Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Dec 10 2019 - Esther 5 – Esther prepares a banquet

Esther had instructed Mordecai to have all the Jews in Susa pray for her with fasting for three days before she sought to approach the king. She and her attendants also gave themselves to fasting. On the third day she put on her royal robes and went to see the king who was sitting on his throne in the hall. "When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the sceptre" (v. 2). The Lord had prepared the heart of Xerxes to show favour to his wife and to be ready to listen to what she had to say.

Xerxes' readiness to please his wife is evident in his words, "What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you" (v. 3). Esther wants far less than half of Xerxes' kingdom; she wants only that her people, the Jews, might be spared. But she does not immediately make this request. Rather she requests that the King and Haman his chief minister come to a banquet she has prepared for them. So the king and Haman sit down to eat and drink at Esther's banquet, during which the king asks Esther again what is the request she wants to make of him, adding the same promise that he is ready to give her as much as half of his kingdom. But Esther is still playing a slow game and requests that the king and Haman return again the next day to another banquet she will have ready for them. At that banquet she will tell the king her request.

Haman leaves the royal palace in high spirits – until, that is, he sees Mordecai at the king's gate still refusing to show him the deference he demands. At home he boasts that he alone was invited to the banquet which the queen prepared for her husband the king, and that he and the king alone had been invited to a further banquet tomorrow. But, he added, "all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate" (v.13). Haman's wife, Zeresh, along with his friends suggest, "Have a pole set up, reaching to a height of fifty cubits, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai impaled on it. Then go with the king to the banquet and enjoy yourself" (v. 14). Being impaled on a pole was a cruel and lingering form of execution carried out in Babylonia and the Assyrian Empire from as early as the 18th century BC. Haman liked the idea and ordered that a pole be set up (though it is unlikely to have been the completely impractical height of 50 cubits or about 75 feet).

The chapter has seen a significant shift in power and influence in the court in Susa. Haman may think that he is the key person of influence with the king but it is Esther who has taken the initiative and is now in command of events at court. She has fully identified herself with her Jewish people and is at work to do what she can to save them. Esther's calm command of events contrasts remarkably with the conflicting moods of Haman who is ecstatic with delight at one moment before being plunged into anger and despair. Esther's influence over the king contrasts with Haman's loss of control in his own household where, it would seem, his wife now rules the roost. We seem to have come a long way from the decree of Xerxes recorded in 1:22 that "every man should be ruler over his own household."

The story of Esther is developing fast. Will Haman succeed in getting rid of Mordecai before anything can be done to save the Jews? You will have to wait for tomorrow's thrilling instalment.

Lord God, we who are married thank you for the model for Christian marriage which you have given us in Jesus' relationship for his people; a relationship in which husbands give themselves gladly to care for their wives and wives give themselves gladly to care for their husbands. Thank you for children who are born out of and into this relationship of love and that we are your children embraced within the eternal relationship of love that exists within the communion of Father, Son and Spirit. Help us to live out these relationships in all the details of our daily lives and so to show the world something of your matchless and costly love.

Peter Misselbrook