The Book of Esther (Part 8: An Unexpected Death)

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The Book of Esther (Part 8: An Unexpected Death)

The Second Feast

 

The much-anticipated feast arrived, with three protagonists taking turns being center stage at Esther’s second banquet: the king, the queen, and Haman. Probably intrigued by the delayed petition, the king addresses Esther a third time, asking what she desired:

 

What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request, up to half the kingdom? It shall be done! (Esther 7:2).

 

Assured of the king’s favor a third time, Esther breaks the silence and describes the situation in a tactful manner:

 

If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request. For we have been sold, my people and I, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. Had we been sold as male and female slaves, I would have held my tongue, although the enemy could never compensate for the king’s loss. (Esther 7:3-4).

 

Esther’s articulate speech underlines two things: the salvation of her people (herself included), and the loss of the king, should these people be destroyed. She humbly and eloquently pleads for life as she elevates the king and demonstrates that she has his best interest at heart. Esther presents her people as loyal to the throne and valuable in the kingdom, thus implying that their lives are not only of personal interest to her but also in the best interest of the empire.

 

Note that at this point she mentions neither the name of the individual responsible for the attempted genocide nor which people were to be destroyed. Implied in Esther’s speech is a plot against the Queen, even though, as we know, Haman was not aware of her ancestry.

 

Her silence up until this point regarding her origin was gold, and it is hard to tell how Haman would have gone about annihilating the Jews had he known the Queen herself was a Jewess.

 

Taken completely by surprise, Ahasuerus must have been in utter shocked to discover that the queen had come before him to plead for her life. Her appearance at the palace was not a matter of requesting wealth or privilege, but something much more basic and critical.

 

She was facing death without the king’s awareness, and the only person who could save her was him. Naturally, the king’s immediate quest is to discover the plotter:

 

Who is he, and where is he, who would dare presume in his heart to do such a thing? (Esther 7:5).

 

Notice that the king doesn’t only ask who the plotter was, but also where he was. He was already in search of the betrayer in order to issue a matching sentence. This was Esther’s perfect opportunity to denounce Haman, and the queen wasted no time. In straightforward words, she made the astounding revelation:

 

The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman! (Esther 7:6).

 

The Betrayer Revealed

 

The king’s shock escalates as he learns that, not only a conspirator sought the queen’s life, the betrayer was the king’s closest official! As in all relationships, the closer the schemer, the more bitter is the betrayal. No longer able to hold his ground, “the king arose in his wrath from the banquet of wine and went into the palace garden.”[1]

 

When he returned, he found Haman “fallen across the couch where Esther was.”[2] The tide had turned, and Haman was now pleading for his life from one he condemned to death.

 

Unfortunately for him, the appearance of his gesture only heightened the crisis. Enraged that Haman dared approach the queen while he was nearby, the king asks a rhetorical question that betrays his exasperation at Haman’s insolence:

 

Will he also assault the queen while I am in the house? (Esther 7:8).

 

Haman’s face was immediately covered. There was no turning back.

 

At this juncture, a rather strange thing occurs: a eunuch suggests the proper punishment. So far, the king had only taken advise from his princes and noblemen. Now, one of his servants speaks up in order to reveal Haman’s plot against Mordecai. Evidently favoring Mordecai, the eunuch references the Jew’s loyalty to the king, who had shown him honor just hours earlier:

 

Look! The gallows, fifty cubits high, which Haman made for Mordecai, who spoke good on the king’s behalf, is standing at the house of Haman. (Esther 7:9).

 

An interesting parallel can be observed between the two episodes recorded in chapters 5 and 7. A banquet hosted by the Queen, whose only invitees were the king and Haman, is followed by an episode of anger and anticipation of death. Leaving the first banquet, Haman was enraged at Mordecai’s undaunted attitude and plotted his immediate murder. Temporarily leaving the second banquet, the king was enraged at Haman’s daring attitude, and immediately determined his death.

 

The irony culminates with Haman being hung on the very gallows he made for Mordecai. Surely other extermination options were available to the king, but the shame and horror were so much greater in the carrying out of such a punishment.

 

Haman has been unmasked as a betrayer of the king, the very thing he had accused the Jews of being, and his wife and friends’ prediction regarding his fate came true. His fall was definite, quick, and shameful.

 

The True Enemy’s Plot

 

It may be worth referencing some of Ellen White’s comments on the book at this point. In Prophets and Kings chapter 49, White indicates that, after Cyrus’s and Darius’s decrees allowing the Jews to return to their homeland, a great majority chose to remain in exile rather than facing the challenges of undertaking the long journey and rebuilding their homes.[3]

 

Those decrees were a result of God intervening on behalf of his people, given his foresight of “the troublous times that were to follow during the reign of Xerxes,—the Ahasuerus of the book of Esther.”[4]

 

When Xerxes came to the throne of Medo-Persia, the “conditions in the Medo-Persian realm were rapidly changing,” and during his reign, “those of the Jews who had failed of heeding the message to flee were called upon to face a terrible crisis. Having refused to take advantage of the way of escape God had provided, now they were brought face to face with death.”[5]

 

Her words regarding the work of Haman are astounding, though they should not surprise believers with a good grasp of the great cosmic controversy:

 

Through Haman the Agagite, an unscrupulous man high in authority in Medo-Persia, Satan worked at this time to counterwork the purposes of God. Haman cherished bitter malice against Mordecai, a Jew. Mordecai had done Haman no harm, but had simply refused to show him worshipful reverence. … Satan himself, the hidden instigator of the scheme, was trying to rid the earth of those who preserved the knowledge of the true God….[6]

 

Satan himself, says White, was behind Haman’s genocidal plot. Since his fall before the creation of humankind, Satan had been at work seeking to deceive, to cause rebellion and disobedience, and to destroy the followers of God. His hunt was growing critical with time, seen that out of Israel salvation was to come for all people on earth.

 

Yet “the providence of God, Esther, a Jewess who feared the Most High, had been made queen of the Medo-Persian kingdom.”[7] A woman of faith and courage, Esther was no doubt led by God to speak the right words at the right time and in the right manner.

 

Working alongside the divine providence, she contributed her part to rescuing Mordecai and herself from death. The enemy who desired their extermination would no longer be able to haunt them.

 

Still, even after his death, the genocidal decree remained valid in full force. The quest was only half-fulfilled, and more work on the Queen’s part was to be needed before the decree would be effectively reversed.

Click here to read the rest of Adelina’s series on the Book of Esther

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Notes.

[1] Esther 7:7.

[2] Esther 7:8.

[3] Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 1917), p. 598.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid., p. 600.

[6] Ibid., p. 600-601.

[7] Ibid., p. 601.

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About the author

Adelina Alexe is a Ph.D. student in systematic theology at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. She loves God and enjoys nature, arts, and meaningful conversation. Her special research interests are narrative theology and hermeneutics.