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Deeper Commentary

Esther 5:1 Now it happened on the third day that Esther put on her royal clothing- Perhaps because as stated in Esther 4:17 she had taken it off in order to mourn and cover herself in sackcloth.

And stood in the inner court of the king’s house, next to the king’s house. The king sat on his royal throne in the royal house, next to the entrance of the house- "The royal house" is literally "the house of the kingdom", the term used for the temple in 2 Chron. 2:1,12. This extends the  impression discussed on Esther 1:7 that we have here a fake, imitation temple of Yahweh.

Esther 5:2 When the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, she obtained favour in his sight; and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther came near, and touched the top of the sceptre-
The record is as it were a video shot by the Divine cameraman. We see her standing there, see her fingers touching the very tip of the sceptre. And we get the feeling that the outcome finally will be good for her.

Esther 5:3 Then the king asked her, What would you like, queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given you even to the half of the kingdom-
Esther was breaking paradigms here; it was the king who always gave invitations, and not his wife. She effectively comes to dominate him, although in a very humble and nervous way, used by God.

Esther 5:4 Esther said, If it seems good to the king, let the king come with Haman today to the banquet that I have prepared for him- 
It seems to me that she intended to ask for mercy for the Jews. But her nerve fails here, and she asks them to come to a banquet. And when they come, her nerve fails her again, and she asks them to come to another banquet. And God worked through that weakness. Because the final request was made the night after he had recalled how Mordecai had saved him. And the intrigue and suspense was built up, his attention was particularly focused upon this one of his many wives, who was demanding his attention two or three days running. I don't personally interpret Esther here as the cleverly calculating, amateur psychologist female. Rather do I see a nervous teenager who gets stage fright at the last minute, twice. And God worked through her nervousness. Perhaps after each failure to make the request, she beat herself up for her weakness. But God worked through it. This is His style, right up to this day. LXX "To-day is my great day"; probably the king didn't even know Esther's birthday, ust as he didn't know her family or relationship to Mordecai (Esther 8:1). Maybe it wasn't her birthday, and she just blurted out whatever came into her mind. Through all this, God was working. Although the Name of God doesn't occur in the Hebrew text of Esther, the letters Y-H-V-H are found in various forms throughout the book as acrostics, and this is an example (Esther 1:20; 5:4,13; 7:5,7).

Esther 5:5 Then the king said, Bring Haman quickly, so that it may be done as Esther has said. So the king and Haman came to the banquet that Esther had prepared-
The command to bring Haman "quickly" was because such invitations were usually given well in advance, and Esther was breaking all the paradigms by wanting everything quickly, throwing last minute parties.

Esther 5:6 The king said to Esther at the banquet of wine, What is your petition? It shall be granted you. What is your request? Even to the half of the kingdom it shall be performed-
This apparently unlimited offer leads us to expect that Esther is now going to seize the moment and ask for the Jews not to be destroyed. The Biblical text often works like this, setting up expectations in the mind of the reader or hearer, and then presenting an unexpected outcome. We are all expecting now for her to make the request, and the next verse heightens that sense of expectation- and we are then the more involved in the plot when again, Esther doesn't make the request as she maybe intended to.

Esther 5:7 Then Esther answered and said, My petition and my request is this-
The pause implied in the text heightens our sense of suspense as to whether she will find the strength to make her true request. And again her nerve fails and she rather dumbly asks for more time.

Esther 5:8 If I have found favour in the sight of the king, and if it please the king to grant my petition and to perform my request, let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I will prepare for them, and I will do tomorrow as the king has said-
This could be read as saying 'I do have a petition; but your attendance at my banquet tomorrow will mean that you have agreed to the petition I have in my heart, but which I'm not telling you right now'. This would perhaps be the best support for an argument that Esther calculated all this, rather than just getting stage fright each time she was asked to tell her petition. The ambiguity and difficulty of interpretation is intentional- to direct our thinking to her motivations, to get the reader into the mind of Esther.

Esther 5:9 Then Haman went out that day joyful and glad of heart, but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he didn’t stand up nor move for him, he was filled with wrath against Mordecai-
The record juxtaposes his prideful joy with the jealousy which then beclouds him as he sees Mordecai, dressed in sackcloth, refusing to stand up. The Esther record gives wonderful insight into the feelings and thought processes of the characters in a way in which contemporary literature of the time doesn't; the stories are full of unrealistic exaggerations, whereas the Bible focuses upon real situations and upon the state of the heart. And here we see the typical power of jealousy; a focus upon one man and his actions, eclipsing all other blessings. 

Esther 5:10 Nevertheless Haman restrained himself, and went home. There, he sent and called for his friends and Zeresh his wife-
The impression is given that he wanted to murder Haman immediately, or at least ask the king to authorize it. But he waits for another day, because of the desire to do nothing without first seeking advice. And it was that day which altered the entire outcome. Again we see a man of great power, but bound by his own traditions and legal structures; just as was the king when Vashti refused to come and he wanted to kill her.

Esther 5:11 Haman recounted to them the glory of his riches, the multitude of his children, all the things in which the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king-
He had ten sons (Esther 9:7). Here again we see a connection with the situation in Esther 1, where the glory of Ahasuerus is presented and then he is manipulated and circumscribed by a woman and his own laws and culture.

Esther 5:12 Haman also said, Yes, Esther the queen let no man come in with the king to the banquet that she had prepared but myself; and tomorrow I am also invited by her together with the king-
His overweening pride is being set up for a mighty fall; and this is typical of the Biblical record, to focus upon pride as the reason for judgment. What he was most proud of turned out to be the very point of his destruction.

Esther 5:13 Yet all this avails me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate-
This is the power of jealousy; a focus upon one man and his actions, eclipsing all other blessings. He kept in his mind the image of this man "sitting" instead of standing up and bowing. It is such mental images which are the root of so much jealousy. See on Esther 7:7; 6:13. Through all this, God was working. Although the Name of God doesn't occur in the Hebrew text of Esther, the letters Y-H-V-H are found in various forms throughout the book as acrostics, and this is an example (Esther 1:20; 5:4,13; 7:5,7).

Esther 5:14 Then Zeresh his wife and all his friends said to him, Let a gallows be made fifty cubits high, and in the morning speak to the king about hanging Mordecai on it. Then go in merrily with the king to the banquet. This pleased Haman, so he had the gallows made-
75 feet high. "According to Persian law the power of life and death resided in the king alone". So Haman was assuming that he could get Mordecai executed, even though there was apparently no legal apparatus for him to do so. Again we see a theme of Esther continued- that the characters are all forced to act outside of the law. This was surely to prepare the Jewish audience of the book to realize the limitations of Mosaic law, especially in the casuistic sense in which they liked to use it.


Daniel’s prophecy that there would be a time of trouble for Israel, followed by a resurrection and judgment, may have had a potential fulfilment in Haman’s persecution. The LXX of Esther 5 at this point includes her prayer to God, in which she says that Haman was seeking to hinder the work of the temple. This would explain why initially the Samaritans persuaded the Persians to make the work cease, but then (humanly inexplicably) another edict is given for it to resume. The people were delivered (Dan. 12:1), as they were by Michael the Angel manipulating Esther. But the resurrection, judgment and Kingdom didn’t follow, because Israel weren’t ready for it. Then those who turned many to righteousness- i.e. the priesthood, in the primary context- would be rewarded (Dan. 12:3). But Malachi and Haggai repeatedly criticized the priesthood at the time of the restoration for being selfish and not teaching Israel (Mal. 2:7). Daniel and Jeremiah were heartbroken that there had to be such a delay to the full fulfilment of the Messianic restoration of the Kingdom.