11 Est 5-7 Esther Exposes Haman’s TreacheryEzra, Nehemiah, & Esther: Restore, Rebuild, & Redeem
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Once again, I have extensively used and copied from the Truth for Today Commentary on Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, written by my friend and former colleague at Heritage Christian University, Coy D. Roper, Ph.D. I highly recommend it!
11 Est 5-7 Esther Exposes Haman’s Treachery
Esther 5 – Esther’s Request to the King
One courageous act on Esther’s part began the events that would turn the tables on wicked Haman and deliver all the Jewish people throughout the Persian Empire! As Roper writes, “After agreeing to Mordecai’s request to intervene with the king in the Jews’ behalf, Esther approached the king, not knowing whether she would live or die. The king welcomed her into his presence, and she invited him and Haman to a banquet the next day. At the banquet, she invited the two of them to another banquet the following day. Haman left the queen’s feast full of pride, only to be angered once again by Mordecai’s refusal to honor him. Upon returning home, Haman celebrated his successes with his wife and friends, but he confessed his bitter disappointment at Mordecai’s insolence. In response, they advised him to build a gallows and have Mordecai hanged on it. He agreed to their plan, and a gallows was built.”
Est 5:1-4 – Esther’s Successful Approach to the King
The three days of fasting (Es 4:16) led to the critical moment in which Esther would take her life in her hands and go before the king. She had had time as she fasted to develop a brilliant, shrewd strategy.
The very fact that she came, uninvited and at the risk of her life, would have aroused Xerxes’ interest. This must be serious! Her appearance in her royal robes, as the regal queen that she was, likely also indicated that she had prepared to present something crucial that deserved the king’s attention. Her appearance may also have reminded him of her inward and outward beauty and the reasons he had chosen her as his queen.
“She obtained favor.” So often in Scripture we read of faithful people having a positive, winsome effect on outsiders, even on rulers. Think of Joseph with Potiphar, then the prison guard, and finally Pharaoh (Ge 39-41). In our current study of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, remember the effect that Nehemiah had on King Artaxerxes I (Ne 1-2), the father of King Xerxes I (Ahasuerus, Esther’s husband).
“What is troubling you?” The king knew that Esther must be carrying a heavy burden indeed, for her to come before him without having been summoned. Perhaps it was “written all over her face,” too. Again, remember how Xerxes’ father remarked to Nehemiah in Ne 2:2, “Why is your face sad though you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of heart.”
Note that he called her, not just “Esther,” but “Queen Esther.” That may suggest the high regard and respect she had won through her character, so that he acknowledged her royal position.
Scholars suggest that the phrase, “even to half of the kingdom” (repeated in 5:6 and 7:2; cf. Mk 6:23),” was used commonly and was not necessarily to be taken literally. It was hyperbole, and exaggeration for emphasis. It might have meant something like, “Ask me for the moon,” or, “I’ll do whatever you ask, no matter the cost.”
Why would she request a banquet, and then a second banquet, rather than immediately expose Haman and his plan? Roper: “She knew that providing a good meal for her husband was an effective way to win his approval and make him receptive to what she had to say. The plan involved two banquets: the first to solidify the king’s affection (and to disarm Haman by making him think she appreciated him), and the second to request the king’s help in saving her people (and to confront Haman). Esther needed to speak to Haman in the presence of the king to make sure he did not have the opportunity to deny the charge she planned to make against him.”
It’s an interesting thought that Esther had already prepared the banquet. She had definitely set the stage for what she intended to do next!
Est 5:5-8 – Esther’s First Banquet
“As they drank their wine” (Es 5:6) is literally “at the banquet of wine.” Wine-drinking, a common practice among the Persians (read Es 1:7-8), may have also made the king more agreeable and reduced his resistance. The possible detrimental effect of alcohol on a person’s judgment is a very good reason for us to avoid it!
At this first banquet, Esther secured the king’s approval for her request and made it clear that she would make that request the next day. Haman’s presence allowed him to witness this interaction and also prompted him to react exactly as he did.
Est 5:9-14 – Haman’s Vicious Plot
Narcissist that he was, Haman had no clue that he was at fault in any way. After all, he had the king’s favor. He had been appointed as prime minister. And now, of all the people that Queen Esther might have invited for an exclusive banquet with herself and the king, she chose Haman! What could be more fitting? Or so he must have thought.
