Esther: Lesson 7: Haman Gets His Comeuppance

Esther Accuses HamanEvents at Esther’s banquet did not turn out as Haman thought.  He envisioned receiving honor but, instead, his nemesis, Mordecai, was honored.  Even worse, Haman walked beneath Mordecai, who was on horseback, proclaiming: “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor.” 

When Haman returned home, his “wise men,” magi, predicted doom and gloom for him.

 

Lesson 7, Esther as a Chiasm 

Esther, Haman, and the King

Read Esther 6:14

  • What now happens?

 

As Haman hurried home in shame (6:12), so now is he called away from home, this time, to face what is to him uncertain.

Read Esther 7:1-2

  • What does King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) repeat at the beginning of this banquet?

 

  • In effect, what is he doing once more?

 

Read Esther 7:3

  • How does Esther begin her address to the King?

 

Lesson 7, Esther's Address to the King

 

Read Esther 7:4

  • What does Esther reveal about the plight of her people?

 

  • Even so, why does she say she needed to speak?

 

“for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king”: This is difficult to translate.  A “literal” translation would be something like, “for there is not the enemy worth harming the king.”  Esther’s point is this: were it not for the plight of her people, she would not be troubling the King about this “enemy.”  The Septuagint has this: “for the accuser is not worthy of the king’s court.”  So, the Septuagint reveals this enemy is within the King’s inner circle.

Read Esther 7:5

  • By his reply, how specific does he want Esther to be?

 

“dared”: The ESV paraphrases here.  The Hebrew is mala lab, “filled inner self.”  By the King asking his question in such a way, he has already decided that this “enemy” is guilty, for the enemy acted in his self-interest, “full of himself,” instead of what was best for the Kingdom.

Read Esther 7:6

  • What does Esther reveal?

 

“fear”: Hebrew, ba’ath.  This carries a sense of being startled or disturbed to the point of terror.

  • If Haman is the king’s right-hand man, why would he need to fear Esther’s answer?

 

Here, Esther’s response also mirrors the King’s.  He asked her about this “enemy” in clear, short, and blunt questions.  Her response was also clear, short, and blunt.  Esther answered the “who”: Haman.  She did not answer the “where,” at least with words.  When she said “Haman,” she no doubt pointed to him, answering the “where” through her gesture.

 

Haman Panics, Fearing for His Life

Read Esther 7:7

  • Through “mala lab,” the King earlier decided the “enemy” was guilty. However, what do Ahasuerus’ actions show what is now going on within him?

 

  • How does Haman interpret the King’s actions?

 

In an ironic twist, another reversal takes place.  While the king leaves in anger, Haman is left begging for his life.  Haman, who plotted the death of the Jews, is now in danger of death himself.

Read Esther 7:8a

  • What does the King see Haman doing?

 

“falling”: Hebrew, naphal.  Here we have good story craft.  Haman’s “falling” recollects of the prediction of his friends in 6:13, who earlier used naphal two times: “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall [naphal], is of Jewish descent, you will not prevail against him but will surely fall [naphal] before him.”  Haman, however, doesn’t fall before Mordecai but before Esther, the real “threat” to him.

“on the couch where Esther was”: As was their custom, Persian nobles dined reclining on couches, not sitting in chairs.  According to Plutarch (46-120 AD), touching the King’s wife was a crime considered worthy of death (Artaxerxes 27.1).

Read Esther 7:8b

  • If Ahasuerus was debating what to do with Haman when he stormed out earlier, what does he now decide?

 

We have irony once more.  Ahasuerus, the ruler of the Persian Empire, earlier condemned the Jews.  Now, he reprieves them (almost!)—without realizing what was going on either time!

 

Haman is Brought Low; Mordecai is Elevated

Read Esther 8:1

  • What does Esther receive from the King?

 

“gave Queen Esther the house of Haman”: Greek historian, Herodotus (484-425 BC), reported that the estate of a traitor named Oroetes became the property of the state.  Haman’s estate became Ahasuerus’ property, but he chose to give it to Esther, expressing to her his royal favor.

  • What does Esther finally reveal about Mordecai to the King?

 

Read Esther 8:2

  • What becomes of Mordecai?

 

  • To whom does Mordecai owe his position?

 

Esther Saves the Jews: Another Profile in Courage

Read Esther 8:3-6

  • What does Esther do again on her own?

 

“then”: What we don’t know is how long that “then” was.  Later, we will learn that the “then” was about two months.

  • If Mordecai has replaced Haman, why does Esther need to come to the King without earlier approval, this time from Mordecai?

 

Although Mordecai has been elevated, he has done nothing to stop the destruction of his people.  He may have thought, “Since Haman’s edict brought nothing but confusion to the Empire, I’ll just let it fade away quietly.”  Or Mordecai may have been self-serving and, now that he is safe, chooses to do nothing.  Either way, this we know: Mordecai did nothing concerning the Jews.  Even worse, he did nothing so Esther could even petition the King on their behalf.  Can you say “ungrateful scoundrel”?

Read Esther 8:7-8

  • Whom does the King task to write a new edict?

 

you may write”:  The “you” here is a plural.  The King tasked Esther and Mordecai to write the edict.

  • What does the plural “you” reveal where Mordecai is when the King’s authorizes a new edict?

 

The New Edict

Read Esther 8:9-10

  • Although the King told Esther and Mordecai to write the edict, who writes it?

 

“Sivan, on the twenty third day”: 70 days have passed since Haman cast lots to determine the day of the Jews’ destruction (3:7).  Esther’s first banquet occurred three days after Mordecai told her about Haman’s decree (5:1-4).  We now find out that more than two months have passed after Haman’s death before Mordecai gives the new Edict to stop the effect of Haman’s earlier one.  Remember, the earlier Edict was one that could not be overturned (1:19), so this new Edict will be written to nullify its effects, not overturn it.

The Edict began with Esther alone.  Then the Edict became both Esther and Mordecai’s.  But when it came to writing it, it was Mordecai’s alone, revealing more about Mordecai’s nature.  Esther’s success is bittersweet, for she will fade into the background as Mordecai takes center stage.

  • What takes place with the Edict and in what languages is it distributed?

 

Next week: We will look at the Greek-language Edict in the Septuagint.

 

Click here to go to the next Lesson.