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Allow me to explain (17 of 439)

April 6, 2011

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17. Was Haman an Agagite? Esther 3:1 vs 1 Samuel 15:2-3, 7-8, 32-33

Again with the nit-picking …

Esther 3:1
After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and set his seat above all the princes who were with him.

1 Samuel 15:2-3, 7-8, 32-33
Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. 3 Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’ … 7 And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt. 8 He also took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. … 32 Then Samuel said, “Bring Agag king of the Amalekites here to me.” So Agag came to him cautiously. And Agag said, “Surely the bitterness of death is past.” 33 But Samuel said, “As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women.” And Samuel hacked Agag in pieces before the Lord in Gilgal.

You see the contention. Esther 3 says that Haman was an Agagite. 1 Samuel 15 seems to tell us that there are no more Agagites.

Let’s start with 1 Samuel, since it comes first.

God’s command was to completely wipe out the Amalekites, but what God commands isn’t always what happens when people are involved: Adam and Eve, Jonah, King Solomon, etc. Free will gets in the way a lot of times. So we can’t really read the command in verse three as what actually happened.

The rest of 1 Samuel 15 tells us where Saul waged this war, and that the people there were “utterly destroyed.” It’s possible that many fled and individually escaped the destruction. It’s also possible that there were Amalekites living elsewhere. Whatever the case, we know Saul’s army didn’t completely wipe them out, because we read of Israel defeating them in battle much later – as recorded in 1 Chronicles 4:43,

And they defeated the rest of the Amalekites who had escaped. They have dwelt there to this day.

The Amalekites were eventually wiped out, according to the judgement they incurred, but it didn’t happen while Saul was king.

When Esther becomes queen, there are still Amalekites in the land, and there’s still bad blood between them and the Israelis. Haman was definitely an Amalekite – even secular Jewish historian Flavius Josephus records Haman as an Amalekite. But was he a direct descendant of the Agag in 1 Samuel 15? Probably not, as that one was apparently hacked to pieces before he could produce offspring. But wait …

Many scholars agree that “Agag” was a common name among Amalekite kings and, probably because of that, often used as a title.

Matthew Henry:

This Haman was an Agagite (an Amalekite, says Josephus), probably of the descendants of Agag, a common name of the princes of Amalek. Some think that he was by birth a prince, as Jehoiakim was, whose seat was set above the rest of the captive kings (2 Ki. 25:28), as Haman’s here was.

Keil and Delitzsch:

The name Agag is not sufficient for the purpose, as many individuals might at different times have borne the name אגג, i.e., the fiery. In 1 Samuel 15, too, Agag is not the nomen propr. of the conquered king, but a general nomen dignitatis of the kings of Amalek, as Pharaoh and Abimelech were of the kings of Egypt and Gerar.

We see this use of “Agag” in Numbers 24, when Balaam is blessing Israel centuries before 1 Samuel 15:

He shall pour water from his buckets,
And his seed shall be in many waters.
“His king shall be higher than Agag,
And his kingdom shall be exalted.”

So was Haman an Agagite? Yes. He was probably not a direct descendant of the Amalekite king who was destroyed in 1 Samuel 15, but when one king is killed, another rises up. Haman was descended from a ruling Amalekite family, who commonly called their princes and kings “Agag.”

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