July 7, 2012
Finally, the climax of the book arrives, and everything comes to a head.
Esther’s second banquet begins; in a very real sense, this is Haman’s last meal. When Xerxes asks again what Esther wishes of him, she comes out and reveals everything to him. At long last, she tells him of her Jewish heritage, exposing Haman’s plot to slaughter the Jews; naturally, Xerxes is furious, but just at whom is hard to say. I think his anger has three possible angles: he could be angry at Esther for hiding her true identity from him for so long; conversely, he is angry at Haman for manipulating him by telling him falsified and half-true information about the Jews; Xerxes may even have been raging at himself for not seeing this series of events unfolding. Whatever his reasons, the king needs time to let the royal temper subside, and he goes into the garden to clear his head.
Haman, in the meantime, is pleading for his life from Queen Esther; unlike Belshazzar in Daniel 5, he can see the writing on the wall and what it spells out for him. So desperate is he that he physically takes hold of Esther in his desperation; this was taboo, as by tradition no one but the king could touch the queen or the women of the harem. Thus we can understand another layer of Xerxes next statement when he returns and finds Haman seemingly assaulting his wife. No sooner does the king speak than the eunuchs/bodyguards move in, and Haman’s head is covered (ironically, for the second time that day) for the shame he has caused. Haman’s special gallows is then revealed along with its purpose, and Xerxes, finally seeing Haman for what he truly is, orders his execution by the very means that Haman had intended for Mordecai.
That same day, Xerxes signs over everything Haman had possessed to Esther and Mordecai, whom the king makes his new prime minister in Haman’s place. Unfortunately, there is still the matter of Haman’s legacy: his decree that the Jews be utterly destroyed. By tradition of the Medes and Persians, a law with the king’s seal cannot be changed once it has been passed; however, Xerxes finds a loophole: he cannot reverse the law, but he is able to pass another that would allow the Jews to defend themselves. He gives Mordecai his reclaimed signet ring, allowing Esther and Mordecai to write anything they need with royal backing to make it happen. Thus, only two months after Haman’s diabolical scheme was set in place, the Jew’s salvation counteracts it.
The letters of Esther and Mordecai go throughout the Persian empire, bringing joy and hope where there was once grief and mourning. The Jews begin to mobilize, and many who are not Jews choose to proselytize, converting to Judaism to avoid being destroyed at their hands. This, then, is a sort of testimony to the reputation of GOD and His chosen people abroad; people everywhere know the histories of those who dared oppose the Jews and failed, and with another judgment near at hand, they wish to be on the right side. Adding to this is the enhanced status of Mordecai, who has been honored even further by the king, and been given royal apparel; being not only a palace official but a relative of the queen, this is a high honor for Mordecai, and he is worthy of it, having proved his loyalty to the king before. It is even more advantageous for the Jews that Mordecai is in this position; along with Esther, the Jews now have two close contacts/spokespeople with access to the king’s confidence, and this will help protect them against any future opposition such as those in Nehemiah and Ezra’s time.
How best to apply this? Even though GOD is not named in this book, He moves silently and powerfully through those who live for Him. Not only does He protect the Jews from destruction, but He also sets the stage for later generations. Had He not done so, Nehemiah would not have had the opportunity to minister to the rebuilt city of Jerusalem and the Jews therein, and Jesus would not have been able to come as prophesied. The next time you feel doubt about GOD’s goodness or power to act, remember that He is always there – and He always cares for those who wait on His voice and live for His glory.