“So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me — that is my petition — and the lives of my people — that is my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.” Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this?” Esther said, “A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!” Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen.” (Esther 7:1 – 6)
Esther, with Mordecai advising her, was very wise. First she showed the king, her husband, her skill and dedication to being a queen and a hostess to royalty. Then in pleading for her life, she did not make the request based on humanitarian reasons but as an economic loss to the king. If (and that is an IF) the king had any tenderness or regard for Esther, that was extra but she was not counting on that. Remember, the king had dismissed the former queen for presuming that “mere” affection was grant her favor from the king. The writer of the book of Esther tosses the reader “crumb” in saying that Haman was terrified before them both – maybe a clue that the king did regard Esther favorably.
“Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, “Look, the very gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, stands at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.” And the king said, “Hang him on that.” So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the anger of the king abated.” (Verses 9 – 10)
The king was so angry that he had to leave to walk around and cool himself down. Haman made the mistake of pleading for his life by making an inappropriate move towards Queen Esther. At that point, when the king returned, it seems that the king’s heart was moved to regard and claim Esther as his wife. Further enraged, Haman was sentenced to death.
As the story continued, the edict that was sent out to destroy all the Jews in the provinces of the king could not be revoked. But what did happen is that the Jews were allowed to arm themselves and defend themselves, their families, and their property. With Haman put to death, the king’s favor bestowed on Esther and her people those who would have attacked deemed it better not to. And the Jews were saved.
“Mordecai recorded these things, and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, enjoining them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same month, year by year, as the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor.” (Chapter nine, Verses 20 – 22)
The story of Esther is not one that can be verified in history. It is a fable, a teaching story, about how goodness and determination can change death and destruction into life and celebration. Perhaps it is an encouragement to young women to seek out good actions and the well-being of others. Perhaps it is an encouragement for Jews to give up when all seems lost.
Much has been made about this story, and romance between Esther and the king has been woven into the story. The original story as rendered in scripture does not give much fodder for romance; but those who are romantics at heart take what little there is and build on it. Consideration is also given to the former queen and her bid to retain her self-dignity and autonomy. Actually, beloved reader, there is much fodder in this story for whatever morals and lessons one would like. Not many books of the bible have that latitude. We talk about studying scripture to understand the Divine and how those who follow the Divine should live out that devotion. In the Old Testament there sometimes seems to be more lessons and illustrations of what NOT to do. It is refreshing to read about what is good to do. May you, beloved reader, glean all the learning from this story that the Holy Presence leads you to! Shalom & Selah!