Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Wicked Haman Un-Masked?




 

http://www.jewishjournal.com/images/bloggers/haman_image.gif

 

by

 

Damien F. Mackey

 

 

 


 

Prologue

 

The feast of Purim is when the Jewish people celebrate their deliverance by Queen Esther from the plot to destroy them by Haman. The name of the feast comes from the Hebrew word

 pur פּוּר, referring to the “lots” that Haman had cast to determine the day for their demise. It goes without saying that the Jewish people do not remember said Haman with any sort of affection. During Purim they will relish a pastry called “Haman’s ears” or Oznei Haman  (Hebrew: אוזני המן ), or “Hamantash” (in Yiddish  המן טאש).

 

Quite understandably Haman and his ten henchmen sons, determined to wipe out the Jews, are frequently likened to Adolf Hitler and the ill-fated Nuremberg ten. But did this biblical drama as recorded in the Book of Esther really occur historically?

Or was it what contemporary biblical critics like to refer to (regarding the books traditionally

considered to be historical) as “historical fiction”, or “didactic fiction”?

In other words, a pseudo-history with an important lesson - though not properly historical! An example of this sort of popular attitude has been provided by a Jewish blogger, when referring to “a great historian who claimed that the entire story of Purim is a myth”.


 


 

On the surface, the Purim story is pure narrative, a story like any other story. The execution [sic] of [Queen] Vashti and the rise and fall of Haman seem like the typical kinds of political intrigue that went on in the ancient world. Only at the end, when the plot has been spun out completely, do we … understand that it is the story of miraculous deliverance.

 

I once read an article by a great historian who claimed that the entire story of Purim is a myth. I was young and foolish then, so thinking I could somehow change his mind, I wrote him a letter.

 

“The Scroll of Esther is a historic book with names, dates, places, and eyewitnesses,” I wrote. “It has been kept alive by a people that is not noted for their naiveté or primitive beliefs, yet you discard it as a historic record. But when someone scribbles something on a cave that you can’t even decipher, that you consider history.”

 

He wrote me back and answered, “Your bias is showing.”

 

[Mackey’s comment: But good luck to this blogger who was not going to be put off so easily by the opinion of an “expert”]:

 

But really, he was just as biased. Like so many in the Western world, he refused to consider the Bible a legitimate record of man, even though all archaeology in the Middle East is based on the Bible. The archaeologists do their excavations according to the Bible’s instructions, and they find what they’re looking for. Nevertheless, the Bible is dismissed as legitimate history.

 

[End of blog quote]

 

However, whilst it is one thing to believe that the story of Esther is a real history, it is quite another thing to demonstrate this.

Who for instance, was Haman?

 

Haman’s Nationality

 

This is a far bigger problem than the traditional view might suggest. Though Scripture can present Haman variously as an “Amalekite”; an “Agagite” (MT); a “Bougaean” (Septuagint); and a “Macedonian” (AT) - and though the drama is considered to be a continuation of the long-running feud between the tribe of Benjamin (started by king Saul, but now continued by Mordecai) and the Amalekites (Agag thought to be an Amalekite name, cf. 1 Samuel 15:8) - the problem with this tradition is that King David had long ago wiped out the Amalekites.

 

“Bougaean” is quite a mystery, though Haman was certainly a ‘Boogey-Man’ for the Jews.

 

And “Macedonian” for Haman appears to be simply an historical anachronism.

 

Perhaps our only consolation is that we can discount “Persian” as being Haman’s nationality, since king Ahasuerus speaks of Haman as “an alien to the Persian blood” (Esther 16:10).

 

But what about a Jew? Surely we can immediately discount Jewish nationality also for Haman. After all, this foreigner – (himself a “king” according to Esther 14:10) - was the Adolf Hitler of the ancient world: a Jew hater!

 

{Though some suspect that Hitler himself may actually have had Jewish blood in his veins}.

 

Surely not Haman, however? No hint of Jewishness there!

 

But, wait a minute. Jewish legend itself is not entirely lacking in the view that Haman may in fact have been a Jew. Let us read what Louis Ginzberg (Legends of the Jews) had to say on this, as quoted by another Jewish writer (emphasis added):

 

Power struggle between Jews

 

Clever Queen Esther takes a chance and manages to create harmony.

 

EUGENE KAELLIS

 

Purim is based on the Book of Esther, the most esoteric book in the Hebrew Testament. …. Its hidden meaning can be uncovered only by combining a knowledge of Persian practices during the Babylonian Captivity, the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus the Great, his Edict (sixth century BCE) and Ginzberg's Legends of the Jews which, despite its name, contains a great deal of relevant and credible history.

 

Using these sources, one can arrive at a plausible interpretation completely in accord with historically valid information.  Esther, it turns out, describes an entirely intra-Jewish affair set in the Persian Empire, with the two major antagonists as factional leaders: Mordecai, whose followers advocate rebuilding the Jerusalem Temple, and Haman, also a Jew, whose assimilationist adherents oppose the project.

 

Ginzberg furnishes substantial evidence that Mordecai and Haman were both Jews who knew each other well

.

