Wednesday, May 13, 2020


I hope by now you're dying to know the answer to the question, Who was Hammedatha? What does Agag have to do with anything? Well, here we are. I can't possibly just pose a tantalizing question about a detail that promises depth and fullness and then just leave it hanging. Especially when it's the opportunity to dive into the Scriptures even further and tease out something we might not understand if we never put the time into it.

So let's start with Agag, since that's a little easier to track down than just one man.

Agag was the name of a king of one of the enemies of Israel. There appear to be at least two kings named Agag. The first comes up in Numbers 24, where he is pretty much the gold standard of kings. Israel is told that their eventual king will be even better than Agag, and it seems like that is meant to be a compliment, so the Agag of Numbers 24 must be a pretty spectacular king.

It's the second Agag who might be more important to the current discussion, however. He shows up in opposition to Saul in 1 Samuel 15. Agag is the king of the Amalekites, and Saul is told in no uncertain terms to destroy them all. Instead, he takes Agag captive and calls it faith. Samuel, the prophet, shows up and asks Saul what on earth he's doing taking the king captive instead of claiming him (executing him) for the Lord, and while Saul is stammering and stuttering about his plan, Samuel executes God's plan and runs a sword through King Agag.

Now, you might be saying - wait a minute. You're talking about Agag as a person, and the reference in Esther says that Haman is from Agag. Doesn't that make it a place? It does seem that way. And in fact, many translations say that Haman was "an Agagite." But here's what we also know from the Scriptures - it was extremely common for prominent individuals (kings and leaders) to rename cities or even entire regions after themselves. For example, when Dan rebuilds the cities in their territory, they name the most prominent city "Dan." Given that Agag was king of a people known as the Amalekites, it's entirely likely that he (or they) renamed the region after himself and the remnant of a people once known as the Amalekites, totally slaughtered by Saul and his men, become the Agagites. This kind of thing happened all the time back then, and it's the best evidence that we have to go on.

This makes Haman a descendant of a king who was almost spared, then killed. A king who was sure he'd passed the point of his own death, only to be run through by a sword. It doesn't take a whole lot of mental gymnastics to see how Haman himself is playing out this story again in the Esther narrative. He is a man confident in his own ability and position, a man certain that he's untouchable, and then he's hung on his own pole in his front yard. Seems fitting.

Now that we've got that, who is Hammedatha? Haman's father is named twice in Esther 3 alone (and again later in the text), so there's got to be something there that is important.

The truth is that we don't know a lot about Hammedatha. It's easy to speculate that this is a name that the Israelites must have known, that he was a man of some renown and that this name meant something to those who would have heard the story. In fact, I posited just that when I introduced this question on Monday. The truth, however, is just a tad bit different.

We don't know who Hammedatha is. There is no historical record that we have access to that tells us there was a terrifying ogre named Hammedatha that troubled the land. No leader by that name. No menace by that name. We aren't finding stories about Hammedatha like we would about Alexander the Great or Atila the Hun. There's no saga about Hammedatha the Agagite. But remember that a name itself said a lot about a person in Old Testament times. Isaac meant "he laughs;" Jacob meant "heel." Men were named after meaningful ideas, often after dominant personality traits or distinguishing features. And Hammedatha, the word itself, means something.

It means, "he who troubles the law."

In other words, the Esther narrative is telling us that Haman is a troublemaker by blood. It's part of his DNA.

So we put this together with what we know of Agag, and all of a sudden, we have a known troublemaker who thinks himself untouchable and past the point of his own condemnation. That's who Haman is. You might be able to gather that yourself just by reading the Esther narrative, but God wants to make it known that it's not just about the way Haman acts - this is who he is, through and through. He probably could have just said that, that Haman is a troublemaker with an arrogance issue, but instead, He roots it in Haman's story itself. The way God always does.

There you have it. From a parenthetical reference we shouldn't ignore to a story that adds something deeper, richer, fuller to what we even knew of it. Haman (the son of Hammedatha from Agag). 

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