THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD PREPARES THE WAY FOR A REVERSAL OF FORTUNES
It is one thing to know the right thing that God wants you to do. It’s quite another thing to boldly step out in faith and do it. Here we see Esther breaking out of her passive role of hiding her Jewish ethnicity and taking the initiative to come uninvited into the king’s presence at tremendous risk in order to lobby for the preservation of her people. The providence of God continues to work in the background while Esther acts on her responsibility to take action at the bequest of Mordecai. Meanwhile Haman shows his true colors of pride and malice and tremendous ego as the narrator uses delays and the tension of the plot line to prepare for the great reversal of fortunes that will soon be unveiled.
Tomasino: This section is well defined, distinguished from those that precede and follow by setting and characters. The preceding section (4:1–17) focused on the interaction between Mordecai and Esther, and took place mostly outside the palace. This section (5:1–8) focuses on the interaction between the queen and the king, and is set entirely in the palace. The section that follows (5:9–14) moves outside the palace, and focuses on Haman.
Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship: All heroes have their defining moment, the moment they were born for, trained for, and, in many cases, have been waiting for. As we begin our Bible study today in Chapter Five, Estherʼs move toward the throne room places her right there with so many other courageous men and women who have died standing up for their faith. Esther walks with courage, trust, and the unshakable faith that may not have come immediately, but arrived just when she needed it. Her last statement in Chapter Four, verse sixteen sets the stage for today, “…if I perish, I perish.” Esther has decided to move, to say yes to her God-given destiny and make an appeal on behalf of the Jews to God and Xerxes.
Laniak: Suspense fills the air at this halfway point in the story as Haman prepares to celebrate his presumably enhanced status and Esther prepares for a decisive confrontation with him before the king. The queen is clearly “fattening him for the kill,” at the risk of her own life. Before any resolution takes place, Haman’s anger at Mordecai will deepen. Ironically, Mordecai’s own status will begin to rise before the final banquet ever takes place.
Breneman: Chapter 5 is filled with irony and surprise. There is irony in that what was believed to have been a banquet in “honor” of Xerxes and Haman was a foreshadowing of Haman’s fall. There was surprise in that the banquet was merely a delaying tactic to bring about subsequent events.
I. (:1-2) BOLDNESS — PROVIDENTIALLY GAINING ACCESS TO THE KING
A. (:1) Preparation for Approaching the King
“Now it came about on the third day”
Whitcomb: The third day of the fast, which probably lasted forty hours (4:16).
Karen Jobes: A Jewish midrash on this scene points out that “Israel are [sic] never left in dire distress more than three days.” In this midrash, the “miracle” of deliverance through Mordecai and Esther is compared to events in the lives of Abraham, Jacob, and Jonah, which also involved three days (cf. Gen. 22:4; 31:22; Jonah. 1:17). It links this miracle to the Jewish tradition that the dead will “come to life only after three days” from the start of the final judgment. This idea is based on Hosea 6:2: “After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will restore us, that we may live in his presence.”
“that Esther put on her royal robes”
“and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace
in front of the king’s rooms,”
Joyce Baldwin: Esther knew she had to act on her resolve without further delay, and appear before the king.
Klock: When Esther “put on her royal robes,” the phrase literally meant, “put on her royalty.” We too will have a meeting with our King one day. Amos 4:12 warned Israel to “Prepare to meet your God!” in a negative sense, in fear and trepidation. No doubt Esther had fears, but she allowed faith in God to be her best preparation to meet this human king. What are some ways we can prepare to meet our heavenly King, helping us to be ready on that day? (Read: John 15:4-8; 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18; Romans 10:17; Colossians 3:16, 17; 2 Timothy 2:15)
“and the king was sitting on his royal throne in the throne room, opposite the entrance to the palace.”
Intimidating presence of the majestic King of Persia in the most impressive setting imaginable
B. (:2a) Positive Response from the King Regarding Safe Access
1. Extending Favor
“And it happened when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, she obtained favor in his sight;”
Whitcomb: A remarkable evidence of the fact that “the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will” (Prov. 21:1).
Karen Jobes: The transformation of Esther’s character from a person of “weak character” to one with “heroic moral stature and political skill” proceeds from that defining moment when she decides to identify herself with God’s covenant. Esther is referred to by name thirty-seven times in the story. In only fourteen of those references she is “Queen Esther.” All but one of those fourteen references to her as “Queen Esther” occurs after 5:1. Esther assumes the dignity and power of her royal position only after she claims her true identity as a woman of God.
2. Extending the Golden Scepter
“and the king extended to Esther the golden scepter
which was in his hand.”
C. (:2b) Privilege of Approaching the King Realized
1. Accessing His Presence in Safety
“So Esther came near”
2. Acknowledging the King’s Sovereignty
“and touched the top of the scepter.”