 [End of quote]

 

From this, and from some other evidences, a total picture began to emerge. Haman, a king as we saw - obviously a sub-king under Ahasuerus “the Great” - was none other than the ill-fated king Jehoiachin (or Coniah), the last king of Judah. Like Haman, he had sons. But neither Coniah, nor his sons, was destined to rule. The story of Esther tells why they were all slain. 

 

Now, king Jehoiachin is a real archaeologically-verified monarch. And so we read, for instance (http://www.biblehistory.net/newsletter/jehoiachin.htm):

 

According to the Bible, Jehoiachin became king of Judah after the death of his father King Jehoiakim:

"Jehoiachin was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem three months and ten days."  2 Chronicles 36:9

A fantastic discovery that verifies biblical events surrounding Jehoiachin's life was found in the ancient city of Babylon.

Tablets from the royal archives of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon were unearthed in the ruins of that ancient city that contain food rations paid to captives and craftsmen who lived in and around the city. On one of the tablets, "Yaukin, king of the land of Judah" is mentioned along with his five sons listed as royal princes. Below are a few inscriptions found on other such tablets:

10 (sila of oil) to the king of Judah, Yaukin.

2 1/2 sila (oil) to the offspring of Judah’s king,

4 sila to eight Judean men.

 

Another tablet reads:

1 1/2 sila (oil) for three wood workers from Arvad, 1/2 sila each,
11 1/2 sila for eight wood workers from Byblos,  . . .  
3 1/2 sila for seven Greek craftsman, 1/2 sila apiece,
1/2 sila to the carpenter, Nabuetir
10 sila to Ia-ku-u-ki-nu, the king of Judah’s son,
2 1/2 sila for the five sons of the Judean king
This evidence matches precisely with the Biblical text found in II Kings 24:10-17 which says:  "At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up against Jerusalem, and the city was besieged.
      And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came against the city, as his servants were besieging it. Then Jehoiachin king of Judah, his mother, his servants, his princes, and his officers went out to the king of Babylon; and the king of Babylon, in the eighth year of his reign, took him prisoner.
None remained except the poorest people of the land. And he carried Jehoiachin captive to Babylon. The king's mother, the king's wives, his officers, and the mighty of the land he carried into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. All the valiant men, seven thousand, and craftsmen and smiths, one thousand, all who were strong and fit for war, these the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon. Then the king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin's uncle, king in his place, and changed his name to Zedekiah."
     These tablets also indicate that Jehoiachin received twenty times as much food rations as others on the list which indicates that the Babylonians treated him more valuable then other captive kings on the list.
      Archaeology thus indicates that Jehoiachin was treated well by the kings of Babylon whom provided daily food rations for him. This corresponds with the scripture found in 2 Kings chapter 25 verses 27-30:
      "Now it came to pass in the thirty-seventh year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, that Evil-Merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, released Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison. '
      He spoke kindly to him, and gave him a more prominent seat than those of the kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin changed from his prison garments, and he ate bread regularly before the king all the days of his life.
And as for his provisions, there was a regular ration given him by the king, a portion for each day, all the days of his life."
 
[End of quote]

 

 

Revised Era for Haman

 

The exaltation of Haman, by king Ahasuerus (Esther 3:1): 

 

“After these events, King Ahasuerus honored Haman son of Hammedatha … elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles”.

 

must be the same event as we read about in 2 Kings 25:27-28: 

 

“In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the year Evil-Merodach became king of Babylon, he released Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison. …. He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon”.

 

That gives us some solid fixed dates.

Apparently, then, the Esther drama - typically dated to c. 486-465 BC, during the reign of the Persian king, Xerxes I - must actually have occurred about a century earlier than this, around 560 BC (conventional dates). 

Now, “Amalekite” (Greek: Amalikítis) could no longer be regarded as Haman’s nationality, but as a misinterpretation of the epithet by which he, as king Jehoiachin, was best known: “the Captive” (Greek: aichmálotos), of very similar phonetics. 

The name “Haman” itself was presumably his Persian name, e.g. from Achaemenes, Persian Hakhamanish] 

 

Conclusion 1: Haman was a Jewish King, Jehoiachin ‘the Captive’.

 

Another helpful piece of information is the testimony in the genealogy of Matthew that Jehoiachin was actually the son of king Josiah (1:11), when he is normally considered to have been Josiah’s grandson. This enabled now for his mother to have been the Hammutal, wife of king Josiah, who had also been the mother of Josiah’s other regal sons, Jehoahaz and Zedekiah (2 Kin. 23:31; 24:18; Jer. 52:1).

Hammutal (Hamutal) is a very good likeness for “Hammedatha” of Esther 3:1, otherwise unknown, and presumed to have been the father of Haman. We can now say that she, Hammedatha, was actually Haman‟s mother.

And, interestingly, Kaellis has added that (op. cit.): “Haman’s mother had a Hebrew name”. (That would be the Hebrew name, Hammutal = Hammedatha).

 

Conclusion 2. Haman’s parent, Hammedatha, was king Josiah’s wife, Hammutal.

 

 

http://image.slidesharecdn.com/03lastfivekingsofjuda-151107004805-lva1-app6892/95/03-last-five-kings-of-juda-9-638.jpg?cb=1446857369