1 - 5 The King Wants to Honor Mordecai
1 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. 2 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. 3 The king said, “What honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” Then the king’s servants who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.” 4 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. 5 The king’s servants said to him, “Behold, Haman is standing in the court.” And the king said, “Let him come in.”
“During that night” (verse 1), emphasizing “that”, so in this very night, Ahasuerus could not sleep. He, who commands 127 provinces, cannot command sleep for one hour. That is because an Other does not sleep: He who keeps Israel (Psa 121:3-4). He brings about a miracle in providence. God is going to do something only He can do. How He controls everything can only cause us to be in awe.
It is a special night. In this night everything revolves around Mordecai. Haman thinks of him. Esther will have been busy with him, too. The king will also remember him that night. This happens in a strange way that makes it clear that God’s hand leads things.
Because the king cannot sleep, he orders to bring the book of records, a book in which the memorabilia are written down, also called ‘the chronicles’. Certainly Ahasuerus did not let himself be read from it to fall asleep. To fall asleep, music or singing are more suitable. God gives it to him in the heart to ask for it. From the many records precisely the role is taken in which is written down what Mordecai has done and from it is “read before the king”. The writing has also been done “in the king’s presence” (Est 2:23).
By reading this event the king is reminded of the danger he was exposed to about four years ago and how Mordecai averted this evil by making it known (verse 2). Here again we see a parallel with the history of Joseph. Pharaoh, too, is reminded of Joseph only a few years after his conversation in prison with the cupbearer (Gen 40:23; 41:1,9).
That it is only now known to the king is because not only Mordecai is to be honored, but also Haman is to be unveiled and judged. In his ignorance and negligence, of course, Ahasuerus is not a picture of God. What does apply to him is that in His time God will openly glorify both the Lord Jesus and completely humiliate satan. The glorification of the Lord Jesus is related to the humiliation of satan.
The answer to the king’s question as to what honor and dignity Mordecai has been granted for his deed is: “Nothing has been done for him” (verse 3). It reminds us of the Lord Jesus, Who is not yet openly honored before the eyes of the world and seems to have been forgotten (cf. Ecc 9:14-15). He came for His people as a Messiah, but was rejected by them. In this respect He has not yet received anything (cf. Dan 9:26a). To the world Christ seems to be the loser and satan seems to be the victor.
The devil has brought the Lord Jesus into the greatest humiliation and defamation. It is precisely because of this that the greatest and most glorious exquisite things have become manifest in Christ for which God and we too honor and admire Him. The time will come for God to act in order to openly give Him the glory that is due to Him. For faith God has already glorified Him, for “we do see Him …, namely, Jesus, ... crowned with glory and honor” (Heb 2:9) in heaven. God does not wait with the glorification of His Son, but has glorified Him directly after His work on the cross (Jn 13:31-32).
The king is wide awake. He must make up for an omission and do so immediately. Not a minute more must be lost. The hand of God is unmistakably present in the way in which he wants to make amends for his omission. He won’t let Mordecai fetch him to apologize and give him a great reward in money. He could also have called his wise men to consult with them, as he did when Vashti refused to come. No, he gets the prompting to ask who is in the court (verse 4).
That is a very strange prompting, because it is still night. We don’t know how long the chronicles have been read before we read what Mordecai did. It is not plausible that this took hours. In any case, it is an unusual time to ask for the presence of someone in the court.
Before the king gets an answer to his question, the author of the book tells us that Haman has entered the court and also why he is there. The case is that – by God’s control – Haman has just entered the outer court of the king’s palace to tell the king to let Mordecai hang on the gallows that he had erected for him.
Haman is so impatient to have Mordecai hanged that he went to the palace very early. He wants to bring this to the attention of the king as soon as the king has risen and before he has to deal with anything else. On the other hand, the king is so impatient to see Mordecai honored, that he asks who is in the court that might be suitable to be used for this purpose.
