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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Esther 7

 

 


Verses 1-10

B.—ON THE VERY GALLOWS CAUSED TO BE ERECTED FOR MORDECAI, HAMAN, ACCUSED BY Esther, IS HIMSELF HUNG

Esther 7:1-10

I. Esther pleads for her People, and accuses Haman. Esther 7:1-6

1So [And] the king and Haman came to banquet [drink] with Esther the queen 2 And the king said again [also] unto Esther, on the second day, at the banquet [feast] of wine, What is thy petition, queen Esther? [ask,] and it shall be granted [given to] thee: and what is thy request? and it shall be performed, even to the 3half of the kingdom [ask to the half of the kingdom, and it shall be done]. Then [And] Esther the queen answered and said, If I have found favor in thy sight [eyes], O king, and if it please [be good upon] the king, let my life [soul] be given me at my petition, and my people at my request: 4For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed [for one to destroy], to be slain [to smite], and to perish [cause to perish]: but if [and provided] we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue [hushed], although [for] the enemy [adversary] could not 5 countervail [is not equalling] the king’s damage. Then [And] the king Ahasuerus answered [said],[FN1] and said unto Esther the queen, Who is he [is he this], and where is he [is this he][FN2], that durst presume in his heart [whose heart has filled him] to do Song of Solomon 6 And Esther said, The [a man][FN3]adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman.[FN4] Then [And] Haman was afraid [terrified] before the king and the queen.

II. Ahasuerus, extremely enraged, causes the Death of Haman. Esther 7:7-10

7And the king, arising [arose] from the banquet of wine in his wrath, went into the palace-garden: and Haman stood up to make request for his life [soul] to [from] Esther the queen; for he saw that there was evil determined [finished] against him by [from with] the king 8 Then [And] the king returned out of the palace-garden into the place of the banquet [feast] of wine; and Haman was fallen [falling] upon the bed whereon Esther was. Then said the king, Will he [Is it to] force the queen also before [with] me in the house? As the word went out of the king’s mouth, [and] they covered Haman’s face 9 And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains [eunuchs], said before the king, Behold also, the gallows [tree] fifty cubits high,[FN5] which Haman had made for Mordecai, who had spoken [spoke] good for [upon] the king standeth in the house of Haman. Then [And] the king 10 said, Hang him thereon. So [And] they hanged Haman on the gallows [tree] that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then [And] was the king’s wrath pacified [subsided].

TEXTUAL AND GRAMMATICAL

1 [ Esther 7:5. The Chaldaizing influence upon the language is evident in this vague repetition of the verb אמר, which eventually led to its use in the sense of commanding.—Tr.]

2 [ Esther 7:5. The pron. הוּא here very nearly approaches a copula.—Tr.]

3 [ Esther 7:6. אישׁ here is more than the ordinary apposition of class; it is almost a demonstrative like iste. —Tr.]

4 [ Esther 7:6. The original is very intense: Haman, this bad man. Doubtless her finger pointed to him.—Tr.]

5 [ Esther 7:9. The position of this clause in the original is more striking, being at the end of the sentence. —Tr.]

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Esther 7:1-6. What here follows seems a thing to be expected as a matter of course, yet the manner of its occurrence, particularly the rapidity with which events succeed each other, as well as their magnitude and importance, imparts a certain charm to the narrative. Esther now steps unreservedly forward at the banquet that she has prepared and to which she has invited Haman (in Esther 6:14), and boldly presents her accusation and request. The king is quite prepared to give a correct decision in the case.

