before the king with this story:
“There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples throughout all the provinces of your kingdom, and their laws are different from every other people; neither do they observe the king’s laws; therefore it is not fitting to leave them alone. If it please the king, let it be prescribed that they be destroyed; and I will pay ten thousand talents [$18,000,000, at $1,800 a talent] into . . . the king’s treasuries.” What a grand-scale patriotic and unselfish gesture! Unsuspectingly, King Xerxes accepted it for just what it superficially seemed to be, and so authorized Haman to proceed against the Jews “as seems good to you”.—Esther 3:7-11, An Amer. Trans.
Letters dictated by Haman and bearing the king’s seal were then sent on the 13th day of the first month (Nisan) to all the provinces in their respective languages “to wipe out, to slay, and to destroy all the Jews, both young and old, infants and women in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, . . . and to take the spoil of them as plunder”. Then the king and Haman sat down to drink wine and felicitate each other at the prospect.—Esther 3:12-15, An Amer. Trans.
Not long thereafter Haman received an invitation to attend a royal banquet that Queen Esther had made for him and the king, after which “Haman went out that day joyful and glad of heart. But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, and he neither stood up nor moved for him, Haman was filled with wrath against Mordecai”. Coming home he related to his wife and friends “the glory of his riches and the multitude of his children and every instance where the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and the servants of the king . . . ‘Even Esther the queen . . . has permitted no man but me to come in with the king to the banquet she has prepared, and tomorrow also I am invited by her together with the king. Yet all this does not satisfy me so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.’” (Esther 6:5-13, An Amer. Trans.) Yes, Haman was a great man in his own estimation; but how little did he suspect as to why the queen had invited him!
Haman’s wife and friends egged him on by suggesting that he have a gallows seventy-five feet high erected and then have Mordecai hanged thereon. This just suited his vanity and malice, and so he immediately had it built, and then hastened to the king for permission to hang Mordecai on it. But the king had other plans for Mordecai. During a sleepless night he had occasion to learn that that trusted servant had uncovered a plot on his life and that he had not been rewarded therefor. Seeing his grand vizier Haman standing in the outer court, the king bids him to enter and then poses the question to him: “What shall be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?” Of course, conceited Haman thought, ‘whom could the king possibly want to honor more than me, and so, how would I like to be honored? Hm! Ah!’ Figuratively rubbing his hands in glee at the prospect, he expressed his sentiments: “For the man whom the king delights to honor, let royal garments be brought which the king has worn [nothing but the best for Haman!], and a horse which the king has ridden [no ordinary horse would do!], on the head of which a royal crown is set. [How Haman would have liked to be king himself!] Let the garments and the horse be delivered to one of the king’s most noble princes [no mere lackey or porter would do!], and let them clothe the man whom the king delights to honor and cause him to ride on horseback through the open square of the city, and proclaim before him, ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.’” Haman already saw himself riding through the streets of the capital and could hardly wait for the king to tell him that he was the man to be so honored. Imagine, then, the fall of his haughty spirit as the king commands him as “one of the most noble of the princes” to do this signal honor to his worst enemy, even to Mordecai! The one for whom he had already built a gallows, in fact, had come to the king at that very time for the purpose of obtaining permission to hang Mordecai.—Esther 5:14; 6:1-11, An Amer. Trans.
Had Haman known what was further in store for him he might have spared himself this humiliation, but, having no inkling of that, there was nothing left for him to do but to obey the king’s command. Coming home, crestfallen and mourning, he got very little comfort from the ones who had influenced him to build those gallows just a few hours before. Now they said: “If Mordecai . . . be of the Jewish race, you . . . will surely fall before him.” And while they were yet speaking the king’s messenger arrived to hurry Haman to the banquet Queen Esther had prepared for him and the king.—Esther 6:12-14, An Amer. Trans.
Picture the setting: King Xerxes, powerful world ruler, whose very whim was law; Queen Esther, loveliest woman of all the empire, decked in her most beautiful robes; and fawning Haman, vain, proud, and with a heart filled with malice—all enjoying a most sumptuous banquet where wine flowed freely. The king again asks his queen for her petition. Note the expression on Haman’s face as with amazement he hears the queen discuss his plot to destroy the Jews, and learns that she is a Jewess; see it blanche with stark fear and guilt as the king in great rage asks, “Who is he, and where is he who dares presume in his heart to do so?” and as Esther, pointing to Haman, replies, “An adversary and an enemy, this wicked Haman.”—Esther 7:3-6, An Amer. Trans.
Terrified, Haman pleads with Esther for his life, and falls on her couch while doing so. The king, who in rage had gone out to the garden, upon returning sees Haman on the couch with Esther. He demands: “Will he violate the queen in my presence in the house?” At this his servants cover Haman’s face (as was the custom with condemned criminals). Being advised of the gallows 75 feet high that Haman had built for Mordecai, the king ordered Haman to be hanged on it. “So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king’s wrath abated.”—Esther 7:7-10, An Amer. Trans.
Pride had led Haman to his downfall and destruction, and a disgraceful one at that. And not only to his own end, but by a subsequent decree counter to the decree that he had engineered, also to the downfall and destruction of some 75,000 enemies of the Jews, which enemies either shared his malice for the Jews or sought to profit by their destruction. His own ten sons were hanged on the gallows and his estate was turned over to Esther and, by her, to Mordecai. It was not God’s will that his typical name-people, the Jews, should be wiped out, and therefore he maneuvered the destruction of their would-be destroyers. The record leaves no doubt about this, even though it directly omits all references to God.
Haman’s end constitutes a forceful warning to all proud enemies of God’s people of the fate that awaits them if they persist in their wicked course. In modern times one Hitler may be pointed out as a proud prince who sought the destruction of all of Jehovah’s people because they refused to “Heil” him and who himself suffered destruction. However, it would be a mistake to consider this prophetic drama as applying especially to him. Rather, the complete fulfillment of this drama seems still to be in the future, having the following prophetic significance:
The fact that Xerxes (Ahasuerus) at times was influenced to the harm of and then again for the good of God’s people would indicate that he represented regal power in the abstract; picturing either the “Higher Powers”, Jehovah God and Christ Jesus, or the “god of this world” Satan the Devil, depending upon how he was being influenced.—Rom. 13:1-4; 2 Cor. 4:4.
Vashti, the self-willed queen who was deposed, finds a parallel in those who were prospective members of the bride of Christ and who because of an improper course were rejected.—Matt. 13:41.
Mordecai and Esther well picture God’s anointed servants at the present time: Mordecai representing them particularly as the “faithful and wise servant” and Esther picturing them as the members of the bride of Christ. (Matt. 24:45-47; 2 Cor. 11:2) The Jews throughout the provinces would likewise picture these but from the standpoint of being spiritual Israelites scattered throughout the world. Those who became Jews would picture men of good-will who become praisers of Jehovah and associate themselves with the spiritual Jews.
Haman foreshadowed the proud, self-exalted religious clergy, who bear malice toward Jehovah’s true servants and who would destroy them by accusing them of sedition, inciting mobs against them, etc. From the prophetic drama of Esther it appears that while efforts will be made to destroy Jehovah’s people, their God will preserve them and permit them to see the humiliation and destruction of their enemies.