After the dramatic decision at the end of chapter 4, you might expect that chapter 5 would center on the climatic final confrontation between Esther and Haman. She enters, risking her life in the attempt. The king smiles on her, granting her whatever she asks for, and then she points an accusing finger at Haman. The room goes silent, Haman is hauled off in chains, heroic music plays in the background as we cut to a shot of the Jews rejoicing...
Instead we find that when Esther risks her life to enter the throne room and receives an audience with the king, her request is… a dinner invitation. You would be forgiven for wondering why the story plays out this way. Why does Esther wait? Did she chicken out at the last moment? Why doesn’t she confront Haman right away?
The explanation almost certainly is due in part to cultural issues that wouldn’t occur to us as modern readers. To us it sounds like the Emperor saying “I will give it to you, even if it is half the kingdom!” (Esther 5:3 NLT) means that Esther could, indeed have asked for whatever she wanted and expected the king to comply. In reality, this was a somewhat common offer for an Emperor to make in the ancient near east. The point is for the King to appear generous (more generous than he in fact is). Only a fool would actually ask for half the kingdom - the King might give it to you… only to have you beheaded a moment later.
In other words, while Esther could have taken her husband up on his offer of “up to half his kingdom” by demanding Haman’s head, it is likely that such a request would have gone very badly for Esther, her family and perhaps the Jews as a whole. Rather than wasting her opportunity by acting too quickly, she invites her husband to a lavish dinner (no doubt involving plenty of wine) where she can continue to win him over. Esther displays wisdom by waiting for the right moment - God’s moment.
This is contrasted by Haman’s foolish impatience at the end of the chapter. Rather than wait for the appointed day where, by law, Haman could have had Mordecai killed without consequence, Haman’s pride and bloodlust drive him to build a ridiculous, over-the-top spike on which to impale Mordecai. As we will see, his impatience does him no favors in the end.
Do you wait for the right moment before jumping in? Do you have a habit of “rushing in” only to find that you would have better to wait? Do you trust that God’s timing is better than yours?
Ask God for the patience to wait for the right time, and the wisdom to discern when that is.
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