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Esther 5

 

PARAGRAPH DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
Esther's Banquet Esther Before the King Esther Invites the King and Haman to a Banquet Esther Intrudes on the Royal Presence
5:1-5 5:1-8 5:1-3 5:1-5
    5:4  
5:6-8   5:5-6  
      5:6-8
    5:7-8  
Haman's Plot Against Mordecai Haman's Exaltation and Chagrin Haman Plots to Kill Mordecai  
5:9-14 5:9-14 5:9-13 5:9-14
    5:14a  
    5:14b  

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT THE PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired but it is the key to following the original author's intent which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 5:1-4
 1Now it came about on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king's palace in front of the king's rooms, and the king was sitting on his royal throne in the throne room, opposite the entrance to the palace. 2When the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, she obtained favor in his sight; and the king extended to Esther the golden scepter which was in his hand. So Esther came near and touched the top of the scepter. 3Then the king said to her, "What is troubling you, Queen Esther? And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be given to you." 4Esther said, "If it pleases the king, may the king and Haman come this day to the banquet that I have prepared for him."

5:1 "on the third day that Esther put on her royal robes" This implies that she took off the sackcloth and ashes of fasting (cf. 4:16) or that she simply put on her royal robes as she approached the king.

▣ "and stood in the inner court of the king's palace in the front of the king's rooms" This verse is a very accurate description of the inside of the Persian palace at Susa. This has been confirmed by archaeological excavation and it is obvious that we are dealing with an eyewitness account of someone connected with the Persian court.

5:2 "she obtained favor in his sight" This theme of Esther finding favor is recurrent (cf. 2:9,15; 5:2,8; 7:3; 8:5). The invisible hand behind this favor shown to Esther by so many is the unseen hand of God. His presence was unseen in this post-exilic period, as it is today. Believers trust by faith, not sight, that God is with them and for them because of His promises in His book! The recurrent theme in Nehemiah was "trust and act on the word of God."

▣ "extended to Esther the golden scepter" This was the sign of acceptance at the Persian court (cf. Herodotus, 1.99). This scepter is depicted in several Persian wall paintings and carvings.

5:3 "What is troubling you" Obviously, Esther being willing to risk her life by coming without being summoned meant that something was gravely wrong.

▣ "even to half of the kingdom will be given to you" This shows the king's favor of Esther by using an Oriental idiom of exaggeration (cf. 5:6; 7:2; and Herodotus 9.109-11, as well as Herod's use of the same idiom in Mark 6:23).

5:4 "may the king and Haman come" Some manuscripts of the Masoretic Text have the first four initial consonants of the first four words emphasized because they spell out the divine name YHWH. This seems to be a coincidence of word order, not the premeditated theology of the original author. I personally reject all secret messages which clever people find hidden in ancient texts. God wants all humans in every age to fully understand His word.

Usually Persian kings ate alone, possibly joined from time to time by family or someone from the seven special families. For Esther to invite the king for a private meal was unusual, but to also invite Haman would have been highly unusual. Why she did this is uncertain, but her fasting and prayers brought faith and wisdom (the unseen hand of God)!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 5:5-8
 5Then the king said, "Bring Haman quickly that we may do as Esther desires." So the king and Haman came to the banquet which Esther had prepared. 6As they drank their wine at the banquet, the king said to Esther, "What is your petition, for it shall be granted to you. And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be done." 7So Esther replied, "My petition and my request is: 8if I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and do what I request, may the king and Haman come to the banquet which I will prepare for them, and tomorrow I will do as the king says."

