Haman (biblical figure)
Haman (Also known as Haman the Agagite המן האגגי, or Haman the evil המן הרשע) is the main antagonist in the Book of Esther, who, according to the Hebrew Bible, was a vizier in the Persian empire under King Ahasuerus, traditionally identified as Xerxes I. As his name indicates, Haman was a descendant of Agag, the king of the Amalekites, a people who were wiped out in certain areas by King Saul and David.
Haman in the Hebrew Bible
Haman is described as the son of Hammedatha the Agagite. In the story, Haman and his wife Zeresh instigate a plot to kill all of the Jews of ancient Persia. Haman attempts to convince Ahasuerus to order the killing of Mordecai and all the Jews of the lands he ruled. The plot is foiled by Queen Esther, the king's recent wife, who is herself a Jew. Haman is hanged from the gallows that had originally been built to hang Mordecai. The dead bodies of his ten sons Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai and Vaizatha (or Vajezatha), are also hanged after they die in battle trying to kill the Jews (Esther 9:5-14). Haman is upset that Mordecai refuses to bow down to him, as told in chapter 3:
. . . and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes who were with him. And all the king's servants, who were in the king's gate, bowed, and did obeisance to Haman; for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai did not bow, or do him obeisance. (Esther, 3:1-2)
And when Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow or do him obedience, then Haman was full of wrath. But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had told him of the people of Mordecai; so that Haman sought to destroy all the Jews who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, the people of Mordecai. (Esther, 3:5-6)
Queen Esther, learning that her people are in danger, risks her own life to spare the Jews living in Ancient Persia.
King Ahasuerus asked Queen Esther, "Who is he? Where is the man who has dared to do such a thing?" 6 Esther said, "The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman." Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen. 7 The king got up in a rage, left his wine and went out into the palace garden. But Haman, realizing that the king had already decided his fate, stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life. 8 Just as the king returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was reclining. The king exclaimed, "Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?" 9 As soon as the word left the king's mouth, they covered Haman's face.
9 Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, "A gallows 50 feet [b] high stands by Haman's house. He had it made for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king." 10 The king said, "Hang him on it!" 10 So they hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king's fury subsided. (Esther, 7:6-10)
9 Then Harbona, one of the king's eunuchs, said, "Haman has set up a sharpened pole that stands seventy-five feet tall in his own courtyard. He intended to use it to impale Mordecai, the man who saved the king from assassination." "Then impale Haman on it!" the king ordered. 10 So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai, and the king's anger subsided.
Haman in other Jewish sources
In Rabbinical tradition, Haman is considered an archetype of evil and persecutor of the Jews. Having attempted to exterminate the Jews of Persia, and rendering himself thereby their worst enemy, Haman naturally became the center of many Talmudic legends. Being at one time in extreme want, he sold himself as a slave to Mordechai (Meg. 15a). He was a barber at Kefar Karzum for the space of twenty-two years (ib. 16a). Haman had an idolatrous image embroidered on his garments, so that those who bowed to him at command of the king bowed also to the image (Esth. R. vii.).
Haman was also an astrologer, and when he was about to fix the time for the genocide of the Jews he first cast lots to ascertain which was the most auspicious day of the week for that purpose. Each day, however, proved to be under some influence favorable to the Jews. He then sought to fix the month, but found that the same was true of each month; thus, Nisan was favorable to the Jews because of the Passover sacrifice; Iyyar, because of the small Passover. But when he arrived at Adar he found that its zodiacal sign was Pisces, and he said, "Now I shall be able to swallow them as fish which swallow one another" (Esth. R. vii.; Targ. Sheni iii.).
Haman had 365 counselors, but the advice of none was so good as that of his wife, Zeresh. She induced Haman to build a gallows for Mordechai, assuring him that this was the only way in which he would be able to prevail over his enemy, for hitherto the just had always been rescued from every other kind of death. As God foresaw that Haman himself would be hanged on the gallows, He asked which tree would volunteer to serve as the instrument of death. Each tree, declaring that it was used for some holy purpose, objected to being soiled by the unclean body of Haman. Only the thorn-tree could find no excuse, and therefore offered itself for a gallows (Esth. R. ix.; Midr. Abba Gorion vii., ed. Buber, Wilna, 1886; in Targum Sheni this is narrated somewhat differently).
