Esther 3:3 (ESV)

3 Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why do you transgress the king’s command?”

Of course, Mordecai’s disobedience would not go unnoticed. His fellow officials soon asked him why he refused to obey the king’s command and tried to persuade him otherwise.

What was the reason for Mordecai’s refusal to bow before Haman? After all, in the ancient Near East it was common practice to bow before one’s superiors (e.g., Genesis 23:7, Genesis 23:12; Genesis 33:3; 1 Kings 1:16, 1 Kings 1:23).

The only satisfactory answer can be found in Haman’s and Mordecai’s respective nationalities. Haman was an Amalekite and Mordecai a Jew. In Esther 3:4 Mordecai himself seems to hint at this reason.

The Amalekites descended from one of Esau’s grandsons (Genesis 36:12). Shortly after Israel’s exodus from Egypt, they attacked the Israelites in the desert (Exodus 17:8–16). They especially targeted those who were weary and lagged behind (Deuteronomy 25:17–18). Through these acts, they showed that they had no fear of God (Deuteronomy 25:17–18).

The nation of Amalek had shown themselves to be God’s sworn enemies. Therefore, God commanded the Israelites to blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven (Deuteronomy 25:19). When Saul failed to do this, God rejected him as king (1 Samuel 15:1–35).

It was out of loyalty to God, the Great King, that Mordecai refused to bow before this Amalekite ruler. He remembered God’s command regarding the Amalekites, to which God had even added, Do not forget! (Deuteronomy 25:19). Thus, Mordecai viewed God’s enemy as his own enemy (see Psalm 139:21–22).