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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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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 '14 at 16:30
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4 Answers 4

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. –  Dan Aug 6 '14 at 13:58

1)Keil and Deiletezch:

Haman is called the son of Hammedatha האגגי, the Agagite, or of the Agagites. אגגי recalls אגג kings of the Amalekites, conquered and taken prisoner by Saul, and hewn in pieces by Samuel, 1 Samuel 15:8, 1 Samuel 15:33. Hence Jewish and Christian expositors regard Haman as a descendant of the Amalekite king. This is certainly possible, though it can by no means be proved. The name Agag is not sufficient for the purpose, as many individuals might at different times have borne the name אגג, i.e., the fiery. In 1 Samuel 15, too, Agag is not the nomen propr. of the conquered king, but a general nomen dignitatis of the kings of Amalek, as Pharaoh and Abimelech were of the kings of Egypt and Gerar. See on Numbers 24:7. We know nothing of Haman and his father beyond what is said in this book, and all attempts to explain the names are uncertain and beside the mark.

2.) Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'HAMAN'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.

HAMAN ha'-man (haman; Haman): A Persian noble and vizier of the empire under Xerxes. He was the enemy of Mordecai, the cousin of Esther. Mordecai, being a Jew, was unable to prostrate himself before the great official and to render to him the adoration which was due to him in accordance with Persian custom. Haman's wrath was so inflamed that one man's life seemed too mean a sacrifice, and he resolved that Mordecai's nation should perish with him. This was the cause of Haman's downfall and death. A ridiculous notion, which, though widely accepted, has no better foundation than a rabbinic suggestion or guess, represents him as a descendant of Agag, the king of Amalek, who was slain by Samuel. But the language of Scripture (1 Samuel 15:33) indicates that when Agag fell, he was the last of his house. Besides, why should his descendants, if any existed, be called Agagites and not Amalekites? Saul's posterity are in no case termed Saulites, but Benjamites or Israelites. But the basis of this theory has been swept away by recent discovery. Agag was a territory adjacent to that of Media. In an inscription found at Khorsabad, Sargon, the father of Sennacherib, says: "Thirty-four districts of Media I conquered and I added them to the domain of Assyria: I imposed upon them an annual tribute of horses. The country of Agazi (Agag) .... I ravaged, I wasted, I burned." It may be added that the name of Haman is not Hebrew, neither is that of Hammedatha his father. "The name of Haman," writes M. Oppert, the distinguished Assyriologist, "as well as that of his father, belongs to the Medo-Persian."

3.)John Urquhart :

Gleason Archer also understands Agagite to mean Haman was from this province instead of a distant relation to the Amalekite king (Survey OT, 421).

Annuals of Sargon: 25. The countries of Agag and Ambanda, in Media, opposite the Arabs of the East, had refused their tributes, I destroyed them, laid them waste, and burnt them by fire

4.)The Apocrypha: Esther The king refers to Haman as a macedonian: 10 For Aman, a Macedonian, the son of Amadatha, being indeed a stranger from the Persian blood, and far distant from our goodness, and as a stranger received of us

5.)In Chapter 3 of Esther, Haman is told that Mordecai would not bow down to him and that Mordecai was a Jew. They didn't know this until Mordecai had told them that he was a Jew. Haman didn't care what people Mordecai represented, he wanted everyone to bow down to him.

6.)If an Amalekite survived and moved to what is today, Iran (Persia), and was a tribe of people from the Amalekites over 500 years (+) after Saul's battle, they wouldn't call themselves Agagites or Amalekites. At the time of Esther, more than 500 years had past from the battle that Saul laid against the Amalelikes. Movies depict that a son of Agage survived that battle and was taken to Persia and became a tribe called Agagites and produced Haman. Haman's pride had nothing to do with any knowledge of the tribe of the Amalekites, it seems from all the evidence however, most all of the commentators copy each other and say that Haman is a descendent of Agage. It's untenable. submitted by JMcCallum, December 6, 2014

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