“But Mordecai Would Not Bow….”


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Mordecai, the cousin, guardian, and surrogate father of Esther, has always been one of this writer’s favorite Bible characters. Not only is Mordecai an example of courage and great conviction, but an individual who knew how to read a difficult situation and respond to it with great wisdom. As we recall the story of Esther, it was Mordecai who engineered her entrance into the court of the Persian king Ahasuerus (known in secular history as Xerxes) and her ultimate elevation as Ahasuerus’ queen (Esther 2:15-17). Mordecai made a mortal enemy in the person of Haman, one of the Persian princes who saw his position as a favorite son threatened by the presence of the Jews among his people, and by Mordecai in particular. Let us note the following text: “After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and set his seat above all the princes who were with him. And all the king’s servants who were within the king’s gate bowed and paid homage to Haman, for so the king had commanded concerning him. But Mordecai would not bow or pay homage” (Esther 3:1-2 – NKJV).

Why Mordecai Would Not Bow Or Pay Homage

Let’s focus on the last sentence of the above reading. We might wonder why Mordecai did not bow or pay homage. After all, was not Haman was in a position of authority? Was he not a prince, promoted by the king? Did not the king decree that Haman should be shown honor? What would have been wrong in Mordecai bowing to this prince? Are we not told in Scripture to give honor to whom honor is due? (Romans 13:7). To properly answer these questions, we have to consider the original context. What Haman was demanding of the people here was not merely the justified honor to be paid to a civil authority figure. What he sought, from the perspective of Persian custom, was to be worshiped as deity. In a word, to be honored as a god. This Mordecai refused to do.

An Example Of Daniel’s Friends

Mordecai’s action was not unlike that of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, the three friends of Daniel who refused to bow to the image of himself that Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon erected. When the king threatened the three men with public immolation in a furnace if they did not comply with his order, the trio replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18 – NKJV).

Having Courage And Conviction In An Age Of Compromise

We live in an age of compromise, of tolerance, of “going along with the crowd to get along.” Confronted with the dilemma Mordecai faced, many people in our world today would simply say, “What would it matter just this once? I know Haman isn’t really a god, but if he wants to think so, and obeying his order will keep me in his good graces, what difference would it make?” Mordecai refused. He would not compromise his faith even for a man with the authority to build a gallows and have him hung from it (Esther 5:14). As Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego told Nebuchadnezzar, “If you’re going to throw us in the furnace for not bowing to your idol, go ahead, because we are not bowing,” In essence, Mordecai’s action told Haman, “Hang me if you will, but I’ll not give you what belongs to my God.” How often are we guilty of bowing to the “gods” of this world? When we accept the world’s values without challenge, when we submit to common principles at the expense of holiness, when we set temporal things higher in our priorities than the things of Christ, are we not doing exactly what Mordecai refused to do?


Brethren, God’s people must be people of courage and conviction! When the world invites us to dine at its table, Christians must decline (1 Corinthians 10:21). Like Mordecai, let’s never be afraid to stand for the truth, always refusing to conform to the world (Romans 12:2).

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