Esther 7-8 – The Plot of Haman Reversed

7:1-10 – Haman Hanged.  After the second banquet, the king once again asked what Queen Esther wanted (“petition” and “request”) and offered her whatever she should ask for.  Her answer was to ask whether he truly favored her or not and to make a “petition” for her own life and a “request” for the life of her people which would serve to connect the two as a singular desire—her lot would be that of her people (7:3).  However, she leaves off just who “her people” are and only speaks of their current lot as those who have been “sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation” (7:4).  She exercises wisdom in speaking to the king (who has earlier shown a penchant for over-reaction) by stating that she would not be bothering the king with something like this if it were not imperative to survival.  The king’s reply shows his anger already rising by the manner in which he asks who and where this individual is.  Esther’s answer is also biting as she states it the type of man who has done this and that it was Haman.  Haman’s reaction was noticeably fearful because he suddenly realized that the king had determined to destroy him and that his life was solely in the hands of Queen Esther.  With a dark comedic twist, Haman fell (cf. “fall” prophesied in 6:13) upon the couch of Esther with all of his pleading and the king returned just at that moment from having left the banquet hall for unknown reasons.  The king appears to have used this occasion as a “pretext to punish” Haman and relieve himself from the liability of involvement in the plot to kill the Jews by admitting his own involvement (Berlin 64-65, 70).  Exactly what the covering of Haman’s face refers to is unclear unless perhaps it was to remove Haman from the sight of the king (though this is a peculiar practice).  At that moment one of the king’s eunuchs mentioned the gallows Haman had set up at his house for Mordecai who had rescued the king.  The mention of the gallows was sufficient for the king to command Haman’s hanging from the very gallows Haman had built.  This apparently satisfied the king’s anger, but did not resolve the edict issued for the destruction of the Jews.  The king once again showed a penchant for short-sightedness.  It is striking that with the short statement “they hanged Haman”, his life was ended and the reversal begun.

8:1-8 – A plea for the Jews.  Not only did Haman suffer the ignominy of death by his own making, but all of his “estate” (lit. “house”) was taken and given to Esther who in turn gave it and Haman’s position in the kingdom (noted by the signet ring) to Mordecai (cf. Ezra 6:11; Herodotus 3.129).  The words of the Psalmist are rather fitting for what occurred: He becomes the victim of his own destructive plans and the violence he intended for others falls on his own head.  I will thank the LORD for his justice; I will sing praises to the sovereign LORD!” (Psalm 7:16-17 NET).  Finally, the relationship between Mordecai and Esther was revealed and literally “all that he was to her” is what was made known (8:1).  Esther had received only part of what she had asked of the king, but not the repeal of the first decree to slaughter the Jews.  It was truly courageous that Esther should continue to plead for the lives of the Jews rather than to be satisfied with the blessing of herself and Mordecai.  However, the king would not (and according to Esther 1:19; 8:8 “could not”) repeal the initial decree against the Jews.  So he instead left the protection of the Jews to Mordecai and Esther essentially once again not really caring what became of these people or admitting his own role in the affair.
8:9-17 – A decree for the Jews.  In a reversal of events, the royal secretaries were called to write a decree for the Jews and all the same leaders of the empire that had been enumerated before (compare 3:12; however notice the naming of the Jews leading the list of rulers which gives particular emphasis to them).  This was done seventy days later than the original decree which may have theological significance in connection with the time of the exile, but must be deduced by counting from the date of this decree back to the date of the first (Berlin 76; Bush 442).  The decree was also notably written not only in the language of all the leaders, but particularly of the Jews so that they could read it themselves (cf. 1:22).  The messengers sent were described as being sent on “fast horses especially bred for the king” in order to dispatch the decree that much faster than the first decree had been sent (cf. 3:15; 8:10, 14).  The decree permitted the Jews to retaliate and defend themselves against any who tried to carry out the initial decree in a manner of retaliation equal to the original intended attack (cf. 3:13; though the retaliation was not carried out in an equal manner according to 9:16).  The NIV incorrectly translates “women and children” as if the Jews would be defending theirs instead of attacking the women and children of their attackers which actually fits the grammar of the Hebrew, but is difficult theologically because of modern propensities against such a notion (Bush 443, 447; Jobes 180-181).  Indeed, how could such a thing be acceptable? 
This would be carried out on the same day (the thirteenth of the twelfth month) as the attack so it would be evident who was attacking.  The decree also would make evident to all those who would have attacked that they were now given official approval by the king to defend themselves and thus should have prevented any attack.  Whereas Mordecai had been clothed in sack-clothe and ashes in chapter four, here he was clothed in royal accoutrements.  In 3:15 the city of Susa was “bewildered,” but here the city “held a joyous celebration.” In 4:3 the Jews mourned with “fasting, weeping and wailing,” but in 8:16-17 their lot was one of feasting with “happiness, joy, gladness and honor.”  Not only were the Jews now pleased with what was happening, but many Gentiles appear to have sided with them (though it is debatable whether they converted to Judaism or simply outwardly aligned themselves with the Jews).  But nothing had officially been carried out at this point.  The Jews were still left to defend themselves and determine their lot in life as a people, but now they had the favor of the empire with a queen on the throne and a grand-vizier in command.  What would be the outcome?
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