7.40 Esther -- Mordecai's Counterattack
Mordecai 's contempt for Haman had created a firestorm that threatened the very existence of the Jews throughout Persia. Too late he resorted to sackcloth and ashes. Esther’s intercession with the king was their last hope, he told her. There was a risk that Xerxes would refuse to see her. More than that, if she appeared before him on her own initiative, without being summoned, he could have her put to death. But one way or other, she could not escape her fate:
"Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" (Est 4:13-14).
Esther's fear was echoed by Nehemiah before Artaxerxes almost 40 years later:
"I was very much afraid" (Neh 2:2)
Despite her fear, Esther agreed to Mordecai's plan. She had been dishonest with the king by suppressing her heritage -- at Mordecai's insistence. Now it would all come out, for good or evil. There followed an elaborate unveiling of herself, a drama in two acts, carried out over two nights and two meals. The king and Haman were her guests at a private dinner. The first night her only request was that they attend her again the next night.
After this first dinner, Haman plotted to have Mordecai hanged on a gallows. But that night, the king, apparently suffering indigestion from Esther's cooking, was unable to sleep. While reading the royal history, he came upon an earlier incident where Mordecai had exposed a plot to kill the king. Xerxes learned that no reward had been given to Mordecai, so he called in Haman for advice. Haman thought that the honors were meant for himself, and suggested a parade through the city. Xerxes agreed and commanded Haman to lead Mordecai's horse (Est 6). This whole passage is meant to humiliate Haman before his final defeat and death.
At the second meal, Esther poured out her heart to Xerxes:
"If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life -- this is my petition. And spare my people -- this is my request. For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king" (Est 7:3-4).
The veil was finally ripped away, this is who she really was, a Jewess, whose fate lay in his hands. It is interesting to note that slavery for herself and her people was quite acceptable to Esther, and it was only the prospects of racial genocide that compelled her to approach him.