Strikingly Mordecai, after being highly honored by the king with a parade through the streets of Shushan while Haman cried out concerning him that he was the one in whom the king delighted, went back to his sackcloth and to sitting on the ground in front of the king’s gate. It is easy to understand that Haman went home with his head covered and feeling greatly humiliated. But for Mordecai, after having the royal garments removed, and after getting down from the royal horse, to return to sackcloth and to his former place on the ground where he sat in his mourning, seems wholly out of place. We have no problem seeing what kind of man the king was. Imagine a king who highly honors a man who saved his life, and then forgets him entirely in less than one day. It was a one-time and short-time exaltation and reward that he bestowed upon Mordecai.
Mordecai’s actions however were not at all strange and out of place. Taking all the facts into consideration we can see his reasons for this behavior. His life and the lives of his people were still in danger not only but actually consigned to be terminated in a few months by the decree of the very king who had honored him so highly. Mordecai protected the king, and was rewarded with a parade in his honour. But the decree that he and his people must be exterminated had not been revoked. The king had no knowledge of the fact that Mordecai belonged to this people that must be exterminated for the king’s good and the kingdom’s well-being. Mordecai then had good reasons for mourning and returning to his former state. As an unbeliever he did not recognize God’s providence, or read this as a sign that the God of Israel could indeed send “enlargement and deliverance.” His actions were out of place for a believer. But looking for enlargement and deliverance from another place, rather than from God, explains his conduct. Instead of sitting on the ground in sackcloth, he should have been on his knees praying and thanking God for this evidence that He can reverse the decisions of men. Haman sought his death. God made that enemy honour him in a most spectacular way. Mordecai should have seen God behind the king, and Haman as a tool which the Almighty had completely in His control.
Esther, on the other hand, is about ready to enter into the moment of truth. The second banquet of wine is prepared. Soon the king, Haman, and Esther will be in their places at the table. And Esther will have to reveal to the king what she had been hiding all this time. The truth will now come out and remain hidden no longer. She will have to reveal that she is a Jewess. By revealing that her life is slated to be taken from her she will reveal that she is a Jewess. When she makes her petition known to the king she reveals the truth of her identity among the people that had been branded by Haman as a danger to the king and kingdom, and accepted as such a people by the king without any investigation whatsoever.
There were then at this table three with disturbed thoughts and differing emotions. Esther is filled with fear. Her life hangs in the balance. She will in a few moments know whether, as she said to Mordecai, she will perish in her attempt to save her people. Haman is a deeply humiliated man who wonders what place he is going to retain in the kingdom. Extremely hard it was for him to look across the table into the face of the king who had so deeply humiliated him. He did not have the fear of death. Had he not been summoned to this honour of banqueting with the king and queen? He feels shame, deep shame and wonders whether he is going to be abased by being demoted from his high position in the kingdom. But he does not yet have reason to fear the death, that in a few moments will be decreed. The king is filled with both curiosity and apprehension. He is eager to know why Esther wanted these two banquets, with Haman present. Is there a political or social condition in the kingdom unknown to him? Is his life and his kingship in danger as before when Esther notified him of the plot of the two chamberlains?
Quite plainly the king was getting impatient. He does not wait for Esther to keep her promise and to make known at this banquet her petition Instead when the banquet had just begun, he again asks her what her petition is, adding the promise once again that it will be granted to the half of his kingdom. Indeed the moment of truth has come. What her father-uncle had so unequivocally commanded her not to reveal she must now make known. The truth must come out into the open. And if it was—and it was—dangerous for the queenship to let it be known that she was a Jewess, it is even more dangerous now to reveal that she belongs to this people that is consigned to death by the king. Her deceptive ways in the past would only underscore Haman’s words that this people was not to the king’s or the kingdom’s profit. Being deceptive about this matter, could she be trusted in the kingdom with anything?
In a very clever way she presents the matter to the king. She asks for her life and the life of her people. Plainly her own life was her chief concern. Had she merely said to the king, “If it please the king let the life of my people be given at my petition,” she would automatically be included in that people and be safe, if the king granted this request. But no, she echoes the sentiment expressed in her shameful, unvarnished fatalism, namely, “If I perish, I perish.” And remember that she agreed to do as Mordecai commanded her only after he made it crystal clear to her that she too would die with her people. Not until she saw that her own life was in danger did she agree with that fatalistic outcry of her own perishing.
Cleverly enough she mentions her own life first, also in order to bring to the king’s attention how it will also hurt him. His wife’s life is in danger. He is in a position wherein he will suffer the loss of another wife, and this one a most beautiful wife of whom he was proud, as is plain from his extending the rod to her when she came in without being called.
