Esther

Esther 5, 6, & 7

On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, in front of the king’s quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace. 2 And when the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won favor in his sight, and he held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. Then Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. 3 And the king said to her, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you, even to the half of my kingdom.” 4 And Esther said, “If it please the king, let the king and Haman come today to a feast that I have prepared for the king.” 5 Then the king said, “Bring Haman quickly, so that we may do as Esther has asked.” So the king and Haman came to the feast that Esther had prepared. 6 And as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king said to Esther, “What is your wish? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” 7 Then Esther answered, “My wish and my request is: 8 If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my wish and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come to the feast that I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king has said.”

9 And Haman went out that day joyful and glad of heart. But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he neither rose nor trembled before him, he was filled with wrath against Mordecai. 10 Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home, and he sent and brought his friends and his wife Zeresh. 11 And Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the servants of the king. 12 Then Haman said, “Even Queen Esther let no one but me come with the king to the feast she prepared. And tomorrow also I am invited by her together with the king. 13 Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” 14 Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Let a gallows fifty cubits high be made, and in the morning tell the king to have Mordecai hanged upon it. Then go joyfully with the king to the feast.” This idea pleased Haman, and he had the gallows made.

It has now been 3 days since Esther asked Mordecai and the rest of the Jews in the citadel to fast and pray for her meeting with the king. She takes her ‘leap of faith’ and breaks the law (Esther 4:11) by standing inside the inner court. Though she takes a risk by her action, her attitude and responses to the king are out of humility. She does not try to hurry up and tell him what is going on, but cleverly and gently appeals to his fondness of feasting and merriment. The king obliges and the three of them enjoy the evening. Oppositely to Esther’s humility is Haman’s desire to flaunt himself to his wife and friends. He has now reached the pinnacle of status: the highest official and dinner with the king and queen. But this is not enough for Haman. He cannot be happy so long as Mordecai is free to live without bowing to him. He decides to take matters into his own hands, not waiting for the edict he created to be carried out, and build a gallows to hang Mordecai in the morning.

On that night the king could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. 2 And it was found written how Mordecai had told about Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, and who had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. 3 And the king said, “What honor or distinction has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” The king’s young men who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.” 4 And the king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king’s palace to speak to the king about having Mordecai hanged on the gallows that he had prepared for him. 5 And the king’s young men told him, “Haman is there, standing in the court.” And the king said, “Let him come in.” 6 So Haman came in, and the king said to him, “What should be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?” And Haman said to himself, “Whom would the king delight to honor more than me?” 7 And Haman said to the king, “For the man whom the king delights to honor, 8 let royal robes be brought, which the king has worn, and the horse that the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown is set. 9 And let the robes and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble officials. Let them dress the man whom the king delights to honor, and let them lead him on the horse through the square of the city, proclaiming before him: ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.’” 10 Then the king said to Haman, “Hurry; take the robes and the horse, as you have said, and do so to Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Leave out nothing that you have mentioned.” 11 So Haman took the robes and the horse, and he dressed Mordecai and led him through the square of the city, proclaiming before him, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.”

12 Then Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman hurried to his house, mourning and with his head covered. 13 And Haman told his wife Zeresh and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then his wise men and his wife Zeresh said to him, “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him.” 14 While they were yet talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried to bring Haman to the feast that Esther had prepared.

Providence comes full circle in these few verses. It was the 7th year of king Xerxes when Mordecai foiled the plot to kill him. It is now the 12th year and the king is having a bad night and needs some help getting to bed. Amazingly, he is read the story of Mordecai’s heroism on the eve of his would-be hanging. There is no mistaking God’s hand at work here. This is a definitive timeline of events, and results from those events, as only God could do. “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

In his assumption, Haman gives the king his wildest desires. He not only wants to wear the king’s clothes and sit on the king’s horse, but he wants the announcement of king’s honor before all the people of Susa. What a shock it must have been for Haman to one minute be ready to hear the king say, “go ahead with your plans for Mordecai” and the next actually hear him command to carry out his dreams on his enemy. Mordecai himself must have been shocked to find Haman coming to him with the king’s own garments to parade him around the city for something that happened 4 years earlier.

As is to be expected, Haman was mortified and told his wife and friends all that had happened hoping for some encouragement. Instead they remind him of Mordecai’s heritage and that when others have come against the people and God of Israel they undoubtedly fail. Just years before during the reign of Xerxes’ father, Darius, a proclamation had gone out to respect and honor to the God of Israel (Daniel 6:25-27). The people would have been very familiar with the stories of deliverance for God’s people.

So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. 2 And on the second day, as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king again said to Esther, “What is your wish, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” 3 Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request. 4 For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have been silent, for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king.” 5 Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has dared to do this?” 6 And Esther said, “A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!” Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen.

7 And the king arose in his wrath from the wine-drinking and went into the palace garden, but Haman stayed to beg for his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that harm was determined against him by the king. 8 And the king returned from the palace garden to the place where they were drinking wine, as Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was. And the king said, “Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?” As the word left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman’s face. 9 Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, “Moreover, the gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, is standing at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.” 10 And the king said, “Hang him on that.” So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the wrath of the king abated.

Just as before, Esther gently and patiently brings the king to herself and announces the plot against the Jews. She first appeals to his love of feasting, then the kings love for herself. She includes herself among those who will be killed. Esther also mentions that she and her people have been sold (remember Haman’s offer to pay money into the kings account to kill the people?), and that if it was to slavery she would not have bothered the king. But they have been sold to be killed which will hurt the king financially as he will lose revenue from those taxes. All of these reasons come together to accomplish what she was hoping for, a change that could benefit the Jews.

Haman has recognized his defeat and in an effort to save his own life he ignores etiquette and falls onto the couch with the queen, sealing his sentence of death. It seems as though everyone was ready for Haman to go, as the eunuch tells of Haman’s gallows prepared for the man the king had just honored. In typical Xerxes fashion, the king makes a quick decision and has Haman hanged. Chapters 6 & 7 mark the turning point in this story from one of despair to hope for the Jewish people.

***

Application Questions:

1. Has there ever been a time when you chose humility over pride? In Esther’s case she could have easily leveraged her queen-ship to get in contact with the king and talk to him about what the edict meant for her. However, she chose to come humbly to the king, seeking to please him first and then reveal her woes. “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.” – Proverbs 11:2

2. Has pride ever blinded you to a situation that wasn’t even about you but you placed yourself at the center? For Haman this turned out rather embarrassing as he marched his sworn enemy through the streets shouting, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!” Sometimes we need to stop before we get ahead of ourselves.

3. Thinking about your interaction with others, which of the 2 characters would those closest to you describe you as? Are you humble, coming lowly but with dignity, or are you arrogant and prideful, coming with unwarranted certainty?

The integrity of the upright guides them,
    but the crookedness of the treacherous destroys them.
Riches do not profit in the day of wrath,
    but righteousness delivers from death.
The righteousness of the blameless keeps his way straight,
    but the wicked falls by his own wickedness.
The righteousness of the upright delivers them,
    but the treacherous are taken captive by their lust.
– Proverbs 11:3-6

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