III. Climax: The God of Reversals (Esther 6:1–10:3)
III. Climax: The God of Reversals (6:1–10:3)
6:1 The night after the queen held her banquet, sleep escaped the king. It was the very night on which Haman thought himself on top of the world as a gallows was being constructed for Mordecai. It was a night when God’s people needed heaven to intervene in history.
On this particular night, the king had insomnia, even though he should’ve been sleeping like a baby. The most powerful man in the empire couldn’t sleep for a theological reason: “A king’s heart is like channeled water in the Lord’s hand: He directs it wherever he chooses” (Prov 21:1). God knows how to keep people awake at night in order to accomplish his sovereign program. Thus, the king had someone read to him the book recording daily events. In other words, he wanted the most boring book in his possession to be read to make him sleepy.
6:2 When the servant opened the book, he came to the report of how Mordecai had informed on . . . the king’s eunuchs who had planned to assassinate the king. On the very night when Haman was plotting Mordecai’s death, the king’s sleepless night was filled with a bedtime story about how Mordecai had saved his life five years ago. In a universe in which the sovereign God accomplishes his will by his meticulous providence, nothing happens by chance. There are no coincidences. Luck and sovereignty don’t mix.
Though God’s name does not appear in the book of Esther, his fingerprints are everywhere. Events leading to this moment had all started eight years before with Queen Vashti snubbing King Ahasuerus. Sometimes we think, “God should act right now in my circumstances!” But, we must recognize that God is weaving a whole series of people and events together in history to achieve his kingdom goals. You are a representative of the kingdom whom God desires to use. But, God’s kingdom is bigger than you, and his timing is perfect.
6:3 Upon being reminded of Mordecai’s faithful service, the king wanted to know how he had been repaid. He asked, What honor and special recognition had been given? The answer was, Nothing. This man had saved King Ahasuerus’s life, but no one had even told him, “Thank you.”
6:4-5 The king intended to rectify this oversight right away, but he needed someone to carry out his plan to honor Mordecai. Whom could he use? Who was available? It was the early hours of the morning. At that moment, Haman was just entering the outer court . . . to ask the king to hang Mordecai (6:4). The king demanded that Haman enter (6:5).
6:6-9 Before Haman had a chance to ask Ahasuerus to kill Mordecai, the king asked him, What should be done for the man the king wants to honor? Certain the king was intending to honor him, Haman suggested the man should be decked out in the king’s own robe and a royal crown while a top official led him around on a horse in the city square, declaring the king’s praise of him (6:7-9). Such actions would publicly position him for a leadership role in the kingdom of Persia.
6:10-11 Ahasuerus thought this was a perfect idea. Hurry, and do just as you proposed . . . for Mordecai (6:10). And with those words, the humiliation and downfall of Haman had begun. Imagine the look on Haman’s face at that moment. In an instant, his fortunes had changed. Everything good he had intended for himself was done to Mordecai, his nemesis, instead. And Haman himself had to lead around the Jewish man whom he hated, as he shouted to the crowds, This is what is done for the man the king wants to honor (6:11).
This scene is a reminder that “with God all things are possible” (Matt 19:26). When circumstances look their bleakest, God can connect what doesn’t seem connectable. He can cause roads to intersect that look like they could never meet.
6:12 Haman returned home in shame. He had just played cheerleader to the man who had refused to bow to him. Mordecai had refused to honor Haman, and now Haman was forced to honor Mordecai. The day of Mordecai’s execution turned out to be the day of his exaltation. And all of this happened because while we sleep, God is at work (see Ps 121:4).
6:13-14 If Haman was hoping for encouragement from his wife and friends, he was disappointed. As far as they were concerned, what had happened was really bad luck that wouldn’t end well. Your downfall is certain (6:13). At that moment, the king’s eunuch . . . rushed Haman off to Esther’s banquet. Haman’s fortunes were about to go from bad to worse.
7:1-2 For the second day in a row, Esther held a feast for the king and Haman. This one probably wasn’t as enjoyable for Haman as the previous one. He was likely nursing a headache after the morning’s embarrassment. Worse, before Haman could even eat a decent meal, the king asked Esther to make her request.
