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Monday, June 24th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Esther 6

Ironside's Notes on Selected BooksIronside's Notes

Verses 1-14

Esther: Chapters 6-10

Chapter 6

A Sleepless Night, And Its Results

It has been well said that “although the name of God is not in this book, the hand of God is plainly to be seen throughout.” Nowhere is this more clearly manifested than in the present chapter, every verse of which attests His overruling providence and His unfailing love and care for His people, in a wrong place though they were. He is behind the scenes, it is true; but, to use the expression of another, He moves all the scenes that He is behind.

It is not until the last night that He interferes:

“God never is before His time,

And never is behind.”

To all appearances, Satan was to have everything his own way, at least so far as Mordecai was concerned. In Haman’s tessellated courtyard the now completed gallows stands fifty cubits high. The lofty Amalekite is already gloating over the death of the unyielding descendant of Kish, and tosses restlessly upon his couch as he waits for the first glimmer of the morning for the execution of his wrath. He is not, however, the only restless one, for “on that night could not the king sleep.”

In itself this was apparently a very trifling thing. How many a crowned head before and since has turned uneasily on its pillow and courted slumber in vain! But in this case, how much that sleepless night was to mean to Mordecai, and all his condemned brethren!

In his insomnia, the king, at last despairing of natural rest, called for “the strangest soporific ever sought.” “He commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king” (ver. 1). Surely in those bloodstained annals there was enough to have driven away sleep forever. But One is overruling all, and the august Iranian emperor is but as a puppet in His hand to be moved by Him at will.

As the records of his reign are read aloud in his hearing, “it was found written that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hands on Ahasuerus” (ver. 2). How well had all been timed! He who knows the end from the beginning had caused this service to be here recorded. He had also so ordered it that, at the time it was rendered, the preoccupied monarch should overlook entirely the one to whose faithfulness he owed his life. To Mordecai this may have seemed at the time like base ingratitude, though we read of no word of complaint. Possibly he had learned to “endure as seeing Him who is invisible.” At any rate it was now made manifest that there was a divine reason for the king’s forgetfulness. God had timed everything well, and He “makes everything beautiful in its season.”

Do these pages meet the eye of some tried and discouraged saint? Have you been overwhelmed at times by a nameless dread as though God had utterly forgotten you, and you were cast off forever? Have you wearied yourself devising one human expedient after another, in the vain hope of averting threatened disaster by the arm of flesh? Learn, then, from God’s dealings with His servant of old that His heart and hand are for you still. And “if God be for us, who can be against us?” He has heard every sigh; noted, and stored in His bottle, every tear; taken account of every cry of anguish; heard every confiding prayer. His arm is in no-wise shortened; His ear is in no sense deaf to your cry. At the appointed time He will awake in your behalf, and you shall know that it is “the God of all grace” with whom you have to do. Only look up: be not cast down, for you are ever on His heart; and if you just leave all with Him, He will make your affairs His care. “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you.” How sweet the words! He careth. He, the most high God: yea, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ careth. He is no indifferent spectator-no callous, unconcerned looker-on; but, as no one else can, He careth for you. Assured of this, may not the reader and the writer well cry, “I will trust, and not be afraid”?

The hitherto neglectful king is at once aroused as his memory is refreshed in regard to Mordecai’s service in days gone by. “And the king said, What honor and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this? Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him, There is nothing done for him” (ver. 3). He had shown himself to be a loyal and faithful subject, despite the fact that he was of the children of the captivity; but though the king had profited by his devotion, he allowed him to go utterly unrewarded, while bestowing favors with lavish hand on so worthless a character as the selfish and despicable Haman. Such is the favor of princes. “Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord. For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land, and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green, and shall not be careful in time of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:5-8). How sharp the contrast between the time-serving man of the flesh, whose eyes are fixed on man for his reward,-doomed ever to disappointment,-and the God-fearing man of faith, who rises above all creature-help to the Most High Himself! Mordecai has left all in His hands. He is now about to make his way prosperous.

And yet even at the last moment how active is Satan in his efforts to thwart God’s purpose of grace! At this moment a step is heard in the outer court of the royal sleeping apartment. “And the king said, Who is in the court? Now Haman was come into the outward court of the king’s house, to speak unto the king to hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him. And the king’s servants said unto him, Behold, Haman standeth in the court. And the king said, Let him come in” (vers. 4, 5).

