Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Queen Esther: A Destiny Fulfilled. Day 12, Haman Executed

Queen Esther:
A Destiny Fulfilled
Day 12
Haman Executed

When we concluded yesterday, Haman found his plans foiled for the execution of Mordecai. During the night King Xerxes had been unable to sleep and ordered his chronicles to be read to him. In the chronicles he found the account of Mordecai discovering an assassination plot. For the first time the king realized nothing had been done to honor Mordecai for his service, so as Haman arrived at the palace to secure a death warrant for Mordecai, he instead ended up in the humiliating predicament of having to parade the Jewish man through the streets on one of the king's own horses, proclaiming that the king was greatly delighted with him. 

Now Haman knows he is not going to be able to put Mordecai to death, at least not until the king's edict against the Jews is fulfilled in the twelfth month, and perhaps not even then. In a very black mood he arrives at Esther's banquet. 

"So the king and Haman went to Queen Esther's banquet, and as they were drinking wine on the second day, the king again asked, 'Queen Esther, what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.'" (Esther 7:1-2) Now is the time to reveal her heritage and ask for mercy on her people. The king is in an indulgent mood, maybe even a little tipsy on the wine. He is highly pleased with his wife and willing to do whatever she asks. Haman is beginning to enjoy himself and relax; he's in a position to be caught off guard.

"Then Queen Esther answered, 'If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life---this is my petition. And spare my people---this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.'" (Esther 7:3-4) Xerxes is shocked. Who would want his lovely and intelligent queen executed? Why would anyone do such a thing? And why would this person also want to wipe out her entire family?

"King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, 'Who is he? Where is he---the man who has dared to do such a thing?'" (Esther 7:5) Who would conspire to take the life of the Queen of Persia? Who is this traitor? It has not yet dawned on Xerxes that Esther is saying she is a Jew, and that the edict he himself signed to consign the Jews to death is the same order that condemns his own wife to death.

"Esther said, 'An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!' Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen. The king got up in a rage, left his wine and went out into the palace garden." (Esther 7:6-7a) Xerxes is so angry he leaves his beloved wine behind as he stalks about the garden in fury. He's angry with Haman and angry with himself. Suddenly everything becomes clear. He has been used and deceived by his right-hand-man. This man whom he so trusted and honored lied to him in telling a tale of sedition among the Jews. Until now, Xerxes likely believed there weren't even that many Jews left in the kingdom; they had assimilated into the culture so well that he couldn't tell a Jew from a Persian. Cyrus the Great had given them their freedom and both he and a later successor, Darius I Hystaspes, sent them on their way with materials for rebuilding Jerusalem and the temple. When Xerxes signed the execution order, I think it's possible he thought it affected a small faction of enemies to the crown. His carelessness in investigating the matter has come back to haunt him. He has been betrayed and played for a fool and there's ultimately no one to blame but himself, because he is the king. When Esther was accusing someone of being an adversary and enemy of the Jews, she could just as easily have pointed her finger at Xerxes the same way the prophet Nathan pointed his finger at King David and said, "You are the man!"

While the king rages in the garden and assembles officers to arrest Haman, Haman begs Esther to offer him mercy...a thing he himself has never offered anyone. "But Haman, realizing that the king had already decided his fate, stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life. Just as the king returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was reclining. The king exclaimed, 'Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?'" (Esther 7:7b-8a) Haman is groveling on his knees before Esther, leaning over on her as he pleads for his life. The king re-enters the room during this unpleasant scene. No man, other than the king or the eunuchs who guard the queen, is allowed to ever touch her. And now Haman is practically lying across her body as she shrinks back from him on the couch. Xerxes either misinterprets Haman's intentions or else seeks to add charges to the warrant that will be drawn up for his death, and he accuses him of attempting to sexually assault Esther. He now thinks so little of Haman that he wouldn't put anything past him.

The guards move to arrest Haman. "As soon as the word left the king's mouth, they covered Haman's face." (Esther 7:8b) The covering of his face signifies their intent to put him to death. In the United States, executions carried out by hanging or electric chair were done in a similar manner, with the face of the condemned man covered.

"Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, 'A pole reaching to a height of fifty cubits stands by Haman's house. He had it set up for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king.'" (Esther 7:9a) The pole Haman intended for Mordecai has now become the instrument of his own death. 

"The king said, 'Impale him on it!' So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai. Then the king's fury subsided." (Esther 7:9b) The problem of the edict against the Jews still remains, for nothing signed into Persian law can be revoked, but Xerxes cannot think clearly about this until he has settled the score with Haman. His fury must first be satisfied and then he will be able to calmly and rationally consider a solution.

The Lord avenges His servant Mordecai in our passage today, keeping His promise, "It is Mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them." (Deuteronomy 32:35) Haman could not be satisfied with any amount of promotion or wealth or adulation because of his hatred for the Jews. To him they were the fly in the ointment that was the glorious kingdom of Persia. His racially motivated loathing for the Jews led him to go so far that his foot slipped, causing his own doom to rush upon him. In a single day he lost everything, leaving this world empty and broken, which is the way he lived his whole life...empty and broken. He had no love for God or for his fellow man and he failed to fulfill what the Lord Jesus said were the two most important commandments of all in Matthew 22:37-40, "Jesus replied: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.'  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments."

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