Keil and Delitzsch OT Commentary
Elevation of Mordochai and Disgrace of Haman - Esther 6:1-14
The next night the king, being unable to sleep, caused the chronicles of the kingdom to be read to him. The account of the conspiracy discovered by Mordochai, which was written therein, was thus brought before him, and he inquired of his servants whether this man had been rewarded (Esther 6:1-3). On receiving a negative answer, the king sent to inquire who was in the court; and Haman being found there thus early, he had him summoned, and asked him: what should be done to the man in whose honour the king delighteth. Haman, supposing that the king could intend to honour no one but himself, voted for the very highest public mark of respect (Esther 6:3-9), and was then obliged at the king's command to pay the proposed honour to Mordochai (Esther 6:10, Esther 6:11). From this humiliation his wife and friends prognosticated his speedy downfall (Esther 6:12-14).
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.An unexpected turn of affairs. Esther 6:1. On that night between Esther's first and second banquet, the king's sleep fled, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles and to read therefrom. On הזּכרנות ספר, comp. Ezra 4:15. The title is here more particularly stated than in Esther 2:23, where the book is briefly called: The book of the chronicles. נקראים ויּהיוּ, and they (the chronicles) were read before the king. The participle denotes the long continuance of this reading.
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.And it was found written therein among other matters, that Mordochai had given information concerning the two courtiers who were plotting against the king's life. This is the conspiracy related Esther 2:21-23. The name Bigthana is in Esther 2:21 written Bigthan.
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.On this occasion the king asked: What honour and greatness hath been done to Mordochai for this? על־זה, for giving this information. And the king's servants answered: Nothing has been shown him. עם עשׂה, to show any one something, e.g., favour; comp. 2 Samuel 2:6; 2 Samuel 3:8, and elsewhere. גּדוּלה, greatness, i.e., promotion to honour.
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.To repair this deficiency, and to do honour to the man who had done good service to the king - as the Persian monarchs were accustomed, comp. Brisson, de reg. Pers. princ. i. c. 135 - he asked, "who is in the court?" i.e., whether some minister or state functionary were there with whom he might consult concerning the honour due to Mordochai. Those who desired an audience with the king were accustomed to appear and wait in the outer court, until they were summoned into the inner court to present themselves before the monarch. From this question of the king it appears that it was already morning. And Haman, it is parenthetically remarked, was come into the outer court to speak to the king, to hang Mordochai on the tree which he had prepared.
And the king's servants said unto him, Behold, Haman standeth in the court. And the king said, Let him come in.The attendants inform the king that Haman is in the court; whereupon the king commands: יבוא, 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?As soon as he enters the king asks: What is to be done to the man in whose honour the king delighteth? i.e., whom he delights to honour. And Haman, thinking (בּלבּו אמר, to say in one's heart, i.e., to think) to whom will the king delight to show honour more than to me (ממּבּי יותר, projecting before me, surpassing me, hence adverbially, beyond me, e.g., Ecclesiastes 12:12, comp. Ecclesiastes 2:15; Ecclesiastes 7:11, Ecclesiastes 7:16)? votes immediately for the greatest possible mark of honour, and says, Esther 6:7.: "As for the man in whose honour the king delighteth, let them bring the royal apparel with which the king has been clothed, and a horse on which the king has ridden, and the king's crown upon his head, and let them deliver this apparel and horse to one of the chief princes of the king, and let them array (i.e., with the royal apparel) the man in whose honour the king delighteth, and cause him to ride upon the horse through the streets of the city, and proclaim before him: Thus shall it be done to the man in whose honour the king delighteth." וגו אשׁר אישׁ, Esther 6:7, precedes absolutely, and the predicate does not follow till והלבּישׁוּ, Esther 6:9, where the preceding subject is now by an anacoluthon taken up in the accusative (את־האישׁ). Several clauses are inserted between, for the purpose of enumerating beforehand all that appertains to such a token of honour: a royal garment, a royal steed, a crown on the head, and one of the chief princes for the carrying out of the honour awarded. The royal garment is not only, as Bertheau justly remarks, such a one as the king is accustomed to wear, but, as is shown by the perf. לבשׁ, one which the king has himself already put on or worn. Hence it is not an ordinary state-robe, the so-called Median apparel which the king himself, the chief princes among the Persians, and those on whom the king bestowed such raiment were wont to appear in (Herod. 3.84, 7.116; Xenoph. Cyrop. 8.3.1, comp. with the note of Baehr on Her. 3.84), but a costly garment, the property of the sovereign himself. This was the highest mark of honour that could be shown to a subject. So too was the riding upon a horse on which the king had ridden, and whose head was adorned with a royal crown. נתּן is perf. Niph., not 1st pers. pl. imperf. Kal, as Maurer insists; and בּראשׁו אשׁר refers to the head of the horse, not to the head of the man to be honoured, as Clericus, Rambach, and most ancient expositors explain the words, in opposition to the natural sense of - בּראשׁו נתּן אשׁר. We do not indeed find among classical writers any testimony to such an adornment of the royal steed; but the circumstance is not at all improbable, and seems to be corroborated by ancient remains, certain Assyrian and ancient Persian sculptures, representing the horses of the king, and apparently those of princes, with ornaments on their heads terminating in three points, which may be regarded as a kind of crown. The infin. absol. ונתון is a continuation of the preceding jussive יביאוּ: and they shall give, let them give the garment - to the hand of a man, i.e., hand or deliver to him. The garment and horse are to be delivered to one of the noblest princes, that he may bring them to the individual to be honoured, may array him in the garment, set him on the horse, and proclaim before him as he rides through the city, etc. On הפּרתּמים, comp. Esther 1:4, and on the matter itself, Genesis 41:43. רחוב is either an open square, the place of public assemblage, the forum, or a collective signifying the wide streets of the city. יעשׂה כּכה as in Deuteronomy 25:9 and elsewhere.
