Original Research

A critical evaluation of causalities of the genocide in Esther 3:8–15: Lawlessness and revolt of the Jewish diaspora community

Temba T. Rugwiji
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 77, No 4 | a6247 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v77i4.6247 | © 2021 Temba T. Rugwiji | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 July 2020 | Published: 29 October 2021

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Temba T. Rugwiji, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

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Rereading of Esther 3:8–15 depicts that lawlessness and revolt on the part of the Jewish diaspora community ignited the genocide in the Persian Empire. The narrative is explicit that Haman was not comfortable with two main issues concerning the Jews: (1) their laws were different from those of every other people and (2) they did not keep the king’s laws. In addition, some Jewish individuals were disrespectful to Persian superiors: Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman. Following Haman’s report, Emperor Xerxes endorsed the proposition of exterminating the Jews as a possible solution. The present study argues against a populist view that puts Haman in a bad light. Existing studies on the genocide narrative in Esther 3:8–15 appear to sympathise with the Jewish diaspora community in Persia in spite of their attitude that portrayed some rebellious tendencies. Examined from a security and defence perspective, Haman’s position should be given its merit because the Jews disobeyed the Persian laws and did not show respect to the Persian authorities. The study employs a narrative approach to argue that the Jewish diaspora community orchestrated the genocide by disobeying the Persian laws. It is further argued that Haman had correctly foreseen it coming and confided with Emperor Xerxes. The study will also discuss Haman as a strategist who speculated a possible Jewish revolt, which was confirmed by the massacre of 75 000 people including Haman’s children (9:1–10). This study will present to the academic readership a new dimension of reading Esther 3:8–15.

Contribution: Previous studies variously provided some magnanimity on the book of Esther. The contribution of the present study to the readership and the academic community seeks to suggest a new reading of the book by arguing that the Jews provoked the Persian authorities by disobeying the laws of the land.


genocide; Jewish diaspora community; lawlessness; Persia; revolt


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