Haman's lineage is given in the Targum Sheni as follows: "Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, son of Srach, son of Buza, son of Iphlotas, son of Dyosef, son of Dyosim, son of Prome, son of Ma'dei, son of Bla'akan, son of Intimros, son of Haridom, son of Sh'gar, son of Nigar, son of Farmashta, son of Vayezatha, (son of Agag, son of Sumkei,) son of Amalek, son of the concubine of Eliphaz, firstborn son of Esau". There are apparently several generations omitted between Agag, who was executed by Samuel the prophet in the time of King Saul, and Amalek, who lived several hundred years earlier.However, it is more probable that he was not even related to Agag as the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia points out,
“There is something fantastic, but not altogether unskillful,” says Noldeke, “in the touch whereby Mordecai and Haman are made to inherit an ancient feud, the former being a member of the family of King Saul, the latter a descendant of Agag, king of Amalek.” It is surely unworthy of a scholar to make the book responsible for a Jewish fable. There is absolutely no mention in it of either King Saul or Agag, king of Amalek, and not the most distant allusion to any inherited feud. “Kish, a Benjamite” is certainly mentioned (Est 2:5) as the great-grandfather of Mordecai; but if this was also the father of Saul, then the first of the Israelite kings was a sharer in the experiences of the Babylonian captivity, a conception which is certainly fantastic enough. One might ask also how an Amalekite came to be described as an Agagite; and how a childless king, who was cut in pieces, became the founder of a tribe. But any semblance of a foundation which that rabbinic conceit ever had was swept away years ago by Oppert’s discovery of “Agag” in one of Sargon’s inscriptions as the name of a district in the Persian empire. “Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite” means simply that Haman or his father had come from the district of Agag.
James Orr, ed., The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: 1915 Edition (Albany, OR: Ages Software, 1999).
Haman is mentioned by Josephus in his Antiquities of the Jews. Josephus' account of the story is drawn from the Septuagint translation of the Book of Esther and from other Greek and Jewish sources, some no longer extant.
In the LXX, Haman is called a 'Macedonian' by Xerxes (see Esther 16:10). Scholars have had two different explanations for this naming. 1. Macedonian was used to replace the word 'Mede', and emphasises this when he also says that there was no Persian blood in him. (In practice the Persians and the Medes co-ruled an empire, but there was great friction between them.) 2. Another opinion is that Xerxes was calling him a Macedonian Spy, due to his insistence on causing civil war within Persia between the Jews and the Persians.
The Jewish holiday of Purim commemorates the story of the deliverance of the Jews and the defeat of Haman. On that day, the Book of Esther is read publicly and much noise and tumult is raised at every mention of Haman′s name. A special noisemaker called a gragger (in Yiddish; Hamandreyir) is used to express disdain for Haman. Pastry known as Oznei Haman (אזני המן, lit. Ears of Haman) (in Yiddish; Hamentashen) are traditionally eaten on this day.
Etymology and meaning of the name
The name has been equated with the Persian name Omanes recorded by Greek historians. Several etymologies have been proposed for it: It has been associated with the Persian word Hamayun meaning "illustrious". (naming dictionaries typically list it as meaning "magnificent"), or with the sacred drink Haoma. or with the Persian name Vohuman meaning "good thoughts". The 19th century Bible critic Jensen associated it with the Elamite god Humban, a view dismissed by later scholars.
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- Jacob Hoschander, The Book of Esther in the Light of History, Oxford University Press, 1923
- "Haman The Agagite". JewishEncyclopedia.com. Retrieved 2013-06-06.
- Hirsch, Emil; Seligsohn, M.; Schechter, Solomon (1907). [http://jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=156&letter=H "Haman The honest"]. Jewish Encyclopedia. pp. 189–190.
- "Esther - Chapter 3 - Esther". Chabad.org. Retrieved 2013-06-06.
- "Esther - Chapter 7 - Esther". Chabad.org. Retrieved 2013-06-06.
- Encyclopedia Judaica CD-ROM Edition 1.0 1997, Haman
- A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Esther, Lewis Bayles Paton, The Biblical World, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Feb., 1909)
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Jewish Encyclopedia. 1901–1906.