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MORDECAI (môr'dē-kī, Heb. mordekhay, from Marduk, chief god of Babylon)

MORDECAI mŏr də kī (מָרְדֳּכַ֥י, related to Marduk?). The name of two men of postexilic Israel. 1. One who returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel and Jeshua after the captivity (Ezra 2:2; Neh 7:7) (cf. also 1 Esd 5:8). He was a leader among those who returned.

2. The son of Jair and a Benjaminite who was deported from Jerusalem to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. He later lived in Shushan (Susa) during the rule of the Persians (Esth 2:5).

He was the protector of Esther, his cousin, who was the daughter of his uncle Abihail. She was like a daughter to him (Esth 2:7).

Esther was chosen by Ahasuerus (Xerxes I) to be his queen. Ahasuerus was the king of Persia from 486-465 b.c. At the time of the choosing of the queen, Mordecai warned her not to reveal that she was a Jewess (2:10). He kept in constant contact with his cousin and became a prominent man himself, sitting in the gate of the king (2:20).

Esther obeyed Mordecai as a child would obey her father and was subject to his will (Esth 2:20).

In those days after she became queen, Mordecai overheard a plot against the king by two of the king’s eunuchs, Bigthan and Teresh (2:21). He reported this plot to Esther, and the king successfully thwarted their plan (2:22). At that time, providentially, no further recognition or reward was given Mordecai, but his deed was recorded in the official records of Persia (2:22).

Mordecai would not bow in those days to the king’s favorite prince, named Haman. Like Daniel and the three Heb. children of the Book of Daniel, he would not bow, being a Jew (3:4).

Haman became angered and sought to destroy all Jews because of Mordecai’s faithfulness to his God (3:3-6). When Mordecai learned of this evil plot he went into mourning. This attracted Esther’s attention and, on inquiry, she learned of the plight of the Jews (4:4-7).

Bravely, Mordecai ordered Esther to go to the king for the sake of her people. He did this in spite of the great risk to her should she earn the king’s displeasure (4:14).

The hate between Mordecai and Haman increased. Finally, at the suggestion of his wife Zeresh, Haman planned to have Mordecai hanged on a gallows he would make (5:14).

Providentially again, God stirred the mind of the king to have the Book of the Chronicles of the kings of Persia read to him on a sleepless night. He hoped the dull reading of the Chronicles would put him to sleep. Instead, it startled him as the Chronicler read aloud the record of Mordecai’s uncovering the plot against his life some years before. That night the king determined to reward Mordecai.

Ironically, Haman was ordered by the king to honor Mordecai before all the people (6:11). That same evening, at Esther’s banquet, it was revealed that Haman plotted to destroy her people. The king was so enraged by this news that he had Haman hanged on his own gallows (7:10).

The authority and glory that once had belonged to Haman now was given to Mordecai (8:2). By this new power he was able to annul the former decree against the Jews by a counter decree (8:11). Copies of the decree went to all the provinces of Persia (8:13).

Mordecai, now wearing the royal robes of blue and white, led the Jews in celebration of this great deliverance. The Feast of Purim was established on this day. The name Purim came from the term Pur, which means “a lot.” Since lots were to be cast against the Jews, this great deliverance day became known as Purim (9:26). In 2 Maccabees 15:36 it is called the day of Mordecai.

From that day Mordecai became a man to reckon with in the kingdom of Ahasuerus. He was not only great among the Jews, but found favor with the king. He always sought the good of his own people (10:3).

In secular history there is no mention of the name Mordecai in the annals of King Xerxes. A possible reference to a Marduk, a finance officer in the Pers. court of Xerxes’ day is suggested from a cuneiform document. No solid secular evidence is yet available.


Margolis and Marx, History of The Jewish People (1958), 127; Oesterley and Robinson, An Introduction to the Books of the Old Testament (1958), 131ff.; E. Young, An Introduction to the Old Testament (1958), 229; C. Pfeiffer, Exile and Return (1962), 119-123.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

mor’-de-ki, mor-de-ka’-i (mordekhay; Mardochaios): An Israelite of the tribe of Benjamin, whose fate it has been to occupy a distinguished place in the annals of his people. His great-grandfather, Kish, had been carried to Babylon along with Jeconiah, king of Judah (Es 2:5-6). For nearly 60 years before the scenes narrated in Esther, in which Mordecai was greatly concerned, took place, the way to Palestine had been open to the Israelites; but neither his father, Jair, nor afterward himself chose to return to the ancient heritage. This seems to have been the case also with the rest of his house, as it was with the vast majority of the Israelite people; for his uncle died in Persia leaving his motherless daughter, Hadassah, to the care of Mordecai. Employed in the royal palace at Susa, he attracted, through the timely discovery of a plot to assassinate the king, the favorable notice of Xerxes, and in a short time became the grand vizier of the Persian empire. He has been believed by many to have been the author of the Book of Esther; and in the earliest known notice of the Feast of Purim, outside of the book just mentioned, that festival is closely associated with his name. It is called "the day of Mordecai" (2 Macc 15:36). The apocryphal additions to Esther expatiate upon his greatness, and are eloquent of the deep impression which his personality and power had made upon the Jewish people. Lord Arthur Hervey has suggested the identification of Mordecai with Matacas, or Natacas, the powerful favorite and minister of Xerxes who is spoken of by Ctesias, the Greek historian. Few have done more to earn a nation’s lasting gratitude than Mordecai, to whom, under God, the Jewish people owe their preservation.