We are in the middle of our sermon series, Esther: God Remembers You. We’ve been treating it kind of like a TV miniseries, so naturally each week we have a “previously on Esther: God Remembers You…”
There has been a long-term feud between the Israelites and the Amalekites/Aggregates since the time of The Exodus. The Israelites left Egypt, and they were traveling through the desert. The women and children would often be towards the rear. The Amalekites would always attack from that side. The Amalekites eventually became known as the Agagite people after King Agag.
Now, the time after the Babylonian exile, some Jewish people returned home to Jerusalem, but many stayed living life as loyal subjects of the Persian Empire. One of these was Malachi who even reported a conspiracy to execute King Xerxes otherwise known as Ahasuerus. It was not Malachi who was promoted, but Haman the Agagite.
Haman became so angry with Malachi one day that he devised a plan to have all the Jewish people in Persia executed in one day, in 11 months’ time. So, not only did the Jewish people know that a law had been written that would result in their destruction, but they had 11 months to think about it.
When Mordecai hears about it, he goes to his adopted daughter, Esther, who happens to be the queen of Persia, and she is also Jewish.
Esther gave a banquet to the king to find out what could be done to counteract the death edict because by Persian law it could not be retracted. She also invited Haman, the only other guests. Everything was going great. She invited them both back the next night for another banquet, but she still had not made her request.
Then on the way home, Haman sees Mordecai, and his whole day is ruined. His wife and friends suggest that he have a 75-foot gallows built for Mordecai to be hanged on. This makes Haman feel better, and he agrees to the plan.
This is where our story begins today, starting in chapter 6 of The Book of Esther.
Esther 6:1-7:10 NIV
6:1 That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him. 2 It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes.
3 “What honor and recognition has Mordecai received for this?” the king asked.
“Nothing has been done for him,” his attendants answered.
4 The king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the palace to speak to the king about impaling Mordecai on the pole he had set up for him.
5 His attendants answered, “Haman is standing in the court.” “Bring him in,” the king ordered.
6 When Haman entered, the king asked him, “What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?”
Now Haman thought to himself, “Who is there that the king would rather honor than me?” 7 So he answered the king, “For the man the king delights to honor, 8 have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. 9 Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!’ ”
10 “Go at once,” the king commanded Haman. “Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended.”
11 So Haman got the robe and the horse. He robed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!”
12 Afterward Mordecai returned to the king’s gate. But Haman rushed home, with his head covered in grief, 13 and told Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him.
His advisers and his wife Zeresh said to him, “Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him—you will surely come to ruin!” 14 While they were still talking with him, the king’s eunuchs arrived and hurried Haman away to the banquet Esther had prepared.
7:1 So the king and Haman went to Queen Esther’s banquet, 2 and as they were drinking wine on the second day, the king again asked, “Queen Esther, what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”
3 Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life—this is my petition. And spare my people—this is my request. 4 For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king. ”
5 King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, “Who is he? Where is he—the man who has dared to do such a thing?”
6 Esther said, “An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!”
Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen. 7 The king got up in a rage, left his wine and went out into the palace garden. But Haman, realizing that the king had already decided his fate, stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life.
8 Just as the king returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was reclining.
The king exclaimed, “Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?”
As soon as the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face. 9 Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, “A pole [gallows] reaching to a height of fifty cubits[75 feet] stands by Haman’s house. He had it set up for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king.”
The king said, “Impale [Hang] him on it!” 10 So they impaled [hanged] Haman on the pole [gallows] he had set up for Mordecai. Then the king’s fury subsided.
Haman did not have a very good day. All through our sermon series we have been working off the foundational text from Proverbs 16:9, “The human mind plans the way but the Lord directs the steps.” Haman made the plan, but it is not going the way he thought. The request he made “for the one who the king delights to honor” were not about the normal rights of orosgangai, those who were of great service or saved the king. They were tax breaks, promotions, and not having to bow to other nobles. He wants royal things, the king’s clothes, and his horse. It is like he has become so enamored with his own power as the top advisor with the king’s signet ring that he wanted to take a step further and become royalty himself.
He gets a moment of ecstasy as he describes his fantasy, but then he has to make it all come true for… Mordechai. Another verse from Proverbs comes to mind. “The one who digs a pit will fall into it, and whoever rolls a stone – it will come back on him.” (26: 27)
We have alternately been referring to the king as Xerxes and Ahasuerus. Xerxes is the name that most historians associate with this king. It is the name used in our NIV Pew Bibles. However his Hebrew name is Ahasuerus, and there is a very good reason for that. The Hebrew writers loved to use homonym-like words, words that sounded like other words or puns, in their writing to make a point. If you think about it, it makes sense in an oral culture or most people heard the scriptures read aloud rather than reading them themselves. This is one of those cases. Ahasuerus sounds very similar to the Hebrew word for Headache. So, every time they heard the king’s name, it would sound like King Headache.
As we go through the story, you can see how true it was for so many people. King Headache summons Queen Vashti as she is in the middle of hosting her own party to appear in front of a bunch of drunk in men. When she refuses, he has her banished. When Mordecai reveals the plot to assassinate King Headache, Mordecai doesn’t receive the normal reward.
Haman is promoted above all the other nobles and officials. We can see how “pleasant” he was, they must have been “thrilled” with King Headache for that.
The biggest example is when King a Headache allows Haman to manipulate him into approving the order for the Jewish people to be annihilated. This order gives the whole empire a headache.