What a miraculous coincidence. Think about the situation. The moment the king is looking for a suitable way to exalt Mordecai, Haman enters the court. Haman is also busy with the exaltation of Mordecai, but on the gallows. This is not a coincidence, but a directing from God, Who is working behind the scenes for Mordecai and the people of Mordecai.
When the servants have told the king that Haman is in the court, the king’s command is: “Let him come in” (verse 5). The brevity of the announcement accentuates the urgency of the tribute that the king wants to pay to Mordecai. It also increases the dramatic effect that this order will have for Haman. History is now developing at an accelerated pace.
6 - 9 Haman Advises the King
6 So Haman came in and the king said to him, “What is to be done for the man whom the king desires to honor?” And Haman said to himself, “Whom would the king desire to honor more than me?” 7 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.’”
When Haman has entered, the king asks him what is to be done with the man whom the king desires to honor (verse 6). It is striking that the king does not mention the name of the person whom it concerns. Haman has done the same with his proposal to annihilate a people. He then also did not mention the name of that people (Est 3:8). This concealing speech gives the story a tension that remains until the moment of denouncement. It also means that Haman has to honor the Mordecai he hates and that at the same time he works out his own humiliation.
Before we hear the answer from Haman’s mouth, the Spirit of God, the actual Author of this book, gives us a glimpse into Haman’s inner being. Before God, all things are naked and open (Heb 4:13). Haman only thinks of his own greatness. It does not occur to him to ask the king who that man is. He is so full of himself, that he can think of no other possibility than that the king means him. He uses exactly the same words as the king in his hidden consideration. In this way Haman becomes the instrument both of Mordecai’s exaltation and of his own downfall. God, in His righteous reign, causes everyone to receive what they have done or wanted to do themselves (Psa 7:16).
Those who admire and flatter themselves deceive themselves. It is extremely foolish for any of us to think that we are the only deserving persons or that we are more deserving than anyone else. The deceitfulness of our hearts is nowhere more evident than in the high opinion we have of ourselves. It is important that we are aware of this and constantly watch and pray over it.
Completely ignorant of the king’s plan, Haman seeks out the means by which his greatest enemy will be honored. In his imagination, he is “the man whom the king desires to honor”. This is how he begins his answer (verse 7). Then he fills in what is to be done with that man – with himself, he thinks. In what he enumerates, there is no modesty whatsoever. He is not satisfied with royal honor, but his desire is for the king’s place. This is the archetypal sin of the devil who at a certain point in his heart said: “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (Isa 14:13-14).
In the first place that man is to be brought “the royal robe”, which is the robe “which the king has worn” (verse 8). It is not a robe from the royal wardrobe, a robe that gives him royal dignity, but the robe of the king himself. The horse on which that man is to ride is not a horse from the royal stables, but the horse on which the king himself has ridden. To rule out any misunderstanding that it really is the king’s own horse, “a royal crown” must be placed on the horse’s head.
Next, that robe and that horse must be placed in the hands of one of the king’s most noble princes – not some insignificant lackey of the king (verse 9). That noble person must dress that man “whom the king desires to honor” with the king’s robe. Then that distinguished person must “lead him on horseback” of the king’s horse “through the city square”. It must become a public homage. In order not to escape anyone’s attention, it must also be proclaimed before him: “‘Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor”!
10 - 11 Haman Honors Mordecai
10 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.” 11 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.”
The king immediately accepts Haman’s proposal. As soon as Haman has finished describing what tribute the man whom the king wishes to honor should receive, the king orders him to do so “for Mordecai the Jew, who is sitting at the king’s gate” (verse 10). He also expressly commands Haman to avoid a word of everything he has suggested that should happen to that man. He, who has come to ask for the death of Mordecai, is obliged to proclaim for him that everyone must honor him (verse 11). That is the irony of God.
