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Bible Commentaries

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

Esther 6

 

 

Introduction

HAMAN GETS THE SHOCK OF HIS LIFE;

THE HIGHER THEY ARE THE FARTHER THEY FALL

There is hardly anything in the literature of mankind that presents a more dramatic contrast of the highest status and the lowest ever attained by a man on one single day than that which is here revealed in the person of Haman the great Prime Minister of the Persian Empire under Xerxes.

On the morning of that crucial day, he was at the very pinnacle of his power and glory, anticipating that within that day he would execute his most hated enemy, enjoy a banquet along with the king himself in the apartment of the queen of Persia, supposing, as his advisers had suggested, that he would hang Mordecai and then "go merrily with the king unto the banquet" (Esther 5:14).

However, during the previous night, God had been at work to frustrate the purpose of this evil genius of the devil, whose purpose was to destroy the Israel of God from the face of the earth. Before the sun went down, Haman would be hanged on his own gallows, his hated enemy Mordecai the Jew would be appointed in his place, and his posterity of ten sons would be destroyed. Zeresh would see a crucifixion all right, but not that of Mordecai.

Where in the literature of all nations is there anything else that compares with such a dramatic reversal of one's status as that which is here recorded? Haman knew that Mordecai was a Jew, of course; but considering it beneath his dignity to gratify his spirit of hatred upon a single individual, he had determined to destroy the whole Jewish race. Several things the fool did not know. He did not know that the foolish edict he had maneuvered Xerxes into sending forth would also result in the murder of the queen. He might have been able to bring that about, however, if he had refrained from his lust to murder Mordecai at once.

He did not know that Mordecai had saved the king's life, nor that the record was written in the chronicles of the king, nor that the king had encountered a sleepless night, nor that the king would be interested in rewarding Mordecai at the very moment when he would appear for the purpose of asking the king's permission to hang Mordecai. Speaking of surprises, where was there ever anything that matched the one that confronted Haman on his way to "go merrily with the king unto the banquet"?


Verses 1-3

THE KING'S DECISION TO REWARD MORDECAI

"On that night could not the king sleep; and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles, and they were read before the king. And it was found written that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's chamberlains of those that kept the threshold, who had sought to lay hands on the king Ahasuerus. And the king said, What honor and dignity hath been bestowed on Mordecai for this? Then said the king's servants that ministered unto him, There is nothing done for him."

The king was resolved to reward Mordecai; but even before he had time to announce his decision, Haman had arrived for the purpose of asking the king's permission to hang Mordecai! What an inopportune moment for Haman's request!


Verses 4-6

THE KING ASKED HAMAN'S SUGGESTION ON HOW TO REWARD THE MAN WHOM THE KING DELIGHTED TO HONOR

"And the king said, Who is in the court? Now Haman was come into the outward court of the king's house, to speak unto the king to hang Mordecai on the gallows he hadprepared for him. And the king's servants said unto him, Behold, Haman standeth in the court. And the king said, Let him come in. So Haman came in. And the king said unto him, What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honor? Now Haman said in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honor more than to myself."

As a consequence of Haman's egotism in thinking that his suggestions would be applied to himself, he really went all out with what he proposed.


Verses 7-9

HAMAN'S ADVICE ON HOW TO HONOR THE MAN

"And Haman said unto the king, For the man whom the king delighteth to honor, let royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and on the head of which a crown royal is set: and let the apparel and the horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king's most noble princes, that they may array the man therewith whom the king delighteth to honor, and cause him to ride on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honor."

None of the writers we have consulted has dealt with the possibility that Ahasuerus might have discerned Haman's supposition that such honors would be done to himself, and that he detected in that egocentric minister the ambition to sieze the crown itself. Certainly, a man's riding on a horse with a royal crown on his head was a very powerful symbol of royal authority. Such would most certainly have been an effective way of reminding Haman that he was not the most noble prince, but one of the most noble princes.

"On the head of which a crown royal is set" (Esther 6:8). "The practice of setting crown-like head-dresses on horses is attested by Assyrian reliefs."[1]

Only the king seems to have been ignorant of the feud between Mordecai and Haman; certainly everybody in Shushan must have been aware of it. "Thus the king had no idea of the irony of the situation in which he placed his favorite minister."[2] However, the whole city of Shushan would have been astounded at this development.


Verse 10-11

HAMAN ORDERED TO HONOR MORDECAI THE JEW

"Then the king said to Haman, Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, that sitteth at the king's gate: let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken. Then took Haman the apparel and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and caused him to ride through the street of the city, and proclaimed before him, Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honor."

The most significant words in this paragraph are the words. "Mordecai the Jew" on the lips of the king. There is no evidence whatever that the king knew that Mordecai was a Jew prior to that sleepless night and his hearing the reading of the record of the chronicles. With that information in hand, the king might also have become aware that Esther was a Jewess, her connection with Mordecai would have guaranteed that. Therefore, we believe that, contrary to what some writers have written, Ahasuerus had already made up his mind to put the hook in the nose of Haman, even prior to that second banquet. His order for Haman to honor Mordecai certainly did that very thing.


Verses 12-14

THE REACTION OF THE PEOPLE TO MORDECAI'S HONOR AT THE HANDS OF HAMAN

"And Mordecai came again to the king's gate. But Haman hasted to his house, mourning and having his head covered. And Haman recounted unto Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had befallen him. Then said his wise men and Zeresh his wife unto him, If Mordecai before whom that hast begun to fall, be of the seed of the Jews, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him. While they were yet talking with him, came the king's chamberlains, and hasted to bring Haman unto the banquet that Esther had prepared."

Haman's mourning and covering his head indicated that he fully understood the horrible demotion he had already received at the hands of the king. We attribute that demotion to the fact of the king's recognition of Haman's secret desire to take the crown.

Everyone in Susa knew the providential blessing of the Jews, beginning with Cyrus' edict for their return to Jerusalem; and the people, including Haman's `wise men,' were aware of the hand of God in Jewish history.

Joyce Baldwin's remark that, "Most commentators, other than Jews, see all of the coincidences in this narrative as more characteristic of fiction than of real life,"[3] should be rejected as incorrect. All Christians see the hand of God in every line of this remarkable history.

The historical proof of everything written here is seen in the influence of Esther which prevailed in the Persian Empire throughout the times of Ezra and Nehemiah, whose work, in both instances was doubtless made possible by the influence of this great queen. In a very real sense, the Book of Esther appears here, following Ezra and Nehemiah as an explanation of how their ministries came to be possible.

The historicity of Esther receives presumptive proof in the very fact of God's name being omitted. That means that no Jew could possibly have written it. Then who did write it? Someone who had access to Persian court records; and it is impossible to imagine any kind of motivation that could have led to writing a fictitious yarn with the cosmic dimensions of the Book of Esther. It therefore is most certainly history, not fiction.

Esther 6:14 here relates that the chamberlains came to take Haman away to the banquet. "Haman went to Esther's second banquet like a sheep to the slaughter."[4]

 


Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Esther 6:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/esther-6.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

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