7:3-4 This time, Esther was ready to speak up. But, more to the point, God was ready for her to do so. He’d wanted everything to occur in exactly the right sequence. Even Esther may not have understood why she’d delayed having a difficult conversation the previous day, but as Paul had been restrained by the Holy Spirit (see Acts 16:6-7), so Esther had been restrained. God put her announcement on pause for twenty-four hours so that he could make his final adjustments. The stage was set. Esther’s spiritual antennae were poised to follow divine leading. Is your spiritual receiver tuned to pick up heaven’s signals?
Hear the passion in Esther’s request: Spare my life and spare my people . . . For my people and I have been sold to destruction, death, and extermination (7:3-4). Surely, this was not something the king had expected to hear. How much more shocking was it to Haman?
7:5-6 Who would devise such a scheme? the king demanded to know (7:5). And, at this point, Haman was no doubt looking around frantically for the exit. Esther pointed to the culprit: The adversary and enemy is this evil Haman (7:6). In an instant, Haman went from favored dinner guest to public enemy number one. He was rightly terrified (7:6).
7:7 The king arose in anger and went out to the palace garden. Realizing that he had been duped by Haman into authorizing the destruction of his own queen, Ahasuerus was hot. Haman knew that the king was planning something terrible for him out there, so he started to beg Queen Esther for his life.
7:8 When the king returned, he misunderstood Haman’s groveling actions, thinking that he was trying to assault Esther. This wasn’t Haman’s day. No sooner had the king asked, Would he actually violate the queen while I am in the house? than his servants covered Haman’s face. This tells us he didn’t even have an opportunity to explain his actions. The divine Judge was passing sentence on the enemy of his people, and no defense could be given.
7:9 At that moment, one of the king’s eunuchs walked in to announce that the gallows that Haman had prepared for Mordecai—the man whom the king had honored that very morning for saving his life—was ready. God’s providential orchestration was complete. So, the king gave his command: Hang [Haman] on it.
7:10 The outcome of divine intervention couldn’t be more ironic. Mordecai was honored with the plan that Haman has proposed for himself (6:6-11), and Haman was hanged . . . on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. Thus, the apparent power of God’s enemies is meaningless. When he moves against them, they will fall by their own wicked designs. “The one who leads the upright into an evil way will fall into his own pit” (Prov 28:10).
8:1-2 The Lord is a God of reversals. Following Esther’s intervention, there came a financial reversal. That same day King Ahas-uerus awarded Queen Esther the estate of Haman, the enemy of the Jews (8:1). Thus, everything that Haman owned suddenly belonged to the woman who had bravely called him out. This highlights the truth of Proverbs 13:22: “The sinner’s wealth is stored up for the righteous.” Then, there was a political reversal. Esther revealed her relationship to Mordecai, and the king took Haman’s signet ring and gave it to Mordecai (8:1-2). The authority that Haman once held, then, was granted to his rival.
The Lord of heaven and earth can cause things to turn on a dime. No matter how powerful the people and circumstances aligned against you may seem, they have nothing unless God grants it to them. And, if he grants it to them, he can take it away. Just ask Nebuchadnezzar, the man who’d carried Esther’s people away from their homeland in the first place (see Dan 4:1-37).
8:3-10 In spite of all this, there was still evil to be undone. The royal decree to annihilate the Jews was still standing. Esther begged the king to revoke Haman’s wicked plot, and the king showed her favor (8:3-4). So, Esther asked Ahasuerus to issue a new royal edict counteracting the former one (8:5). Then, just as Haman had been given the authority to write orders in the king’s name and seal them with the royal signet ring (see 3:12), so now Esther and Mordecai were authorized to do the same (8:8-10).