The honor that Mordecai receives has not yet changed the delicate position of the people. Esther has yet to make her request. But the honor that Mordecai has received is the guarantee for the honor that will be given to his people. What has happened to Mordecai will benefit all Jews.
We see the same with the Lord Jesus. He has already been honored by God, while the church still goes through struggle and suffering. But the victory and glorification of Christ is the guarantee that also the church will share in that victory and glorification. We will share in all that He has received through His work on the cross as His reward. Both the fate of God’s heavenly people in this time and the fate of God’s earthly people, the faithful remnant of Israel in the end times, are connected to Him with the most intimate and unbreakable bonds.
12 - 14 Haman Begins to Fall
12 Then Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman hurried home, mourning, with [his] head covered. 13 Haman recounted to Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him. 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.” 14 While they were still talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hastily brought Haman to the banquet which Esther had prepared.
The ways of Mordecai and Haman now separate forever (verse 12). The quiet Mordecai returns to the place he has always taken. He resumes his usual place because Esther is dear to him, as well as the welfare of his people. That is where his heart goes, and that is more important to him than his own honor and fame.
Not a word comes out of his mouth. Things happen to him. He is as faithful after his being honored as he was before. He is not proud of what has happened to him, but takes his normal place in the gate again. He is humble in spirit and therefore holds on to the honor granted to him. He is a great contrast to Haman, who is filled with megalomania after his promotion. The honor granted to him has made him drunk with power, so that he is now in the process of falling from his height and undergoing even greater and deeper humiliation (Pro 29:23).
Haman, who wanted so much to see himself honored, has been humiliated by this state of affairs. Only God can humiliate a man, a powerful one, just as He humiliated Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 4:29-33). Nebuchadnezzar has acknowledged this (Dan 4:34-36), Haman has not. He hurries home. His joy has turned to grief. As a sign of this, he covers his head.
When he comes home, he tells his wife and all his friends what has happened to him (verse 13). The reaction of his friends, here called “his wise men”, and his wife is not very encouraging to him. His friends are now the first to react. His wife was the first to respond to the proposal of the gallows (Est 5:14). In the opinion that there is honor to be gained, she wants to appropriate it through her husband. But in the prospect of dishonor she withdraws.
Their ‘counsel’ sounds different from the foolish counsel they gave him to have a gallows and let Mordecai hang on it (Est 5:14). They acknowledge Mordecai’s victory and draw the right consequences for the future. As a result, their previous counsel is unmasked as foolishness, for that very counsel contributed to Haman’s defeat and humiliation.
They add that Haman has begun to fall and that that fall will be unstoppable, because the man he is dealing with is “of Jewish origin”. Their comment means that they are convinced that the Jews will not perish. How they know that is not explained, but they are right. Not the Jews, but Haman will certainly fall, “before him”, that is for Mordecai. In this way they accentuate Mordecai’s greatness and exaltation. That is the opposite of the fall they spoke to Haman about.
In their words to him sounds how this man has changed from a megalomania to a disillusioned one with no other perspective than total disillusionment. At first the fate of Mordecai seemed hopeless, now it is the part of Haman.
Satan knows he is the loser, but will never admit his loss. He continues to act according to his own evil nature. He knew that Christ would come from the people of the Jews. However much he tried to prevent that, Christ was born. At the death of Christ, satan seemed to have gained the victory, but Christ has risen from the dead.
Satan now seems to be the ruler of the world and to succeed in his persecution of those who belong to Christ, but he faces his downfall, as does Haman here. The roles will be visibly reversed at the coming of Christ. Satan will eventually have to acknowledge his loss when he is in hell. The triumph is to Christ and in it all may share who are of Christ.
Haman will not have the chance to say anything more. While his friends and his wife talk to him, the king’s eunuchs come to bring him to Esther’s banquet (verse 14). They can no longer provide him with any good advice or even encourage him. His friends fall silent in this hour of truth for Haman. When things go well, there are plenty of friends, but when things go badly, they disappear (Pro 14:20).