- HAMAN (Heb. הָמָן), son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, according to the scroll of Esther, an official in the court of Ahasuerus who was superior to all the king's other officials. Resentful of mordecai the Jew, who was the only one among the servants of the king in the royal court who would not bow down to him, Haman decided to exterminate all the Jews, "the people of Mordecai" (3:6). To determine the day of the destruction he cast a lot (pur), and then received the consent of the king to publish a royal decree throughout the entire Persian kingdom proclaiming the extermination. Through Mordecai, however, the news reached Esther, who immediately set about saving her people. She invited Haman and the king to feasts on two consecutive nights, and at the second feast revealed to the king, in Haman's presence, the evil designs that the latter harbored against her people. In his anger, the king ordered that Haman be hanged on "the tree which Haman has prepared for Mordecai" (Esth. 7:10), and that his hanging be followed by that of his sons. The king then issued a decree permitting the Jews "to gather and defend themselves" on the day that had been set aside for their extermination (Esth. 8:11). This decree and the victory of the Jews over their enemies were the reasons for the establishment of the holiday of purim . Various explanations have been offered to explain the name and designation of the would-be exterminator of the Jews. Among other suggestions, the name has been connected to the Elamite high god Huban/Humman. The name of Haman's father is clearer, appearing in almost identical form in the Elephantine Papyri as Haumadatha, "Given- by- Haōma" (= (Sanskrit soma), the deified sacred drug) (הוֹמדת; Cowley, Aramaic, 8:2 = TAD B2.3:2; Cowley, Aramaic 9:2 = TAD B2.4:2), the name of a Persian military commander in the Jewish colony at Elephantine. The author of Esther traces Mordecai's line back to the Benjaminite Kish, father of Saul (2:5). The clear implication of Esther 3:2–4 is that anyone who was told that Mordecai was a Jew would immediately understand that it would be degrading for him to do obeisance to Haman. As such, the author must have intended the designation of Haman as "the Agagite" to indicate descent from Saul's opponent agag , king of Amalek (Deut. 25: 17–19; I Sam. 15; cf. Jos., Ant., 11:209). He was less interested in making ethnic connections between Persians and Amalekites than in connecting the present enemy with its traditional one. Although Saul displayed leniency toward Agag (I Sam. 15:9), the latter's distant descendant was not only a personal rival of Mordecai but an inveterate "enemy of the Jews" (Esth. 3:10, 8:1, 9:10; cf. 7:6) who had to be destroyed along with his 10 sons (7:10, 9:6–10; cf. Ex. 17:8–16 and Deut. 25:17–19). In the Septuagint and the apocryphal Additions to Esther, the designation Agagite is replaced by the inexplicable terms Bugaean (LXX 3:1; 9:10; Add. Esth. 12:6) or Macedonian (LXX 9:24; Add. Esth. 16:10). The Additions to Esther describes Haman as bent upon delivering the Persian kingdom to the Macedonians (16: 14). (Bezalel Porten / S. David Sperling (2nd ed.) -In the Aggadah In the Midrashim (Esth. R. 7–8; Targum Sheni; Midrash Abba Guryon and others) Haman is depicted as a foe of Israel typical of the times in which these writers of the Midrashim lived. The enemies of Israel maintained that the Jews were ungrateful to their benefactors and mocked the faithful of the nations in whose midst they dwelt. The feast that Ahasuerus prepared at the beginning of his reign is attributed by these same Midrashim to the evil designs of Haman, whose purpose was to undermine Israel with exotic foods and incestuous orgies, so that the Jews who attended this feast, against Mordecai's advice, would bring down upon themselves the destruction ordained by Heaven (Esth. R. 7:13). However, the decree was annulled as a result of the cries of the schoolchildren who were studying with Mordecai because they also were involved in the decree of extermination. A humorous piece of folklore relates that Haman was a barber for 22 years in the town of Kefar Karzum (Kefar Karnayim in Transjordan, or Kerazim), and his father was a bath attendant in the town of Koranis and these professions stood them in good stead later when Mordecai had to be dressed and bathed after he had been weakened by fasting. There is an interesting aggadah to the effect that all the various trees put forward a claim, on the basis of their virtues, that Haman should be hanged on them. The thornbush was chosen, however, since because it had no virtues, the wicked Haman should be hanged on it (Esth. R. 9:2). Haman continued to be regarded as the prototype of the enemy of the Jews throughout the ages. It became customary to make a loud noise in the synagogues to drown out his name whenever mentioned in the Purim reading of the Book of Esther. Ironically, the custom has served to perpetuate Haman's memory. (Yehoshua M. Grintz) -In Islam Hāmān, according to the Koran, was one of the foremost advisers of Pharaoh-Firʿawn. He built a tower for his master, who planned to climb up to the God of Moses (Sura 28:5, 7, 38; 40; 38; 51:38–39). In Suras 29:38 and 40:25–26 Hāmān appears together with Firʿawn and Qārūn (Korah), who was also Moses' enemy. (Haïm Z'ew Hirschberg) -BIBLIOGRAPHY: I.Scheftelowitz, Arisches im Alten Testament (1901–03); L.B. Paton, The Book of Esther (ICC, 1908); P. Renard, in: DBI, 1 (1912), 433ff.; H.H. Schaeder, Iranische Beitraege, 1 (1930); J. Lewy, in: HUCA, 14 (1939), 127ff. IN THE AGGADAH: Ginzberg, Legends. IN ISLAM: Vajda, in: EL2; Kisāʾī, Qiṣaṣ ed. by I. Eisenberg (1922), 202; H. Speyer, Biblische Erzaehlungen… (1961), 412. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: P. Grelot, Documents Araméens d'Égypte (1972), 472; P. Jensen apud R. Zadok, in: ZAW, 98 (1986), 268; A. Berlin, JPS Bible Commentary Esther (2001).
Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.