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AGAG (Heb. אֲגָג), the name of an *Amalekite king who was captured by *Saul (i Sam. 15). By sparing Agag's life Saul disobeyed*Samuel's order to annihilate the Amalekites. This occasioned the final break between Samuel and Saul. Later Samuel killed Agag at Gilgal "before the Lord" (ibid. 33).

One of Balaam's oracles sets Israel's king "higher than Agag" (Num. 24:7). The Septuagint adds "Agag" as the subject of another short oracle (ibid. 23). The name may have served as a recurrent designation for Amalekite chieftains or a clan.

Agagite (Heb. אֲגָגִי) is the gentilic name of *Haman, in the *Scroll of Esther (3:1; 10:8, 5, etc.). It connects the archenemy of the Jews in Persia with the Amalekites. It has been suggested that designation of Haman as an Agagite sounds legendary. It may represent a nickname, applied to this persecutor of the Jews because the Amalekites are denounced as the archenemy of Israel in the Torah (Deut. 25:17–19). Some scholars prefer the Septuagint's reading: Βουγαιος ("Bugaean" instead of "Agagite"), a Persian gentile name, baga, meaning "God."

[Hanna Weiner]

In the Aggadah

Agag's death came too late. Had he been killed by Saul during the course of the battle, a later generation of Jews would have been spared the troubles caused by Haman. It is taught that in the short span of time between the war and the execution of Agag, he became the ancestor of Haman (ser 20). The delay is attributed to the powers of persuasion of Doeg the Edomite over Saul. He argued that the law prohibits the slaying of an animal and its young on the same day. How much less permissible was it to destroy old and young at one time (Mid. Ps. 52:4).

When Agag was eventually sentenced to death, it was according to heathen, and not Jewish, law. Thus, there were no witnesses to his crime, and he was given no warning of his punishment (pdrk 3:6).


agag: Albright, in: jbl, 63 (1944), 218 ff. agagite: J. Hoschander, The Book of Esther in the Light of History (1923), 21 ff.