Evil Has a Name and It Begins with H”
Many people don’t want to acknowledge that evil exists; they believe that people do bad things because circumstances or environment or conditioning leaves them no choice. Others know that evil exists but see it as a vague, unnamed malevolent force that somehow preys on innocent people. Yet history shows that evil is real and personal—and in fact, some individuals have become the very personification of evil. This month we remember one such person, and his name is Haman.
The festival of Purim, celebrated this year on March 14, commemorates God’s victory over Haman’s evil intentions to utterly destroy the Jewish people. Today, the feast of Purim is a lighthearted holiday traditionally celebrated by humorous enactments of the book of Esther called Purim schpiels. Noisemakers, games and delicious pastries known as hamantaschen (Haman’s ears) are all part of the tradition, and many people play practical jokes similar to those on “April Fool’s Day.”
But the actual events of Purim, as recorded in the book of Esther, were anything but light-hearted for the Jews living at that time. The ancient world was cruel. Entire cultures and peoples were destroyed through wars. Even so, rarely, if ever, was genocide practiced during peace times against a people submitted under the rule of a king. Rarely, if ever, was the mass execution of such a people methodically planned to be carried out in one day. Yet this is the atrocious evil associated with that name, Haman.
“And the letters were sent by couriers into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their possessions” (Esther 3:13).
It is plain to see that such a decree is evil, but what about the person behind it?
There have always been villains like Herod, Haman, Hitler and Hussein; groups like Hamas and Hezbollah who have sought to wipe out the Jewish people. They have been diabolically inspired by Ha Satan (Hebrew for the adversary) who is God’s sworn enemy. He longs to wipe out the Jews because in so doing, he imagines himself defeating God’s plan and making Him to be an impotent liar. After all, God promised to protect and preserve the Jewish people—in fact one might say that He has staked His reputation on the perpetuity of the nation. No wonder the destruction of the Jewish people has been the objective of “evildoers” throughout history. While those demonically inspired individuals probably do not know or care about spiritual realities, their own evil inclinations have provided Satan with opportunities to use them.
Why do people have such a hard time associating evil with a person or persons, with naming them as evil? When President Bush called terrorists “evildoers” he was ridiculed as though he had made a blunder unbefitting his office. Why try to justify the actions of evil people? I remember a public service ad on television that admonished, “Don’t leave your keys in your car or you might help make a good boy go bad.”
We have fashioned blame shifting into an art form to avoid the harsh reality that people are responsible for their evil actions. Why? There are things about evil that by nature, we do not want to know.
Evil Has a Source and It Begins with “H”
A major source of evil in this world is the human heart and we all have one of those. From earliest times, “…the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).
This was not merely an evaluation of one or two generations. It was God’s diagnosis of the human predicament for all time. Yeshua (Jesus) said, “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man” (Mark 7:21-3).
Evil is not some unnamed malevolent force that exists solely outside the realm of humanity. The Bible speaks a great deal about evil (462 times) and specifically identifies people as evildoers 44 different times. Not only is evil real. People are evil. And part of our evil nature is that we don’t want to admit it.
Our modern and post-modern mindset resists the idea that evil has become inherent in human nature because of the fall of our race. How ironic then, that when confronted with their wrongs, many shrug it off by saying, “I am only human.” Precisely. Deep down, everyone knows that not one of us is exempt from evil thoughts, words or deeds. Most would simply prefer to call it something else.
Perhaps we avoid the reality that our hearts are evil because we reserve that word for the likes of Haman, who, after all, must be in a category shared only by other ruthless murderers like Hitler and Hussein. But Haman’s heinous crime did not begin as a diabolical plan for genocide. It grew out of what the Greeks called “hubris.” It grew out of the wretched seething resentment of inappropriate pride.
“When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow or pay him homage, Haman was filled with wrath” (Esther 3:5). That seething wrath towards Mordecai the Jew gestated and gave birth to Haman’s monstrous plan to wipe out all Jews.
Could something as common as hubris lead to something so, well, so evil as genocide? Yes! Pride is a powerful deceiver that causes untold destruction. It keeps us from seeing and hating our own sin. The feeding and festering of arrogance under any cover, be it nationalism, religious fervor or you-name-it can take human beings down a maniacal path toward genocide, gas chambers, the slaughter of innocent Kurdish women and children. But it will not always be so.
Evil Has a Destiny and It Begins with “H”
Haman had a hangman’s gallows erected for the special execution of the Jew he hated most, Mordecai. But Haman’s plans backfired in one sudden moment of judgment. Standing before the King, Queen Esther confronted Haman with his evil plan. The truth came out in the most unexpected way—through a young woman who had risked her life to uncover the plot. With Haman’s wickedness revealed, justice was swift and relentless.
“Now Harbonah, one of the eunuchs, said to the king, ‘Look! The gallows, fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai, who spoke good on the king’s behalf, is standing at the house of Haman.’ Then the king said, ‘Hang him on it!’ So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai” (Esther 7:9-10).
Those gallows are a part of the history of the Jewish people’s survival but they also symbolize God’s intention to judge all evil some day.
God will judge evil, if not in this life, as was the case of Haman, then most certainly in the next. Evildoers have a destiny and that destiny is called Hell. One day all will stand before the King to have justice meted out—and then there will be no avoiding the reality that we have sinned—that we have thought, said and done what was evil in God’s sight.
Thankfully, God did not condemn us to be left to our own evil inclinations. God sent His only beloved Son, a Jew named Yeshua, into this world to change our destiny for good. Satan in his pride, tried to get Jesus to bow down to him. Failing that, he foolishly constructed a “gallows” from which Jesus willingly allowed Himself to be hung. The enemy must have thought Jesus’ death would defeat the plan of God. Instead, that gallows, the cross of Christ, became the point of victory by which the adversary and all his evil accomplices would be destroyed.
Purim teaches us that evil has a name, a source and a destiny. It demonstrates how God uses the unexpected to separate good from evil, to preserve His people and put forward His plans. Though we see our sin on a far smaller scale, evil still resides in each of us. Its source is pride, which has corrupted every human heart and given birth to unholy thoughts, words and choices. But God used the most unexpected means to separate us from our sin. He nailed it to Calvary so that He could give us a new name, a new heart and a new destiny.
The cross became the means by which our own sin would be executed so that we might be saved. That is the good news that we must believe and proclaim to our world. Evil is real. Hell is real. And because of these realities, we have been given the only real solution, the finished work of our Messiah Jesus. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15).