Now, it is Haman’s turn. He thought that he had the king under his complete control. With the signet ring he was able to order whatever he wanted in the king’s name. The only step greater would be to become king himself. With all these ideas he comes up with of what should be done “for the man who the king the lights to honor,” you can see that his thoughts were not far from becoming royalty himself. Then the king says enthusiastically, “Go at once… Get the robe in the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew.” That’s when Haman’s headache begins to set in.
How many of you are familiar with the game of dominoes? Not Domino’s Pizza, but the game? It can be fun to see the designs on the table as the pieces are laid end-to-end during the course of the game, like a mosaic tile design.
Another way people use them is to sit them on their end one after another in interesting designs, but the purpose is a completely different kind of game. It can take hours or even days to set up the most intricate patterns. These days the people will video tape with the whole process and Tails, and put it up on YouTube. There’s great anticipation before the first Domino is tipped. I forgot to mention that each domino is placed close enough to the next that when one falls it hits the next one. There is a chain reaction. It can be like watching a model train go around the room. It can happen so fast that you can see why people would want to video tape it, so they can see it over and over with all of the work that is put into it.
We’ve been watching all of these coincidences line up like dominoes In the story of Esther. We asked ourselves why Esther, of all women in the Empire, would be chosen to be queen? Why wasn’t Mordecai rewarded for revealing the assassination plot? Why was Haman promoted, of all people? Why was the king awake on this particular night? Why was this passage about Mordecai read to the king of that particular night?
One or two things might be a coincidence, but all of these things suggest something more. They suggest that there is a mind and a purpose behind it all. When King Headache tells Haman to “Go at once… And do all that you have suggested for Mordechai,” we see the first domino tip over.
We see the reversal of fortunes, or table-turning, for Haman, so exalted, brought so low. It happens all over the Bible. Joseph back in Genesis brought to Egypt as a slave, who becomes the most powerful man next to the Pharaoh and is able to prepare for the coming famine. He thereby saves his own family. Five hundred years later when that family has grown and multiplied by the tens of thousands and have become slaves themselves, they are rescued and led out of slavery as the Israelite people. There are many other examples, but the most important is when our Lord, Jesus, was arrested and executed. That should have been the end. Sin should have won that day. The sinless one paid the death penalty for all our sins, but he didn’t stop there. We had the most amazing table-turning. We were all given the chance of new life as Jesus was resurrected.
That is the table turning that happens for us when we believe that Jesus did it for us, and we follow in his ways. We who were dead in our trespasses are given new life through Jesus Christ.
So, the dominoes are falling on Haman’s plans. He has had to lead around Mordecai all day announcing his honor to everyone in the city. The dominoes are falling, but they haven’t finished their course yet. He still has his banquet with the king and queen.
Is he able to enjoy it, or is he fretting over how the terrible his day has been? The narrative doesn’t tell us, but once again we get to the wine course of the banquet, the last one of the evening and the king once again asks Queen Esther what her request is. He again assures her that whatever it is, it will be granted. By now if we were watching this on TV, we would be shouting at the screen. Tell him!
Finally, it happens. Effectively, she tells him that there is a conspiracy to kill your wife and you her people. She even uses the same wording as the edict, destroyed, killed, and annihilated. The way she expresses it, this is an attack not only on the queen, but on Xerxes – King Headache – himself.
His response is what you might expect: “Who is he? Who is dared to do such a thing?”
The last domino falls when Queen Esther reveals, “An adversary and enemy! This vial Haman!” Esther uses terms that elsewhere in the Bible refer to Satan or the Devil. The Apostle Peter tells us in his first letter, “Your enemy the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (5:8) Haman the Agagite was acting as Satan’s agent attempting to destroy God’s chosen people.
The king rushes out of the room in a rage, and naturally Haman begins to beg the queen for his life. The irony here is that Haman is kneeling at the feet of a Jewish queen because Mordecai had refused to kneel before him.
The king returns to find Haman groveling at Esther’s feet and accuses him of molesting the queen. That can seem like a stretch, right? It makes more sense when we learn some Persian custom and protocol. Custom dictated that no man except the king and the eunuchs could be within seven paces of one of the Kings women. They certainly were not allowed to be alone with the queen. Haman should have left the room when the Kings stormed off, but that would have made him look guilty, too. (Beth Moore, Esther: It’s Tough Being a Woman, 168-8)
When the king sees Haman falling on Esthers couch, well within the seven paces, it has sealed his fate. Haman is hanged on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai.
The enemy has been eliminated. It can feel like victory. A parallel can be seen in the movie The Wizard of Oz. Dorothy lands in Oz, and the house crushes the witch. The munchkins sing “Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead.” Celebration, but soon they all realize that this does not solve all their problems.
The real enemy of the Jews, the real Satan’s plans are still in motion. The edict to have all the Jews in the Empire killed is still in effect. This is not just the Jews in Susa. Includes all the Jewish people who have returned to Judah and Jerusalem as well. That territory is still a part of the Persian Empire. If all the Jewish people are eliminated, there would be no Joseph, no Mary, and Jesus, our Savior, could not be born the way God promised. Think about that for a moment.
So, Haman is gone, but the plan is still active.
Tune in next week for the thrilling conclusion of Esther: God Remembers You.
Let me pray for you.
God, help us to remember that even when we cannot tell, you are there. You know the plans you have for us. Even in the scariest times you walk with us, never leaving us or forsaking us. Help us to remember that we have a part to play, too. You use us to carry out your plans. Help us to be strong when things look hopeless and remind us of the eternal hope we have through Jesus Christ, who is always on our side. Amen.