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Esther Lesson 6: Ironic Honor

Esther Lesson 6: Ironic Honor


The challenge had been set before Esther. She and her people fasted, seeking the Lord for three days, and now she had to take a step of faith. She boldly entered the king’s court, where none dared enter unbidden for risk of going home headless. As Ahasuerus saw his bold, beautiful Queen standing there, he knew she was no fool to risk her life unless it was vital. He gladly held out his scepter to pardon her trespass. She made known her unusual request, that she had set up an unexpected banquet for just him and Haman alone, and would make her request there. Ahasuerus and Haman, old drinking buddies that they were, gladly rushed off to the banquet. Yet Esther deferred making her request, and Ahasuerus agreed that they would return the next day for a second banquet so she could speak her mind and make her request. 

Haman left the banquet feeling like the king of the world, which no doubt was not far from the root of his wicked ambitions. Then Haman saw him: Mordecai, the one who dared not bow to him, the one standing in the way of his ambition. Haman burned with anger but controlled himself and hurried home. There he bragged to his wife and friends of his great wealth, his sons, his promotions, and the special banquet he had just attended. Suddenly his mood soured as he realized that all of this was meaningless as long as he had to see Mordecai sitting in his place of service to the king day after day. His wife came up with the wonderful idea of building a 75 foot high gallows and having Mordecai impaled on it in the morning, and then Haman could go on his merry way to Esther’s banquet! Haman loved the idea, and no doubt spent a sleepless night supervising the construction of this deadly device. Yet there was another sleepless night going on that Haman had no idea of. The God of providence was at work to redeem His people from Haman’s wicked intentions, bringing about his own destruction. Let’s turn to that now as we reach the most pivotal chapter of the Book of Esther.

DAY ONE: A Providential Insomnia

Please carefully read Esther 6:1-3 and answer the following questions.

1. What was happening in the palace that night? What did Ahasuerus try to do about it (v. 1)?

2. We aren’t told why Ahasuerus couldn’t sleep that night (literally, “the sleep of the king fled”[i]). Was he pondering the strange actions of Esther and their significance? Was there something he had left undone that he couldn’t remember, and just couldn’t get out of his mind? Whatever the reason, we’ll see that God providentially arranged this insomnia. When Ahasuerus called for a reading from the chronicles of the events of his twelve-year reign to that point, what selection did the servant just happen to bring to him (v. 2)?

3. After hearing this, what did Ahasuerus ask, and what was the reply (v. 3)?

4. This event had taken place five years earlier[ii] (see Esther 2:21-23). To not even have been thanked for such a deed was very unusual. Persian kings and Ahasuerus in particular had been known to immediately reward those that they wished to thank, even lavishly.[iii] But God providentially allowed this oversight to accomplish His plans in His perfect timing. He will do the same for us and wants to honor (show what great value He places on) us in dignity and recognition as a reward[iv], just because we are His own.

We may feel that God has forgotten us, has ignored the things we have done for Him or even promoted someone instead of us when we felt more deserving. What timeless truths do we need to remember when we go through times of doubt like this?

Malachi 3:16-17

1 Corinthians 15:58, Hebrews 6:10-12

Revelation 3:8, Rev. 3:10-12

Scripture Memory: This week we will be memorizing a fitting passage, Proverbs 16:18. Review the passage several times throughout the day each day this week, and by the end of the week, you should have it memorized completely.

Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV)

DAY TWO: A Providential Arrival

Please carefully read Esther 6:4-6 and answer the following questions.

1. Ahasuerus wanted to do something about this oversight and correct it right away. Who also just happened to arrive early in the morning, and why (v. 4)?

2. When Ahasuerus heard that Haman had already entered his court, right away he allowed him to enter his private chambers, no doubt making Haman feel all the more important. However, before he had the chance to try to maneuver the king into allowing Mordecai’s hanging, what did the King ask him (v. 6a)?

3. What did Haman think about this question (v. 6b)?

4. Haman of course assumes there is no one else that the king would delight (find pleasure in, be pleased with, have an affectionate attitude toward and subjective feelings for)[v] to honor more than himself! Haman only cared about himself, his promotion, and the feeling of having power over others. Yet unknown to him was the fact that his pride and self-seeking were the very things leading to his undoing and destruction. What are some of the things that our memory verse and other passages warn about such foolish self-motivation and living (Proverbs 16:18; Prov. 18:12; James 4:6)?

