How Could Haman Be a Descendant of King Agag?
by Eric Lyons, M.Min.
The skeptic’s argument goes something like this: (a) According to 1 Samuel 15, Saul (with a little help from Samuel) utterly destroyed all of the Amalekites, including Agag, king of Amalek. (b) Esther 3:1 indicates that Haman (prime minister of the Persian king Ahasuerus) was a descendant of Agag. Thus, (c) First Samuel 15 and Esther 3:1 cannot both be true: either the Amalekites were not completely destroyed, or Haman was not actually a descendant of Agag.
As with so many purported “discrepancies” in Scripture, this allegation assumes more than what can actually be proven. First, simply because Haman is called “the son of Hammedatha the Agagite” approximately 500 years after King Agag of Amalek died (Esther 3:1), does not necessarily mean that Haman was related to that same Agag mentioned in 1 Samuel 15. It is possible that he was, but such ancestry has never been proven. As Keil and Delitzsch observed in their commentary on Esther:
The name Agag is not sufficient for the purpose, as many individuals might at different times have borne the name ‘agaag, i.e., the fiery. In 1 Sam 15, too, Agag is not the nomen propr. of the conquered king, but a general nomen dignitatis of the kings of Amalek, as Pharaoh and Abimelech were of the kings of Egypt and Gerar…. We know nothing of Haman and his father beyond what is said in this book, and all attempts to explain the names are uncertain and beside the mark (1996).
Indeed, to assert that Esther 3:1 is referring to the same family that Saul and Samuel killed in 1 Samuel 15 is, simply put, to make an unproven (and unprovable) allegation.
Though it is necessary for the apologist to point out only one unsubstantiated premise in the skeptic’s argument in order for the line of reasoning to be proven invalid, a second problem should also be noted for the record: namely, nothing in 1 Samuel 15 indicates that every single Amalekite on Earth died at that time. In fact, in addition to Saul’s indifference toward God’s command to utterly destroy the Amalekites, verse seven sets parameters on the actual Amalekites whom Saul attacked—those “from Havilah all the way to Shur.” Could there have been Amalekites who were outside of this region during Saul’s war against Amalek? Could it be that some of the Amalekites actually lived near the edge of the boundary and escaped the fighting just prior to Saul’s attack? Could it be that just one of these Amalekites who survived was the ancestor of Haman? All of these questions may well be truthfully answered in the affirmative. In fact, just 12 chapters later, the inspired writer of 1 Samuel revealed that certain Amalekites were still alive and well, only a few years after King Saul had attacked them (1 Samuel 27:8; 30:1; cf. 1 Chronicles 4:43).
In short, neither premise in the skeptic’s argument against 1 Samuel 15 and Esther 3:1 is valid. There is no verified contradiction between these texts—only another unproven allegation.
[NOTE: For an answer to the skeptic’s charge that the God of the Bible is evil for instructing the Israelites to kill countless thousands of Canaanites, including the Amalekites, see our article titled “God’s Just Destruction of the Canaanites.”]
Keil, C.F. and F. Delitzsch (1996), Keil and Delitzsch Commentary on the Old Testament (Electronic Database: Biblesoft), new updated edition.
Lyons, Eric (2013), “God’s Just Destruction of the Canaanites,” Reason & Revelation, 33:57-59, http://apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1121&article=2151.