Read the Passage: Esther 5
Esther’s Courage (5:1–4)
In the previous chapter we reviewed Esther’s hesitancy to confront her husband, King Ahasuerus, concerning his genocidal decree. Indeed, several challenges lay before Esther. First, she had to take her life into her own hands just to gain an audience with the king (cf. Est. 4:10–11). Given Ahasuerus’ history of making bad and impulsive decisions, even concerning his queen, Esther’s fear for her own life was indeed warranted (cf. Est. 4:11). Second, in the process of confronting Ahasuerus, Esther would have to disclose her own ethnicity—a fact about which she had either omitted, misled, or somehow deceived the king during her five years of marriage. Third, in asking about the edict, Esther would be impugning Ahasuerus concerning his own empowerment of Haman to make the decree. Furthermore, Esther may have felt guilty over inevitably breaking some of the Jewish laws as she became and remained queen.
Esther 5:1–2 records that after three days of fasting, Esther adorned herself with her royal robes and stood in the king’s court. Wisdom can be seen by Esther’s wearing of her royal apparel, which would have reminded Ahasuerus of her position, and by her waiting in the court to be noticed, which would have communicated meekness. The text records that when the king saw her, she “found favor in his sight” (Est. 5:2). This providential favor is a reminder that spiritual forces are behind the unfolding events in history, as well as those of today (cf. Eph. 6:12). Next, Ahasuerus extended the golden scepter to Esther and asked the reason for her appearance. At first, Esther’s response may seem odd, as she said, “If it pleases the king, let the king and Haman come today to the banquet I have prepared for him” (Est. 5:4). Note Esther’s faith as she had already prepared the banquet for the king.
Ahasuerus’ Question (5:5–8)
King Ahasuerus obviously liked banqueting, which included drinking and feasting. This may be one reason why Esther requested his presence at two separate banquets before presenting her request concerning Haman’s genocidal decree. Recall that earlier, after Haman had issued his murderous edict, he and the king feasted together (cf. Est. 5:15) while Esther and Mordecai fasted together (cf. Est. 4:16). Esther clearly understood that the way into Ahasuerus’ heart was through his stomach; thus, in a demonstration of her wisdom and shrewdness, she planned a great banquet for him and requested the presence of Haman. At the banquet, for the second time that day, Ahasuerus asked, “What is your petition? It shall be granted to you. What is your request, up to half the kingdom? It shall be done!” (Est. 5:6). Esther’s response, though, was merely to invite the king and Haman to a second banquet.
Haman’s Pride (5:9–14)
Perhaps one reason why Esther invited Haman to the first banquet, and then requested his presence at the second banquet, was to stoke Haman’s pride before identifying him as the author of the genocidal decree. Whether or not this was an intentional part of Esther’s plan, it was certainly a result of her actions. Observe how Est. 5:10–11 reports that Haman gathered his family and friends together, and told them about his vast wealth, his large family, and his high position. Such information could not have been new data to this gathering. In many ways, then, Haman is the epitome of the prideful man who is set up for a great fall (cf. Prov. 16:18; 21:24; 1 Cor. 10:12; Gal. 6:3). This passage also notes that while Haman was full of joy and gladness, as he was leaving Esther’s first banquet, he saw that Mordecai would not honor him, thus “He was filled with indignation” (Est. 5:9).
Haman seems blinded by his own pride as he declared to his friends, “Queen Esther invited no one but me to come in with the king to the banquet that she prepared; and tomorrow I am again invited by her, along with the king” (Est. 5:12). A wise man would not revel in an invitation to a private banquet, but would seek to learn the reason for such an invitation. Furthermore, Haman’s irrational fixation with Mordecai is evident as he declares that all his great accomplishments “avail me nothing, as long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate” (Est. 5:13). By way of response, Haman’s wife suggests that he construct a large 75-feet high gallows and publicly hang Mordecai. It is not surprising that the text records, “And the thing pleased Haman; so he had the gallows made” (Est. 5:14). This suggestion by Haman’s wife, named Zeresh, is given to show that she is as much of a fool as is he.
- Have you ever had to initiate an uncomfortable conversation or to choose a hard path on account of your faith in Christ?
- Why did Esther not immediately present her real request to King Ahasuerus? Was she being timid, crafty, or did she have another reason for acting this way?
- What is the proper way for believers to present their prayer requests before God? What can we learn from Esther’s example?
- What types of things fill you with indignation? How can we discern between righteous and unrighteous anger?
- How important is it that we surround ourselves with wise individuals and that we seek godly counsel (cf. Ps. 1; Prov. 13:20; 1 Cor. 15:33)?