Esther 7:1. So the king and Haman came to banquet with Esther the queen.—לִשְׁתּוֹת stands for: in order to participate in theמִשְׁתֶּה. The drinking after the feast, מִשְׁתֵּה הַיַּיִן (comp. Esther 5:6) was probably regarded as the chief matter at the time. But Esther petitioned ( Esther 7:3): let my life be given at my petition, and my people at my request.—The בְּ is the Song of Solomon -called בְּpretii, “about,” “for.” Her petition is seemingly the ransom which she proffers: “my people” means in short: for the life of my people. She bases her petition in Esther 7:4 on the words: For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed,etc.—She has all the more occasion for the expression נִמְכַּרְנוּ, since she and her people were left to the mercy of Haman for the sum of money he had promised the king if the Jews should be destroyed ( Esther 3:9; Esther 4:7). לְהַשְׁמִיד and the following active infinitives are clearly substitutes for the passive form, precisely as in the royal order ( Esther 3:13).[FN6] She also adds, however: But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king’s damage, and she thereby indicates that it concerns not only her own, but also the king’s interest. אִלּוּ, contracted from אִסלוּ, as in Ecclesiastes 6:6, also common in the Aramaic language, introduces an event in a hypothetical manner as being more desirable, and is followed by the perfect, if instead another event than the one anticipated has occurred. In the next sentence usually the perfect follows with וconsec. Here, however, the וis absent because Esther does not desire to say what she would do, but what she would have done: “I had held my tongue, although,” etc. The sentence: כִּי אֵין הַצָּר שֹׁוֶה, means according to R. Sal. ben-Melech and Rambach: The enemy can by no means equal, compensate or make good by his money the loss which the king suffers by our destruction Similar also are the views of Clericus and others, who suggest an intermediate thought enlarging the meaning, such as: “But I dare not be silent.” Though even such an addition were in itself not doubtful, still שָׁוָה in the Kal, with בְּ, does not mean compensate (to compensate), but to be equal to, or to be worth as much as some other thing (comp. Proverbs 3:15; Proverbs 8:11). The assumption of Gesenius, that the expression: “The enemy is not equal to the damage to the king,” is only another form of sentence for: “The enemy cannot make good the damage to the king,” is very improbable. Hence Bertheau and Keil interpret it: “The enemy is not worthy of the king’s damage,” i.e. is not of sufficient account that I should grieve or distract the king. They insist that נֵזֶק does not only mean pecuniary loss, as is commonly assumed from Ezra 4:13; Ezra 4:22, but according to the Targums means also bodily harm (comp. Targ. Psalm 91:7; Genesis 26:11; 1 Chronicles 26:22). Still the thought thus gained is not quite satisfactory. It would have mattered little, not whether Haman, but whether the Jews were worthy of the king’s displeasure. Certain it is that Esther expressed herself in very brief words, and such as implied more. Perhaps we may enlarge their sense thus: I would have held my tongue; for the punishment of the enemy is not worthy of, is less important than the averting of the damage which the king will suffer, now that the Jews are ordered to be destroyed; but this he would not have suffered if they had been sold as slaves, and hence had realized a large sum. In this way the chief thought is made to be the loss which the king would sustain if a whole people were destroyed; and Esther’s keeping out of sight her special concern about the destruction of the Jews, which would have been very shrewd in her under any circumstances, becomes particularly so in the present instance and before Ahasuerus. The ancient translators, it seems, were at a loss here, and hence offer us but little help.

Esther 7:5 with its twice-repeated וַיֹּאמֶר: Then the king Ahasuerus answered, and said unto Esther the queen, by its solemn title: “The king to the queen,” indicates the great importance of these words and of the moment. The king of the great empire here addressed her, who was a daughter of her people, but also the queen in this great realm. At the same time the twice-repeated: “he said,” reveals the agitation of the king, to which also corresponds the double question: Who and where is he?אֲשֶׁר מְלָאוֹ לִבּוֹ: that durst presume in his heart to do so.—We might expect it to read:” Who had filled his heart, “viz. with the thought to do so. But it is the heart from which proceed the thoughts, and which determines the rest of the man to conclusive purposes ( Isaiah 44:20; Ecclesiastes 8:11; Matthew 15:19).[FN7]

Esther 7:6. Esther still hesitates to name Haman, but at last brings the predicate into prominence: The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman.—She does not say: “The evil-disposed person,” viz. of whom she is speaking, but without the article, אִישׁ צַר, in order to make as strikingly prominent as possible the conception of the man so inimical. Haman trembled; for נִבְעַת means more than that he was simply alarmed (comp. 1 Chronicles 21:30; Daniel 8:17, and בִּעוּתִּים, Psalm 88:17; Job 6:4).

Esther 7:7-10. Thereupon the king became at once terribly angry. Because of his agitation he went aside for a moment, but soon returned, and at once gave order for the execution of Haman. —Into the palace-garden (comp. Esther 1:5), which was the place to which he retired. This is strikingly expressed by קָם. He did this in order to recover from the first burst of anger, and to consider what was to be done with Haman. Haman remained standing to make request of his life to Esther.—עַל־נַפְשׁוֹ, properly, “because of his life” (בִּקֵּשׁ with עַל, as in Esther 4:8), since he saw that on the part of the king there was no more hope for him if Esther would not intercede for him; strictly: that evil was determined against him by the king,fully determined (כָּלָה as in 1 Samuel 25:17; Ezra 5:13).

