His life and deeds
Mordecai resided in Susa, the metropolis of Persia. He adopted his cousin Hadassah (Esther), an orphan child, whom he tenderly brought up as his own daughter. When "young virgins" were sought, she was brought into the presence of king Ahasuerus and was made queen in the place of the exiled queen Vashti. Mordecai was then promoted to a position of royal court advisor as a result of ingratiating himself to Ahasuerus and was therefore referred to subsequently as one of those who "sat in the king's gate" to indicate his position of closeness to the King. While holding this office, he discovered a plot of Bigthan and Teresh, the King's Chamberlains eunuchs to put the king to death, which, by his vigilance, was defeated. His services to the king in this matter were duly recorded in the royal chronicles.
Haman the Agagite had been raised to the highest position at court. Mordecai refused to bow down before him because it is a clear violation of Jewish Law; and Haman, being stung to the quick by the conduct of Mordecai, resolved to accomplish his death in a wholesale murder of the Jewish exiles throughout the Persian empire. Tidings of this cruel scheme soon reached the ears of Mordecai, who communicated with Queen Esther regarding it, and by her wise and bold intervention the scheme was frustrated by distributing arms to the Jews of Shushan and other Persian cities where they lived and clashed with Haman's militia, until the King rescinded the edict to murder the Empire's Jews. The Jews were delivered from destruction, Mordecai was raised to a high rank, donned in the royal bluish cloak, and Haman was executed on the gallows he had by anticipation erected for Mordecai. In memory of the deliverance thus wrought for them, the Jews to this day celebrate the feast of Purim of "Lots" because of the lots that were drawn by Haman to decide whom he would first murder among the Jewish elders in Persia.
Esther 2:5-6 states:
- Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite; Who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away. (KJV)
Some interpret this verse to mean that Mordecai himself was exiled by Nebuchadnezzar, others interpret it to mean that his great-grandfather Kish was exiled making Mordecai three generations removed from the time of Jeconiah's exile.
The name Mordecai is of uncertain origin but is considered identical to the name Marduka or Marduku attested in the Persepolis Texts.
The name is commonly interpreted[by whom?] as a theophoric name referring to the god Marduk with the understanding that it means "[servant/follower/devotee] of Marduk" in Aramaic. (The Book of Daniel contains similar accounts of Jews living in exile in Babylonia being assigned names relating to Babylonian gods.) Some[who?] suggest that as Marduk was a war god, the expression "[servant] of Marduk" may simply denote a warrior - the popular translation of "warrior" is commonly found in naming dictionaries. Others[who?] note that Marduk was the creator in Babylonian mythology whence the term might have been understood by Jews to mean simply "[servant] of God".
The Talmud (Menachot 64b and 65a) relates that his full name was "Mordecai Bilshan" (which occurs in Ezra 2:2 and Nehemiah 7:7). Hoschander interpreted this as the Babylonian marduk-bel-shunu meaning "Marduk is their lord", "Mordecai" being thus a hypocoristicon.
Another interpretation of the name is that that it is of Persian origin meaning "little boy". Other suggested meanings of "contrition" (Hebrew root m-r-d), "bitter" (Hebrew root m-r) or "bruising" (Hebrew root r-d-d) are listed in Hitchcock's Bible Names Dictionary of the late 19th century. There is also speculation that the name is derived from Aramaic mar dochi; mar being a title address for a gentleman and dochi, meaning "one who incurs merit" (cf. Hebrew zoche).
The Talmud provides a Midrashic interpretation of the name Mordecai Bilshan as mara dachia ("pure myrrh") alluding to Exodus 30:23 and ba'al lashon ("master of languages") reminding us that as a member of the Great Assembly he could speak foreign languages.
Mordecai's genealogy in the second chapter of the Book of Esther is given as a descendant of Kish of the Tribe of Benjamin. Kish was also the name of the father of King Saul and the Talmud accords Mordecai the status of a descendant of the first King of Israel.
The Targum Sheni gives his genealogy in more detail, as follows: "Mordechai, son of Ya'ir, son of Shim'i, son of Shmida, son of Baana, son of Eila, son of Micah, son of Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan, son of Saul, son of Kish, son of Aviel, son of Tzror, son of Bechorath, son of Aphiah, son of Sh'charim, son of Uziah, son of Sheshak, son of Michael, son of Elyael, son of Amihud, son of Shephatya, son of Psuel, son of Pison, son of Malikh, son of Jerubaal, son of Yerucham, son of Chananya, son of Zavdi, son of Elpo'al, son of Shimri, son of Zecharya, son of Merimoth, son of Hushim, son of Sh'chora, son of 'Azza, son of Gera, son of Benjamin, son of Jacob the firstborn, whose name is called Israel."
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