8:11-14 This was a legal reversal. The new edict gave the Jews in each and every city the right to assemble and defend themselves, to destroy, kill, and annihilate everyone hostile to them (8:11). Sadly, the laws of Persia and Media could not be revoked (see 1:19), so the decree Haman had written remained in force. But, that didn’t mean the Jewish people had to take it lying down. If anyone sought to harm them, the new decree gave them authority to fight back and avenge themselves against their enemies (8:13).
8:15-17 Next came an emotional reversal. The city of Susa, which was formerly in confusion over the edict against the Jews (3:15), now rejoiced (8:15). The mourning of the Jews (4:3) had turned to celebration with gladness, joy, and honor (8:16). This led, finally, to a spiritual reversal. Many of the ethnic groups of the land professed themselves to be Jews (8:17). In other words, many sinners got saved. To profess oneself to be a Jew was to come under the Jewish covenant. To come under the Jewish covenant, one had to accept the Jewish God. Unbelievers had seen the deliverance and favor that God had bestowed on his people, and they wanted his covenant protection, too.
The greatest reversal was still to come, however. Several centuries in the future, Satan would think he had destroyed the Son of God. But, the cross on which Christ was condemned became the path to his victory and glory. Three days later, he arose with “all authority” in heaven and on earth given to him (Matt 28:18). Our God is a God of reversals.
9:1-2 Haman’s original edict to slaughter the Jews was to be carried out on a certain day (3:13). So, the new command went into effect on the exact same day: on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month Adar. Thus, on the day when the enemies of the Jews had planned to exterminate them, the Jews were prepared to defend themselves (9:1). As a result, fear of them fell on every nationality (9:2).
9:3-10 Mordecai was now a powerful man. Every official throughout the empire aided the Jews because they feared him (9:3-4). So, when their enemies rose up against them, the Jews fought back and put them to death (9:5). In the fortress of Susa, they killed . . . five hundred men, including the ten sons of Haman (9:6-10).
God had provided the Jews with supernatural deliverance from those who hated them, but his people still had to fight. They couldn’t merely sit back and do nothing. The same is true for Christians. We are called to spiritual battle (see 2 Cor 10:3-5; Eph 6:10-18). Yes, God is our Savior and our Deliverer. But, he demands our involvement. We must wage spiritual warfare.
9:11-15 When the king received word of what was happening as a result of his edicts, he asked Esther if she wanted anything (9:11-12). She asked for one more day to finish the job; there were still evil men to be dealt with. Furthermore, she requested that the corpses of Haman’s ten sons be hung on the gallows (9:13). This would serve as a public warning to others. Before that second day was spent, three hundred more enemies were killed in Susa (9:14-15).
9:16-22 In the other royal provinces, the Jews killed seventy-five thousand of their enemies (9:16). After this, there was feasting and rejoicing (9:17-19). Mordecai sent letters throughout the empire, ordering the Jews to celebrate the fourteenth and fifteenth days of Adar every year as a holiday (9:20-22). For on these days, God had turned their mourning into rejoicing (9:22).
9:23-28 The Jews called their new holiday Purim, from the word Pur (9:26). The term Pur refers to the lot that Haman had cast (like rolling dice) to determine when he would destroy the Jews (9:24; see 3:7). Haman had looked to chance to fulfill his wicked desires. The people of God knew that their deliverance had not come by chance but by the providential hand of God; thus, they coopted the term and used it to magnify God.
Believers need to remind themselves, one another, and their children that the circumstances of their lives are not the result of random events. God is orchestrating the events of our lives according to his sovereign plan and for his kingdom purposes.
9:29-32 Queen Esther wrote a letter as well to confirm Mordecai’s letter about Purim (9:29). The missives were sent throughout the empire with assurances of peace and security to all the Jews (9:30). Esther and Mordecai wanted to ensure that their people never forgot what God had done and never failed to give him glory.
10:1-3 Mordecai the Jew was second only to King Ahasuerus (10:3). He had been honored by the king and was famous among the Jews (9:2-3). Yet, Mordecai knew that God had providentially raised him. What had happened was not merely for his sake but for the sake of God’s kingdom. Therefore, from that day on, he continued to speak for the well-being of his people (10:3). May the people of God do the same today.