Esther 5-6 – The Tale Turns

5:1-8 – Esther’s Request.  After three days of fasting (by both the Jews of Susa and Esther and her entourage), Esther determined it was time to see the king.  The motif of three days of waiting for restoration/deliverance is found several times throughout the OT: Gen.22:4; 31:22; Jonah 1:17; Hosea 6:2.  It is important that she prepared herself in her regal garments and entered into the king’s presence where she did not know the outcome, but knew Xerxes must receive her if her life was to be spared immediately.  Though thirty days had passed since Esther had last been seen by the king she was welcomed and actually “pleased” with her.  Whatever the king’s motivation for being pleased, one can be certain that this was no coincidence.  According to the LXX and targums, the king was initially angry with Esther’s entrance, but when she fainted he was moved to receive her by the LORD.  All of such additions suggest far more than the text itself and attempts to explain the reception of the king.  The king apparently recognized that she would not have come unbidden and dressed as she was if not for some important matter.  He was so moved by her presence that he actually tells her (though this would be a euphemism for kingly generosity), “up to half the kingdom” could be asked for and he would give it to her.  Rather than explaining her reason for coming she invited the king and Haman to a banquet (which was ironically prepared for Haman).  Haman was brought immediately to join Xerxes at the private banquet and some time after the dinner, while drinking wine (which would then be the appropriate time for discussing business matters), the king again asked what Esther wanted and repeated the same generous offer.  Her reply was that she wished for the king and Haman to return the next day for another banquet.  Why would she not simply bring up the subject at hand?  What was to be gained in the invitation to another banquet?  It would appear that this gave a sense of ominous anticipation to the whole scene.  “Esther is shrewdly and subtly pursuing a well-designed plan, by which she has maneuvered the king into committing himself in advance” to give her what she would ask for (Bush 407).  As it would turn out, the events leading to the next banquet would change everything.

5:9-14 – Haman’s Plot against Mordecai.  The banquet seems to have pleased Haman in his own sight by suggesting to him that he was truly blessed to be privy to such a private and exclusive party.  His high spirits were quickly altered upon encountering the obstinate Mordecai at the king’s gate.  In fact, he became angry that not only would Mordecai not bow, but now he would not even rise in Haman’s presence or show fear.  Despite his anger, Haman kept outward control, but the author of Esther informs us that Haman was so upset that he discussed his angst with his wife and friends stating that all the honor, power and wealth he possessed meant nothing to him as long as Mordecai was around.  Haman could not wait for the assigned day for the killing of all the Jews, but wished to see Mordecai dead sooner.  He was counseled to build a “gallows” that was approximately 75 feet high for requesting the king in the morning to have Mordecai hung on.  Why should a gallows be erected that would be that tall since most of the important buildings of the era were rarely more than 30-40 feet high already?  This would seem to be in order to facilitate Mordecai’s exposure before everyone for what he had done to Haman.  So he built the gallows.
6:1-14 – The Day Everything Changed.  A string of “coincidences” are noted throughout this chapter that alters the direction of the story up to this point (Karen Jobes calls this literary technique “peripety” which is “an unexpected reversal of circumstances” and provides several helpful diagrams for visualizing the reversals – 155-158; cf. Waltke 765).  The king could not sleep and happened to have the chronicle read to him which contained the account of Mordecai’s foiling Xerxes assassination years before.  Why should he at this time have suddenly had this particular chronicle read to him?  Further, that he should think to ask if he had rewarded Mordecai for this.  The string of coincidences continued as Haman entered the court of the king earlier than he had been advised and just as the king asked who was in the court might give him advice about the reward.  Apparently Haman himself could not sleep with the thought of having Mordecai hung which would account for his early arrival to ask the king about this.
A conversation where the king and Haman fortuitously spoke past one another ensued.  The king wanted to receive advice on how to reward “the man the king delights to honor” which Haman automatically assumed was himself according to the author.  Haman’s advice was to essentially treat that man like the king by giving him the very clothes the king had worn, riding on the king’s horse and being publicly paraded about as the delight of the king.  Haman was attempting to present himself as a “surrogate king” by actually masquerading as the king (Berlin 59-61).  Haman’s pride could not allow him to think beyond himself as the “delight” of the king, but then the king commanded Haman to do all of these things for Mordecai “the Jew” (giving special emphasis to his ethnic identity).  Haman was overwhelmed with grief and shame at what he had to endure publicly honoring as a king the very man who would not honor him.  When Haman told his friends and wife what had transpired, their words in reply echoed the Jewishness of Mordecai as the very reason for this reversal and declared the destruction of Haman.  How should we understand such a statement in the mouths of Haman’s wife and friends?  Before Haman could even respond he was fetched for the next day’s banquet with Esther and the king.  Haman was hurdling towards destruction unaware of what awaited him and unable to change the course that was about to befall him.  Elsewhere the Scriptures declare, “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov.16:18).  This would all pertain to the blinding pride of Haman and all who would fail to see things in the light of God’s covenant of grace.
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