Yet, as so many people do, Haman allowed his one “critic” to have such power over him that he was filled with anger! Mordecai’s refusal to pay Haman homage outweighed the prestige of the royal banquet he had just attended.
So this pompous egotist called his friends and his wife together to reassure his damaged ego by presenting the message, “How Great I Am!” He had kept a record of every reinforcing stroke, every word of commendation, and every instance of promotion that he had received. No doubt he would have announced how many “likes” he had received on Facebook if such had been available!
“Yet all of this does not satisfy me …” Haman was consumed by hatred for the one person whom he himself had chosen as worthy of his attention: Mordecai. He had no idea what his self-centered hatred would cost him. What would satisfy Haman? Building a gallows and watching Mordecai hang!
The Hebrew word rendered “gallows” means wood or a tree. We should not think of the kind of gallows we have seen in the movies and on television, but rather some kind of a stake on which one would be impaled. The extreme suggested height of Haman’s gallows, some 75 feet, would certainly make the death of Mordecai a public spectacle, for all to see Haman’s victory over this “terrible villain” who would not bow to him!
Takeaways from Esther 5
Best Foot Forward – One’s decision to look, speak, and act one’s best can greatly enhance the probability of one’s success with others.
Best Face Forward – Esther did not hide her feelings in any kind of pretense or hypocrisy. She did not mask her grief and concern. Be honest and transparent with others, even when you are hurting.
Best Prep Forward – Having a step-by-step plan and organization can make a huge difference in the outcome of upcoming events.
Best Focus Forward – Count your blessings rather than your foes. Don’t let one negative, irritating person distract you. However, learn all you can from your critics. Act on whatever truth they present. Consider the source but also any useful content coming from that source.
Best Counsel Forward – Value advice but choose your adviser(s) very carefully! No matter how many recommend anger, hatred, retaliation, or revenge, refuse to respond that way. It will cost you, not benefit you, in the long run. Cf. Pr 11:14; 15:22; 20:18; 24:6.
Esther 6 – Tables Turned
Est 6:1-11 – Mordecai’s Honor
Could God use a king’s insomnia to exalt faithful Mordecai? You know it! What better way to induce sleep (at least in the minds of some) than to read dry historical records? Stop right there! What Xerxes heard did not make him sleepy. On the contrary, it awakened him by reminding him of a meritorious act that had not been rewarded.
Before going on, read again Es 2:21-23. In Mordecai’s customary position at the king’s gate, he had become aware of a plot by two royal officials to attack the king. He had then reported it to the king through Queen Esther. As a result, the would-be attackers had been hanged on a gallows (impaled on a stake), just as Haman intended to do to Mordecai.
Learning that no honor or appreciation had been granted to Mordecai, the king decided to ask his prime minister, Haman, what he thought should be done. As a narcissist Haman thought, “This is all about me!” Therefore, he presented the very type of honor that he himself wanted for himself!
He could see himself wearing a royal robe and a royal crown while riding a royal horse. There would be a royal, most noble prince leading him on the horse through the city square, declaring Haman to be the man whom the king had chosen to exalt. Ahh …
Haman saw himself as “a legend in his own time.” In fact, however, he was nothing but “a legend in his own mind.”
Such sweet irony! Mordecai wore the royal robe and crown, and he rode the royal horse. And the most noble prince leading him through the city square has none other than Haman himself!
Est 6:12-14 – Haman’s Humiliation
Mordecai went back to his usual spot, at the king’s gate. Haman went back to his home, his wife, and his friends in shame. He told them his “Poor me!” story. The worst thing that could happen to a narcissist had happened to him.
Previously, his friends and his wife Zeresh had said, “Don’t worry; be happy! Just hang Mordecai!” Not this time. His wise men and his wife spoke in prophetic terms. If Mordecai was of Jewish origin – and Haman knew that he was – Haman would not prevail but would instead fall.
But at least there’s another banquet with the king and queen! That must be a good thing, right? Once again, this time for the last time, the tables will turn on Haman.
Takeaways from Esther 6
Short Memory – When someone benefits you, make a note of it. But be sure to read such notes and act on them quickly!
Short Nights – When you lose sleep, catch up on your reading! Seriously, read the Word and/or pray. Make that time count.
