God was sovereignly working out His plan to preserve—even embolden—His people as they endured subjection to Persia. The narrative of Esther 4-7 moves naturally from problem to solution. When the queen heard the news of the king’s decision to exterminate the Jews, “she was overcome with fear” (Esth 4:4). Mordecai emboldened her saying, “Who knows, perhaps you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esth 4:14). Esther submitted herself into God’s hands and asked Mordecai to arrange a fast amongst God’s people so that she might have a favorable hearing with the king. Her devotion was clear, “If I perish, I perish” (Esth 4:16).
And Queen Esther won a hearing with the king. What was her request? Perhaps in order to further solidify the king’s benevolence toward her, she requested only that he—and Haman—attend a banquet she had prepared (Esth 5:3-5). At the height of the event, the king again asked of Esther’s concern, only to be invited to another feast on the following day (Esth 5:6-8). Then she would present her need to the king. Haman left the banquet elated; of all the king’s subjects, Esther had chosen only him to dine with the king!
But that night, King Ahasuerus could not sleep, “so he ordered the book recording daily events to be brought and read to the king” (Esth 6:1). Upon discovering the valor of Mordecai on his behalf, the king wished to honor the man who helped attend his gate—and who better than Haman to counsel the king in such a matter? When Haman heard of the king’s request, he was sure the king wanted to honor him. Thinking he was planning his own party, Haman informed the king that honor befitting such a subject should include being donned in royal apparel and paraded through the streets on a royal horse—in short being recognized in the glory of the king himself (Esth 6:7-9). In what must have seemed the conundrum of his life, Haman was commanded to carry out this plan, but for Mordecai (Esth 6:10-11). Haman returned home and even his family understood that in the eyes of Ahasuerus, Mordecai was of greater prestige than Haman. And then the king’s officials came to summon Haman to Esther’s banquet (Esth 6:14).
There the queen informed Ahasuerus that Haman had tricked the king into leveling an edict against the Jews. Esther told him that she and her people had been “sold out to destruction, death and extermination” (Esth 7:4a) by Haman. In anger “the king arose from where they were drinking wine and went to the palace garden” (Esth 7:7). When he returned, he found Haman falling on the couch where the queen was seated. While Haman was actually falling down before the queen to beg for his life, when the king saw it, he thought Haman was making advances upon Esther. In one of the most ironic turns in the Bible, Haman was hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai (Esth 7:9).
Because Esther and Mordecai knew of God’s faithfulness, they stepped out in faith and risked their lives for their kinsmen, the elect descendants of Abraham. In the storyline of Scripture, Israel had enjoyed God’s special providence throughout history—yet the majority of Israel failed to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. This was no small burden for Paul, who said that he was willing to be cut off from Christ for the sake of his countrymen if that would prompt them to enjoy fulfillment of God’s promises to them (Rom 9:1-5). Because many Jews rejected Christ, God hardened them for a time—that they might eventually become jealous of His blessing on the Gentiles and seek Him. That is in part the thesis of Romans 11, where Paul wrote, “I ask, then, have they stumbled so as to fall? Absolutely not! On the contrary, by their stumbling, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel jealous. Now if their stumbling brings riches for the world, and their failure riches for the Gentile, how much more will their full number bring!” (Rom 11:11-12).