Chapter 5

Esther 5:

1)  [Now on the third day, Esther put on her royal garments and stood in the inner courtyard, looking toward the royal palace, while the king was seated on his royal throne in the audience chamber, facing the palace doorway. 2) When he saw Queen Esther standing in the courtyard, she won his favor and he extended toward her the golden scepter he held. She came up to him, and touched the top of the scepter.]


COMMENTARY:  This version compresses all of Chapter D into these two sentences, and for that reason the Catholic Bible used to leave them out and number the verses differently.  Now we include it in brackets.


It differs .  In this version Queen Esther just stands in the courtyard, waiting to be invited in.  None of the drama remains, of Esther fainting twice with fear at what she’s doing, no touching of the heart of Ahaesuerus, and no preliminary effort to try and appear happy and confident when she felt terrified.  The emotions—including the courage necessary to deal with them—have vanished.



3) Then the king said to her, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even if it is half of my kingdom, it shall be granted you.”


COMMENTARY:  Now admit it—how many of you would, at that point, think, “Oh hey!  I can’t turn down an offer like that—I can save my people tomorrow!”  The problem is, once you accept one great gift like that, it’s awful hard to ask for anything else on top of that.  People feel much more inclined to honor the requests of people who don’t normally ask for much.



4) Esther replied, “If it please your majesty, come today with Haman to a banquet I have prepared.”


COMMENTARY:  What an odd move!  But Esther has by now been around the intricacies of a Persian harem long enough to know that if a conspirator reveals her animosity too soon, the opposition will move quick to destroy her before she can act upon her plans.  She needs to make sure Haman feels comfortable around her.



5) The king ordered, “Have Haman make haste to fulfill the wish of Esther.” So the king went with Haman to the banquet Esther had prepared.


COMMENTARY:  Another function of this banquet is to get the court used to “fullfil[ing] the wish of Queen Esther” in a way that appeals to their playboy king.



6)During the drinking of the wine, the king said to Esther, “Whatever you ask for shall be granted, and whatever request you make shall be honored, even if it is for half my kingdom.”


COMMENTARY:  The way to this man’s heart is through his bottle.



7) Esther replied: “This is my petition and request: 8) if I have found favor with the king and if it pleases your majesty to grant my petition and honor my request, let the king come with Haman tomorrow to a banquet I will prepare; and tomorrow I will do as the king asks.”


COMMENTARY:  Perhaps the King now thinks he sees her game, and he likes it.  It would flatter him to think that Esther’s greatest pleasure is entertaining him.  It looks like this could turn into an endless string of excuses for parties.



9) That day Haman left happy and in good spirits. But when he saw that Mordecai at the royal gate did not rise, and showed no fear of him, he was filled with anger toward him.


COMMENTARY:  It says something of Haman’s character that no matter how good a day he has, all it takes is one glimpse someone not afraid of him to rob him of it.  It might have made a different kind of person feel generous and forgiving.



10) Haman restrained himself, however, and went home, where he summoned his friends and his wife Zeresh.


COMMENTARY:  His feelings don’t go away, but he’s courtier enough to know that the general public would not approve of him lashing out at poor Mordecai, sitting there in sackcloth outside the palace grounds, so soon after good fortune.  His friends and wife, on the other hand, he can expect to take his side.



11) He recounted the greatness of his riches, the large number of his sons, and how the king had promoted him and placed him above the officials and royal servants.


COMMENTARY:  If this man is a “second father” to the King, it’s easy to see where the King gets his braggadocio!



12) “Moreover,” Haman added, “Queen Esther invited no one but me to come with the king to the banquet she prepared; again tomorrow I am to be her guest with the king.


COMMENTARY:  He’s fallen for the bait, hook, line and sinker!



13) Yet none of this satisfies me as long as I continue to see the Jew Mordecai sitting at the royal gate.”


COMMENTARY:  And he has no idea of the irony, that he just now boasted of apparently having the favor of a Jewish woman.  And how typical of vice (in this case arrogance) that nothing short of perfection in its goals can satisfy it.  Which, in this flawed world, means no satisfaction ever.



14) His wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Have a stake set up, fifty cubits in height, and in the morning ask the king to have Mordecai impaled on it. Then go to the banquet with the king in good spirits.” This suggestion pleased Haman, and he had the stake erected.


COMMENTARY:  Plot twist!  Esther’s prudent delays don’t quite sound quite so prudent now!  And with that cliff-hanger we shall set this aside until next week.

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