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CHAPTER IX.

THE JEW AND THE AMALEKITE.

" And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did bim reverence, then was Haman full of wrath."

Esth. iii: 5.

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Happy the man who sees a God employ'd
In all the good and ill that chequer life;
Resolving all events, with their effects
And manifold results, into the will
And arbitration wise of the Supreme."

Cowper.

THERE is no explanation given in the text how it came to pass that the Hebrew maid found such favor in the sight of Hege, nor how it was that she so greatly pleased the king. But so it was, that the king loved her exceedingly, and she was married to him, and she became, by the will of the God of Abraham, SULTANA of the Persian throne.

But a new character is now introduced to us. “After these things did Ahasuerus promote Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite.” Esth. iii: 1.

Agagite, perhaps, descended from Agag, king of the Amalekites, who was spared by Saul but killed by Samuel; and it may be that his prejudices against the

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Jews were hereditary. Agag was probably a common name for the kings of Amalek, as Abimelech was among the Philistines, and Pharaoh among the Egyptians. The meaning then, is, that Haman was descended from a kingly line—atavis editus regibus--and it is no wonder, therefore, that he had bad blood in him, for even in royal races the black drop of original sin which, according to Mohammedan theologians, and which even according to our orthodox catechisms, is in all men by nature, has been known to grow to an enormous size, and spread through the whole system. Haman's history proves that he was a worthy son of such sires. His inauguration as Grand Vizier did not, therefore, forbode any good to the Jews.

The events of the third chapter of Esther seem to have occurred about five years after the king's marriage with the Hebrew maid. The cause of Haman's promotion is not stated. His power, however, was very great. His seat was above all the princes that were with him. And the king's servants, that is, the officers of the court, as well as the porters or keepers of the gate, among whom was Mordecai, all bowed and reverenced Haman, except Mordecai; but Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence. Was this mere obstinacy? Was it insubordination, or was it required of him by his religion? It seems probable from the language used, and from the fact that the Persian kings sometimes exacted divine honors from their subjects, that something more than civil reverence or homage was demanded by Haman and refused by Mordecai. The usual word for mere civil respect is “kara," to bow. Mere politeness and official position required this from Mordecai, and this

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much Hebrew law enjoined. But Mordecai did not bow-lo yikara, nor did he do him reverence: velo yish tachaveh, nor did he prostrate himself.

The monumental history of the Nile and of the Euphrates and Tigris, abound with proof that Eastern kings received honors and homage as gods. How, then, could Mordecai, a Jew, with the laws of Moses before him, (Exod. xx, xvii: 14; Deut. xxv: 19,) and in the light of the history of his people, with a good conscience, render divine homage to a human being, and especially to a wicked man, and still more to an Amalekite, one of the race devoted to destruction? You remember the Hebrews had been expressly commanded to blot out this nation from under heaven, “as a thing accursed.” That such was the ground of Mordecai's refusal, is clearly to be inferred from the fourth verse, where, when his fellow servants were urgent upon

him to comply with the king's command, and, like them, do reverence to Haman, he told them he was a Jew. It was not, then, from a mere personal whim, prejudice, or freak of feeling, but from an all-powerful religious conviction that he acted. We have the same thing in Daniel, where the offense for which he was cast into the lion's den was his refusing to cease praying to the God of his fathers. In this instance, we find a good man obliged to differ from the majority of his companions and fellow officers. All the rest of the king's officers were exceedingly obsequious to the new favorite; but Mordecai, adhering to his principles with a bold and daring resolution, did not bow to him, nor do him homage. Among commentators there is some difference of opinion about Mordecai's conduct. Some

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praise and some condemn him. But, as I understand the history, Mordecai did right, and showed himself to be a man of true courage and heroic piety. The homage required was something more than the usual reverence or respect for a prime minister. The usual form of etiquette was well established and widely known. A royal decree, therefore, could hardly have been required to make it known to the servants of the palace, which was done in this instance

66 for the king had so commanded concerning hiủ.” And, as we have just seen, the Hebrew intimates that the reverence here commanded was of an idolatrous kind. The divine adoration which the Persian monarchs received is, in fact, expressed by the very word here used for doing reverence :

“ Shachah” signifies prostration, such as is practiced in rendering the profoundest reverence that a man can pay to God, namely, “by lying down flat on the ground with the hands and feet extended, and with the mouth in the dust." This, then, was the kind of reverence that Mordecai refused to render to Haman, the Agagite Persian premier, and, in refusing this homage, we find him adhering to his religion. Fle followed principle, not expediency. His conduct resembles that of Joseph and Moses and Daniel and the three Hebrews in Babylon. They all remembered their catechism, which taught them to fear God, and not dare to sin against Him, by departing from principle on the plea of policy or expediency. According to Hebrew tradition and the Targum, Haman had set up a statue of himself, which every one that passed by was obliged to worship. The apocryphal additions to the Book of Esther, which, though

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not inspired nor of canonical authority, are, nevertheless, of some value as ancient fragments, embodying the ideas of remote times, inform us that Mordecai said, in his subsequent prayers to Jehovah : “ Thou knowest that if I have not adored Haman, it was not through pride, nor contempt, nor secret desire of glory; for I felt disposed to kiss the footsteps of his feet gladly for the salvation of Israel; but I feared to give to a man that honor which I know belongs only to my God.” Mordecai's principles and conduct were followed by the apostles, when they laid down and acted upon the fundamental principle of liberty, that we must obey God rather than man. The great and learned Olshausen, in his commentary on this text in Acts, has well said, that though “many enthusiasts and rebels have misapplied this principle to the defense of their insane or mischievous undertakings, * * * yet the highest freedom of a Christian maintains no conflict at all with his unqualified obedience to the civil government, even though it be an unrighteous one. He moves, in fact, with his old and new man, as it were, in a two-fold world. In the one character, he is placed in subjection to earthly relations, and, therefore, willingly gives to Cæsar what is Cæsar's; but, in the other, he is a member of the spiritual world, and, therefore, gives to God what is God's.” The true doctrine, without question, is, that a Christian must obey the civil magistrate, except when obedience to him is clearly a sin against God. True piety is not rude. It is not built upon ruins of good manners, nor of refined civilization ; but it does teach us to govern ourselves by principles principles taught by the Word of God and approved by

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