GOD DEMONSTRATES HIS SOVEREIGN CONTROL EVEN WHEN THE WICKED IMAGINE THAT THEY ARE IN CONTROL
What a reversal of fortunes! Haman starts out this chapter rejoicing in his recent promotion and looking forward to the extermination of the hated Jews. He ends up in fear of losing his life. Mordecai starts out this chapter in a panic over the looming threat of Persian persecution. He ends up being lauded by the king and led around the kingdom in triumph and exaltation by his bitter enemy. The providential and sovereign control of God is seen in all of the detailed ways that God works behind the scenes to bring about His kingdom agenda, to protect His covenant people and to destroy His arrogant enemies.
John Martin: Almost incredible circumstances point to God’s hand guiding the course of events. The entire course of history for the Jewish nation was changed because a pagan king, hundreds of miles from the center of God’s activities in Jerusalem, could not sleep. Jewish people all over the Persian Empire, and especially in Palestine itself, were unaware of God’s dealings till long after the fact. But read in the light of God’s covenants to Abraham, Moses, and David, the readers could well appreciate the sovereign action of God.
F. B. Huey Jr.: The entire chapter shows how a series of seemingly trivial circumstances fit together to overrule the evil intentions of Haman (e.g., the king happened to be unable to sleep; he happened to ask that the royal annals be read to him; Haman happened to be in the palace).
Tomasino: The section now before us is surely the most entertaining of the entire Esther narrative. As a humorous anecdote, it could almost stand alone, an illustration of the follies of pride and presumption. In the context of the book of Esther, however, it is even more striking and enjoyable. The pompous vizier, at the urging of his wife and friends, has constructed a pike for the impaling of his enemy, the Jew Mordecai. . . In his presumptuousness, he assumes that requesting the king’s permission is a mere formality. The king, however, has recently been reminded of Mordecai’s heroic service to the crown. Haman marches into the palace expecting to emerge with the permission he seeks to remove the only remaining impediment to his happiness. Instead, he will be forced to heap upon Mordecai the honors that he craves for himself. The section will end as did the last: with the words of Zeresh, Haman’s wife. This time, however, she sees no chance that Haman will be able to do away with the offending Jew. Indeed, she predicts Haman’s downfall before Mordecai.
Laniak: These coincidences highlight the story’s important reversals and constitute the hinge for the whole narrative. Mordecai will move up the social escalator as Haman moves down. He will begin to assume some of the royal prerogatives that were reserved for Haman. This status reversal suggests that the prospects for the Jewish community are also hopeful. What has been threatened will be secured once again. And the perpetrators of evil will taste the punishment they themselves designed. From a biblical perspective these reversals signal the involvement of providence, expressed through the principle of retribution (see Hos. 10:13–14) and the wondrous protection of God’s people. Although these changes presage hope, Esther has yet to present the king with her request. And the parade for Mordecai is more symbol than substance.
The emerging “theology” in Esther takes together the initiatives of Mordecai and Esther and these [divinely] orchestrated coincidences. There is an implied confluence of human and divine activity, with causality located in both spheres.
I. (:1-3) PROVIDENCE UNEXPECTEDLY BRINGS THE PAST TO BEAR ON THE PRESENT —
DISCOVERY BY THE KING THAT MORDECAI NEEDS TO BE HONORED FOR PAST DEEDS OF LOYALTY
A. (:1-2) Discovery of Mordecai’s Key Role in Foiled Assassination Attempt
1. (:1) Reading the Historical Record
“During that night the king could not sleep so he gave an order to bring the book of records, the chronicles, and they were read before the king.”
Probably thought this dull reading would help him to sleep. But he came upon an exciting account that refreshed his memory and held his interest.
Breneman: “Could not sleep” is literally, “The sleep of the king fled.” This is the pivotal verse in the story. The reader has known all along of the injustice about to be done, but thus far only the possible victims, the Jews, and the instigator, Haman, have known about it. Now, in a dream, the king is disturbed. For the first reader as well as the present reader, there can be no doubt that God was behind the king’s sleeplessness. “That night” certainly would suggest God’s providence in the section of the annals that was read and in the timing of the reading.
