Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king's house, over against the king's house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of the house.1. on the third day] reckoning as the first day that on which (Esther 4:16) she gave her promise to Mordecai.
her royal apparel] in contrast with the mourning garb which she had worn while fasting.
in the inner court] Here the risk commenced: see Esther 4:11.
in the royal house, over against the entrance of the house] Part of the king’s house consisted of a pillared hall, having the throne in the middle of the side opposite to that which had an entrance admitting from the inner court. Thus the king, sitting on his throne and looking down the vista of pillars, would be able to see those standing without. ‘Entrance’ is more accurate than the A.V.’s ‘door,’ as the Heb. word simply denotes entrance, doorway.
Chap. Esther 5:1-8. Esther’s interview with the king
Esther is received graciously. The king, however, obviously guesses that she has an important object to gain in thus presenting herself, and so enquires the nature of her request. She is careful not to add to the difficulties of her position by anything like precipitancy in revealing her desire. She will shape her plans so as to secure the most favourable moment for preferring her petition.
And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre.2. held out to Esther the golden sceptre] See Esther 4:11.
touched] So among the Greeks the suppliant laid hold of the person or the garments of the person to whom the appeal was directed. The Vulgate makes Esther kiss the sceptre (‘osculata est summitatem virgae eius’). For the Greek apocryphal Additions, presenting a detailed account of Esther’s preparations for the interview and of the interview itself, see chaps. 14, 15.
Then said the king unto her, What wilt thou, queen Esther? and what is thy request? it shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom.3. it shall be given thee even to the half of the kingdom] The order of the words in the Heb. indicates the eagerness belonging to a rapid and authoritative declaration: to the half of the kingdom, yea, it shall be given thee. Cp. Herod’s promise to the daughter of Herodias (Mark 6:23). In Herod. ix. 109 we find Xerxes undertaking beforehand to grant whatever should be asked by his consort Amestris in return for a beautifully worked mantle which she had presented to him. He further tells us (Herod. ix. 110, 111) that on a certain day in the year a guest at the king’s table might make any request and that the king was bound to grant it.
And Esther answered, If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him.4. That a subject like Haman should be admitted to make a third at the banquet to which the king was invited by his consort, seemed a specially marked instance of favour, arising from the position which the minister held in the estimation of his royal master. The higher the honour paid, the more startling and effective is the favourite’s ruin.
Then the king said, Cause Haman to make haste, that he may do as Esther hath said. So the king and Haman came to the banquet that Esther had prepared.
And the king said unto Esther at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? even to the half of the kingdom it shall be performed.6. What is thy petition?] Esther having hazarded her life, the king recognises that she has some weighty reason for such an act, and in the cheerfulness induced by the banquet—a frame of mind upon which Esther had doubtless calculated—he repeats his question towards the end of the feast (see Herod. i. 133).
Then answered Esther, and said, My petition and my request is;7, 8. Esther’s form of reply suggests that for the moment she meant to declare her grief, but suddenly breaks off for some reason which remains hidden from the reader. She virtually acknowledges, however, that she has a weighty petition to present, and promises that, if her two guests will repeat their visit under similar circumstances next day, she will postpone no longer.
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 shall prepare for them, and I will do to morrow as the king hath said.
Then went Haman forth that day joyful and with a glad heart: but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king's gate, that he stood not up, nor moved for him, he was full of indignation against Mordecai.9. in the king’s gate] Mordecai’s resumption of his old position indicates that he had put off his mourning apparel (see Esther 4:2) now that hope had dawned through Esther’s undertaking to plead with the king.
moved for him] better, as marg., trembled before him.
9–14. Haman’s proposed vengeance upon Mordecai
The greater Haman’s excitement and exultation at having reached the highest pinnacle of dignity attainable by a subject, the more did Mordecai’s conduct rankle within him and move his rage; so pointed was the contrast with the extreme adulation naturally exhibited by all others connected with the palace towards the king’s favourite.
Nevertheless Haman refrained himself: and when he came home, he sent and called for his friends, and Zeresh his wife.10. Haman also on his side uses circumspection in carrying out his vengeful design. Instead of ordering immediate punishment to be inflicted upon his enemy, an act which we may safely assume would in virtue of his position be easy of accomplishment, he consults his wife and his friends.
Zeresh] The name is probably the Hebraised form of the Persian zaris, gilt or golden. Cp. the Greek Chryses, Chrysçis.
And Haman told them of the glory of his riches, and the multitude of his children, and all the things wherein the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king.11. recounted unto them] A.V. less accurately, told them of.
and the multitude of his children] lit. and the multitude of his sons. Of these there were ten (Esther 9:7 ff.). Clearly his wife and intimates would be familiar with the size of his family. The point of his remark, however, lies in the circumstance that among the Persians, as also with the Jews (see Psalm 127:4 f.), to have many sons was considered to redound to a man’s credit (Herod. i. 136).
A characteristic comment in the Targum tells us that Haman had, besides these, 208 other sons. This it deduces from the combined numerical values of the three letters of the (one) Hebrew word rendered ‘and the multitude.’
 ורב. ו = 6, ר = 200, ב = 2.
Haman said moreover, Yea, Esther the queen did let no man come in with the king unto the banquet that she had prepared but myself; and to morrow am I invited unto her also with the king.
Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate.
Then said Zeresh his wife and all his friends unto him, Let a gallows be made of fifty cubits high, and to morrow speak thou unto the king that Mordecai may be hanged thereon: then go thou in merrily with the king unto the banquet. And the thing pleased Haman; and he caused the gallows to be made.14. Let a gallows be made] Heb. tree. See Esther 2:23. ‘Fifty cubits’ is a hyperbolical expression meaning exceedingly high. The cubit at this time was probably equal to six handbreadths, and thus approximately 1½ feet in English measure. Zeresh and the rest considered it a safe assumption that one who had such influence with the king as to be permitted to condemn a whole nation to be exterminated within a few months, might reckon absolutely on obtaining authority to put an individual of that nation to death at once. Hence the order for the erection of the ‘gallows’ might be made beforehand, although according to Persian law the power of life and death resided in the king alone.