The king in humour, and Haman out of humour, meet at Esther’s table. Now,
I. The king urged Esther, a third time, to tell him what her request was, for he longed to know, and repeated his promise that it should be granted, Est. 7:2. If the king had now forgotten that Esther had an errand to him, and had not again asked what it was, she could scarcely have known how to renew it herself; but he was mindful of it, and now was bound with the threefold cord of a promise thrice made to favour her.
II. Esther, at length, surprises the king with a petition, not for wealth or honour, or the preferment of some of her friends to some high post, which the king expected, but for the preservation of herself and her countrymen from death and destruction, Est. 7:3, 4.
1. Even a stranger, a criminal, shall be permitted to petition for his life; but that a friend, a wife, should have occasion to present such a petition was very affecting: Let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request. Two things bespeak lives to be very precious, and fit to be saved, if innocent, at any expense:—(1.) Majesty. If it be a crowned head that is struck at, it is time to stir. Esther’s was such: “Let my life be given me. If thou hast any affection for the wife of thy bosom, now is the time to show it; for that is the life that lies at stake.” (2.) Multitude. If they be many lives, very many, and those no way forfeited, that are aimed at, no time should be lost nor pains spared to prevent the mischief. “It is not a friend or two, but my people, a whole nation, and a nation dear to me, for the saving of which I now intercede.”
2. To move the king the more she suggests, (1.) That she and her people were bought and sold. They had not sold themselves by any offence against the government, but were sold to gratify the pride and revenge of one man. (2.) That it was not their liberty only, but their lives that were sold. “Had we been sold” (she says) “into slavery, I would not have complained; for in time we might have recovered our liberty, thought eh king would have made but a bad bargain of it, and not have increased his wealth by our price. Whatever had been paid for us, the loss of so many industrious hands out of his kingdom would have been more damage to the treasury than the price would countervail.” To persecute good people is as impolitic as it is impious, and a manifest wrong to the interests of princes and states; they are weakened and impoverished by it. But this was not the case. We are sold (says she) to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish; and then it is time to speak. She refers to the words of the decree (Est. 3:13), which aimed at nothing short of their destruction; this would touch in a tender part if there were any such in the king’s heart, and would bring him to relent.
III. The king stands amazed at the remonstrance, and asks (Est. 7:5) “Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so? What! contrive the murder of the queen and all her friends? Isa. there such a man, such a monster rather, in nature? Who is he, and where is he, whose heart has filled him to do so?” Or, Who hath filled his heart. He wonders, 1. That any one should be so bad as to think such a thing; Satan certainly filled his heart. 2. That any one should be so bold as to do such a thing, should have his heart so fully set in him to do wickedly, should be so very daring. Note, (1.) It is hard to imagine that there should be such horrid wickedness committed in the world as really there is. Who, where is he, that dares, presumes, to question the being of God and his providence, to banter his oracles, profane his name, persecute his people, and yet bid defiance to his wrath? Such there are, to think of whom is enough to make horror take hold of us, Ps. 119:53. (2.) We sometimes startle at the mention of that evil which yet we ourselves are chargeable with. Ahasuerus is amazed at that wickedness which he himself is guilty of; for he consented to that bloody edict against the Jews. Thou art the man, might Esther too truly have said.
IV. Esther plainly charged Haman with it before his face: “Here he is, let him speak for himself, for therefore he is invited: The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman (Est. 7:6); it is he that has designed our murder, and, which is worse, has basely drawn the king in to be particeps criminis—a partaker of his crime, ignorantly agreeing to it.”
V. Haman is soon apprehensive of his danger: He was afraid before the king and queen; and it was time for him to fear when the queen was his prosecutor, the king his judge, and his own conscience a witness against him; and the surprising operations of Providence against him that same morning could not but increase his fear. Now he has little joy of his being invited to the banquet of wine, but finds himself in straits when he thought himself in the fulness of his sufficiency. He is cast into a net by his own feet.
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