Arlen L. Chitwood
Sackcloth and Ashes
When Mordecai learned all that had happened, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city. He cried out with a loud and bitter cry.
He went as far as the front of the king’s gate, for no one might enter the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth.
And in every province where the king’s command and decree arrived, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes. (Esther 4:1-3)
Haman is introduced in the book of Esther as “the son of Hammedatha the Agagite” (3:1). This identification is also repeated several subsequent places in connection with both Haman and his ten sons (3:10; 8:5; 9:10, 24). Thus, the book associates Haman and his sons with Agag in this manner.
Agag, in Jewish history, was an Amalekite king who lived over five centuries earlier, during Saul’s day (1 Samuel 15:8). Agag was the one who, indirectly, brought about Saul’s downfall (by Saul sparing Agag and refusing to destroy all of which he possessed, contrary to that which God had commanded [vv. 3, 9-23]). And, apparently because of Saul’s actions surrounding Agag, God, years later, used an Amalekite to slay Saul at the time He removed Saul from the throne (cf. 1 Samuel 31:1-6; 2 Samuel 1:2-10).
The Amalekites were the first of the nations to war against Israel following the Exodus from Egypt under Moses. Because of this, God stated, “I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” And God appointed His people, the Israelites, to be the executioners of this nation (Exodus 17:8-16; Deuteronomy 25:17-19).
This appointment though, as the executioners of the Amalekites, became another area of disobedience in the long history of the Jewish people. And because of this disobedience, four centuries later, during the days of Saul and David, the Amalekites were still present in numbers sufficient to have a king leading them.
The subsequent history of the Amalekites can be traced to about three centuries beyond Saul and David’s time, to the days of Hezekiah, when apparently the last of the Amalekites were slain (1 Chronicles 4:41-43). Beyond this point, the Amalekites appear in Scripture only as a people who existed in past time.
And, in complete accord with God’s previously announced judgment upon this nation, the Amalekites were so completely destroyed that archaeologists today cannot even find a trace of this once mighty nation. In this respect, the Amalekites today exist upon the pages of Scripture alone. They, because of their attitude toward and actions against Israel, have been utterly put out of remembrance from under heaven (Exodus 17:14; Deuteronomy 25:19).
The events in the book of Esther occurred over two centuries after the events that occurred in 1 Chronicles 4:41-43. And if the events in this section of Scripture in 1 Chronicles are to be understood as an announcement concerning Israel’s part in the fulfillment of that which God had decreed during Moses’ day — the complete destruction of the Amalekites — which appears to be the case, it would not be possible for Haman to be a lineal descendant of this race of people.
According to archaeological findings in that part of the world, there was a province in the Medo-Persian Empire during Ahasuerus’ reign called Agag. And referring to Haman’s father as an Agagite would apparently be a reference to this province, with Haman, through this means, being associated several places in the book with this province.
But why does the book of Esther, in several places, call attention to Haman’s association with a certain province in the kingdom in this manner, particularly one that had the same name as an Amalekite king from over five centuries earlier? Is this repeated association no more than a reference to a location in the kingdom, having to do with Haman’s origin, with that being the end of the matter? Or, can spiritual significance be found in this repeated association of Haman with Agag?
The answer can be found by first viewing Haman’s actions in the light of the actions of the one whom Haman foreshadows — the man of sin, the Antichrist. Then, relative to the actions of both men (which are the same), both the type (the actions of Haman) and the antitype (the actions of Antichrist) must be understood in the light of that which is stated in the last of Balaam’s prophecies.
Viewing all of these things together — the type, the antitype, and Balaam’s last prophecy — the repeated reference in Esther, associating Haman with Agag, can be clearly seen to be more than just a reference to a province in Ahasuerus’ kingdom. It can be clearly seen as an allusion back to Agag and the Amalekites during Saul’s day as well, even though it is apparent that Haman was not a lineal descendant of Agag.
Both the Amalekites and Haman were bitter enemies of the Jewish people in past Israeli history; and the Antichrist will be a bitter enemy of the Jewish people in future Israeli history. And Balaam’s final prophecy, having to do with the appearance of Messiah at the end of Man’s Day, includes an “oracle” concerning Amalek, which reflects on the whole of the matter:
. . . A Star shall come out of Jacob; a Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and batter the brow of Moab . . .
Out of Jacob One shall have dominion, and destroy the remains of the city.
Then he looked on Amalek, and he took up his oracle and said: “Amalek was first among the nations, but shall be last until he perishes.” (Numbers 24:17b, 19, 20).