Esther 7:8. Was fallen,i.e. had kneeled down (נָפַל as in Joshua 7:10 and elsewhere) upon the bed whereon Esther was (sat), hence as a petitioner he fell at her feet.[FN8] The king, however, soon returned and said—since he could not control his anger, but now manifested it more terribly: Will he force the queen also before me in the house?—The infin. לִכְבּוֹשׁ is here placed, as if he were understood as asking a question. But it may also be made stronger (comp. 1 Chronicles 15:2, etc.), viz. to trample under foot, to subjugate. If the question had only been whether the queen could be forced sexually, then Ahasuerus could not have asked such a question so lightly. It would only have been an expression of his highest displeasure and wrath. If Esther were honest and just, she must of necessity have exonerated Haman from such an evil design. The whole situation of things makes such a foul purpose highly improbable, indeed impossible. Or perhaps Ahasuerus was only asking whether, if one would attain anything from the queen, it was necessary to make request with such force.[FN9] We can readily think that Esther sought to withdraw from Haman, but that Hebrews, as it were, forcibly detained her. The word of which it is now said: As the word went out of the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face, cannot mean the question that just preceded. Then it would be “this word;” but this is another word. We may consider that this word, possibly with a little addition, quite intelligible to the officers, was to them a command to take Haman out of his sight. The subject of חָפוּ is those whose duty it was to execute such commands, the servants of the king. The covering of the face was probably the beginning of the execution of the death-sentence (comp. Curtius Esther 6:8, Esther 22: “They brought Philetas with covered head into the palace”). Even old interpreters, such as Brentius, Rickel, Feuardent, remind us of the sentence in Cicero pro C. Rabirio IV. Esther 13: “Lictor, bind his hands, veil his head, hang him on the hapless tree.”[FN10]

Esther 7:9. In order that it might appear very strikingly what our history here would teach— that he who dug a pit for others, especially for pious Jews, shall fall into it himself; or yet more definitely that inimical heathendom shall perish by its own devices, it must be so ordered that one of the officers shall bring it about to have Haman hung upon the same gallows which he had caused to be erected for Mordecai. And in order to show how much hated this enemy of the Jews was, one of the king’s officers must point out this very tree of death. This person was Harbonah, doubtless the one mentioned in Esther 1:10, one of the eunuchs of the king, i.e. of the higher officers who waited on the king. The word גַּם with which he begins: Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai,etc., may not imply that the other servants or even Harbonah himself had already brought accusations against Haman, and in addition would also reproach him with the erection of this gallows (Bertheau, Keil); but from Harbonah’s view, it points out the most appropriate means at hand offered by the prepared gallows for the fate of Haman. This is more significant against Haman. In giving prominence to the fact that Mordecai was the one who spoke well of the king by revealing the plot against the king’s life (comp. Esther 2:22; Esther 6:2), he intimates that it was more fit for Haman to grace the gallows than the one for whom it was originally erected.

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

Vers. l sqq1. How very carefully Esther brings her petition before the king, even though the king for the second time has accepted her invitation! She waits until the king himself inquires into it anew, and until he has even obligated himself to her to the half of his kingdom; she so frames her speech that her more personal interest, which in the present instance would have been of paramount importance in the eyes of the king, is presented equally with, indeed in advance of, all others. She avoids at once opposing herself against Haman; and finally she seeks to take the king on his weak side by giving prominence to the fact that in the destruction of the Jews the king would sustain a great loss. It was to her still a question whether Ahasuerus would permit her to interfere in the business of government—indeed whether he would grant her a hearing while opposed to so powerful a rival. But she acted at last with fear and trembling—although she was assured of the best ally as being with her—not only Ahasuerus, but also God’s love. Her petition, moreover, had the very best effect. Thus the Lord, who leads the hearts of men and of kings like streams of water, has His help prepared for us, when we in our little faith stand trembling; and often where we hardly dared hope or advance, He gives us the greatest success. All depends upon this, that our hesitation be not of unbelief, but that we have fears only from our own power, capability, or worthiness; and that we seek not so much to promote our own cause as rather God’s, and ours through Him.

Starke: “Trembling soul, if this heathen king is so trustworthy in his promises, then your heavenly King is far more faithful. The former promises only to give the half of his kingdom— but He to give you the whole kingdom ( Luke 12:32; Luke 22:29). Truth may be crushed to the earth, but it dies not; it can be avoided or offended, yet it will finally come to light and triumph.”

