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.

  • 1
    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, 2014 at 16:30
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    – Dan
    Feb 5, 2014 at 16:46
  • I don't understand the premise of this question. The Story of Saul and the Amalekites in 1 Samuel takes place before the Davidic Kingdom begins and before the First Temple is built, some 500 years (at least) before Esther is described as taking place. Haman is simply a descendant of Agag who survived the war. Oct 16, 2018 at 19:52
  • @mojo Not to get too over-political, but a lot of today's Evangelical and/or Pentecostal Christians who lean towards the conservative politics especially in the USA, & who generally uphold the Dispensationalism doctrine would point to the strong circumstantial evidence in Haman being called an Agagite (i.e., hinting that he is descendant of Agag), and would even point to modern international politics where today's Modern Radical Islamic Iran is a fierce enemy of the Modern State of Israel. The aforementioned suggestion lean towards Haman being a descendant of Agag. May 16, 2020 at 20:31

7 Answers 7


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.

  • To what do you attribute Haman's hate of the Jews? Naming him as an Agagite of the Amaleks gives the Jewish reader immediate insight into this hatred toward the Jews. Otherwise it goes unexplained. His jealousy of Mordecai comes later and isn't sufficient explanation for his plot against an entire specific people group. I'll try to be open minded, but I'd think your answer must offer something to say on it.
    – Joshua
    Nov 24, 2015 at 2:35
  • @mojo Not to get too over-political, but a lot of today's Evangelical and/or Pentecostal Christians who lean towards the conservative politics especially in the USA, & who generally uphold the Dispensationalism doctrine would point to the strong circumstantial evidence in Haman being called an Agagite (i.e., hinting that he is descendant of Agag), and would even point to modern international politics where today's Modern Radical Islamic Iran is a fierce enemy of the Modern State of Israel. The aforementioned suggestion lean towards Haman being a descendant of Agag. Feb 28, 2021 at 15:58

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.


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


The second chapter of the book of Esther introduces one of the main characters - Mordecai - and explains who he is and his history among the nobility of Persia. At the outset of the description of who he is, the Bible tells us that he is a Benjamite, and conveniently slips in the detail that he is from the line of Kish. The very next chapter, chapter 3, starts with a description of our next main character, Haman, and tells us another odd detail: that he is a descendant of Agag. I find it very hard to say that these to conspicuous details aren't intentionally there to show that a.) Saul's family redeems itself (perhaps the writer of Ester was a Benjamite) and/or b.) Saul got Israel into this mess but that God is working behind the scenes to save his people despite their sins of disobedience.

I suppose it's possible that "Agag" was the name of a territory having nothing to do with king Agag of the Amalekites, but I've found that the Bible often gives details that may seem extraneous at first glance, but upon further investigation, it is there for a particular purpose. To me, it's much more likely that the details of family lineage of Mordecai and Haman are there to tell us something than it is that "Agag" is coincidentally an obscure region witht the same name as the mortal enemy of the family of Kish.

In regards to Agag not having descendants because he was killed, I see nowhere that says his age when killed by Samuel neither does it say explicitly (in English) that his whole line was wiped out with him. Even if it did, being a king of a powerful nation, he very well could have fathered daughters before the ordeal with Saul and given them in marriage to foreign princes for the sake of alliances, which seems to be a common practice. Depending on the culture and how they trace their lineage, Haman may consider himself a descendant of Agag. This is conjecture, but I see no evidence that all of Agag's line was wiped out.

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    – ThaddeusB
    Aug 6, 2015 at 17:56

Whether Haman was a descendant of King Agag whom Saul was suppose to kill or not we really don't know but in 1 Chronicles 4:43 (around 300 yrs after Samuel had killed Agag) it says that 'they defeated the rest of the Amelekites who had escaped'. So it could have been possible that Haman was a descendant of King Agag but no real way to prove it.

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    – ThaddeusB
    Jul 31, 2015 at 16:03

It's symbolic (the biological Amalekites were already wiped out in 1 Chronicles 4:42-43 before Haman was even born).

Agag means "high".

Agag was a title for kings who belonged to the Amalekite nation.

Amalek means "to lick" (in some translations, "to lick blood").

The etymology for these words can be easily found on Wikipedia.

Who else is declared to "lick" others up and proclaim themselves to be "high" in the Bible?

None other than Satan.

"Be sober-minded and alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour."- 1 Peter 5:8. Fyi, lions can tear your flesh by LICKING YOUR SKIN.

"You said in your heart: “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God. I will sit on the mount of assembly, in the far reaches of the north."- Isaiah 14:13.

So in an essence, Amalek was Satan's attempt to counterfeit God's chosen nation of Israel. The typological representation of the antichrists that are to come, opposing Christ in 1 John 2:18. There is a reason why Amalek first met Israel with a merciless move, killing the stragglers amongst those who left Egypt.

It is the OT equivalent of calling anyone who's morally unsavoury a Satanist.

TL;DR Haman was an Agagite because he belonged to a people who hated God, made clear by his passionate hatred towards His chosen people, Israel. But being an Agagite in spirit does not always equate to being an Agagite in the flesh. As long as you've already assimiliated into the ways of Amalek, you might as well be called one. Once you turn Agagite you can never turn back.

Puts a sinister twist to Jesus's comments, who made this spirit and flesh distinction:

"And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham."- Matthew 3:9.


Some researchers say that Agag was an Mesopatamian word that means "high" and that this was used as a title by Amalekite kings in the same way that Pharaoh was a title of Egyptian kings. The name Agag or Agagite can refer to the kings and leaders of the Amalekites. The kings of Babylon and Persia captured and appointed as administrators the princes of the natiions they conquered.

The young man who reported to David that he had killed King Saul and taken Saul's crown was an Amalekite. David and his men had returned from wiping out the Amalekite raiders that burned Ziklag and captured their wives and children. There were 400 Amalekites that escaped on camels. (1 Sam 30, 2 Samuel 1.)

After the Amalekites attacked the Israelites who lagged behind the rest of the camp in the wilderness, God said that He would be against Amelek from generation to generation. There may still be Amalekites in the world today.

Amalek is a symbol or type of everyone and everything that opposes and refuses to submit to God. Chuck Carroll - 9/9/2016

  • 2
    Could you please cite the researchers who make those claims? It is a requirement to show your work here.
    – Dan
    Sep 9, 2016 at 15:55