The complete prophecy has to do with the destruction of Gentile world power at the time of Messiah’s return, followed by Messiah’s reign. And the end of Gentile world power, particularly as it involves anti-Semitism (as, for example, exhibited through the actions of the Amalekites), is summed up through a statement in an oracle in the prophecy concerning the end of Amalek — “. . . his latter end shall be that he perish forever” (KJV, Numbers 24:20) Thus, in Balaam’s closing prophecy, the end of Antichrist and his kingdom is associated with the end of the Amalekites (though Antichrist will appear millennia after the Amalekites ceased to exist).
In a similar manner, Gentile world power in that coming day, headed up by Antichrist, will incorporate the whole of that seen in Daniel’s image in Daniel chapter two (vv. 35, 45; cf. Daniel 7:11, 12), which depicts Gentile world power in Babylon from its beginning during Nebuchadnezzar’s day to its end during Antichrist’s day (vv. 31-45; cf. Daniel 7:3-8). Thus, as with Antichrist’s association with Amalek, Antichrist and his kingdom will also be associated with certain Gentile regal powers that will have long since ceased to exist at the time this man comes into power and reigns.
Further, Antichrist is called an Assyrian (Isaiah 10:5; 14:25; 30:31; 31:8; Hosea 5:13), though the Assyrians, as the Amalekites or certain Gentile regal powers associated with Daniel’s image, will have long since ceased to exist when Antichrist makes his appearance.
The Assyrian association goes back 2,300 years to the days of Alexander the Great (Antichrist will arise from within the borders of the old kingdom of Assyria [Daniel 8:8, 9, 21-25]). And, in biblical typology, this Assyrian association goes back even farther — to the days of Moses, 3,500 years ago (the Assyrians, having previously conquered Egypt, sought to destroy the Israelites; but God sent Moses to deliver them [cf. Exodus 1:8; Isaiah 52:4; Acts 7:18]).
Thus, Antichrist and/or his kingdom will have an association with different Gentile powers going back millennia in Jewish history (which no longer exist today and will not exist in that coming day). This association goes back to the time of the beginning of the Babylonian kingdom under Nebuchadnezzar (marking the beginning of the Times of the Gentiles); and, back behind that, this association extends to the time of the Assyrians and the Amalekites (and, as previously shown, with the Assyrians this association goes back even to the time of an Assyrian Pharaoh in Egypt during Moses’ day — back to the very time of the inception of the nation of Israel itself).
In this respect, during Haman’s day, it would simply be in complete keeping with related Scripture for God to go back almost six centuries, to a people no longer even in existence, and associate Haman with an Amalekite king. Associating Haman with Agag from Saul’s day would simply be associating one of the most complete types of Antichrist to be found anywhere in the Old Testament with the king of one of the bitterest enemies of the Israelites in history — an association in complete keeping with the way in which God has formed other associations relative to Antichrist in His Word.
This association, in the antitype, as previously shown, is clearly dealt with in an oracle concerning the Amalekites in Balaam’s closing prophecy. And the time to which the prophecy relates (the destruction of Gentile world power at the time of Messiah’s return, followed by Messiah’s reign) has to do with a time over two and one-half millennia after the Amalekites ceased to exist.
As Antichrist will be associated with Assyria (though neither the people nor the nation will have existed for millennia), and as Antichrist and the power that he will control will be associated with a particular past form of Gentile world power (depicted by the first three parts of Daniel’s image, which also will no longer exist), so will it be in the matter surrounding the association of this man and his kingdom with the Amalekites (who also will no longer exist as well).
Thus, biblical prophecy clearly associates the reign of Antichrist with certain Gentile powers in the past, which have been destroyed and will not exist when Antichrist comes into power. An association of this nature not only characterizes this man’s reign in different ways but announces the coming utter destruction of this man and his kingdom as well.
God uses the destruction of certain Gentile powers in the past, in this manner, to demonstrate particular things about the future destruction of Antichrist and his kingdom. The certainty of the destruction of Antichrist and his kingdom is told through historical fact — these Gentile powers were destroyed in past time, as Antichrist and his kingdom will be destroyed in future time. And the way in which these Gentile power were destroyed — passing completely out of existence — depicts the way in which Antichrist and his kingdom will be destroyed and pass completely out of existence as well, bringing a full and complete end to the Times of the Gentiles.
(Note in this same respect that there are four oracles connected with Balaam’s last prophecy, with the last two oracles having to do with Assyria, among other nations. “Asshur” in Numbers 24:22, 24 should be translated Assyria. And Assyria at this future time, as the Amalekites at this same future time [viewing all of the last three oracles in the prophecy], shall “perish forever” [vv. 20, 24].