Dr. C. I. Scofield: Here is a remarkable instance of the veiled providential control of God over circumstances of human history. Upon the king’s insomnia, humanly speaking, hinged the survival of the chosen nation, the fulfillment of prophecy, the coming of the Redeemer, and therefore the whole work of redemption. Yet the outcome was never in doubt; for God was in control, making the most trivial of events work together for Haman’s defeat and Israel’s preservation (New Scofield Reference Bible, p. 697).
2. (:2) Reporting on Mordecai’s Loyal Heroism
“And it was found written what Mordecai had reported concerning Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who were doorkeepers, that they had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus.”
B. (:3) Question of Reward Raised
1. Reward is Appropriate
“And the king said,
‘What honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?’”
Karen Jobes: It was important that Persian kings publicly reward those who were loyal as a means of promoting their own safety in such treacherous times. Herodotus records examples of two such honors. In one instance Xerxes granted land to two ships’ captains who had assisted in a battle against the Greeks and recorded one of them in the list of the “King’s Benefactors.” In another incident, a man was made governor of Cilicia for saving the life of Xerxes’ brother.
2. Reward Has Not Been Granted Yet
“Then the king’s servants who attended him said,
‘Nothing has been done for him.’”
II. (:4-11) PROVIDENCE TRANSFORMS EXPECTED HONOR INTO INTOLERABLE HUMILIATION —
HAMAN PUT IN A BIND AND FORCED TO HONOR MORDECAI BY VIRTUE OF HIS OWN JUDGMENT
A. (:4-5) Haman’s Intentions = Hanging Mordecai
1. (:4) Haman Seeking the Execution of Mordecai
“So the king said, ‘Who is in the court?’ Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king’s palace in order to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai on the gallows which he had prepared for him.”
2. (:5a) Haman Standing in the Court
“And the king’s servants said to him,
‘Behold, Haman is standing in the court.’”
3. (:5b) Haman Summoned by the King
“And the king said, ‘Let him come in.’”
Tomasino: King Xerxes seeks some official of whom he could ask advice on how to proceed. In his typical fashion, the king will not proffer a decision without plucking it from the mouth of one of his counselors. The fact that Xerxes assumes that some official will be present is further evidence that it is morning, not the middle of the night. Haman has stationed himself in the outer court of the throne room to present his petition, just as Esther had done earlier in the narrative. His arrival at this very moment is most fortuitous indeed. (It is also another humorous element in the story, since Haman is so eager to present his request that he arrives at the palace before the king is out of bed.) The two men are eager to put their respective problems to rest: Haman must kill and humiliate Mordecai, or he can have no peace of mind; and King Xerxes must honor Mordecai, or his sleepless nights will continue.
B. (:6-9) Haman’s Pride Leading to His Fall
1. (:6a) Inquiry of the King Regarding Best Way to Honor Deserving Loyalist
“So Haman came in and the king said to him,
‘What is to be done for the man whom the king desires to honor?’”
2. (:6b) Immense Ego of Haman
“And Haman said to himself,
‘Whom would the king desire to honor more than me?’”
3. (:7-9) Ignorant Judgment Rendered by Haman
“Then Haman said to the king, ‘For the man whom the king desires to honor, 8 let them bring a royal robe which the king has worn, and the horse on which the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown has been placed; 9 and let the robe and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble princes and let them array the man whom the king desires to honor and lead him on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him, ‘Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor.’”
Suggestion #1 – Give the honoree a royal robe. 6:8a
Suggestion #2 – Give the honoree a royal horse. 6:8b
Suggestion #3 – Give the honoree a royal crown. 6:8c
Suggestion #4 – Give the honoree a royal parade. 6:9
John Martin: Haman did not need money (cf. Es. 3:9). He craved respect from his peers and from the population at large (cf. 5:11). Even though he was fabulously wealthy and had more power than anyone outside the royal family (3:1), he wanted even more respect from the people of the city. Haman’s lust for respect (from Mordecai) is what got him into trouble in the first place (cf. 3:2, 5; 5:9, 13).
Laniak: Haman has made the equation between honor and royalty. His description of this ceremony uses the terms “king” (melek) or “royal” (malkut) eight times. Haman is so consumed with royal honor that some ancient commentators connect him with the attempted coup in chapter 2. It is also possible that such an extravagant parade was intended to be a succession ceremony (1 Kgs. 1:33–40). Apart from any conjecture, Haman’s loyalty to the king is suspect. From a wisdom perspective, Haman is playing the part of the conceited fool whose blind ambition knows no boundaries.