5. Waiting on God while the “Hamans” of this world seem to be getting away with their evil is sometimes downright difficult. Yet we must remember what God has promised and not listen to the enemy’s attempts to dissuade us. What are some of the things that Psalms 34:15, 16 and 37:5-9, 34-38 remind us of when we struggle with this?

Scripture Memory: Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

Pride goes before ___________________________, and a haughty spirit _______________ a fall (Proverbs 16:18, NKJV

DAY THREE: A Providential Narcissis

Please carefully read Esther 6:7-9 and answer the following questions.

The Greeks had a mythical hero named Narcissus. He was the most handsome man alive, but he would shun the love of all the women who sought after him. A nymph also fell in love with him, but he spurned her as well. She wished that he would love himself as much as others loved him. Narcissus then came upon a pool of water, and when he bent over to get a drink, he suddenly became enraptured with himself, burning for love of himself to the point he couldn’t draw himself away, to his own destruction, because he starved to death as he gazed longingly upon his own reflection![vi]

Haman was another Narcissus. All he could see was his own reflection, and he spurned all others who came across his path or in the way of his selfish pursuits, also to his own destruction, as he couldn’t see past the nose on his face! Yet as we read through all of this, we see how this too was part of the sovereign plan of God.

1. Haman pictured himself as the one who would be honored, and concocted quite the narcissistic plan for honoring, well, himself! What was the first thing he suggested Ahasuerus do for such a person (v. 8a)?

NOTE: If Haman were garbed like this, it would show the people that his true ambition was making a bid for the throne itself, thus he craftily suggested this.[vii]

2. What else did Haman suggest be done to honor this man (v. 8b)?

NOTES: The royal crest was a crown or decoration of some sort placed on the horse, not the rider, to signify it as being the horse of a royal person; the typical Persian crown the King would wear would be a high turban with ornamentation.[viii] Some skeptics scoffed at this Scriptural account of a crowned horse until archaeology uncovered Persian artwork showing the King’s horse wearing this type of crown.[ix]

3. Most appealing of all to Haman in his self-adulation, what did he suggest also for this man to further honor him (v. 9)

4. Haman truly loved himself! Above all, he wanted to be lifted up above everyone else, and have proclaimed (the Hebrew word meaning to cry out, roar, or shout this out to accomplish the purpose the message was designed for[x]) as the one the King delighted in. Foolish indeed were the assumptions he made here, but his narcissistic and smug attitude would shortly be dashed!  We assume and seek foolish or even destructive things when we are filled with ourselves, spending too much time looking at our own reflection. Rather, how do the following passages tell us to seek humility, not self-promotion, and leave the results up to God?

Jeremiah 45:5

Matthew 16:24-26; John 12:24-26

Philippians 2:3-8

Scripture Memory: Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

Pride goes before ___________________________, and a ______________________ spirit __________________ a fall . Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV).

DAY FOUR: A Providential Irony

Please carefully read Esther 6:10-12 and answer the following questions.

1. Ahasuerus was greatly pleased with these suggestions. What did he tell Haman to hurry and do (v. 10)?

NOTE: Hurry here means to do more quickly, hasten, even rashly because of being in haste;[xi] in other words, not even taking time to think about it before doing so. Notice also that words implying this kind of hurrying are used three times in vv. 10-14.

2. Wow, what an ironic turn of events! Just imagine Haman trying to maintain his composure after Ahasuerus said this! The king commanded him to hurry and not leave out or neglect anything that he recommended (NLT). What did Haman then do (v. 11)?

3. What further ironic contrast do we see between the reactions of these two men after these events (v. 12)?


4. Haman hurried off home, head covered in grief, losing it altogether. As the NLT puts it, “Haman hurried home dejected and completely humiliated.” How does Psalm 37:32-36 relate the fate of those who oppose God and His people? What did God long before promise Abram and the Jewish people (Genesis 12:2, 3)?

5. God indeed takes care of those He has chosen to honor! As Warren Wiersbe well pointed out, if Haman was a man with a mirror only looking at himself, Mordecai was a man with a window he could look through to see others.[xii] Mordecai never sought revenge on Haman. In fact, he remained silent through this whole ordeal, and quietly and humbly went back to his job.[xiii] How did Mordecai reflect the kind of attitude described in Romans 12:14-21 in dealing with those in opposition to him?

Scripture Memory: Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

Pride goes before ___________________________, and a ______________________ _______________ __________________ a _________________ Proverbs 16:18 (NKJV).

DAY FIVE: A Providential Disgrace

Please carefully read Esther 6:13-14 and answer the following questions.

1. Evidently Haman’s friends hadn’t gone home from last night’s party, and now his advisors (wise men) were there.  After Haman recounted what happened, what did his wife fatalistically but prophetically state (v. 13)?