And Haman answered the king, For the man whom the king delighteth to honour,
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:
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.
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.This honour, then, the haughty Haman was now compelled to pay to the hated Jew. The king commanded him: "Make haste, take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said," i.e., in the manner proposed by thee, "and do even so to Mordochai the Jew, that sitteth at the king's gate; let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken," i.e., carry out your proposal exactly. How the king knew that Mordochai was a Jew, and that he sat in the king's gate, is not indeed expressly stated, but may easily be supplied from the conversation of the king with his servants concerning Mordochai's discovery of the conspiracy, Esther 6:1-3. On this occasion the servants of the king would certainly give him particulars concerning Mordochai, who by daily frequenting the king's gate, Esther 2:19; Esther 5:9, would certainly have attracted the attention of all the king's suite. Nor can doubt be case upon the historical truth of the fact related in this verse by the question: whether the king had forgotten that all Jews were doomed to destruction, and that he had delivered them up to Haman for that purpose (J. D. Mich.). Such forgetfulness in the case of such a monarch as Xerxes cannot surprise us.
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.
And Mordecai came again to the king's gate. But Haman hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered.After this honour had been paid him, Mordochai returned to the king's gate; but Haman hasted to his house, "sad and with his head covered," to relate to his wife and friends all that had befallen him. A deeper mortification he could not have experienced than that of being obliged, by the king's command, publicly to show the highest honour to the very individual whose execution he was just about to propose to him. The covering of the head is a token of deep confusion and mourning; comp. Jeremiah 14:4; 2 Samuel 15:30. Then his wise men, and Zeresh his wife, said to him: "If Mordochai, before whom thou hast begun to fall, be of the seed of the Jews, thou wilt not prevail against him, but wholly fall before him." לו תוּכל לא, non praevalebis ei, comp. Genesis 32:26. תּפּול נפול with an emphatic infin. absol.: wholly fall. Instead of the חכמיו אהביו are here named, or to speak more correctly the friends of Haman are here called his wise men (magi). Even in Esther 5:14 Haman's friends figure as those with whom he takes counsel concerning Mordochai, i.e., as his counsellors or advisers; hence it is very probable that there were magi among their number, who now "come forward as a genus sapientum et doctorum (Cicero, divin. i. 23)" (Berth.), and predict his overthrow in his contest with Mordochai. The ground of this prediction is stated: "If Mordochai is of the seed of the Jews," i.e., of Jewish descent, then after this preliminary fall a total fall is inevitable. Previously (Esther 5:14) they had not hesitated to advise him to hang the insignificant Jew; but now that the insignificant Jew has become, as by a miracle, a man highly honoured by the king, the fact that the Jews are under the special protection of Providence is pressed upon them. Ex fato populorum, remarks Grotius, de singulorum fatis judicabant. Judaei gravissime oppressi a Cyri temporibus contra spem omnem resurgere caeperant. We cannot, however, regard as well founded the further remark: de Amalecitis audierant oraculum esse, eos Judaeorum manu perituros, which Grotius, with most older expositors, derives from the Amalekite origin of Haman. The revival of the Jewish people since the times of Cyrus was sufficient to induce, in the minds of heathen who were attentive to the signs of the times, the persuasion that this nation enjoyed divine protection.
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.
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.During this conversation certain courtiers had already arrived, who hastily brought Haman to the banquet of the queen, to which he would certainly go in a less happy state of mind than on the preceding day.