The Book of Esther has a protagonist and antagonist with clear pedigrees. The protagonist, Mordecai is introduced in chapter 2, verse 5 as:
“In the fortress Shushan lived a Jew by the name of Mordecai, son of Jair son of Shimei son of Kish, a Benjaminite.”
The antagonist of the story, Haman, similarly has his legacy laid out in chapter 3, verse 1:
“Some time afterward, King Ahasuerus promoted Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite; he advanced him and seated him higher than any of his fellow officials.”
Each person is tied back to their father and further to show the essence of the person and family. Mordecai’s roots are in the tribe of Benjamin, the tribe abutting the Jewish holy capital city of Jerusalem. It is the tribe whose descendants came from Jacob’s (Israel’s) favorite son.
For his part, Haman is a descendant of the King Agag, the king of Amalek (Samuel 1, Chapter 15). Some generations before the story of Esther, a fellow member of Mordecai’s tribe of Benjamin, King Saul, failed to kill King Agag as directed by the Samuel the Prophet. The Amalekites were deemed forever evil, as the nation which attacked the Jewish people as they walked in the desert hundreds of years earlier, between slavery in Egypt and freedom in their promised land in Israel (Exodus 17).
The lineages of Mordecai and Haman are an essential part of the story. Two nations in Exodus faced off, with a powerful Amalek nation attacking a weaker Jewish one, followed by two kings in Samuel 1 where the stronger Jewish king failed to kill the king of Amalek. This current story is yet a further rung down ladder, with important laymen facing off. At this time, a respected Jew without real power confronts an anti-Semite with power due to his proximity to the king.
In this third chapter, the descendants of Benjamin and the Children of Israel thoroughly defeat the descendants of Agag and Amalek with the help of the Persian king.
But is there a fourth chapter to the saga? Is the Book of Esther the conclusion of the generational battles between Israel and Amalek with the killing of Haman?
The Jewish scribes give us a clue.
The megillah, the Book of Ether, is uniquely read twice a year. It is the the only one of the five megillot that is read from a parchment like the Torah itself, and has a blessing recited before it is read. As such, the physical writing instructs the listener as much as the words.
Esther chapter 9, reveals how the ten sons of Haman are murdered after their father is killed. Scribes write the names of the murdered progeny in a unique manner:
The name of each son is written with extra large letters and each name is distinct and separated from all other words on the page. It is the only time in the story that their names are even mentioned, and after they are, the text resumes its regular style print stating
“the ten sons of Haman son of Hammedatha, the foe of the Jews. But they did not lay hands on the spoil.”
The ten sons of Haman are not tied to royalty, the King Agag, as was their father; they are simply tied to the legacy of a notorious anti-Semite. That is the summation of what defines them.
These ten Jew haters were killed by the local Jews themselves (Esther 9:5) and not by royal edict as was the case for their father Haman. While they once appeared larger-than-life for the once weak Jews, the common Jews gathered strength to defeat not royalty, but mere Jew-haters.
The battles between the Children of Israel and Amalek had four chapters: between nations, between kings, between powerful laymen and ultimately between regular people. The Book of Esther tells the story of chapters three and four, and is read twice to make sure we internalize the message of defeating antisemitism: recognize that it is neither supreme or legal by royal decree. It is just Jew-hatred which comes in various sizes and shapes, all of which must be vanquished.
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