Antichrist, in biblical prophecy, is connected with both the Assyrians and the Amalekites. But neither the Assyrians nor the Amalekites have existed for millennia; nor will they exist at the time of the fulfillment of Balaam’s closing prophecy, though they are seen being destroyed at this time.
These nations exist in history alone, and both have been completely destroyed in past time, never to rise again. But, as previously shown, both are used different places in the manner seen in Balaam’s prophecy to point to the certainty and completeness of the end of Gentile world power in that coming day when it is headed up under Antichrist.)
Thus, related Scripture clearly shows that Haman’s identification with a particular province in the kingdom was for purposes rich in spiritual significance. This identification provides an association with the king of the Amalekites in history; and it is clear from Balaam’s prophecy that this same association carries over into the antitype and will extend to Antichrist yet future.
Though the Amalekites had apparently long since ceased to exist during Haman’s day, the association (through the use of the name “Agag”) was there; and though the Amalekites will not exist during the days of the one whom Haman typifies, the association — from the type in Esther, from Israeli history, and from Balaam’s prophecy — is there.
Both men (Haman and Antichrist) are identified in Scripture with the king of one of the most bitter enemies of the Israelites in history — the Amalekites — a nation that, because of that which the people of this nation had done surrounding Israel, was to be destroyed to the extent that their very remembrance would be put out of existence. Both men, because of their actions surrounding Israel, occupy a parallel place to that of the Amalekites in Israeli history; and both men, because of these same actions, are seen coming to the same ignominious end as the Amalekites (cf. Isaiah 26:13, 14).
Israel’s Last Great Enemy
Israel’s last great enemy is referred to as an Assyrian, though the Assyrians passed off the scene of world history over two and one-half millennia ago; Israel’s last great enemy is associated with the Amalekites, though the Amalekites, as the Assyrians, also passed off the scene of world history over two and one-half millennia ago; and Israel’s last great enemy is also associated with particular past Gentile regal powers (from Nebuchadnezzar to Alexander the Great), though these powers, as well, passed off the scene of world history over two millennia ago.
Antichrist, with his worldwide kingdom, seated on Satan’s throne, will embody all of the things opposed to God’s plans and purposes surrounding Israel, seen in these Gentile powers; and this association dates back to even the very time of the inception of the nation of Israel itself, during Moses’ day. Antichrist will bring all anti-Semitism embodied in these Gentile powers from history into full fruition, which alone could bring about his fall and form his epitaph. But he will go beyond this and seek to exalt his throne after a similar fashion to that which Satan sought to do at a time prior to man’s creation.
He will sit, “as God . . . in the temple of God [the rebuilt temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem], showing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4). And, in this position, he, through the actions of his false prophet, will be honored and worshiped by individuals throughout his worldwide kingdom, exactly as Haman was accorded honor and worship in the kingdom of Ahasuerus in the type (Revelation 13:3-8, 11, 12).
Antichrist will have previously broken his covenant with Israel, destroyed Jerusalem, and will be in the process of attempting to wipe the Jewish people from off the face of the earth (cf. Daniel 9:26, 27; Matthew 24:15-22; Luke 21:20-24; Revelation 11:2; 12:13-17). This is where Esther chapter three begins within its type-antitype framework — with this man (typified by Haman), holding a position of power in the kingdom directly under God (though a rebel ruler, as Satan), demanding worship, and seeking to destroy the Jewish people. And the Jewish people, a monotheistic people, will have the same attitude toward this man and his actions as seen in the type in Esther.
When this man rises to that position in the kingdom typified by Haman and the position that he held, he will, through his false prophet, require that the people in the kingdom view him as divine and worship him. But the Jewish people, as Mordecai in the type, will refuse.
This man will have both defiled the rebuilt Jewish temple and have committed blasphemy by declaring himself to be God. And, resulting from these actions, he will meet with the same rejection at the hands of the Jewish people that Haman experienced in Esther.
When these things come to pass in that future day, exactly the same thing seen in Esther will occur. The Jewish people — as Mordecai in the type — will refuse to worship Antichrist, bringing his wrath down upon them; and, exactly as in Mordecai’s day, the decree will go forth that all the Jews in the kingdom are to be destroyed.
And also, exactly as in the type, the King (God) will deliver the Jews into Antichrist’s hands for a set period of time — “a time and times and half a time,” for three and one-half years (cf. Esther 3:10, 11; Daniel 7:25).
There though will be more to the matter in the antitype than simply a monotheistic people refusing to worship this man. And this is related in the type in Esther, along with other Scripture, as well.
