Esther’s Second Banquet – Esther 7

Read the Passage: Esther 7

Esther’s Request (7:1–4)

With the exception of the appended three verses that constitute the final chapter of this text, the shortest chapter in the book of Esther is chapter 7. While this present chapter is very brief, containing only ten verses, it details one of the central events in this entire narrative—that is, the death of Haman. Recall that Esther 5 contained a summary of Esther’s first banquet. This feast ended with Esther requesting the presence of King Ahasuerus and Haman, the following evening, at a second banquet. The reason for the delay in Esther presenting her petition is unclear; yet, it may have been in order: (1) to give her and the Jews more time to pray about their situation, (2) to more endear herself to Ahasuerus, as it is evident that he loved feasting, (3) to stoke Haman’s pride, (4) to overcome her own timidity, or (5) to get the king to go on record three times publicly promising Esther that he would grant her request.

The preceding chapter ended with Haman being whisked off to Esther’s second banquet in as many evenings. The present chapter begins, then, with Ahasuerus and Haman dining at the feast, which is described as a “banquet of wine” (Est. 7:2a). Next, for the third time in 36 hours, the king asked, “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!” (Est. 7:2b, cf. Est. 5:3, 6). Finally, Esther answers Ahasuerus’ question, as she presents her petition in Est. 7:3–4. Observe that as she requests that both her life and the lives of the Jews be spared, she quotes directly from Haman’s decree, as it referred to the destruction, the killing, and the annihilation of the Jews (cf. Est. 3:13; 7:4). Note, too, Esther’s broad claim about the genocide of the Jews, “The enemy could never compensate for the king’s loss” (Est. 7:4).

Ahasuerus’ Inquiry (7:5–6)

In our study of Esther 6, we noted that although Ahasuerus was likely made aware of Haman’s murderous plot to kill the Jews in general terms, the king was not inherently anti-Semitic. We reached this conclusion based upon the king’s elevation and honoring of the one whom he called “Mordecai the Jew” (Est. 6:10). Indeed, there is no need to honor a man you intended to murder within a few short months. Furthermore, Ahasuerus is still unaware that Esther is Jewish, for she had kept her ethnicity a secret from him (cf. Est. 2:10, 20). Therefore, being unaware of important events that were transpiring in his very midst, the king was surely shocked to hear Esther’s request, for he asked, “Who would dare to presume in his heart to do such a thing” (Est. 7:5)? Then, in the climactic verse of the book, Esther says, “The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman!” (Est. 7:6).

Haman’s Death (7:7–10)

While Haman’s genocidal plot against the Jews is clearly not rational, his reaction to Esther’s identification of him as her enemy is quite understandable. The text records, “Haman was terrified before the king and queen” (Est. 7:6). Haman’s fear was only enhanced when Ahasuerus “arose in his wrath from the banquet of wine and went into the palace garden” (Est. 7:7). Among other factors, Haman’s terror rested upon: (1) his newly gained knowledge concerning Esther’s ethnicity, (2) his humiliation that very morning in conjunction with Mordecai’s elevation, and (3) his deceitful and devious manner as he manipulated the king into issuing the genocidal decree in view. Haman certainly knew that as Ahasuerus brooded in the garden, his life literally hung in the balance. A proper course of action would have been for Haman to beg the king for forgiveness.

In the oriental culture of Persia, once Ahasuerus left the banquet hall, proper etiquette dictated that Haman should have left the presence of Esther. Yet, perhaps being overcome with terror, Haman remained in the room with Esther, begging for his life. Whether it was on purpose or on accident the text doesn’t say; however, when the king returned from the garden, “Haman had fallen across the couch where Esther was” (Est. 7:8). This sealed Haman’s fate. Clearly, the palace staff had no love for Haman, for as soon “as the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face” (Est. 7:8). Furthermore, although he was unbidden, one of Ahasuerus’ eunuchs pointed out the 75-foot gallows that Haman had just constructed and informed the king of Haman’s intend to hang Mordecai. In conclusion, Est. 7:10 records that Haman was hanged on his own gallows.

Application Questions:

  1. Why, as James 4:6 teaches, does God hate the proud but give grace to the humble? Is it ever acceptable to be proud of someone or something?
  2. Why do you think Esther delayed in presenting her petition to the king? What is the purpose of having two banquets?
  3. What did Esther mean in telling Ahasuerus that, if the Jews were annihilated, Haman could not compensate the king for their loss?
  4. When is it appropriate to publicly confront someone over their sin, and when ought such confrontations to be private?
  5. How important is reputation for God’s people? Why do prideful people often attract enablers and hangers-on?