born in captivity, was considered to be taken captive in 617 B.C.E., since he was in the loins of his ancestors, as yet unborn.—Compare Hebrews 7:9, 10.
LOYAL AS SERVANT TO THE KING
In the account, Mordecai, although having a slave status as a Jewish captive, 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. Adroitly Mordecai introduced Esther, a girl “pretty in form and beautiful in appearance” into the candidacy for queenship, not revealing that she was a Jewess. (Esther 2:7) 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.”—Esther 2:21-23.
REFUSES TO BOW TO HAMAN
Subsequent to this, Haman the Agagite was made prime minister by Ahasuerus, who ordered that all the king’s gate must 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. (Esther 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 one’s superior position as a ruler. (2 Sam. 14:4; 18:28; 1 Ki. 1:16) In Haman’s case there were good reasons why Mordecai did not bow, and these had nothing to do with disrespect for authority: (1) The Persians regarded the act as one of homage performed to a king as a divine being. Herodotus (vii, 136) relates that it was because of this that the Spartans refused to bow down before King Xerxes. (2) Haman was probably an Amalekite, with which nation Jehovah expressed himself as being at war “from generation to generation.” (Ex. 17:16; see HAMAN.) It was a matter of worship and 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.—Esther 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.—Esther 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 of 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.—Esther 6:1-12.
Esther succeeded in indicting Haman as responsible for gross misrepresentation and calumniation of the Jews and as a treacherous schemer against the king’s own interests as well. The enraged Ahasuerus ordered the death sentence for Haman, and the seventy-three-foot- (22.25-meter-) high stake Haman had built for Mordecai became the site where his own body was hung.—Esther 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. (Esther 8:1–9:18) With Esther’s confirmation Mordecai commanded the annual celebration of the festival of the fourteenth and fifteenth 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 continued, respected by God’s dedicated people the Jews and working for their welfare.—Esther 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 followed the principle later expressed by Jesus: “Pay back, therefore, Caesar’s things to Caesar, but God’s things to God.” (Matt. 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.” (Gen. 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.—Gen. 12:2; 22:18.
1. At least by Abraham’s time the big trees of Moreh constituted a well-known landmark near Shechem and seemingly continued to be such for centuries afterward. (Gen. 12:6; Deut. 11:30; perhaps also alluded to at Genesis 35:4; Joshua 24:25, 26; Judges 9:6.) Some scholars link the “big tree of Meonenim” with the “big trees of Moreh.” (Judg. 9:37) “Moreh” was perhaps the name of the original owner of the plot near Shechem having one especially prominent tree or a clump or grove of big trees.
2. The name of a hill, in the vicinity of which the Midianites were defeated by Gideon. (Judg. 7:1) This hill is generally thought to be the bare gray ridge of Jebel Dahi (sometimes called “Little Hermon”), about five miles (8 kilometers) N of the suggested site for the well of Harod.