The king said to Esther at the banquet of wine, “What is your petition? It shall be granted you. What is your request? Even to the half of the kingdom it shall be performed.”

“My petition and my request is this. If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition and to perform my request, let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I will prepare for them, and I will do tomorrow as the king has said.”

Evidently the king found the first banquet quite pleasing. He repeats his offer to grant whatever Esther wants in the most extravagant terms. So why does she not make her request, but instead invite Haman and the King to yet another banquet, to be held the next night?

Again and again we have seen that men are mystified when it comes to women. Perhaps Esther realizes that mystery is one of a woman’s greatest assets when it comes to dealing with men. Perhaps she believes that a second pleasant evening will make the king even more ready to grant her request. Perhaps she used this first evening to take the measure of both Haman and the relationship between the two men. Perhaps she wants more time to pray, to contemplate, and to formulate her strategy. As we almost always find with the portrayal of women in the Bible, we simply do not know. The writer finds Esther’s mental processes opaque.

Whatever her reasoning, the events of the next twenty-four hours could hardly have gone better for Esther and her plans. But none of these were things she could have planned. Considering everything that took place, it seems unavoidable that God must have intervened.

Then Haman went out that day joyful and glad of heart, but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he didn’t stand up nor move for him, he was filled with wrath against Mordecai.

If there is any doubt concerning Haman’s bloated sense of pride, this verse it eliminates it. Having just come from private banquet, with only the king and queen in attendance besides himself, Haman should have been on top of the world. Surely, being ignored by someone as lowly as Mordecai could have been written off as unimportant. But Haman’s immense pride cannot stand even the slightest irritation. Mordecai ignores him, and Haman is inconsolable.

Haman then goes home and recounts all of the privileges of riches that the King has given him, and then he mentions this private banquet with the king and queen.

“Yet all this avails me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the King’s gate.”

Really? Riches, power, authority, and privilege, with singular recognition — one man refusing to bow negates all of that? Such is the poisonous effect of pride.In a scene reminiscent of Ahab and Jezebel, Haman pouts his discontent in front of his wife, and she suggests a particularly nasty type of revenge: that he should erect a scaffold 50 cubits high — 75 feet. He wants his enemy’s corpse to be visible all over Shushan.

Then his wife says that he should speak to the king in the morning about having Mordecai hang on his gallows.

But here, God clearly intervenes. For some reason, the king cannot sleep. An old proverb says, “uneasy lies the head that bears the crown.” One reason for that royal unease is that people continually want to take power from you. And in a monarchy, that generally means taking your life, first.

On that night, the king couldn’t sleep. He commanded the book of records of the chronicles to be brought, and they were read to the king.

It was found written that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs, who were doorkeepers, who had tried to lay hands on the King Ahasuerus.

The king said, “What honor and dignity has been given to Mordecai for this?”

Then the king’s servants who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.”

So the king wakes the next morning with acute awareness that Mordecai has saved his life, and that no one has done anything to reward him for that singular service.This story is so full of irony that we hardly notice most of its occurrences, but this particular one is especially ironic. For the King looks around to find someone to suggest how he should reward Mordechai for saving the King’s life.

He inquires as to who is in the palace that he can consult with. At that point, Haman walks in, primed to request that Mordecai be hanged from the highest gallows. But before he can speak, Ahasuerus asks him, “What shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor?”

Haman can only think of on one person that would be receiving the royal reward — himself. And so he suggests precisely what he himself would like.

Let royal clothing be brought which the king uses to wear, and the horse that the king rides on, and on the head of which a crown royal is set.

Let the clothing and the horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man whom the king delights to honor with them, and have him ride on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him,

‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!’”

I was often told as a child that the best gift to give to a friend is one that I would desire to have for myself.In that spirit, Haman has designed the perfect gift for Mordecai. But this of course is where the irony sets in. As “one of the king’s most noble princes,” Haman is delegated to leave the horse lead Mordecai amounted on the royal steed and clothed in royal raiment, and he, Haman will have to call everyone’s attention to this honor being paid to his mortal enemy.

For a man as proud as Haman, this may have been more painful than being hanging from the gallows. The one man who refused to bow to him, he must now pay honor to. Of all the plots, the one it seems many of us enjoy the most is the one called “the biter bit.” Sometimes, we simply refer to it as “poetic justice.” And here it is, in spades. How Haman’s pride must have suffered, how much it must have burned him to be forced to leave his mortal enemy through the street, and declare him to be the recipient of the King’s greatest delight and favor.

We do not know, as mentioned earlier, what Esther’s purpose was in delaying her request until the second banquet. But we know for certain that God used it to the greatest possible advantage. Not only does he bring Mordecai’s loyal service to the attention of the King, but he also manages to humiliate the prideful Haman. And no doubt this deeply humiliating experience primed Haman for what will happen at the second banquet.


Read other posts in the “Matriarchs and Prophets” series.