Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king.1. could not the king sleep] better literally, as marg., the king’s sleep fled from him. The LXX. paraphrases, ‘The Lord withheld sleep from the king’; and so the Targums. But in the present Heb. text the name of God never occurs; see Introd. p. xv.
Suetonius (cap. 50) says that the Roman emperor Caligula so suffered from sleeplessness that he used to rise and stand or roam about the palace. Procopius (Hist. Arcana, ed. Bonn, pp. 81 f.) relates the same of the emperor Justinian. The Turkish sultan, Selim I (died 1520), is said to have passed most nights in reading books; while sometimes he would have others read to him, or talk to him about State matters (Diez, Denkwürdigkeiten von Asien, i. 266).
the book of records of the chronicles] lit. the book of memorials, even the chronicles. Cp. Malachi 3:16, ‘book of remembrance.’ In Esther 2:23 (where see note) we have the shorter expression ‘the book of the chronicles.’
and they were read before the king] The original resembles in its sense a Greek imperfect, implying that the reading lasted for a considerable time. The object doubtless was that the continuous sound of another’s voice might induce slumber. There is no suggestion in the passage that the king could not himself read, although such may very well have been the case. See Rawlinson, Ancient Monarchies (2nd ed.), iv. 228 f.
Chap. Esther 6:1-11. Mordecai’s elevation
In this section we are shewn the strange concatenation of apparently trivial circumstances which collectively have the effect of bestowing the highest reward and most signal disgrace upon the humble and virtuous Israelite and the highly placed enemy of that people. It seems but a series of chances that the king was sleepless, that he adopted a particular method of alleviating his discomfort, that a certain section of the chronicles of the kingdom was read to him, that Haman was an early arrival at the palace on this occasion, and thus, through his haste to bring about Mordecai’s destruction, was himself of all persons the one chosen to do him honour. Nevertheless it was from the combination of all these occurrences that there arose the most mighty issues, and this fact plainly looms large in the mind of the narrator, though he does not in so many words attribute the ordering of the events to the hand of God. Here then we have the turning point of the narrative. Pride begins to approach its fall, and the humble to be exalted.
And it was found written, that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus.2. Bigthana] in Esther 2:21 Bigthan, while the same name in Esther 1:10 loses yet another letter. The Targum says that the plan was to put a poisonous snake in the cup from which the king drank.
And the king said, What honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this? Then said the king's servants that ministered unto him, There is nothing done for him.3. What honour and dignity etc.?] We are not obliged to suppose that Xerxes had forgotten the fact of his deliverance or the person who had saved his life; but only that he had no recollection what recompense, if any, had been made. In Persia there was a list kept of those who did the king service (Herod. viii. 85, 90), and thus special stress was laid upon the duty of acknowledging their devotion.
And the king said, Who is in the court? Now Haman was come into the outward court of the king's house, to speak unto the king to hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him.4. Who is in the court?] that instructions might be at once given to rectify the omission, and so relieve the king from the stigma of ingratitude. Probably there were always one or two persons in attendance outside the king’s chamber. The answer would naturally name the most important person in waiting.
And the king's servants said unto him, Behold, Haman standeth in the court. And the king said, Let him come in.
So Haman came in. And the king said unto him, What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour? Now Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honour more than to myself?6. said in his heart] i.e. thought.
And Haman answered the king, For the man whom the king delighteth to honour,7. For the man etc.] lit. The man etc., the broken character of the sentence shewing Haman’s eagerness and excitement.
Let the royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head:8. royal apparel] The extent of the honour which Haman sought is illustrated by the story in Plutarch’s Lives (Artaxerxes, 5), where we are told that Tiribazus made a similar request; but in that case, though the king granted him a royal robe, he forbade him to wear it. Other instances of the bestowal of garments upon another in token of favour or amity are to be found in Genesis 41:42; 1 Samuel 18:4; and so with regard to armour in Homer (Il. vi. 230, of Glaucus and Diomede).
the horse that the king rideth upon] Cp. David’s direction as to Solomon in 1 Kings 1:33.
and on the head of which a crown royal is set] Assyrian monuments represent the king’s horse as wearing a kind of head ornament resembling a crown. We can easily understand therefore that the same custom may have existed at the Persian court. Josephus (Ant. xi. 6. 10) adds—the thought being perhaps suggested by the story of Joseph (see above)—that a chain was to be placed about the favoured person’s neck.
The rendering of the A.V. ‘and the crown royal which is set upon his head,’ though retained in the marg. of the R.V., is impossible.
And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king's most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour.9. most noble] the same word as that used in Esther 1:3, where see note.
through the street of the city] rather, as in Esther 4:6, the broad place of the city, the open space in front of the palace, the most public place in the city. Conversely, in a story of the Thousand and one Nights (ed. König, xi. 19) a local dignitary is led through the city, seated upon a camel backwards, while a crier proclaims in front, ‘Thus are those punished who mix themselves up in affairs without being called to do so.’
Then the king said to Haman, Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, that sitteth at the king's gate: let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken.10. Mordecai the Jew] We may assume that his nationality was stated in the chronicles which had been read to the king. The latter seems to have forgotten that he had delivered over the Jews into Haman’s hands without reserve.
Then took Haman the apparel and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and brought him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaimed before him, Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour.11. Then took Haman etc.] Haman, as the most prominent man in the king’s court, was compelled, through the irony of fate, to carry out to the letter in his enemy’s case the proposals which he had made on his own behalf.
And Mordecai came again to the king's gate. But Haman hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered.Chaps. Esther 6:12 to Esther 8:2. Haman’s overthrow
12. having his head covered] in token of grief. Cp. Esther 7:8; 2 Samuel 15:30; 2 Samuel 19:4; Jeremiah 14:4; Ezekiel 24:17.
And Haman told Zeresh his wife and all his friends every thing that had befallen him. Then said his wise men and Zeresh his wife unto him, If Mordecai be of the seed of the Jews, before whom thou hast begun to fall, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him.13. recounted] The Heb. word indicates a more detailed account than the ‘told’ of the A.V.
his wise men] See on Esther 1:13. By these are probably meant the same as those who cast lots in Esther 3:7.
Mordecai, before whom] the relative pronoun refers to the individual foe, and not, as in the A.V., to the Jewish nation generally.
thou shalt not prevail against him] If we are to consider Haman as a descendant of Agag (see on Esther 3:1), the writer is probably referring to the passages which indicate that Amalek’s fate is, when confronted with Israel, to be worsted in the conflict. See Exodus 17:16; Numbers 24:20; Deuteronomy 25:17-19; 1 Samuel 15; 2 Samuel 1:8 ff.
And while they were yet talking with him, came the king's chamberlains, and hasted to bring Haman unto the banquet that Esther had prepared.14. The dramatic instinct of the writer presents us with a sudden change of scene, and contrasts Haman’s exultant anticipations (Esther 5:12) of splendour attaching to the royal banquet with the dark forebodings which now oppressed the apparently so highly honoured guest.
hasted to bring Haman] We need not suppose that the coming of the attendants implies fear on the part of Esther that through a presentiment of his approaching fall he might fail to arrive. The Eastern custom of fetching guests is well known. Cp. Luke 14:17.
Esther 7:3. Haman’s humiliation of the morning doubtless encourages Esther to prefer her petition without further delay. The abruptness perceptible in her speech is itself indicative of the emotion with which its utterance was accompanied.