2. Haman went from throwing a celebration party to a pity party in less than 24 hours! Ironically, what happened as they were just getting started with the pity party (v. 14)?

3. Had Haman forgotten about the banquet? Did the arrival of the eunuchs to take him there ironically mock his importance now that his plans were being shattered before his eyes? We don’t know for sure. We do know that nothing can overthrow God’s plans for His people, no matter what the enemy tries to do. What are some things we can glean from Psalm 33:10-22 about God’s care, concern, and intervention in the lives of His people?

4. What further confidence can we gain from Romans 8:28-39 about God seeing us through times of difficulty or success as we humbly seek Him, going about our daily lives in His strength?

Scripture Memory:  Can you write out this week’s passage by memory here below? Give it a try, and keep reviewing the passage several times throughout the day. Proverbs 16:18

DAY SIX: Living in Such a Time as This

1. This chapter demonstrates the providence of God maybe better than anywhere else in the Bible. Everything started to come into place to fulfill the purpose which God wanted, and previously recorded facts now began to take on more meaning as these events unfolded.[xiv] These events also remind us that during the times God seems to be absent, He has really been present and at work all the while![xv]

As you think back over this story and the passages you examined this week, what are some things God spoke to you about faithfully waiting on His perfect timing and plans, and not giving in to discouragement? Is there an example of this that you experienced personally that you can record here and share with your group? How will you approach the times of trial about God’s working and timing in the future because of these facts?

2. How do you respond to those you feel have wronged you? Do you seek revenge for how they mistreated you, or undermine them when they are promoted and you aren’t? Are you taking on the attitude of Mordecai in this, remaining silent and humbly returning to your daily life and tasks, or do you figuratively picture those mistreating you hanging high up on top of that 75-foot gallows? How has your attitude been impacted by what we read of this week? Please record your honest thoughts here, and pray through the situations, entrusting over them to the Lord. He can work to transform the life of that person, or do a much better of executing vengeance on the evil than you ever could.

3. Haman spent much time looking in the mirror, admiring and cherishing his pitiful reflection. As a result, he couldn’t help but think and act out of selfish ambition. Mordecai spent much time looking not at a mirror but out of a window through which he could see the needs of others. Which describes you best? Spending a little too much time in front of the mirror of selfishness and pride lately? Or are you looking past yourself into the lives of others? What are some things that you can do to change your point of view from yourself to others? Remember what we read in the statement of Paul in Philippians 2:3-4: “Don't be selfish; don't live to make a good impression on others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself. Don't think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing” (NLT).

4. Finally, take time also to record anything else that the Lord spoke to you about through this chapter that would be a blessing for others to hear. Don’t be afraid to share this with your group.

Scripture Memory: Hopefully you now can write out this week’s passage completely by memory. Do so now, and keep on reviewing it so you will be ready to share it with others in your group time. Proverbs 16:18

Footnotes for Lesson 6

[i] Mervin Breneman, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther.  In E. Ray Clenenden ed., The New American Commentary Vol. 10 (Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 1993), p. 343.
[ii] John MacArthur ed., The MacArthur Study Bible (Nashville: Word Bibles, 1997), p. 689.
[iii] Joyce G. Baldwin, Esther (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1984), p. 89.
[iv] Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter eds., The Complete Word Study Dictionary Old Testament (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2003), pp. 186, 468, 469.
[v] Spiros Zodhiates ed., The Complete Word Study Old Testament (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1994), p. 2317.
[vi] Edith Hamilton, Mythology (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1942, 1969), pp.113-115.
[vii] Joyce G. Baldwin, Esther, p. 90.
[viii] Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter eds., The Complete Word Study Dictionary Old Testament, p. 533.
[ix] John A. Martin, Esther. In John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament (Wheaton: Victor Books/SP Publications, 1985), p. 709.
[x] Spiros Zodhiates ed., The Complete Word Study Old Testament, p. 2362.
[xi] Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter eds., The Complete Word Study Dictionary Old Testament, p. 577.
[xii] Warren W. Wiersbe, With the Word Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1993), p. 630.
[xiii] Charles R. Swindoll, Esther, A Woman of Strength and Dignity (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), p. 118.
[xiv] John A. Martin, Esther, p. 709.
[xv] Charles R. Swindoll, Esther, A Woman of Strength and Dignity, p. 121.

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© 2005 by Harvest Christian Fellowship. All rights reserved. Written by Thomas Klock for Men’s Bible Fellowship, 2004-2005.

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