1 - 2 The Golden Scepter
1 Now it came about on the third day 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, and the king was sitting on his royal throne in the throne room, opposite the entrance to the palace. 2 When the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, she obtained favor in his sight; and the king extended to Esther the golden scepter which [was] in his hand. So Esther came near and touched the top of the scepter.
On the third day, after three days of fasting, Esther goes to the king. How will she be received by him? “As the heavens for height and the earth for depth,
So the heart of kings is unsearchable” (Pro 25:3). But God turns the heart of a king “wherever He wishes” (Pro 21:1). Life is not fatalism. God wants His own to cooperate in the execution of His purpose. They can do so by giving their lives in His hand, so that He can control it.
“The third day” in Scripture refers to the day of Christ’s resurrection (Mt 16:21; Lk 24:46; 1Cor 15:3-4; 1Pet 1:21). Christ was resurrected on the third day and we can approach God only on the basis of His resurrection (Rom 4:24-25; 5:1-2). We see this in picture with Esther. She does not go in her own clothing, but in “a royal robe”, that is, a robe that the king has given her. She goes, in picture, not in her own merit, but in the merit of God’s work in Christ.
The place where she is going to stand is described in detail. The whole description is impressive. It draws an atmosphere of royal dignity and government, in which someone can only enter in a way that is appropriate for that purpose. Esther has the appropriate clothing. She is, in picture, “clothed … with garments of salvation”, “wrapped … with a robe of righteousness” (Isa 61:10). She is wearing “the best robe” (Lk 15:22), making her fit to appear in the presence of the king. The question now is how the king will react. This hardly seems to be a question anymore, because everything, including Esther, answers to his majesty.
The king sees Esther standing in the court (verse 2). Remarkable is that we read that he sees “Esther the queen” standing there. This makes it clear once again that she not only has the appropriate clothing, but also the appropriate position. For the king, and for us, it is therefore no longer a question whether he will accept Esther. For Esther, that question is still there at that moment. The tension is already broken for us when we read that “she obtained favor in his sight”. That shows the king’s disposition. From that disposition the king then extends the golden scepter to Esther, breaking the tension for Esther as well.
What now remains to be done is for Esther to accept the grace offered to her. She does this by coming forward and touching the top of the scepter. We see here in picture that someone who comes to God, not on the basis of the law, but on the basis of the finished work of Christ, can only be accepted by God in grace. Esther knows that she is dependent on grace, but now she is experiencing that grace because she actually went to the king and touched the scepter.
3 - 4 Esther’s First Request
3 Then the king said to her, “What is [troubling] you, Queen Esther? And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be given to you.” 4 Esther said, “If it pleases the king, may the king and Haman come this day to the banquet that I have prepared for him.”
Now a series of dialogues are beginning between Esther and the king, with the tension rising to the top. Esther’s handling of this tension is a testimony of great wisdom. She knows how to appreciate and use grace properly. From the moment she is accepted by the king in grace, she knows how to behave.
The king’s first words to her are encouraging. The king speaks to her by title and name. The king has accepted Esther in grace. He makes her feel even more at ease by asking her two questions related to her desires (verse 3). He realizes that she wants to ask something. In the same way, God invites His children to come to Him with their questions and desires with boldness. God is the giving God Who loves to give an answer to our prayers. He will even give us all things with Christ (Rom 8:32).
This is the opportunity for Esther to make her request in favor of the Jews. She does not. She still keeps that request to herself. In her answer, after the grace shown and accepted, she points tactfully first to the king’s discretion (verse 4). In doing so, she appeals to his kindness towards her. She wants to further stimulate this mind in the king through the meal she has prepared for him. She also wants Haman to be there, because it is about unmasking him.
We see that she did not sit still during the fast, but was busy with this meeting and prepared for it. She is acting according to a plan she came up with during fast time. It also reveals that she has taken into account a benevolent reception by the king and a favorable response to her request to come to the meal she prepared.
5 - 8 Esther’s Second Request
5 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. 6 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.” 7 So Esther replied, “My petition and my request is: 8 if I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and do what I request, may the king and Haman come to the banquet which I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king says.”
The king agrees to Esther’s request and even makes the matter urgent (verse 5). He wants Haman to come as soon as possible. Without any further announcements about messengers who are going to fetch Haman or where the meal will take place, we are taken directly to the meal that Esther has prepared. What the meal consists of is of no importance. What is important is what concerns the king about Esther and what concerns Esther about her people.
The king comes, with Haman, to the meal. When drinking the wine, the king asks again what Esther wishes (verse 6; verse 3). He even asks his question twice, using the word “petition” first and the word “request” the second time. He commits himself irrevocably to give her what she asks or to grant her request. The expression “even to half of the kingdom” indicates his unlimited generosity.
Here again, Ahasuerus is a picture of God. God urges us to ask of Him by telling us that we may ask Him for anything. We may do so in the confidence that He can do it. He has the ends of the earth in His possession and at His disposal. He gives them to whom He wills. It is His pleasure to give His ‘little flock’ the kingdom, not just half (Lk 12:32). The king’s offer – for us: from God – is a blank cheque. The Almighty says, ‘What is your request?’, and to faith He says: “It shall be done to you according to your faith” (Mt 9:29).
On Esther rests an enormous burden. The fate of the whole people depends on her. What will she say? She acts wisely, with a wisdom she must have received from God. In her answer, Esther adopts the king’s words and says, “My petition and my request is: …” (verse 7). We would expect her to then ask for the salvation of her life and the life of her people, but she does not. Her response to the king’s first offer is already astonishing (verse 4); the answer she gives now is even more astonishing: she invites the king and Haman to a new meal which she will prepare for that purpose (verse 8). There she wants to disclose the evil of Haman.