5:7-8 Esther's request may have been (1) out of fear (i.e., afraid to ask) or (2) a purposeful plan to pique the king's interest.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: 5:9-14
 9Then Haman went out that day glad and pleased of heart; but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king's gate and that he did not stand up or tremble before him, Haman was filled with anger against Mordecai. 10Haman controlled himself, however, went to his house and sent for his friends and his wife Zeresh. 11Then Haman recounted to them the glory of his riches, and the number of his sons, and every instance where the king had magnified him and how he had promoted him above the princes and servants of the king. 12Haman also said, "Even Esther the queen let no one but me come with the king to the banquet which she had prepared; and tomorrow also I am invited by her with the king. 13Yet all of this does not satisfy me every time I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate." 14Then Zeresh his wife and all his friends said to him, "Have a gallows fifty cubits high made and in the morning ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on it; then go joyfully with the king to the banquet." And the advice pleased Haman, so he had the gallows made.

5:9 "Haman went out that day glad and pleased of heart" This book, like the Bible itself, is filled with shocking role reversals (i.e., Adam, Joseph, David, Solomon, Manasseh, etc.). The evaluations of the people of this planet are different from God's (e.g., Isa. 55:8-11; Ezek. 18:32).

In this book Haman is up and down, up and down, up and down. He becomes a type of restless evil, human cunning, thwarted by God's unseen hand.

▣ "Mordecai in the king's gate" Again Mordecai is identified with the palace guard (cf. 2:19,21; 3:2; 5:13; 6:10).

▣ "he did not stand up or tremble before him" After the issuing of the edict for the destruction of the Jews, Mordecai not only would not bow down, but would not even recognize Haman's presence. Mordecai had no respect for, or fear of, Haman!

"Haman was filled with anger" The VERB (BDB 569, KB 583, Niphal IMPERFECT) expresses Haman's hatred (cf. 3:5).

His irrational anger (cf. v. 13) will be his undoing. The role reversal will occur because of Haman's anger/hatred/wrath (BDB 404).

5:10-14 Haman apparently had spiritual advisors who used divination for him (cf. 3:7; 6:13).

5:11 "the glory of his riches" The Hebrew word "glory" (BDB 458, KB 457) often is associated with wealth (cf. Gen. 31:1; I Chr. 29:12,28; II Chr. 1:11,12; Prov. 3:16). The word's basic meaning of "to be heavy" relates to weights of precious metals.

"the number of his sons" From 9:7-10 we learn that Haman had ten sons. Both Hebrews and Persians saw a large number of sons as a sign of divine blessing (cf. Herodotus, 1.136).

5:13 "Yet all of this does not satisfy me every time I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate" Haman's hatred was stronger than all of the wealth and power that the king had given. This is a valid psychological insight on what a root of bitterness will do to a human heart!

5:14 "Have a gallows fifty cubits high" There is a series of IMPERATIVES (2) and IMPERFECTS (2) used as JUSSIVES:

1. "have a gallows. . .made" (BDB 793, KB 889) Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense

2. "ask the king" (BDB 55, KB 65), Qal IMPERATIVE 

3. "hang Mordecai" (BDB 1067, KB 1738), Qal IMPERFECT used in a JUSSIVE sense

4. "go joyfully. . .to the banquet" (BDB 97, KB 112), Qal IMPERATIVE

A cubit is the distance from a man's longest finger to his elbow, about 18 to 20 inches. We know from history about two different cubit measurements, one about 18 inches and a longer cubit as the official one for construction. This would have made the gallows about 75-85 feet high (higher than the columns of the king's palace). This may not relate to a hanging gallows but to a sharpened stake. The Persians were noted for impaling people, not for hanging them (cf. 9:13; Herodotus 3:159; 4:43; the Behistun Inscription column 2, paragraph 13 and 14; column 3, paragraph 8).

It is the exaggerations (e.g., the amount of money Haman offered for the Jews' destruction) in the book that cause literary scholars to reexamine the genre. It is not that the book itself causes insurmountable problems, but that, like Jonah and Job, it may have an historical core which is elaborated for theological reasons.

A 75-85 foot impaling stake certainly shows the extent of hatred and planning of Haman and his advisors! But the unseen hand of God, shockingly reverses the roles of Haman and Mordecai!