If God is at work, so is the great adversary. Haman, still burning with wounded vanity, is early on the scene. He would forestall all further slights from Mordecai by getting the easily-influenced and luxurious despot to sign the order for the Jew’s execution as soon as he shall rise. Then, the hated object out of the way, he will be in good humor for the festive board. He is, however, but to learn that “those who walk in pride, God is able to abase.” He has reached the highest pinnacle of earthly glory to which he can lawfully aspire. He is about to be hurled into the lowest depths of shame and ignominy.

The king’s first words fairly cause his head to swim with wild exultation, and seem to point so the early fulfilment of his most cherished dreams. “What,” asks his royal master, “shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honor?” It is hardly to be wondered at that the vain-glorious prince whose only concern was the advancement of his own interests “thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honor more than to myself?” What a place that same “myself” had in this conceited, wretched man’s mind! And what a snare is self-occupation, in any form, to the saint of God! Pride is distinctly said to be the cause of Satan’s fall. “Thy heart was lifted up because of thy beauty; thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground” (Ezekiel 28:17). And when giving instruction concerning overseers in the house of God, in the New Testament, the Holy Ghost says, “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6).

When we see pride in another, how hateful a thing it is! Haman is the very incarnation of it; and how we loathe so despicable a character! Yet, alas, how readily we tolerate in ourselves what is so detestable in others. “The proud He knoweth afar off,” but “the meek will He guide in judgment; the meek will He teach His way.”

Filled with a sense of his own self-importance, Haman replies to the king’s question in the boldest manner. He would have the man whom the king delights to honor appear before men as king himself in all but name. That, too, might come later if the populace but grew used to him appearing in royal garb, and the king’s most noble princes were made to have a due sense of his power and ability. How plainly the Amalekite shows himself! The hand which of old was upon the throne of Jah is now stretched out to grasp the throne of the world! “And Haman answered the king, For the man whom the king delighteth to honor, let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head: and let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honor, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honor”(vers. 7-9). Could human pretension and ingenuity go farther? Intending all this for himself, can there be any doubt regarding his desire to have the people behold him in all the outward trappings of royalty, in order to accustom their minds to a future usurpation of imperial power?

Did the king begin to see beneath the surface? Did he already commence to mistrust his favorite? Or is it only in our imagination that we see a touch of genuine irony, meant to cut to the very quick, in the brief and pithy command, “Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew that sitteth at the king’s gate: let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken.” Did the royal eye detect the way the color came and went in Haman’s face? Did it note the downcast countenance and the disappointment too deep for words that marked him as he turned away without reply? We do not know. But the readiness with which the erstwhile favorite is given up to a richly deserved judgment later in the day, would imply a lack of confidence already cherished in his heart.

“Then took Haman the apparel and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and brought him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaimed before him, Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honor” (ver. 11). A terrible come-down, surely, and a remarkable turn of events! No wonder that we read, “And Mordecai came again to the king’s gate. But Haman hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered” (ver. 12). Did Mordecai see in this sudden transition from ignominy to honor the pledge of his deliverance from condemnation? It would seem so, for he made no effort to resist the changing of his attire on this occasion. Haman too reads a lesson in it all, and in shame and confusion of face hurries from the public gaze to the seclusion of his own house. He knows it is in vain now for him to seek permission to hang Mordecai. The gallows stands like a monument to folly and vanity, still towering up to heaven, casting a shadow that speaks of approaching disaster.

“And Haman told Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had befallen him. Then said his wise men and Zeresh his wife unto him, If Mordecai be of the seed of the Jews, before whom thou hast begun to fall, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him” (ver. 13). Little comfort indeed does he find in this, which is all too true, as the sequel shows.

“And while they were yet talking with him, came the king’s chamberlains, and hasted to bring Haman unto the banquet that Esther had prepared.” His enthusiasm is greatly dampened. He would, without question, prefer retirement until he has regained his accustomed poise and self-confidence, but the king’s command must be obeyed. Yesterday he would have needed no chamberlains to summon him. To-day all is changed. Already he has been greatly humbled. Ere the remaining hours of light pass, he shall have more crushing experiences still, and shall prove to the full the truth of the ominous prophecy of his wife and friends.

Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Esther 6". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/isn/esther-6.html. 1914.
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