A Convenient Justice: Esther’s Tenth Connection to the Gospel

What if God’s disposition was like that of Ahasuerus: rash, unpredictable, and merciless? Or even like the patient killer — gleefully cruel? God has certainly seemed cruel to many readers who don’t know the whole story.

A Convenient Justice: Esther’s Tenth Connection to the Gospel

Haman, who patiently planned and plotted the death of the Israelites, was hastily sent to his death on the gibbet he had erected in order to hang Mordecai. No trial, just judgment. Esther 7:7-10 echoes many scenes and events from both the Old and New Testaments.

By contrasting and comparing them with this section in Esther, God’s mercy really shines through.

1. Judgment Without Trial

The first scene that I thought of when I read this section of Esther was when the adulteress was dragged out to be stoned in John 8. The woman was “caught in the act of adultery” and dragged in front of Jesus for judgment in order to test him.

Dr. Julie Barrier remarked: “Jesus points out that the Scribes and Pharisees are not actually interested in following the law. If they were, they'd at least follow the entire law, and not merely use it as a cheap publicity stunt.”

As for Jewish law, “the priest was required to [...] write the law that had been broken, along with the names of the accused, in the dust of the floor of the Temple.”

This was so the marks could be erased, but also demonstrates thoughtfulness as opposed to judgment poured out in anger.

If Haman had been tried by the Jews according to their laws, he would have pleaded innocent to the charge of attempted rape. Haman would have received a fair hearing from those against whom he had plotted mass murder.

An admittedly quick perusal of Babylonian law suggests that his own culture was similarly known for offering the accused a proper trial of some kind in ordinary circumstances.

2. The Wrong King

But several problems beset Haman:

1. God had orchestrated events so that Haman would be caught in his own trap.

2. Ahasuerus was notably unpredictable. His hasty decisions, which had worked in Haman’s favor before, now worked against him.

3. The king accused Haman, not some civilian. Ahasuerus could bring his will to fruition at the snap of his fingers, law or no law.

I don’t know why Haman arranged for the death of the Jews to happen in the future and not right away unless this was to cause them greater agony of anticipation or because such a large-scale operation would take time to organize. Sometimes a flash of anger leads to unpermitted murder, such as when

Moses killed the slave driver. And sometimes, anger slowly kindles into patient vengeance carefully planned in such a way as to hide guilt or even drag out the perpetrator’s excitement. Perhaps Absalom’s murder of Amnon blends the two motives.

Whatever the case was with Haman and the Jews in Babylon, the Lord used this time to save his people once again.

What if God’s disposition was like that of Ahasuerus: rash, unpredictable, and merciless? Or even like the patient killer — gleefully cruel? God has certainly seemed cruel to many readers who don’t know the whole story.

Why did Moses get away with murder? I would say he didn’t just get away with it; the Lord put his servant through a lot in order to soften his heart and humble him.

Fortunately, it is to his glory that we are afforded mercy, that he hates sin and death, and God even gives people time to come to their senses, to repent and believe.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

3. A Traitor Is Hanged

“The gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, is standing at Haman's house, fifty cubits high.” And the king said, “Hang him on that” (Esther 7:9).

“Throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, [Judas] departed, and he went and hanged himself” (Matthew 27:5).

Haman was a traitor in the sense that he undermined the Queen’s welfare, and the Queen belonged to Ahasuerus. Some commentators argue that Haman might have been impaled, but the writer of Esther asserts that hanging was the method of execution.

How does Judas’ crime compare with the crime Haman is supposed to have committed? Certainly, each was a crime against the King even though, in Haman’s case, Esther was the supposed victim.

As far as the Babylonian king was concerned, such an act amounted to treason since Ahaseurus believed Haman had sexually assaulted or intended to sexually assault Esther, who was his possession.

Biblical experts say that even Judas would have been forgiven if he had confessed and repented. “The sin of Judas was great,” wrote Sean McDowell. “He had seen the miracles of Jesus and heard his teachings and still betrays him for money. And yet Jesus would have restored him.”

Haman, on the other hand, was taken to his death without a chance to speak for himself. He was guilty of a great deal but not guilty of rape.

It’s no good as a Christian for me to say, “well, Haman had it coming,” or to argue, “at least I didn’t kill or rape anyone,” because I’m not innocent.

The Lord has seen my sins, including anger (which Jesus said is murder) and idolatry (what did I do that last time someone upset me? I think chocolate came before prayer). Yet, the Lord has not condemned me.

We commit acts of treason all the time, but God gives us time to see them, confess them, repent, and move forward as his children and his servants. And still, we go back to our sins. So, is Haman tragic?

In one way, I think he is. Given the chance, he might have sweet-talked his way out of the situation, but that’s not the point.

The Lord used Ahasuerus as his agent to prevent such a thing from happening. All I’m saying is that our God doesn’t give us what’s coming to us.

And before we say, “But I’m not like Judas either, prepared to kill myself because of my shame,” ask yourself what death really is: isn’t it our flesh?

Our earthly desires? “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13).

When you need to face the Lord with sin, do you confess it and let the glorious mercy of his love and forgiveness wash over you? Or do you run to alcohol/drugs/exercise/work/food? Do you run to death? I ask myself this question a lot.

4. False Allegations, No Allegations

In another Old Testament account, Joseph was accused of sexual assault and thrown in prison. Sounds hot-headed, like Ahasuerus. Potiphar jumped to conclusions, and Joseph was thrown in jail (Genesis 39:19-21).

This is not the case with Haman. God was not with this deceiver, the man who would have seen every Jew from youngest to oldest slaughtered because “Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage” to Haman (Esther 3:2).

We have two men falsely accused of sex crimes. Neither man was innocent in the spiritual sense. Joseph was intolerably vain, a trait that persisted even as he argued with Potiphar’s wife: yet he was faithful to the Lord and realized that sin against anyone was really sin against the Lord.

Haman’s pride got him into a similar mess, but he had no sense of his station. After all, he imagined himself dressed up like the king. He wanted to be treated with the same obeisance as the king, which is why he hated Mordecai.

And for him, there was no one higher than the king. Joseph’s real King was God Almighty, and Joseph had the time to be humbled and to grow spiritually mature in order to offer forgiveness to his family and learn to serve the Lord’s purposes.

Maybe if he had repented, things would have turned out differently, but Haman had a hard heart.

What Does This Mean?

This article hasn’t said much about Esther or about issues such as the unjust treatment of women as the possessions of men. There is a lot more we could talk about on a whole range of issues. What I see most, though, is the contrast between two kings.

One didn’t think things through or consider the greater good but was easily manipulated by his ego and his desires. The other, Almighty God, is merciful, omnipotent, and omniscient.

He announces, “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isaiah 46:9-10).

For further reading:

Pride and Impressionability: Esther’s Seventh Connection to the Gospel

Role Reversal: Esther’s Eighth Connection to the Gospel

The Queen's Patience: Esther's Ninth Connection to the Gospel

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/arsenisspyros


Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.