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown: This was the usual way of acknowledging the royal condescension, and at the same time expressing reverence and submission to the august majesty of the king.
II. (:3-8) BANQUETS — PROVIDENTIALLY GREASING THE WHEELS FOR HER APPEAL TO THE KING
A. (:3-5) Request for an Initial Banquet for the King and Haman
1. (:3) Solicitation of Esther’s Request
“Then the king said to her, ‘What is troubling you, Queen Esther?
And what is your request?
Even to half of the kingdom it will be given to you.’”
Esther did not just charge forward in clumsy fashion and make her appeal immediately. She recognized the importance of waiting for the proper timing and proper circumstances.
2. (:4) Substance of Esther’s Request
“And Esther said, ‘If it please the king, may the king and Haman come this day to the banquet that I have prepared for him.’”
3. (:5) Submission to Esther’s Request
“Then the king said,
‘Bring Haman quickly that we may do as Esther desires.’
So the king and Haman came to the banquet which Esther had prepared.”
B. (:6-8) Request for a Second Banquet for the King and Haman
1. (:6) Solicitation of Esther’s Request
“And, as they drank their wine at the banquet, the king said to Esther, ‘What is your petition, for it shall be granted to you.
And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be done.’”
F. B. Huey Jr.: The offer of half the kingdom was probably an example of Oriental courtesy that was not intended to be taken too literally (cf. Mark 6:23).
2. (:7-8) Substance of Esther’s Request
“So Esther answered and said, ‘My petition and my request is: 8 if I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition and do what I request, may the king and Haman come to the banquet which I shall prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king says.’”
Joyce Baldwin: Esther’s intuition told her that her strategic moment had not yet come.
Wiersbe: the Lord restrained Esther from telling Ahasuerus the truth about Haman. While there may have been fear in her heart, I don’t think that’s what held her back. The Lord was working in her life and directing what she said, even though she wasn’t aware of it. God was delaying the great exposure until after the king had honored Mordecai.
Frederic Bush: she uses the second conditional clause in a manner significantly different from the way she used it before. Its subject is not now the invitation to the banquet, as in scene 2. Rather, its subject here is the infinitival phrase that follows. She says, literally, “If granting what I ask and fulfilling my request pleases the king, let him … come to the banquet.” Unmistakably, with Esther’s subtle restatement of the invitation, the king’s future compliance (which he can hardly now refuse) has become virtually a public pledge to grant her unstated request! This careful and subtle development in the two dialogues demonstrates that Esther is not stumbling blindly in the dark, inexplicably inviting the king to two unneeded banquets, dangerous because of the time they consume, and it demonstrates that the narrator has not clumsily introduced a development that leaves his readers stumbling blindly in the dark, wondering what is going on. Esther is shrewdly and subtly pursuing a well-designed plan, by which she has maneuvered the king into committing himself in advance.
McConville: Two important things are achieved, however, by Esther’s tactics (for tactics they are, rather than a crisis of confidence). The first is that those of us who are enjoying the story are well served, for dramatic tension is piled on by the delay in confronting the king with the truth. This is more than just a literary device, however. For on the psychological level, secondly, the tactics have their own plausibility.
Esther, in fact, is plotting to produce the circumstances which will ensure the desired outcome to her request. She does this by introducing Haman to the scene. The king had certainly not bargained for this. Haman may be his favourite, but he can hardly want him around just at the moment. Esther’s introduction of Haman, therefore, serves not only to have him conveniently placed for exposure when the propitious moment comes, but to begin to provoke frustration in the king against him. Notice, furthermore, how Esther’s first dinner is for the king (v. 4). Her second, however, is for the king and Haman (v. 8). There is just a hint here that Esther’s purpose is to sow a resentment in the king’s mind, and have him think that this Haman was staking too big a claim both in the kingdom and in his wife’s esteem.
Tomasino: There is certainly, then, a calculated element in Esther’s actions. But we need not rule out the literary aspects. It is probably significant that Esther’s banquets will occur in a pair, just like the other strategic banquets of the narrative: the two banquets of Xerxes in Esth 1; the two banquets of the Jews in Esth 9, and these two banquets given by Esther in Esth 5 and 7. The Jews celebrated their deliverance with two banquets, so it is only fitting that their deliverance is brought about in the course of two banquets.
III. (:9-14) BOASTING — PROVIDENTIALLY GRATIFYING THE EGO OF HAMAN
A. (:9) Conflicting Emotions of Haman
1. High as a Kite — Overjoyed
“Then Haman went out that day glad and pleased of heart;”
Joyce Baldwin: Haman was overwhelmed with a sense of his own importance at being the only guest a he royal table. That this was to happen a second time was the climax of his boast to his circle of friends.
