1) So the king and Haman went to the banquet with Queen
last Haman thinks things are going to look up for him, after a disastrous day.
2) Again, on this second day, as they
were drinking wine, the king said to Esther, “Whatever you ask, Queen Esther,
shall be granted you. Whatever request you make, even for half the kingdom,
shall be honored.”
ol’ Ahasuerus! Give him some wine and he’ll
eat right out of your hand!
3) Queen Esther replied: “If I have found
favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, I ask that my life be
spared, and I beg that you spare the lives of my people. 4) For we have been sold, I and my
people, to be destroyed, killed, and annihilated. If we were only to be sold
into slavery I would remain silent, for then our distress would not have been
worth troubling the king.”
careful bit of diplomacy, here. Lots of
people, including the Israelites, have been sold into slavery by the king’s own
government, so she doesn’t dare challenge the status quo there. But death ups the ante. What does she mean by three separate words, “destroyed,
killed, and annihilated”?
1) Destroyed: Slavery was different in the ancient
world. Slaves had rights, carefully
outlined in law, and could still prosper.
Destruction here would mean deprived of all rights, utterly reduced.
2) Killed: Not the same as destroyed. Deprived of what we often see as a person’s
final, ultimate right: robbed of life itself.
Annihilated: And yet one still
more fundamental right exists, since we all die. To be remembered. To have something of what we had been live
on, respected. Haman wanted to eradicate
5) King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther,
“Who and where is the man who has dared to do this?” 6) Esther replied, “The enemy
oppressing us is this wicked Haman.” At this, Haman was seized with dread of
the king and queen.
Haman’s bad day just got worse! Up till
this moment he had no clue that Esther was Jewish. He probably had been sitting there idly
wondering which of many possible subject-people Esther belonged to and what
intrigue among many in the empire she referred to.
Speaking of which, now that Esther has outed herself,
any children she has will be accounted Jews, since membership in the community
passes down matrilinearly, even though their genealogies work
patrilinearly. (I’m not sure how that
7) The king left the banquet in anger and
went into the garden of the palace, but Haman stayed to beg Queen Esther for
his life, since he saw that the king had decided on his doom.
COMMENTARY: That actually was a rather mature thing to
do, to head for the garden to calm down enough to make a decision. How would you feel if your father-figure had
betrayed your significant other?
Meanwhile Haman must scramble for any straw.
8) When the king returned from the palace garden to the
banquet hall, Haman had thrown himself on the couch on which Esther was
reclining; and the king exclaimed, “Will he also violate the queen while she is
with me in my own house!” Scarcely had the king spoken when the face of Haman
was covered over.
COMMENTARY: Awwwkward! Haman just can’t get a break today!
Harbona, one of the eunuchs who attended the king, said, “At the house of Haman
stands a stake fifty cubits high. Haman made it for Mordecai, who gave the
report that benefited the king.” The king answered, “Impale him on it.”
have no idea what grudge Harbona had against Hamon, to reveal this tidbit,
adding on a good word for Mordecai as a little twist of the knife, but arrogant
men often feel no qualms about mistreating the help just because they can. Yet a slight to a servant has destroyed many a
powerful man and women over the centuries, illuminating the lesson by their
pyres: nobody is beneath the care of basic decency.
10) So they impaled Haman on the stake he
had set up for Mordecai, and the anger of the king abated.
COMMENTARY: The final irony. Note that Esther did not ask for Haman’s punishment, merely protection from him for herself and her people. Nor did Mordecai offer him any harm. But Haman’s own malice destroyed him. He chose a hideous, barbaric way for Mordecai
to die, and it rebounded on him. Our
wicked intentions for others have a way of doing that.
Notice also that while Haman called for genocide
in punishment for a mere breach of custom, neither Esther nor Mordecai call for
the annihilation of the Agagites for Haman’s far more grievous offense. Haman suffers this punishment alone.