2. Haman, from the very outset, had moved toward the fulfilment of his wishes with the greatest assurance. Even after being inquired of by the king as to what should be done to the man whom the king would especially honor, he had answered with the greatest confidence. Doubtless he thought that, because of the friendship, or because of the weakness of the king, all things were for him permissible, and he hoped every thing for himself. Yet if he had but reflected, he must have acknowledged that this foundation was unsafe, and that it was easy for another to gain the favor of the king against himself. But this is the common curse of human self-confidence that it places us in a state of insecurity. He who has succeeded in gaining the favor of the great is very liable to think that now he will also easily govern the servants of his Lord.

3. Truly it is a distressing condition in which Haman finds himself at the table of Esther. Outwardly he receives the highest distinction and is made happy, but inwardly there already comes a painful presentiment of his downfall. He is indeed already bound by the cord that shall plunge him into destruction.

Feuardent: “But in all this the first notable thing is how far apart stand the judgments of the Almighty and those of this world, since those whom the world esteems most happy and fortunate are truly most unhappy and unfortunate before God..… Men, indeed, seeing only what appears, and judging according to the outward semblance, would have boldly pronounced no man more fortunate than Haman. But in fact and in God’s view, who sees the heart, he was of all men the most miserable. For he was inflated with ambition, he was hot with envy, he was bursting with hate, and went to the banquet in the most disturbed state of mind. There rankled in the bottom of his heart the thought of that fresh honor which he had lately been forced to confer upon his enemy; and he was moreover goaded to desperation by what his friends had told him to his face—that he himself, having once begun to fall before the Jew, would forever be his inferior, and that Mordecai would increase in glory and honor.”

Haman, at the table of Esther, is but a picture of all wicked ones at the table of fortune. The change of circumstances now manifest, it is true, was unique, and seemed as if purposely selected for him.—Feuardent: “A little while ago all fell prostrate before Haman, but now he quails before a feeble woman. He who persecuted the Jews worse than a dog or a serpent, now becomes a suppliant to a Jewess. He who had procured a cruel slaughter for all the Hebrews is now anxious to save his own life. He who could not endure Mordecai now intercedes with his domestic.” The old reverse substantially recurs: “At the feast he who was unwilling to afford a crumb of bread to Lazarus, asked to be cooled by the finger of Lazarus dipped in water.” This change will be most striking when Christ shall lay all His enemies at His feet.

On Esther 7:8. 1. The only means left to Haman to be tried for his salvation evidently was that he should fall at the feet of Esther and implore her pardon. But it was just this which Ahasuerus, now returning from the garden, interpreted as a great crime, and so it filled the measure of his sin. When once the season of divine grace and forbearance allotted to sinners is closed, when punitive justice arises against them, then it seems as if they can undertake nothing but what will aggravate their case and hasten their own destruction. As Ahasuerus did in this case, so did all those who stood by the side of Haman and had given him their confidence. Now that he is so near his downfall, these are inclined to use every thing against the offender by which he might obtain deliverance. They know him too well to be ignorant of the tricks and deceptions of which he is capable. Petitions for pardon— and even repentance—is in such cases often thought to be only the repentance of Cain, affording no guarantee of genuine reform. Possibly these judges go too far in their sentence, but God’s justice employs them as channels against the offenders.

Feuardent: “The king indeed is unjust in fixing this calumny upon Haman—but God is just who permits the righteous penalty to fall upon him for his lies and calumnies, inasmuch as he would have brought violence upon other virgins or matrons, and would have plunged the whole people of God into ruin. Accordingly it is written: “By what one sinneth, by that also shall he be punished;” and again: “With what measure ye mete, it shall be measured unto you again.”

2. The question raised by ancient interpreters whether it was not the duty of Esther to exonerate Haman from the accusation by the king, and to second his request for pardon, can only be satisfactorily answered by making the proper distinction between the views of such points in the Old and in the New Testaments. Upon New Testament grounds, the answer would undoubtedly be in the affirmative. It is no greater offence than one which the Christian, though he have suffered the most grievous insults and offensive Acts, should be prepared to pardon, in a spirit free from hatred or revenge. Now whether the king, here acting in his judicial capacity, could entertain her request, would have been a different matter. Taking, however, the Old Testament view, the answer would most certainly be, No; and this the more, inasmuch as there was not yet a more satisfactory means of averting evil than the destructive judgments of God upon Haman, who, as an Agagite and an Amalekite, was regarded as representing the cause of evil in opposition to the cause of God and of His people (comp. Doct. hist. thoughts on3:36 sqq.). Further, in Esther’s conduct is plainly shown the important fact that, when the season of grace is expired, Justice desires no interruption through petitions for mercy. This truth must be taken to heart, and we must not bewail its force. When Christians see the wicked perish, let them weep over their fate. But we must rejoice over the divine judgments upon iniquity. This serves to strengthen our faith in a holy, ever active God. Our own opposition to iniquity must be as unrelenting as was that of Esther against Haman.

