Tuesday, October 22, 2013

CXCIV - Esther 5-7

Haman the Amalekite, having a generations-old hatred for the Jews, has used his powerful position to trick the king of Persia into having all Jews throughout the Persian Empire to be put to death.  Mordecai has persuaded Esther to appeal to the king to withdraw this decree.  Esther realizes such an appeal to the king could risk not only her standing as queen, but also her very life.  She appeals to Mordecai to have the whole Israelite population to fast and pray for her as she plans to approach the king, which brings us to chapter 5.

Chapter 5

After three days of fasting Esther put on her royal dress and prepared to address the king.  Let’s remember why she was chosen to be queen:  She was beautiful and had a sweet demeanor.  The king had not seen Esther for a month.  When he saw her and her beauty, he immediately granted her audience with him.  In verse 3 he asked her what she wanted and that he would give her anything, up to half of the kingdom.  But Esther was careful not to rush into the subject of the Jews quite yet.  {To ask a king to withdraw a decree was risking the interpretation of suggesting the king was wrong.  These kings, including Xerxes, had large egos.  Such a suggestion could ignite anger, and Esther was frighteningly aware of this.}  So her request was that the king attend a banquet she had specially prepared for him and Haman.  The king responded immediately (vs 5).  At the banquet the king had much wine and again asked Esther what she wanted the king to do for her.  Her response in verse 8 was that both the king and Haman would join her for yet another banquet on the following day, at which she would reveal to the king her special request.

Note in verse 9 that Haman was elated when he left the banquet for only him and the king, with an invitation to yet another one the next day.  He just couldn’t wait to hear what Esther wanted and knowing Haman’s egotistic character, he probably thought there was going to be something really great in store for him.  But this positive feeling was suddenly replaced by feelings of hatred.  As he was on his way home from the banquet he saw Mordecai, and again Mordecai did not bow down to Haman.  {Haman probably would have taken the time to punish Mordecai but he was too anxious to get home and brag about the events of the day, as evidenced in the following verses.}  But he goes on and tells his wife Zeresh how Mordecai cast a dark shadow on Haman’s glorious day.  Zeresh tells him to go ahead and kill Mordecai now instead of waiting for the king’s appointed day.  She tells him to “have a pole set up”, which means to build gallows on which Mordecai would be hanged or beheaded, whichever was the Persians favored method of execution.  She even stresses to have the gallows built higher than normal so as to make an example of Mordecai, yet enhancing Haman’s position of power throughout Persia.

Verse 6

{Quick note:  In the first blog posting on the book of Esther (CXCII) was the story of Mordecai saving the life of the king by reporting to him an assassination plot, and I ended the post with the comment that the Scripture did not indicate that Mordecai was rewarded for saving the king’s life (which was the custom of the day), but God would see to it that Mordecai would be rewarded.  This chapter will reveal that God never forgot Mordecai.}

During the night before the second banquet, the king had trouble sleeping so he ordered in a reading of the chronicles of his reign thus far.  {We do not know why the king could not sleep. We do not know why he chose to read the books of official records.  Maybe he thought that they were very dull and would make him sleepy.   But one thing we do know:  All of this was part of God’s plan.} The reading told of Mordecai saving the king’s life, but revealed that Mordecai was not properly rewarded.  The king thought perhaps the reward was overlooked in the chronicles and asked his officers the following morning what reward was given Mordecai, at which they responded, “Nothing”.  At this particular time the king noticed Haman approaching the palace and in verse 6 he asked Haman, “What should be done for the man who the king wants to give special honor?”  Although the king was talking about Mordecai, Haman of course thought it was himself who the king wanted to give special honor.  As you read Haman’s response in vss 8-9 you see that Haman is describing a parade through the city with Haman dressed in royal regalia riding the king’s horse.  Haman must have been shocked beyond description when (vs 10) the king instructs him to do for Mordecai exactly as Haman had described.  Haman obeyed the kings orders (hating every minute of it) then went home to grieve to Zeresh and others close to him.  Haman sought council from Zeresh and his family plus other confidants.  He was frustrated and desperate to do something to reverse this terrible trend of events.  But before he had much time to discuss this, the king’s eunuchs arrived to escort Haman to the banquet Esther had prepared for him and the king.

Chapter 7  -  Haman’s Final Reward

God gave Esther wisdom.  By her actions of holding not one, but two special banquets, while withholding from the king her request until “just the right time”, made the king more and more curious.  At this second banquet the king drank much wine and had enjoyed a delicious meal, both of which made him in a good mood.  He then (vs 2) asked Esther what is was that she wanted.  She finally told him.  She requested that he spare her people.  She went on to say that if he had simply enslaved her people into servitude, she would have kept silent, but he had called for the annihilation of all of the Jews.  King Xerxes realized he would not have imposed such a dreadful thing, and asked who was responsible for this travesty.  In verse 6 Esther answered, “This vile Haman”.  The term “vile” indicated deceitful and cunning.  The king got up in a rage and went out of the room to think.  He needed time to reflect on this.  He felt he had been duped (which he had been) and felt foolish.  {Kings don’t like to feel foolish.}  Haman realized things were rapidly turning against him and he suddenly feared for his life.  He knew the king had discovered that Haman’s actions were little more than a plot in which he used the king for his own hateful purposes.  He also recognized the powerful influence that Esther had with the king, so he begged Esther to spare his life.  Unfortunately for Haman, Xerxes re-entered the room just as Haman was kneeling at the seat of Esther, at which time Haman stumbled and it appeared as though he was disrespecting her (vs 8).  The king was infuriated even more.  The remaining verses tell that Haman was immediately taken away and hanged on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai.

Next post  -  Finishing Esther

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