The Word Made Fresh
1On the third day of the fast Esther dressed in her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace where the king’s throne was located. The king was sitting on his throne across from the entrance. 2When the king saw queen Esther standing in the court, he held out the golden scepter. Esther approached the throne and touched the top of the scepter, 3and the king said, “What is it, queen Esther? Tell me and it is yours, to the half of my kingdom.”
4Esther said, “If it pleases the king, let the king and Haman come to a banquet I have prepared for the king.”
5The king summoned Haman, and they went to queen Esther’s banquet. 6While they were drinking wine the king said to her, “What is your wish? It is yours, to the half of my kingdom.”
7Esther replied, “This is my request; 8if I have the king’s favor and if it is the king’s pleasure to grant my petition, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to a banquet I will prepare for them, and then I will answer the king.”
9When Haman left he was elated, but then he saw Mordecai at the king’s gate, and was infuriated when Mordecai did not acknowledge him at all. 10But Haman restrained himself and went home. He called for his friends and his wife Zeresh, 11and boasted about his wealth, his children, and the promotions with which the king had honored him, until he was now above all the officials and ministers in the kingdom. 12He said, “Even queen Esther invited only me to come with the king to a banquet she had prepared! And tomorrow again I am invited with the king! 13But I cannot really enjoy this as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the king’s gate.”
14His wife Zerah and his friends said, “Build a gallows seventy-five feet high, and tomorrow morning tell the king to hang Mordecai on it. Then go on with the king to the queen’s banquet in good spirits.”
Haman liked the idea, and had the gallows built.
1-8: The tense moment has arrived. Great stage directions are here: Esther nervously dressing in her royal gowns; making her appearance in the vestibule of the king’s hall; the king holding out the golden scepter; Esther approaching and touching the top of the scepter, a curious gesture that nevertheless seems to add an element of authenticity to the scene. The king graciously offers to grant her request before she makes it, and to our surprise her request is that the king and Haman come to her quarters for dinner. They do, and the king repeats his offer. To heighten our suspense, Esther puts him off until the morrow.
9-14: Haman is thrilled to be in what he believes is the queen’s favor, but his mood is dashed when he sees that uppity Mordecai ignoring him as he passes the king’s gate. Haman decides to have a late-night party and calls his friends over to celebrate with him. That is to say, he calls them over to celebrate him, for he is after all such a marvelous fellow, rich and important and quite a stud to boot with lots of sons to prove it. Even the queen has recognized how special he is by inviting him, and only him, to a banquet with the king in her private quarters that very day, and not only that, but the next day also. Still, seeing that blasted Mordecai, that Jew, sitting high and mighty at the king’s gate is enough to dampen all the successes he enjoys. His wife and friends have a great idea, though. They tell Haman that he ought to have gallows erected, 75 feet high, on which to hang Mordecai. Just tell the king to have Mordecai hanged on it and then go to the Queen’s banquet in a happy mood, they say. Haman thinks it is a grand idea.
The story is told in such a way as to deepen the suspense, and also to make the reader alarmed for the fate of the Jewish people, including queen Esther. And of course, we the audience are alarmed. It appears that Mordecai will be hanged before Esther can make her request! Then what, exactly, will be her request?