Because of this action there seems to be a delay for the salvation of the people. The situation becomes dire for Mordecai and his people. Even before the next meal Haman will have Mordecai hanged. However, God is above and behind all this. The wickedness of Haman must come to its apogee. That coincides with that special night we will read about in the next chapter.
9 - 12 Haman’s Boast
9 Then Haman went out that day glad and pleased of heart; 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. 10 Haman controlled himself, however, went to his house and sent for his friends and his wife Zeresh. 11 Then Haman recounted to them the glory of his riches, and the number of his sons, and every [instance] where the king had magnified him and how he had promoted him above the princes and servants of the king. 12 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.
Immediately after the meal Haman leaves (verse 9). He is in a very good mood, completely in the clouds, both by his participation in the meal that has just been held and by the invitation to the next meal. He is blown up. His character becomes public. God allows evil to mature in some people, so that His judgment may prove completely justified.
However, Haman’s good mood turns to anger as soon as he sees Mordecai in the gate. This time he does not need to be reminded of Mordecai (Est 3:4), but immediately notices that he does not receive the obligatory tribute. This Jew has become a stumbling block for him. He will fall over it because of his pride. Thus the Lord Jesus, of whom Mordecai is a picture, is to apostate Israel and his captain the Antichrist, of whom Haman is a picture, “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (1Pet 2:7; Rom 9:31-33).
Haman does not perceive any respect or awe in Mordecai, to him, the great Haman. Mordecai remains unmoved, without any expression of fear of him. He just ignores him. It brings Haman’s anger to its boiling point. As for Mordecai, we see in his fearless attitude a confirmation of his conviction (faith) that salvation will come (Est 4:14).
Although Haman is furious, he does nothing yet (verse 10). He controls himself out of pride and arrogance and piles up his anger, laying the foundation for his coming downfall and fall (Pro 16:18). After all, his haughty plan is to exterminate not only Mordecai, but all the Jews. When he has come home, he calls his friends and his wife with him to boast to them with his nose in the height of how big he is (verse 11). Like an overconfident fool he measures his greatness widely by speaking about his wealth, his many children and the high position the king has given him. What he lists here in his megalomania, he will soon lose all (Est 8:2,7; 9:7-10).
After this boasting, he proudly points out that he is the only one who was allowed to take part in Esther’s banquet together with the king (verse 12). Then he raises his voice high from the invitation for the next day. He is the fool whose own lips praise him (Pro 27:2). He is the fool who thinks he can dispose of “tomorrow”, while he is blind to the calamity that will strike him the next day (Pro 27:1; cf. Lk 12:20-21). This is always the case with people who boast in their pride. Such glory is evil (cf. Jam 4:13-16).
Because we know the story, we know that it will soon end dramatically with Haman. But that is not how it looks in the story now. It seems that Haman is on a roll very much, even though he is a wicked and ruthless man. It raises the question why the wicked are often successful, while the God-fearing often have to suffer. Why does God let evil do its work and not intervene? An adequate answer is difficult to give. There are, however, a few thoughts we find in this section that help us think about this question.
1. The wicked must become great in order to promote the welfare of God’s people. David is formed by the persecution of Saul so that he can later exercise justice. Haman must become a prince to give honor to Mordecai, which makes Mordecai’s greatness all the greater.
2. The wicked people must become great in order to be revealed in their full wickedness. God does not judge because He has the greatest power, but because the wicked man deserves it.
Asaph also struggled with that problem of the prosperity of the wicked and the misfortune of the righteous. He reflects his struggle in Psalm 73. He has thought about it and comes to the conclusion that the solution can be found in the sanctuary of God:
“When I pondered to understand this,
It was troublesome in my sight
Until I came into the sanctuary of God;
[Then] I perceived their end” (Psa 73:16-17).
13 - 14 The Hatred Against Mordecai
13 Yet all of this does not satisfy me every time I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” 14 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.” And the advice pleased Haman, so he had the gallows made.
However, all greatness and prestige are overshadowed for Haman by the thought of Mordecai in the gate. Mordecai is his obsession. In his blind hatred of that man he finds no satisfaction in his own greatness. He is inspired by only one thing and that is to get rid of Mordecai. To him the word from Proverbs 21 applies more than to anyone else: ““Proud,” “Haughty,” “Scoffer,” are his names, who acts with insolent pride” (Pro 21:24).
“Zeresh, his wife,” is the first to respond to his anger at Mordecai. She supports and encourages her husband in evil. Thus Sapphira supports her husband Ananias in an evil cause (Acts 5:1-2a,9). We can learn from this that our marriage can be a blessing, but also a curse. Haman’s wife also has a proposal and that is that a gallows be erected for his enemy. His friends wholeheartedly agree with the proposal.
The sinister company encourages Haman to act immediately. Tomorrow, at the first opportunity he has to speak to the king, he must tell him that Mordecai should be hanged on the gallows he has had made. His ‘counselors’ don’t talk about making a request to the king, but rather use the commanding form.
Haman’s wife may have been “a beautiful woman”, but she is a woman who “lacks discretion” and therefore she is “[as] a ring of gold in a swine’s snout” (Pro 11:22). Haman’s friends prove to be foolish counselors by joining Zeresh’ foolish proposal. They expect a favorable effect of their counsel. This is evidenced by their encouragement that Haman can “go joyfully with the king to the banquet”. According to them this is going to be all right tomorrow.
Anger is seldom patient. Haman cannot wait the day for his enemies to be killed. That would take months. He embraces the proposal of his wife and friends to hang Mordecai the very next day at a height that everyone can see him hanging. Haman sees his triumph. He will sleep well. But while he sleeps, another does not: the king. This is where the next chapter begins.