C. (:10-11) Haman’s Humiliation
1. (:10) Enduring Shame
“Then the king said to Haman, ‘Take quickly the robes and the horse as you have said, and do so for Mordecai the Jew, who is sitting at the king’s gate; do not fall short in anything of all that you have said.’”
2. (:11) Eating His Words
“So Haman took the robe and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city square, and proclaimed before him, ‘Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor.’”
Duguid: Haman’s own words had come back to haunt him, and the phrase he had so delighted to pronounce must have tasted like ashes in his mouth by the end of a long day of shouting it in front of Mordecai. His dream day turned into his worst nightmare.
Tomasino: After the long buildup, the actual procession takes but a single verse. Each of the elements in the preceding section are repeated, allowing us to feel Haman’s humiliation, as each honor that he had dreamed of possessing is bestowed on Mordecai instead. Haman causes Mordecai to ride on a horse “in the city square.” This phrase apparently refers not to the citadel, but to the larger city below. The king’s intention is that the honoree is to be seen by as many people as possible. Of course, it also makes Haman’s humiliation extremely public. . .
In the Hebrew and Greek versions of the narrative, no words are exchanged between Mordecai and Haman. Indeed, none are needed. The situation itself speaks volumes without dialogue. Later Jewish tradition, however, could not help but heap more ignominy on Haman: according to Tg. Esth. I and b. Meg. 16a, as Haman led Mordecai through the streets, Haman’s daughter looked out a balcony window and thought that the splendidly accoutered man on the horse must be her father, and the inglorious figure leading him about must be Mordecai. To further abuse the Jew, she dumped a chamber pot on his head. When Haman looked up and reproached her, she was so shocked that she fell from the balcony and died.
McConville: Haman’s recklessly hopeful speech produces the best comic moment in the tale; though for the pretender himself it is pure tragedy. The naming of Mordecai (v. 10) as the recipient of the honours is a hammer blow to Haman’s perfect but fragile confidence. The blow is the more devastating because the honours were of his own concoction, and designed to be as glittering as he could imagine. Now he is instructed to “leave out nothing that you have mentioned”. And he is himself to be the mediator of the king’s goodwill to this hated enemy. Little wonder that the once-voluble Haman is now silent. He is struck dumb. We are left to imagine the numb shock slowly giving way to bitter shame and self-recrimination.
III. (:12-14) PROVIDENCE SETS IN MOTION EVENTS THAT RAPIDLY ESCALATE OUT OF CONTROL —
HAMAN HEADED FOR HIS CERTAIN DEMISE
A. (:12) Haman Hurries Home to Try to Rescue His Life
1. Mordecai Exalted
“Then Mordecai returned to the king’s gate.”
Place of influence and power and prestige
2. Haman Humiliated
“But Haman hurried home, mourning, with his head covered.”
Everything is done in a hurry with a sense of urgency and desperation and Haman realizes that he is in deep trouble now that Mordecai has the upper hand with the king.
B. (:13) Haman Hurries to Obtain Counsel Regarding How to Salvage His Life
1. Seeking Counsel
“And Haman recounted to Zeresh his wife and all his friends
everything that had happened to him.”
Quite the turn of events; things had not gone as planned!
2. Receiving Counsel
“Then his wise men and Zeresh his wife said to him, ‘If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of Jewish origin, you will not overcome him, but will surely fall before him.’”
Your doom is sealed.
Joyce Baldwin: Those who had so recently encouraged him to take vengeance now sensed a change of fortune and superstitiously recalled that no one ultimately prospered who plotted against the Jews.
C. (:14) Haman Hurries to Esther’s Banquet with No Viable Options for Escape
“While they were still talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived
and hastily brought Haman to the banquet which Esther had prepared.”
Haman is no longer in control of his own destiny. He is being driven along by forces outside of his control.
Whitcomb: His spirit crushed, Haman went to Esther’s second banquet as a sheep to the slaughter.
Laniak: Once more Haman is hurried (as in 5:5a; 6:10) to an activity that puts him further out of control and makes him more vulnerable to the queen’s plans. Esther has moved from passive object to active subject; Haman is moving from active subject to passive object.