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Bible Commentaries

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

Esther 5

Verse 1

HAMAN PREPARES TO EXECUTE MORDECAI AT ONCE

"Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the kinifs house, over against the kinifs house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the entrance of the king's house. And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favor in his sight; and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre. Then said the king unto her, What wilt thou queen Esther? and what is thy request? it shall be given thee even to the half of my kingdom. And Esther said, If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet which I have prepared for him."

"On the third day ... Esther put on her royal apparel." (Esther 5:1). This was the third day of her fasting, during which she had not worn her royal apparel; perhaps she had even been clad in sackcloth.

"The king sat on his royal throne" (Esther 5:1). D. J. Wiseman tells us of, "A limestone palace relief recovered from Susa (which) shows Darius I sitting upon an elaborate throne, holding a long sceptre (five or six feet in length) in his hand."[1]

"Esther the queen standing in the court" (Esther 5:2). This was the moment of truth for Esther. If the king had merely refrained from noticing her appearance, she would have been dragged out of the court and slaughtered. One can only imagine her excitement and fear, as she stood there, facing either her death or the king's forgiveness of her intrusion, "Her thoughts wavering between hope and fear."[2]

"Then said the king, What wilt thou, queen Esther?" (Esther 5:3). The king received her with honor. So far so good. The victory belonged to Esther and her people; but only IF (and what an IF that was!) Esther's request, when made known to the king, would actually be granted.

"It shall be given thee, even to the half of my kingdom" (Esther 5:3). Such a kingly oath was hyperbole, of course; nevertheless it was a mighty promise indeed. See Mark 6:23 where such an oath resulted in the murder of John the Immerser.

"The Septuagint (LXX) has an addition to the scene described here. The king kissed his wife tenderly and restored her when she fainted through excitement."[3] In spite of the fact that the the Hebrew text of the O.T. omits that, there is certainly nothing unreasonable in what was stated. "The king must have known that she desperately wanted something, or else she would not have risked death by her appearance before him."[4]

"Let the king and Haman come this day to the banquet I have prepared" (Esther 5:4). This is a surprise to the reader, who naturally might have expected an immediate petition from Esther for the salvation of the Jews. "But Esther was too cautious, too wary of the dangerous ground upon which she stood, to risk it all at once. She would wait; she would gain time; she would be sure that she had the king's affection before she makes that appeal upon which all depended."[5]

Here in the attitude of the king we find an example of of the great truth that, "The king's heart is in the hand of Jehovah as the watercourses" (Proverbs 21:1). The fate of ancient Israel turned upon the whim of this all-powerful monarch, but that response, in this situation, moved in perfect harmony with God's will.

Verse 5

ESTHER DELAYS HER REQUEST UNTIL A SECOND BANQUET

"Then the king said, Cause Haman to make haste, that it may be done as Esther hath said. So the king and Haman came to the banquet that Esther had prepared. And the king said to Esther at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition, and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? and even to the half of the kingdom it shall be performed. Then answered Esther and said, My petition and my request is: If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition, and to perform my request, let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I shall prepare for them, and I will do tomorrow as the king hath said."

Why was Esther so reluctant to make her request known? Matthew Henry suggested that it might have been due: (1) "To her prudence as she sought more time to ingratiate herself with the king; (2) or that her heart failed her as she did not find sufficient courage to make it known without further time for prayer; or (3) that it was due to God's overruling providence which would use the intervening time prior to that second banquet to make the granting of Esther's petition absolutely certain."[6] It might very well have been a combination of all these things. "She wisely concluded that the king would understand that there was indeed a real petition in the background; which, of course, he did."[7]

Joyce Baldwin thought that Esther's intuition told her that the strategic moment had not yet come. "Although she could not have foreseen it, that second invitation played an essential part in bringing about her opportunity."[8] "This, of course, was providential. The intervening events, as recorded in chapter 6, provided the necessary background for her accusation, and the king's appropriate response to it."[9]

"I will do tomorrow as the king hath said" (Esther 5:8). "This meant that, `Tomorrow, I will reveal my request.'"[10]

Verse 9

HAMAN PREPARES FOR THE EXECUTION OF MORDECAI

"Then went Haman forth that day joyful and glad of heart; but when Haman saw Mordecai in the kinifs gate, that he stood not up, nor moved for him, he was filled with wrath against Mordecai. Nevertheless, Haman refrained himself, and went home; and he went and fetched his friends and Zeresh his wife. And Haman recounted unto them the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and all the things wherein the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king. Haman said moreover, Yea, Esther the queen did let no man come in with the king unto the banquet which she had prepared but myself; and tomorrow also am I invited by her together with the king. Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate. Then said Zeresh his wife and all his friends unto him, Let a gallows be made fifty cubits high, and in the morning speak thou unto the king that Mordecai may be hanged thereon; then go thou in merrily with the king unto the banquet. And the thing pleased Haman, and he caused the gallows to be built."

The picture of Haman that emerges here is a good example of, "The deceived sinner, glorying in himself, hating God, and God's people."[11] "Although Esther's maids and other attendants knew of her Jewish race, Haman obviously did not; and that ignorance was is undoing."[12]

Some critics have found fault with the height of the gallows mentioned here, making it either imaginative, untrue, or ridiculous, but they overlook the key fact that the text does not say how high the gallows was. The text only states that Haman's advisers recommended a gallows that high. As a matter of fact, the Hebrew here is not `gallows' at all, but `tree.'[13] Crucifixion was the usual form of punishment in Persia. It was Zeresh, Haman's wife, who mentioned that the gallows should be fifty cubits high (some eighty or ninety feet), but that was nothing more than such a remark as that once heard in the old west that, "So and so should be hanged as high as heaven"!

Archibald Duff has an excellent explanation of how this was probably done. "This stake would have been some ten feet high, but set aloft upon a citadel (or the city wall), as in the case of Nicanor (2 Maccabees 15:35)."[14]

It is hard to understand why the mother of ten sons would have desired to see any man crucified; and her unwomanly suggestion found its terrible retribution when she saw her husband and ten sons all crucified on the same day.[15]

"Although God's name was not mentioned in Esther, probably because the narrative might have been copied from Persian court records; yet God's providential care of his children is nowhere more visible than here."[16]

The shameful character of Haman is featured in this verse. In spite of innumerable blessings and preferments above all others except the king, he was an egomaniac.

"He was a coarse, undisciplined man, little better than a savage; and yet he was the chief minister of the greatest monarch in the world at that time. Worldly prominence and power are no proof of goodness or greatness of soul."[17]

"Haman's unhappiness because of Mordecai's refusal to honor him is true to the type; for it is lesser men who magnify and exaggerate slights; the great are able to overlook them."[18]

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Esther 5". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bcc/esther-5.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.