2. Low as a Snake — Overwrought
“but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, and that he did not stand up or tremble before him, Haman was filled with anger against Mordecai.”
Before Haman was angered that Mordecai did not bow down before him. Now he finds Mordecai sitting and is angered that he does not show respect by standing up.
Wiersbe: Malice is that deep-seated hatred that brings delight if our enemy suffers and pain if our enemy succeeds. Malice can never forgive; it must always take revenge. Malice has a good memory for hurts and a bad memory for kindnesses. In 1 Corinthians 5:8, Paul compared malice to yeast, because, like yeast, malice begins very small but gradually grows and finally permeates the whole of life. Malice in the Christian’s heart grieves the Holy Spirit and must be put out of our lives (Eph. 4:30-32; Col. 3:8).
The insidious thing about malice is that it has to act; eventually it must express itself. But when you shoot at your enemy, beware! For the ammunition usually ricochets off the target and comes back to wound the shooter! If a person wants to self-destruct, the fastest way to do it is to be like Haman and cultivate a malicious spirit.
B. (:10-13) Complaining to His Friends and Wife
1. (:10) Gathering a Sympathetic Audience – Biding His Time
“Haman controlled himself, however, went to his house,
and sent for his friends and his wife Zeresh.”
2. (:11) Glorying in His Position — Boasting
“Then Haman recounted to them”
a. His Prosperity
“the glory of his riches,”
b. His Posterity
“and the number of his sons,”
c. His Prominence
“and every instance where the king had magnified him,”
d. His Preeminence
“and how he had promoted him above the princes and servants of the king.”
Bob Deffinbaugh: Once home, Haman cannot wait to bask in the glory that is his. His home is his palace, and there his wife and friends willingly stroke his ego. This pompous pagan savours the moment, taking this occasion to sit among his family and friends and boast of his own glory. He recounts “the glory of his riches” (5:11). One cannot help but wonder how many times before this has been done. But the buzz of this moment in the sun is too much for Haman; he has to tell it again, no doubt in great detail. He boasts in the glory which he gains from his ten sons. And he recounts all the instances in which the king has honored him, this banquet being one of his great moments of power and glory. He speaks of the way the king has exalted him above all his peers. And finally he boasts of the banquet he has just attended and the one he will attend the following day. What glory is his. He seems ready to burst with pride.
3. (:12-13) Grating at the Lack of Respect Shown Him by His Nemesis
a. (:12) Exalted by the King and Queen
“Haman also said, ‘Even Esther the queen let no one but me come with the king to the banquet which she had prepared; and tomorrow also I am invited by her with the king.’”
b. (:13) Embittered by the Lack of Respect from Mordecai
“Yet all of this does not satisfy me every time I see Mordecai the
Jew sitting at the king’s gate.”
C. (:14) Constructing the Gallows to Hang Mordecai
1. Plot Proposed to Construct the Gallows
“Then Zeresh his wife and all his friends said to him, ‘Have a gallows fifty cubits high made and in the morning ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on it, then go joyfully with the king to the banquet.’”
Whitcomb: Haman ordered the workmen to construct in his own courtyard (7:9) a seventy-five foot gallows, in order that it might be seen from afar, probably even from the palace.
Wiersbe: Was it like the Western gallows, a device for hanging a person by the neck until death? Or was it a stake on which a human body was impaled? The Persians were known for their cruel punishments, one of which as impaling live prisoners on sharp posts and leaving them there to suffer an agonizing death.
2. Plot Executed to Construct the Gallows
“And the advice pleased Haman, so he had the gallows made.”
John Martin: Haman undoubtedly felt that with Mordecai gone there would be no organized opposition form the Jewish camp. He would be freed from his enemy forever. Here the tension in the Haman-Mordecai conflict reached its peak. From this point on it was relieved little by little through circumstances that had already been set in motion. As the events unfold, the reader is reminded of seemingly insignificant or forgotten events that the skillful narrator had previously mentioned but had not highlighted. God was sovereignly at work behind even such a hateful act as building a gallows (cf. Acts 2:23; 4:27-28).
Breneman: Haman did not realize he was preparing his own doom, and he was not alone in preparing his own downfall. The Bible teaches that all are guilty of the same sin: “Because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed” (Rom 2:5).
Laniak: Haman has now twice concocted plans that will backfire on him. The date that was set to witness the widespread destruction of the Jews will become the day for executing those who hate the Jews. This gallows, intended to single out Mordecai as first among those executed for being Jews, will make Haman first among those executed for opposing Jews. Before either of these reversals takes place, however, Haman will fall prey once again to his self-centered intentions as he leads Mordecai in a procession of honor that he intended for himself.