For Haman it was also the moment of truth. For he is about to find out that although he had convinced the king that the Jews were a people that “is not for the profit of the king to suffer them” to live, he himself will be shown to be the one who is not to the king’s profit, for he has gotten the king to decree that his wife must die. He is not simply touching Mordecai and the Jews. He is touching the king by touching his wife. Here was a truth that would cost him his life. But he does not know it until Esther opens her mouth to make known her request.
Note those first words of Esther, “If I have found favor in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king . . . .” Consider also the words of the king that produced this reply, “What is thy petition queen Esther?” Quite a husband-wife relationship here, is it not? Granted that Ahasuerus is king and that Haman is present so that the wife must honour the king before his officers, the king did address her warmly as queen Esther, using her personal name. She could at least have addressed him as “O husband, king.” In that way she would have honored him before Haman. She however holds her distance. There is no warmth in her speech to this man who decreed her death sentence and that of her people. In a cold, reserved way she approaches him with whom she was joined in the bonds of marriage, and with whom she considered herself to be one flesh according to God’s ordinance.
What is more, her “If I have found favor in thy sight, O king” reveals her fear of him in spite of his promise to grant her request even to the half of his kingdom. The word “if” in Scripture sometimes means since, as in Colossians 3:1. Here in Esther 7:3 it expresses doubt. Esther is not at all sure that the king will grant her request. This was no formal, platonic way of approaching a king. This man is her husband, and one who had decreed a matter far more important than half of his kingdom. Actually she was going to ask for all of his kingdom. She would make a request that would make the king step down and cause the work of his right hand man to be brought to naught. Her request was one that would make her rule the king and his kingdom. If she got her way, she would decide the policy of the kingdom in regard to the Jews and undo a decree of the Medes and Persians that altereth not.
No doubt the king did not see it that way; and his great desire to keep his beautiful wife made him turn against the man with whom he had agreed, and to debase him and have him executed. And as it turned out, the request of Esther did not make her rule the kingdom as far as the treatment of the Jews is concerned. The decree was not reversed, but the Jews were given the right to defend themselves and to fight for their lives on that day when the decree was to be executed. Yet the request as such was that her will overrule what the king had willed with Haman and at his suggestion. Her will, as becomes plain when later on she appeared once more before the king, was that his decree be reversed (Esther 8:5). If that would take place, Esther would have ruled the king and the kingdom as far as her people are concerned.
And now we see why Esther wanted Haman at those two banquets. It was not because of love or even respect for him. It was not because she delighted in his company. It was not to honour him but to humiliate him before the king. It was to cast him into the agony she and her people had been suffering since the king’s decree. They had death staring them in the face; and Haman must have that fear now, and that from an wholly unexpected source. He had moved the king to exterminate all his enemies, that is, Haman’s, and she is now striving to rid her people and herself of this enemy through a death sentence upon him. It was hate, a vicious hatred in her soul, under the guise of respect and friendly thoughts to him, that would get back at Haman. It was the moment of truth also from the point of view that her true evaluation and thoughts toward this right-hand man of the king were made crystal clear.
And what shall we say of all this? Certainly both Esther and Haman were under the power of sin as citizens of Satan’s kingdom of darkness, even as our old man of sin is until we are delivered through the blessing of death. Yes, death is a blessing for the believer, for it delivers him from the dominion of Satan and from all sin. But we err if we say that Satan moved Esther to perform these devilishly clever deeds. He did not give her this clever plan. Ever since God told him immediately after the fall that the seed of the woman would crush his head, Satan tried to keep Christ, The Seed of the woman, from being born. He would not now move Esther to try to reverse the decree that would prevent His birth.
Too often and too easily we blame Satan for our sins and overlook the fact that we are born with a totally depraved nature, born spiritually dead—not sick, weak, partially paralyzed—and we sin because in the beginning Satan succeeded in bringing us to this state. We are not always—or even often—moved by Satan or one of his henchmen to commit a particular sin. Many would like to explain Revelation 20:2 as teaching that with the binding of Satan a tremendous drop in sin will be found in the world. Not at all! Were Satan and all his fallen angels cast into hell today, our old natures would still develop in sin. The cancer is there. And the death of others with cancer will not stop the growth of ours. Only a rebirth with the life of Christ will stop sin in us.
Instead see God’s counsel here and His grace to His people. He is using Esther for the good of His church. Trust Him, and so be sure that all the moves in the future of those in the kingdom of Satan will work together for our good.