No doubt Esther had an e-ticket ride the day she went to see King Xerxes. The nerves of approaching the throne room without an invitation must have been extreme, even knowing that many had spent the previous three days fasting and praying for her. From that tension came Xerxes response of joy at seeing her. He welcomed her! She found favor in his sight! Again we see God’s hand at work. To demonstrate his approval, Xerxes held out the golden scepter to her, an indication to his guards that she was welcome to approach him. Perhaps Xerxes knew the only way Esther would approach him like this was if there was something unusual she needed or wanted. He asked her what she wanted and offered her even up to half his kingdom. This idiom was fairly common in this day and age and place. It meant that the king would be generous toward her request. It was most likely an exaggeration but still this was everything Esther could have hoped for. What did she want Xerxes asked. Notice that even though she was the queen and Xerxes wife, she pays proper deference to him. She responded, if it pleases the king. We see these words several times in the Book of Esther. It was a formula of polite address. After fasting for three days she invites both the king and Haman to a banquet that same day.
Picture Haman, the greedy, power hungry, conniving, schemer as he is invited to a meal with the king and Queen. He is the only one invited. How important he was. You can almost watch his chest and head swell. As they ate, Xerxes again asked Esther what it was she wanted. She did not want to appear overly anxious. It was customary protocol to not appear anxious about asking a favor or negotiating an agreement. God’s hand is involved here as well. She invited the two men back the next day for another feast. And providentially this allowed Xerxes to have a sleepless night so he could discover Mordecai’s act of loyalty.
The brief interlude in 5:9-14 emphasizes the depth of Haman’s hatred for Mordecai. Haman was in good spirits after the feast with the king and queen. He was probably the most important man in Susa other than the king. No doubt he walked with a swagger, and an air of great importance. He was on his way home full of wine and the honor of being the only one asked to dine with the king and queen. This time as Haman left the palace grounds Mordecai didn’t even stand up. He showed no fear of Haman despite the death decree against Mordecai and his fellow Jews. By not standing up Mordecai showed an even stronger refusal to honor Haman. Haman’s vanity matched the kings. He got home and bragged to his wife and friends about his vast wealth, his ten sons, and his status in the kingdom. It was considered a great blessing among Semitic people to have many sons. In Persia, the man with the most sons would receive presents from the kings himself. He bragged about the feast that day and the fact he was invited to another the following day. But Mordecai had thrown a wet blanket on Haman’s parade. Haman’s wife, Zeresh, suggested Haman take matters into his own hands. Her advice sounds a lot like the advice Jezebel gave to Ahab when he was sulking like a spoiled child. (1Kings 31:1-16). Jezebel’s solution was to arrange a legal murder so Ahab could have what he wanted. Here Zeresh counseled Haman simply to kill Mordecai outright. In the pagan world of ancient Persia the satisfaction of human pride in its demand for honor and respect outweighed the value of human life. Seventy five feet tall for an execution pole is unusually high but it is clear Haman wanted to make an example out of Mordecai. By making a pole this tall, everyone in Susa would see Mordecai impaled on it and they would know Haman commanded and deserved respect and he would go to great lengths to get what he wanted.
Chapter 6:1 is the turning point of the book. In this chapter we see several events that unmistakably point to God’s sovereign hand at work. Providentially Xerxes cannot sleep. God was working to protect Mordecai and Esther. He called for the book of the history of his reign. Ancient kings kept royal annals of their reigns. This book would have the record of all the events of the Persian Empire. It appears the chronicles were read for an extended period of time. Providentially the king’s servant opened the book to the place where Mordecai had exposed the plot to kill the king. It was customary for Persian kings to reward promptly those who had done noteworthy acts of service. No doubt Xerxes is surprised that nothing had ever been done. As God would have it, Xerxes calls for whoever is in the outer court to come to him. As the kings is pondering what to do for Mordecai, Haman is coming into the palace to seek his death. Again we see the hand of God! Haman loved public acclaim and recognition. He wanted to be honored as the king, to wear kingly attire, and to ride the kings horse. In other words, Haman wanted to be king for a day. In his arrogance Haman could not imagine the king would want to honor anyone besides him. He suggested a course of action that he would most enjoy, a royal parade through the city plaza so that everyone could see and hear about the king’s delight in him. The king obliged but Haman would soon find out he would be leading the parade to honor his worst enemy. Imagine his horror when he realized he would be the one who had to lead Mordecai through the square and proclaim the king’s pleasure in him. In ancient times great significance was attached to a king’s garments and wearing the king’s garments was a sign of unique favor. It represented a sharing of power, stature, honor and sanctity.
Once Haman had finished honoring Mordecai he rushed home in horror and humiliation. When he shared with his wife and all his friends what had happened Haman’s wife Zeresh spoke. She along with Haman’s friends could see all that had happened was more than just a series of coincidences. We are not told why Zeresh and Haman’s advisors believed the fact that Mordecai’s Jewish heritage would mean Haman’s plans would not succeed, but they were right. The wording in the original Hebrew is very strong, indicating that Haman will most certainly fail in his attempt to kill Mordecai. They had not even finished speaking when one of the king’s eunuchs came to take Haman to the feast with Xerxes and Esther.
As the three of them ate, the king again asked Esther what she wanted, even to half the kingdom. The statement that someone wanted to kill the queen and her family must have shocked the king. She is careful to refer to the huge price Haman was willing to pay the king and she used the same words of Haman’s decree to describe what was to happen to her. But notice her humility here. She is asking for their lives to be spared but if they were just to be sold into slavery, she would not have bothered the king. Xerxes could hardly believe what he was hearing. She aroused more than his curiosity. Xerxes was angry. The life of his queen was in danger because of a plot by one of his trusted men. Who would do such a thing? He asks for no details about Esther’s accusations. He assumed they were all true. The color drained from Haman’s face and he knew he was doomed. In his evil plan to kill his enemy, Haman had unwittingly threatened the queen’s life. The king was astonished and furious. Furious enough that he left the room. Normally the king would be expected to respond immediately and rationally but Xerxes needed time to think. The kings enraged response alerted Haman to the precariousness of his situation. Protocol dictated that no one but the king could be left alone with a woman of the royal harem. Once the king left the room, Haman should have left Esther’s presence. That he moved onto her couch was unthinkable. As the king returned, Haman was falling onto the queen’s couch, presumably in an attempt to implore her favor. Haman was in great danger simply by being that close to the queen. This made the king even madder. When the king spoke they covered Haman’s face. It was most likely the eunuchs who came and did this. This covering of his face signified that Haman was condemned to death.
One of the kings eunuchs, Habonah, alerted the kings to the gallows Haman had erected for Mordecai. Evidently Harbonah was aware of Haman’s plot, and there was no love lost between the two men. Harbonah reminded the king of all Mordecai did for him and the king took his clue and ordered Haman to be impaled on the very pole he had erected for Mordecai. The eunuchs took Haman out from the king and queen’s presence and impaled him on the gallows he had built himself. And the kings anger subsided. Esther had done just as Mordecai had asked her to do. Wicked Haman was put to death and Esther still lived. She still had one more job to do and we will see that tomorrow.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W