HAMAN THE AGAGITE.
Son of Hammedatha; chief minister of King Ahasuerus (Esth.iii.1-2). As his name indicates, Haman was a descendant of Agag, the king of the Amalekites. On account of his attempt to exterminate the Jews in the kingdom of Ahasuerus, he is frequently called "the persecutor of the Jews" ( ; Esth. iii. 10; viii. 1; ix. 10, 24). His machinations against the Jews and his downfall are remembered during the Feast of Purim. Filled with annoyance because Mordecai did not bow before him, Haman resolved upon the extermination of the Jews throughout the whole kingdom. He drew lots to determine the day of the massacre, and the lot fell on the 13th of Adar (Esth. iii. 4-7). He offered the king ten thousand talents of silver for permission to do with the Jews as he pleased. The permission was granted, and he accordingly despatched letters to all parts of the Persian kingdom to massacre the Jews on the 13th of Adar (iii. 8-15). His intrigues, however, were baffled by Esther. In order to throw him off his guard she invited him to a banquet to which she had also asked the king. Haman, looking upon this as an indication of special favor, in his pride went so far as to prepare a gallows whereon to hang Mordecai (v. 14). But in that night a sudden change occurred in Haman's fortunes. His own answer to the king's question what should be done to him whom the king delighted to honor, which Haman supposed referred to himself, obliged Haman to lead Mordecai, his mortal enemy, clad in royal garments and seated on the king's horse, through the streets of Shushan and to proclaim: "Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honor" (vi. 9). Afterward, while Haman was again drinking with the king at a banquet prepared by Esther, the latter exposed to the king Haman's plot. The king, filled with anger, ordered his officers to hang Haman on the very gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai (vii. 9). Ahasuerus bestowed upon Esther Haman's house (viii. 1); the ten sons of Haman were executed on the 13th of Adar and then hanged (ix. 7-9, 14).
Haman is identified by the Talmudists with Memucan, the last of the seven princes "which saw the king's face" (Esth. i. 14), giving to "Memucan" the signification of "prepared for punishment" (Targ. to Esth.; Meg. 12b). Haman was a direct descendant of Agag in the sixteenth generation and consequently an Amalekite (Targ. Sheni; Josephus, "Ant." xi. 6, § 5). The Septuagint, however, gives for "ha-Agagi" ὅ Μακεδόν in Esth. ix. 24, while in the preceding instances no translation whatever is given. Having attempted to exterminate the Jews of Persia, and rendering himself thereby their worst enemy, Haman naturally became the center of many Talmudic legends. Being at one time in extreme want, he sold himself as a slave to Mordecai (Meg. 15a). He was a barber at Kefar Ḳarẓum for the space of twenty-two years (ib. 16a). Haman had an idolatrous image embroidered on his garments, so that those who bowed to him at command of the king bowed also to the image (Esth. R. vii.).
Haman was also an astrologer, and when he was about to fix the time for the massacre of the Jews he first cast lots to ascertain which was the most auspicious day of the week for that purpose. Each day, however, proved to be under some influence favorable to the Jews. He then sought to fix the month, but found that the same was true of each month; thus, Nisan was favorable to the Jews because of the Passover sacrifice; Iyyar, because of the small Passover. But when he arrived at Adar he found that its zodiacal sign was Pisces, and he said, "Now I shall be able to swallow them as fish which swallow one another" (Esth. R. vii.; Targ. Sheni iii.). Haman had 365 counselors, but the advice of none was so good as that of his wife, Zeresh. She it was especially that induced Haman to build a gallows for Mordecai, assuring him that this was the only way in which he would be able to prevail over his enemy, for hitherto the just had always been rescued from every other kind of death. As God foresaw that Haman himself would be hanged on the gallows He asked which tree would volunteer to serve as the instrument of death. Each tree, declaring that it was used for some holy purpose, objected to being soiled by the unclean body of Haman. Only the thorn-tree could find no excuse, and therefore offered itself for a gallows (Esth. R. ix.; Midr. Abba Gorion vii., ed. Buber, Wilna, 1886; in Targum Sheni this is narrated somewhat differently).
Haman selected a thorn-tree in the king's garden, and, singing and rejoicing, set it up before his door, and said to himself, "To-morrow, in the morning, at the time of the reading of the 'Shema',' I shall hang Mordecai." Then he measured the tree by comparing it with his own person to see whether it was suited to the purpose. Just then a "bat ḳol" came from heaven saying, "The tree is suited to thee; it is prepared for thee since the day of creation." He then went to the bet ha-midrash, where he found Mordecai surrounded by his pupils to the number of 22,000, all with dust on their heads and clad in sack-cloth. Haman placed chains upon their necks and feet, and set guards over them, saying to himself, "I will first massacre these, and then I will hang Mordecai." It was the cry of these pupils ascending to heaven that brought about the sudden change in Haman's fate (Esth. R. ix.; Midr. Abba Gorion v.).
Haman tried hard to avoid the humiliation of leading Mordecai through the streets of Shushan; he implored the king to spare him that disgrace and offered every kind of reparation to Mordecai, but the king remained inflexible (Targ. Sheni vi.). At the time of leading Mordecai through the streets of Shushan, Haman performed the duties of four different callings: barber, bath attendant, groom, and public crier.He was also compelled to bend forward that Mordecai might mount from his back on to the horse (Meg. 16a). It is also said that when King Ahasuerus rose from the banquet in anger and went into his garden he saw angels in the form of men felling the trees, who said that they were ordered to do so by Haman (ib.). According to Esth. R. x., it was the angel Michael that felled the trees and who afterward pushed Haman on to Esther's couch.
Haman was hanged on the second day of the Passover feast (Esth. R. and Meg. l.c.). The Talmudists did not agree as to the number of Haman's sons; according to Rab there were thirty: ten had died, ten were hanged, and ten became beggars. According to the Rabbis, the beggars were seventy in number; according to Rami bar Abi, there were altogether two hundred and eight (Meg. 15b). Pietro Perreau published in Steinschneider's "Hebr. Bibl." (vii. 46-47) a supposed text of Haman's circular regarding the massacre of the Jews (comp. "Midrash Panim Aḥerim," first text, ed. Buber). The manuscript, which is found in the Parma Library (No. 924), dates from the thirteenth century. See Purim.