Haman’s charge against the Jewish people was brought about by Mordecai’s refusal to bow and worship, knowing that this same attitude would be exhibited by the entire monotheistic nation. But the charge that he brought before the king, in order to bring about the destruction of the Jews throughout the kingdom, was stated in a different manner. He went back to the root of the matter:
Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from all other people, and they do not keep the king’s laws. Therefore it is not fitting for the king to let them remain.
If it pleases the king, let a decree be written [in laws governing the kingdom] that they be destroyed . . . .” (Esther 3:8, 9a)
Antichrist, seated on Satan’s throne, will bring this same charge against the Jewish people yet future (individuals scattered throughout his kingdom, whose laws are diverse). This was a charge brought against Daniel, resulting in his being cast into the lions’ den. The “law of his God,” which he kept, was different than the “law of the Medes and Persians.” And neither law could accommodate the other in this respect, for neither the law of God nor the law of the Medes and Persians could be changed or altered (with this unchangeableness of the law of the Medes and Persians typifying the unchangeableness of the law of God within one facet of the overall type [cf. Daniel 6:5, 8, 15]; Psalm 12:6; 138:2; Malachi 3:6; Luke 4:4, 8, 10; 1 Corinthians 10:11).
Then, the three Hebrews who had previously refused to worship the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up in the plain of Dura relates the other side of the matter from Esther — having to do with worship, as well as law (Daniel 3:17, 18).
The Israelites will refuse to worship Antichrist. And, at this time, because of the resulting genocidal activities of Antichrist, the Israelites will begin their return back to a law different than laws governing the Gentiles, one which cannot be changed or broken.
The law governing the Jewish people during both Daniel’s and Esther’s day was the old covenant given through Moses. This covenant, along with the new covenant that will one day be made with the house of Israel, always has been and always will be diverse from laws among the Gentile nations. And this is a major realm in which Antichrist will seek to bring about changes as he attempts to destroy the Jewish people.
According to Daniel 7:25, Antichrist will seek to change both “times and laws”; and, continuing from this statement, apart from any break in the thought, the text goes on to reveal that the Jewish people will be delivered into Antichrist’s hands (exactly as in Haman’s day), for “a time and times and half a time.” Thus, contextually, his seeking to bring about a change in “times and laws” can only have to do with things relating to the Jewish people.
The Jewish people were delivered into Haman’s hand by the king; and, yet future, they will be delivered into Antichrist’s hand by the One whom the king typified, by God Himself. In that future day, God will deliver the Jewish people into Antichrist’s hand for the last three and one-half years of the Tribulation.
So the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews.
And the king said to Haman, “The money and the people are given to you, to do with them as seems good to you.” (Esther 3:10, 11)
And during this three and one-half-year period, as Antichrist seeks to bring about the destruction of the Jewish people, he will seek to bring about a change in both times and laws that God has established. He will seek to prolong the time in which these Jewish people have been delivered into his hand (prolonging the Times of the Gentiles), and he will seek to bring about a change in laws that God has established (allowing Gentile law to continue, as he seeks to extend the period surrounding the Times of the Gentiles as well).
But this man will utterly fail. He will be brought to the same end as the Assyrians, the Amalekites, and other Gentile nations in the past. God has established times and laws, integrally associated with His plans and purposes surrounding the Jewish people; and man can no more bring about a change in these times and laws than he can bring about the destruction of the Jewish people.
Antichrist though, seated on Satan’s throne, will show the folly of the fullness of that which characterizes both Satan and fallen man, by raising his hand against God, against His Word, and against His people. And, relative to the whole of the matter, it has been written in God’s unchangeable Word:
But the court shall be seated, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and destroy it forever.
Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him.
This is the end of the account. . . . (Daniel 7:26-28a)
Israel Brought to the Place of Repentance
All these things having to do with Antichrist’s reign, shown in the type in Esther (among other types), will occur for a divine purpose. God will deliver the Jewish people into Antichrist’s hands, for a period of time, in order to bring His plans and purposes surrounding Israel to pass.
The Jewish people, in that coming day, will be brought to the same position, through the same means, as seen in that which God allowed to occur during Moses’ day. During Moses’ day, through the genocidal actions of the Assyrian Pharaoh in Egypt — which God allowed, delivering His people into the Assyrian’s hands for a period of time — the Jewish people were brought into such dire straits that they were left without a choice other than to call upon the God of their fathers for deliverance. And this resulted in God sending Moses back to Egypt (always a type of the world in Scripture) to deliver His people, as God will send the One greater than Moses back to deliver His people (scattered throughout the world) when this entire matter is repeated in the antitype.