Starke: “It is barely credible that the king should have thought further upon this matter— have perceived the wonderful dealings of God. Neither can we believe that he was thereby led to know the true God. Esther, however, and Mordecai, together with many of the Jews, must have been gloriously strengthened in their faith. Jehovah’s judgments are just ( Revelation 19:2). Let the Christian here notice the goodness and truthfulness of God ( Romans 11:22), and let both be to him a warning voice !”

On Esther 7:9-10. Bitter and sarcastic must it have struck upon the ears of Haman when Harbonah, one of the eunuchs, who up to this time had humbly shown him all desired honor, remarked, now that the doomed man was led away: “Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman.” Must it then be that this despicable creature should raise his foot against the dead lion? See how in this moment he turns toward the newly rising sun with praises in his mouth! Must this miserable slave also add to the already great misfortune of Haman—that he should be hung on just this gallows which he had intended for the Jews! Poor Haman! Didst thou not know that in such ways as were thine thou hadst no really true friend? Didst thou not perceive that a selfish spirit and hypocrisy formed thy body guard? Not know that those who externally bowed the knee to thee, inwardly gnashed their teeth against thee? True friendship and fellowship can only exist between those who are together united to God. Even then we may often discover the overweening egotism which again loosens such bonds. Where this common bond is wanting, there separation must ensue; there, in fact, each goes his own way. If in such a case all the secret endeavors and aims could be exposed, we would discover a “war of all against all.” It is frequently seen that apparent friends afterward become executioners, who, by their mockery, add to the misery of the culprit. In the future also it will be found that the enemies of the people of God will themselves destroy each other in order that judgment on them may be perfect. There is a universal just government of the world on the part of God. He who is capable of so shameful an act as not only to wish to destroy his enemy, but also to cover him with the greatest possible ignominy, must not be surprised if in his own well deserved misfortune great shame shall also accompany his own end. Whoever digs a pit for others, will himself fall into it. This proverb verifies itself in its fullest sense. It has the ring of Satanic mockery when Harbonah says: “And the gallows also stand ready, and that, too, before Haman’s own house.” There are many people who hesitate not to utter it mockingly, and how good were it for all those who are in danger of entering the way of destruction, should they hear it said loud enough for them to hear, and should they repeat it to themselves: “Also the gallows stand ready without.”

Starke: “It must also so happen in the just judgment of God that since the highest minister of State had caused the highest gallows to be erected in accordance with his greatness of feeling and State position and honors, before which all bowed in adoration to the earth, he should himself be elevated above all other people that were hung.”

Footnotes:

FN#1 - Esther 7:5. The Chaldaizing influence upon the language is evident in this vague repetition of the verb אמר, which eventually led to its use in the sense of commanding.—Tr.]

FN#2 - Esther 7:5. The pron. הוּא here very nearly approaches a copula.—Tr.]

FN#3 - Esther 7:6. אישׁ here is more than the ordinary apposition of class; it is almost a demonstrative like iste. —Tr.]

FN#4 - Esther 7:6. The original is very intense: Haman, this bad man. Doubtless her finger pointed to him.—Tr.]

FN#5 - Esther 7:9. The position of this clause in the original is more striking, being at the end of the sentence. —Tr.]

FN#6 - “Esther here quotes the exact words of the edict issued for the destruction of the Jews. Thus the king would not fail to understand her, and to learn for the first time that his favorite was a Jewess.” Rawlinson. —Tr.]

FN#7 - “Ahasuerus could not really have doubted; but he affects to doubt, that he may express his anger at the Acts, apart from all personal considerations.” Rawlinson.—Tr.]

FN#8 - “Like the Greeks and Romans, the Persians reclined at their meals on sofas or couches (Herod, ix80, 82; Xenoph. Cyrop. VIII:8, 16, etc”). Rawlinson. —Tr.]

FN#9 - “Of course the king did not believe his own words. But he meant to tax Haman with a further offence in not sufficiently respecting the person of the queen; and he thereby suggested to the attendants his instant execution.” Rawlinson.—Tr.]

FN#10 - “The Macedonians and the Romans are known to have commonly muffled the heads of prisoners before executing them; but it is not mentioned elsewhere than here as a Persian custom.” Rawlinson.—Tr.]

 


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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition available at BibleSupport.com. Public Domain.

Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Esther 7:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/esther-7.html. 1857-84.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, August 4th, 2020
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18
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