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.
Verse 1. - On the third day. The third day from that on which Esther and Mordecai had communicated together through Hatach (Esther 4:5-17). Esther put on her royal apparel. This is certainly the meaning, though the elliptical phrase used is uncommon. Esther, while she fasted, had worn some garb of woe; now she laid it aside, and appeared once more in all the splendour of her royal robes. She took up her position directly in front of the king's apartment, with the object of attracting his attention, and perhaps with the knowledge that he was upon his throne, whence he could not fail to see her. The king sat upon his royal throne, over against the gate. In a Persian pillared hall the place for the throne would be at the further end, midway between the side walls. The throne would be elevated on steps, and would command a view down the midmost avenue of columns to the main entrance, which would commonly occupy that position.
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.
Verse 2. - Esther... touched the top of the sceptre. This was, no doubt, the customary act by which the king's grace was, as it were, accepted and appropriated. It is analogous to that touch of the person or of the garments which secured the suppliant mercy among the Greeks.
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.
Verse 3. - What is thy request? It shall be even given thee. The practice of granting requests beforehand is one common among Oriental monarchs. Sometimes no limit at all is placed to the petitioner's liberty of choice - seldom any less wide limit than that of the present passage. According to Herodotus (9:111), there was one day in the year on which the king was bound to grant any request made by a guest at his table. To the half of the kingdom. Compare Mark 6:23, where Herod Antipas makes the same limitation.
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.
Verse 4. - Let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that l have prepared. Such an invitation as this was very unusual. Ordinarily the king and queen dined separately, each in their own apartments; family gatherings, however, not being unknown (Plut., 'Vit. Artaxerx.,' § 5; Athen., 'Deipnsoph.,' 4. p. 145, A). But for the queen to invite not only the king, but also another male guest, not a relation, was a remarkable innovation, and must have seemed to the fortunate recipient of the invitation a high act of favour.
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.
Verse 6. - What is thy petition? Ahasuerus has understood that it was not for the mere pleasure of entertaining himself and his prime minister at a banquet that Esther adventured her life. He knows that she must still have a request - the real favour that she wants him to grant - in the background. He therefore repeats the inquiry and the premise that he had made previously (ver. 8).
Then answered Esther, and said, My petition and my request is;
Verse 7. - My petition and my request is. Esther still hesitates to prefer her real request. We are not likely to be able in the nineteenth century to understand all the motives that actuated her, or all the workings of her mind. Perhaps nothing kept her back but the natural fear of a repulse, and a desire to defer the evil day; perhaps she saw some real advantage in putting off the determination of the matter. At any rate, she again declined to declare herself, and merely gave her two guests a second invitation for the ensuing evening. She concludes, however, with a promise that she will ask no further respite. I will do to-morrow as the king hath said. i.e. I will prefer my real request; I will ask the favour which was in my thoughts when I adventured myself in the inner court without having received an invitation.
CHAPTER 5:9-14 HAMAN, EXULTING AT THESE SIGNS OF ROYAL FAVOUR, IS THE MORE EXASPERATED AT MORDECAI'S CONTEMPT OF HIM. AT THE BIDDING OF HIS WIFE HE RESOLVES TO IMPALE MORDECAI, AND CAUSES A LOFTY CROSS TO BE ERECTED FOR THE PURPOSE (Esther 5:9-14). The favour shown him by the king and queen in admitting him to the very close intimacy implied in their making him the sole companion of their private hours, produced in Haman a dangerous exaltation of spirit. He seemed to himself to have attained the pinnacle of a subject's greatness. Returning home in this frame of mind, and having to pass through the gate where Mordecai was on duty, he was more vexed than usual with that official's disrespect, which was more pointed and open than it had ever been before (ver. 9). However, he took no immediate notice of the porter's conduct (ver. 10), but proceeded to his own house, where he assembled his friends, and communicated to them, and at the same time to Zeresh his wife, the circumstances which had so greatly raised his spirits. The climax was that "Esther the queen had let no man come in with the king unto the banquet that she had prepared but himself; nay, more, he was again invited on the morrow to banquet with her and the king" (ver. 12). He added, however, Mordecai's insult remaining fresh in his recollection, that all his glory, all his honours, availed him nothing - were as nothing in his eyes - so long as he was condemned to see Mordecai the Jew every time that he passed though the palace gate, and to be treated by him with contempt and contumely (ver. 13). Upon this Zeresh made, and Haman's friends approved, a proposal that a lofty cross should be at once erected in the court of Haman's house, on which Mordecai should be impaled, with the king's consent, as soon as it was finished. Haman agreed to this, recovered his spirits, and gave orders for the cross to be made (ver. 14).
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.
Verse 9. - Mordecai... stood not up, nor moved for him. Originally Mordecai bad merely declined to prostrate himself before Haman on religious grounds. Now he looked upon Haman as his personal enemy, and would not even acknowledge his presence. There is nothing more galling than such utter contempt shown openly in the presence of others.
Nevertheless Haman refrained himself: and when he came home, he sent and called for his friends, and Zeresh his wife.
Verse 10. - Haman refrained himself. That is to say, so far as speech and act went. He said nothing; he did not strike his insulter; he did not order his servants to drag the fellow outside the gate and give him the bastinado. But he did not "refrain his heart." He allowed the affront that he had received to remain in his mind and rankle there. It poisoned his happiness, marred all his enjoyment, filled him with hatred and rage. When he came home, he sent and called for his friends. It was not so much to be partners in his joy that Haman called his friends around him as to be companions in his grief. It is true that his speech to them was chiefly occupied with boasts; but the true intention of the discourse is seen in its close - "All this availeth me nothing," etc.
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.
Verse 11. - The multitude of his children. Literally, "of his sons." Of these we see by Esther 9:7-10 that he had ten. To be the father of many sons was accounted highly honourable by the Persians (Herod., 1:136). How he had advanced him above the princes. See above, Esther 3:1.
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.
Verse 13. All this availeth me nothing. The bitter drop in his cup deprived Haman's life of all sweetness. He had not learned the wisdom of setting pleasure against pain, joy against sorrow, satisfaction against annoyance. Much less had he taught himself to look upon the vexations and trials of life as blessings in disguise. His was a coarse and undisciplined nature, little better than that of a savage, albeit he was the chief minister of the first monarch in the world. So little proof is worldly greatness of either greatness or goodness of soul
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.
Verse 14. - Let a gallows be made. Rather, "a pale" or "cross." The Persians did not hang men, as we do, but ordinarily executed them by impalement (see the comment on Esther 2:23). Fifty cubits high. This is a very improbable height, and we may suspect a corruption of the number. It occurs, however, again in Esther 7:9. Speak thou unto the king. Haman's wife and friends assume that so trifling a matter as the immediate execution of one Jew will be of course allowed at the request of the chief minister, who has already obtained an edict for the early destruction of the entire people. It certainly would seem to be highly probable that Xerxes would have granted Haman's petition but for the accident of his sleeplessness, as narrated in the next chapter.