The Jewish people calling upon the God of their fathers during Moses’ day in the book of Exodus are seen again in biblical typology in the book of Esther, presenting another facet of the complete picture. The Jewish people during Esther’s day not only arrayed themselves in sackcloth and ashes (portending repentance in the antitype [cf. Jonah 3:5-10]), but Esther is seen going in before the king himself, to beseech the king on behalf of her people.
During a yet future day, God will deliver the Jewish people into Antichrist’s hands, for a set period of time, in order to bring them to the place seen in both the books of Exodus and Esther. And when the Jewish people are brought to this place and do that revealed in these two types — repentance, followed by their calling upon the God of their fathers — they have a promise, from God Himself, which He will then fulfill:
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
God, however, will not fulfill this promise until the conditions in the promise have been met. And He will use Antichrist to bring Israel to the place where the Jewish people will be left without a choice other than to meet these conditions. In this respect, God is able to use even “the wrath of man” to praise Him as He brings His plans and purposes to pass, in spite of all the finite folly surrounding man’s wrath (Psalm 76:10; cf. v. 2).
1) Chronology of Esther Chapters 3-9
As the ten chapters in the book of Esther center mainly on three and one-half years of Jewish history yet future — the last three and one-half years of Daniel’s Seventieth Week — the chapters detailing these events, in a type-antitype framework (chapters 3-9), themselves, center mainly around a very limited time within this three and one-half-year period. These chapters center mainly on that which will occur very near the end, and at the end, of this time.
Chapter three provides details concerning that which God would have man to know from this book about Antichrist’s reign. This chapter centers on God’s wrath surrounding the Jewish people being brought to an apex through the reign of Antichrist. And it will be brought to an apex beginning with God positioning this man on Satan’s throne. And when this occurs, that which God has been setting the stage for throughout 3,500 years of Gentile persecution — 2,600 years during the Times of the Gentiles — will be brought to fruition in the short space of three and one-half years.
The Jewish people, as revealed in this chapter, will be delivered into this man’s hands; and all of the other things set forth in this chapter will be brought to pass in the antitype as well. These things, according to this chapter, will center on the world worshiping Antichrist, the Jewish people refusing to worship this man, and the Jewish people resultantly coming under the sentence of death.
Then, beginning chapter four, the Jewish people are seen being brought to the place where they array themselves in sackcloth and ashes (depicting repentance in the antitype [cf. Jonah 3:5-10]), with Esther in the following chapter going in before the king himself because of the dire straits in which the Jewish people found themselves.
In this respect, chapter four begins with events foreshadowing that which will occur very near the end of Daniel’s Seventieth Week. It will be near the end of this period of time that the Jewish people will find themselves in such dire straits under Antichrist’s reign (exactly as the Jewish people found themselves during Haman’s day) that they will have no choice other than to do that foreshadowed by the Jewish people in Esther chapters four and five. Then chapters six through nine simply foreshadow that which will subsequently occur when the Jewish people have been brought to the place depicted by an arrayal in sackcloth and ashes, calling upon the God of their fathers (previously seen in chapters 4, 5).
Thus, chapter three alone covers all of the time in the last half of Daniel’s Seventieth Week. Events in this chapter bring about the sequence of events seen in subsequent chapters. And the remaining chapters associated with this three and one-half-year period of time (chapters 4-9) have to do with events which will occur very near the end, and at the end, of the time in which the Jewish people have been delivered into Antichrist’s hands, not with events occurring throughout this entire period.
2) Then Will I Hear from Heaven
When the Jewish people have been brought to the place depicted by an arrayal in sackcloth and ashes, calling upon the God of their fathers, then God will hear from heaven and intervene on their behalf. Until then, there will be no such intervention. Until then, trouble at the hands of the Gentiles will ensue for the Jewish people — trouble that will be brought to an apex under the reign of the one whom Haman in chapter three typifies.
But, when that foreshadowed by events in Esther chapters four and five come to pass, the latter part of that which God stated in 2 Chronicles 7:14 will come to pass as well. God will hear from heaven, forgive the Jewish people, and heal their land.
And, in the process of this occurring, that seen in Esther chapters six through nine will come to pass as well. God goes into great detail in these four chapters to outline Haman’s fall, which foreshadows Antichrist’s fall.
As it occurred in the type, so will it occur in the antitype. Haman’s fall came about through the king’s intervention on behalf of the people whom this man had sought to destroy; and Antichrist’s fall will come about through God’s intervention on behalf of the people whom this man will seek to destroy.