Short Sight – Haman was nearsighted! He saw nothing and no one but himself. He automatically credited himself for whatever had been done for the king. Step back. Look for the good in others.
Short Fall – How quickly one’s “15 minutes of fame” can give way to one’s removal from the spotlight. Don’t rely on fleeting, physical, worldly “highs” to sustain you. “Build your hopes on things eternal.”
Short Rise – Humble, faithful Mordecai never planned or dreamed that he would ride the king’s horse and wear the king’s crown. As Mary said later in Lk 1:52, “He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble.”
Esther 7 – Haman’s Punishment
Roper: “In chapter 6, Haman was humiliated; in chapter 7, he was hanged! He was put to death, ironically, on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. As the story of Haman’s ill-fated attempt to annihilate the Jews nears its end, Queen Esther finally made known to the king her request. She revealed that she was a Jew and informed her husband that Haman was trying to destroy her and her people. The enraged king then had Haman executed.”
Est 7:1-6 – Esther’s Second Banquet
The king had now had an entire day to prepare himself for Esther’s request. What might it be? Why was it so urgent? Why didn’t she present it at the first banquet? Why would she have Haman present, not only the day before, but again on this second occasion? Of course, we don’t know what went through Xerxes’ mind; we can only imagine.
Notice again the emphasis on wine! They came “to drink wine with Esther the queen.” “As they drank wine at their banquet,” the king raised the subject regarding her request.
Read again Esther’s response in Es 7:3-6.
Her humility: “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king …” By acknowledging her subjection to her king and his authority, she likely softened his heart even further.
Her desperation: “… let my life be given me as my petition, and my people as my request …” In other words, she was asking, not for some benefit, advantage, or promotion, but for the sparing of her life!
Her connection: “… and my people as my request …” Beyond her own life, there was the threat of death against all “my people.” Whereas Haman had spoken of the Jews as just “a certain people” (Es 3:8), disconnected from the king and worthy of death, Esther would present these same Jews as “my people.” What a difference such a nuanced, personal description could and would make on this king!
Her respect: “If this were not a matter of life and death, I wouldn’t trouble the king.” Of course, Esther knew that her people’s being sold into slavery would have been a horrible thing. She wanted, however, to make it clear that her people’s possibly being annihilated was even more severe and therefore warranted her approaching the king.
Her assertiveness: Esther told it like it was. She not only called out Haman by name; she described him as a foe, as an enemy, and as a wicked man. The great Haman became horrified as he realized his true nature and intent had been revealed. Even if he could run, he could not hide.
Est 7:7-10 – Haman’s Sudden Death
The king must have realized that he had been set up, exploited, misled, and manipulated. His anger was righteous anger. Haman saw the king’s transformation take place right before his very eyes. He knew that disaster was in the air!
He had one last shot, maybe. He could fall before Esther and beg for mercy. This Hitler-figure, who had been so ready to exterminate an entire race of innocent people, couldn’t bear the thought of his own well-deserved death. What a double standard!
Up to this point, the king may have thought, “Whatever Haman does will be right!” Now that his eyes have been opened, the king may have thought, “Whatever Haman does cannot possibly be right!” Therefore, he interpreted Haman’s approach to Esther as an assault, because he saw Haman’s action through his own new “lens.” He saw, not a defeated enemy pleading for his life, but a desperate enemy going after the queen’s life!
Before the king even finished asking this loaded question, the Persian Secret Service (or at least the queen’s protectors!) sprang into action. They covered Haman’s face as a clear indicator that he was to be executed.
Justice was swift and fair. The gallows built to hang Mordecai, who had spoken good things regarding the king, would instead Haman its builder, who had planned to annihilate the queen and all her people. Only the well-deserved death of Haman would satisfy and calm the king’s righteous indignation.
Takeaways from Esther 7
The Asker Asked – First Esther asked the king. Now the king asked Esther, “What is your request?” Esther’s submission, hospitality, and demeanor aroused the kings’ interest. Behave in such a way that you draw others to seek your opinion and address your concerns.
The Trapper Trapped – Both Haman and Mordecai reaped what they sowed (Ga 6:7). It was not Daniel, but his accusers, whom the lions devoured (Dan 7:24). Pr 26:27 “He who digs a pit will fall into it, And he who rolls a stone, it will come back on him.” Cf. Ps 7:14-16.