We return again to Esther, who has replaced Vashti as queen, is loved or admired by everyone she meets, is still keeping that she is a Jew a secret, and about to come out to the king and ask him to spare her people at her uncle’s behest.
After the fasting from the last chapter, Esther goes to see the king and rather than ask him outright, despite his entreaty to do so, just asks that he and Haman (the guy who wants to kill her entire people) join her at a banquet she puts on for them.
The king’s way of asking her what she wants is interesting. He says twice “Even to the half of my kingdom”. He would really give her half the kingdom if she asked for it? She only asks that they join her again the following day but promises to tell him what she wants then. I can appreciate Esther’s manner of buttering up the king and Haman before putting forth her request. It’s a big request, especially since all the decrees have already been issued and the date for the genocide set.
On the way back from eating with Esther, Haman runs into Mordecai, who again doesn’t bow to him. He goes and expresses his displeasure about this to his own wife, who is named Zeresh. She advises a gallows be built and to request to the king that Mordecai be hung on it the next day, which Haman sees as a good idea and goes along with.
Haman goes to talk to the king about Zeresh’s suggestion but the king has other things on his mind. Before Haman gets around to it, the king is having a restless night of sleep and has “the book of memorable deeds” read to him and remembers how Mordecai warned him of the plot from back in chapter two. The king is trying to remember if they did anything to honor Mordecai when Haman comes in.
The king asks how Haman would honor someone if he were him and Haman responds thinking that the honor is for himself and not happy at all to have the king order that all of it be done for Mordecai, but Haman does as he is told and shelves the idea of hanging him for the evening. When he gets home, he grumbles about it but is whisked off to the feast that Esther is putting on.
During the exchange between the king and Haman, the king mentions that Mordecai is a Jew. Did he somehow not have this in mind when he agreed to decree that all the Jews be killed? How is he going to honor Mordecai one day and have his entire people wiped out the next?
During this second feast, Queen Esther finally tells the king her “wish”:
If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have been silent, for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king.
At this point the king must question who it is that sold her people into being annihilated and Esther tells him that it was Haman. Now, the king is drunk again and has a bit of a reputation from being prone to anger when drunk. He steps out for a minute, I can only presume to digest this information and comes back to find Haman throwing himself onto the couch where Esther is, begging for mercy. But it must have looked to him like Haman was ready to attack her or somehow harm her in what I can imagine to be belligerent pleas because the king says to him:
Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?
One of the eunuchs comes forward to tell the king about the gallows that Haman had prepared for Mordecai, who had just been honored that morning for having saved the king earlier, and orders Haman to be hung on it.
I have to admit, there’s a gorgeous kind of irony to it.