A Question I Was Asked:



Is There a Bible Inconsistency in Esther?








In 1 Samuel 15 King Saul apparently killed all the Amalekites, obviously including Agag, their king. In Esther 3:1, however, about 300 years later, the evil Haman is stated to be a descendant of Agag. Is this a contradiction?



UK Apologetics Reply:

In brief, no it is not. Okay, I will address this question by making about three points:


1. Rather than "300 years" there is a gap of something like 475-525 years between the 'Agag' of 1 Samuel and a certain "Hammedatha, the Agagite" (the father of Haman) which the Book of Esther refers to. Just because Haman is called "the son of Hammedatha the Agagite" hardly necessarily means that Haman was related to the same Agag who is mentioned in 1 Samuel 15. As we are about to see, he might have been, but not necessarily. Okay, firstly, let us look at Esther 3:1:

After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles. (Esther 3:1).

It is possible that there was a family connection between the two 'Agags' but such a connection has never been proven. Probably more likely, the father of Haman was called an 'Agagite' simply because of the part of the land which he came from, just as people from Cornwall in England are called "Cornish" simply because they live in that area, without any regard to their true and actual ancestory. Apart from this verse, the Book of Esther makes no claims on the distant ancestory of Haman one way or the other.

2. More importantly perhaps, nothing in 1 Samuel 15 indicates that every single Amalekite was killed at the time of the events of 1 Samuel 15. Let us follow through the relevant texts:

Samuel said to Saul, "I am the one the Lord sent to anoint you king over his people Israel; so listen now to the message from the Lord. This is what the Lord Almighty says: 'I will punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.'" (1 Samuel 15:1-3).

This was the wish of the Lord. But did this actually happen?

In fact, Saul spared the Kenites who lived closely to the Amalekites (verse 6), plus all the good sheep and cattle (did he also spare their shepherds and herders?). He also spared king Agag (although he was later executed on the orders of Samuel, verses 32-33). It is entirely possible that certain Amalekites were living among the Kenites and they would have survived. It is also possible that certain of the Amalekites had heard news of their impending destruction, so had fled. Only those living "from Havilah all the way to Shur" were destroyed (verse 7), others may well have been dwelling outside of this area. In short, almost surely not every single Amalekite, or even Amalekite family, were wiped out. In fact, when we come to the later part of 1 Samuel, in the days of David, we find more Amalekites back on the scene, confirming that many of them had survived:

Now David and his men went up and raided the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites. (From ancient times these peoples had lived in the land extending to Shur and Egypt.) (1 Samuel 27:8).

David and his men reached Ziklag on the third day. Now the Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag. They had attacked Ziklag and burned it (1 Samuel 30:1).

So we know from this that Saul's 'destruction' of the Amalekites stopped far short of what had been commanded.

3. In the light of the above, Haman could well have descended from the Amalekites, from a branch, or branches, of the family who had not been killed in the days of Saul and Samuel. He could even have been a true descendant of king Agag since the Bible does not tell us of the children Agag had before being excecuted on the orders of Samuel.

Conclusion

There is no 'Haman ancestory problem' in the Book of Esther at all as some have suggested, since the Amalekites were never totally destroyed in the days of Samuel, only those living in a certain area were destroyed. Whilst the reference to "Agagite" in Esther 3:1 might just be referring to the general area which Haman's family originated from, it could indeed refer to an ancestory to king Agag, the Amalekite.

Robin A. Brace. February 14th, 2016.

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