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Esther 3:1 says

After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him.

Wikipedia says "Esther is usually dated to the 3rd or 4th century BCE." But it also says the king mentioned was in 5th century http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Esther#Authorship_and_date

But 1 Samuel 15 says

Thus saith the LORD of hosts ... Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass. (vv.2-3)

And Saul smote the Amalekites ... And he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword. (vv.7-8)

Then said Samuel, Bring ye hither to me Agag the king of the Amalekites. And Agag came unto him delicately. And Agag said, Surely the bitterness of death is past. And Samuel said, As the sword hath made women childless, so shall thy mother be childless among women. And Samuel hewed Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal. (vv.32-33)

If Agag and all Amalekites were killed in a God-ordained genocide, how can Haman be an Agagite?

Wikipedia says

Harsh as it seems the command to blot out Amalek's memory, its justification was seen in the leniency shown by King Saul, the son of Kish, to Agag, the king of the Amalekites (I Sam. xv. 9), which made it possible for Haman the Agagite to appear (Esth. iii. 1); his cruel plot against the Jews could only be counteracted by another descendant of Kish, Mordecai (Pesiḳ. R. xiii.). Every year, therefore, the chapter, "Remember what Amalek did unto thee" (Deut. xxv. 17-19), is read in the synagogue on the Sabbath preceding Purim, and the story of Saul and Agag in chapter 15 of I Samuel is read as the Haftarah. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agag

This makes sense but timeline seems to conflict. When would events in 1 Samuel 15 have happened? Before or after Esther written?

Esther 2:5-6 says Mordecai is put in exile which would be almost 600 BCE, but wouldn't he have to be over 100 to then be present for the events in Esther, even by conservative estimate? Trying to fit the events of 1 Samuel in with Esther and make sense of timeline but it doesnt seem to line up right.

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migrated from christianity.stackexchange.com Jan 31 at 20:19

This question came from our site for committed Christians, experts in Christianity and those interested in learning more.

This is a good question that is going to require some pulling apart of the text and possibly involve some other sources. Since this is not about Christian doctrine, I think those other needs will be taken care of better on a related SE site, Biblical Hermeneutics. I will migrate this over there for you. –  Caleb Jan 31 at 20:19
My article "Saul and Genocide" demonstrates that Saul simply did not kill all of the Amalekites. See: jbq.jewishbible.org/assets/Uploads/421/JBQ_421_7_lernersaul.pdf –  user3445 Feb 5 at 16:30
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3 Answers 3

Samuel lived around 1100-900 BC. Esther lived around 475 BC (Assuming Xerxes I is the king referred to in that account).

I wouldn't trust Wikipedia to offer an analysis proceeding from the assumption that the Bible is true and reliable. I can't speak about modern Jewish tradition, but Deuteronomy 25:17-19 is about the Amalekites attacking Israel after they left Egypt (Ex 17:8-16). Moses' statement (possibly given somewhere in 1500-1271) was definitely not about what had happened 700+ years in the future.

Just because Haman was an Agagite doesn't mean that he was a descendant of Agag the Amalekite. There could easily have been other people named Agag. Some people might like the idea of Haman being a descendant of the king of Amalek because it makes a certain kind of pithy point about obeying God completely. I don't see how the linkage is anything but speculation.

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According to Jewish tradition, the Sages of the Great Assembly -- the minor prophets and other leaders, including Ezra and Daniel, who left Babylon to rebuild the Temple 70 years after the destruction of the 1st Temple -- condensed Mordechai's original letter to the Jewish people into the book we now know as the Book of Esther. See Babyl. Talmud Bava Basra 15a. That may help your timeline.

If we want to look at the order to destroy Amalekites literally, i.e. to decimate the family gene pool, then Agag and Haman become direct descendents because Saul's delay in killing Agag gave him time to father a child while in captivity, hence keeping the blood line on-going. See Midrash Raba Esther § 7.

If you look at the Amalekites as the symbol of Evil, and God's commandment to eradicate the Amelekites without pity to be a general proposition to destroy Evil and to take no pity against it, then the direct ancestry is of no importance, and the analogy that connects Haman to the Amelekites also extends to all-time villains like Hitler. But see this discussion on the ethics involved.

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According to Tractate Megillah 13a, due to the delay of Agag's execution he had the chance to sire a son and thus continue his line. It continues to say that Haman descended of that line, hence why he is an Agagite.

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We're looking for long answers that provide some explanation and context. Don't just give a one-line answer; explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.

Could you please elaborate more? As it stands this is a comment. –  maj nem ɪz dæn Aug 6 at 13:58

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