Why did Mordecai refuse to bow to Haman?

When reading in the book of Ester I was surprised to find that Mordecai did not bow down to Haman. This moment is the pivital moment in the book where Haman becomes so infuriated than Mordecai will not bow down that he seeks to destroy all Jews. “5 And when Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage to him, Haman was filled with fury. 6 But he disdained to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.” (biblestudytools.com)

The reason this stood out to me so distinctly was that in the old testament there are plenty of faithful people who bow down before authority figures. Not only does Mordecai refuse to bow but the reading does not give us a reason why he refuses. The entire Jewish community becomes in danger from this action so I’d hope he has a good reason for it.

Looking further into the situation I found that Haman could have fancied himself a god. If Haman thought he was a god and considered himself to be above all others he probably reassured himself by making all others bow down to him. When Mordecai refused he understood how un-powerful he was and sought to destroy all people who had the right to not bow down to a man who was not Yahweh. If this theory is true than Mordecai does the right thing by not bowing down to another god. He is rewarded by Yahweh for staying faithful. (http://www.koltorah.org) Another source I found referenced Mordecai’s refusal based off religious reasons. The book states that Haman was probably an Amalekite, and Yahweh had expressed himself as being at war with Amalek “from generation to generation.” (Ex 17:16–saying: “Because a hand is against the throne of the Lord! The Lord will have war with Am′a·lek from generation to generation.”; (answers.com) This is another reason that proves that Mardecai was not trying to cause problems but be a faithful servant to Yahweh.

One of the more radical ideas comes from tan essay by Rav Yaakov Meidan of Yeshivat Har Etzion that appears in a book entitled Esther Hee Hadassa.”Yalkut Shimoni 956 that states that Mordechai refused to bow to Haman because Haman was technically his slave.  The Midrash relates that Mordechai and Haman were once on a boat together and Haman had no food.  Mordechai, according to this Midrash, agreed to give food to Haman on condition that Haman become his slave.”  (http://jtf.org). However, since this story was not found in the Hebrew bible I have a difficult time accrediting it. I also would like to think that Mordecai would not put his people in such danger because he was a prideful man. However, that was not the only research I found that supported the theory that Mordecai believed Haman was his slave. Since Haman was of Amalek descent it is possible Mordecai found it unfitting for him to bow. In the midrash Ester Rabbah there is a dialogue that says Haman demands it since Jacob bowed to Esau. However Mordecai states that he was from the tribe of Benjamin and since Benjamin was dead at the time his people did not bow to Esau. (http://hebrew4christians.com)

Finally according to the midrash of Ester Rabbah, Haman had sewn in a picture of a god in his clothes, making himself an idol. This means that Mordecai was proving himself to Yahweh. (http://gewatkins.net)

It is very interesting how when you get other books involved you can see how the story unfolds differently. I still believe that Mordecai refused to bow for the sake of his religion and honor of Yahweh. However, it was interesting to see how others had interpreted the meaning.

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