Esther 7:5-9                       “Harbona of Things to Come”


            Let me start with a quick recapitulation of the story thus far in the Book of Esther. She has become the queen. Haman had become the head of state beneath the king.  Haman wants to kill all the Jews because one Jew, Mordecai Esther’s Uncle, will not bow down and worship him. Haman has tricked the King into issuing an edict asking for the killing of all the Jews. The Jews now know of the edict and have begun preparing their souls for their own death by wearing sackcloth and sitting in ashes–which is a sign of public mourning for the day.

            We heard that Uncle Mordecai was able to send a message to Esther through the courageous eunuch named Hatach. Mordecai asks Esther to go into the king’s throne room and ask the king to rescind the edict, thus saving the Jews. Esther realizes that going into the throne room without an invitation can mean death. However, she understands that she has to do it to save her race. She then fasted for three days and nights with no food or water to prepare for going to the king.    

Esther does not actually enter the throne room of her king and husband. She very cleverly lets herself be seen as she is in the forecourt. The king accepts her with his golden scepter. She invites him and Haman to a wine banquet. At this banquet the two are invited to a second more sober banquet the next day.
            That night the king cannot sleep and is read the annals of his kingship. He realizes that he never tanked Mordecai for saving his kingdom from two treasonous eunuchs. He calls in Haman to find out the best way to honor Mordecai. Haman ends up putting royal robes on his nemesis and parading him through the capital on a steed.


 Today, Esther finally answers what it is that she would want from the king. She responds, “I would want to live.” She goes on to explain how he and the Jewish race have been sold unto death–that a genocide against the Jews has been bought by the king unwittingly

We rarely in our time of hearing the Word of God get down to such basics: “I want to live.” That is an extremely important statement that we ought to make everyday. “I want to live.” The Hebrew term and the way it is phrased is very interesting here. The word in Hebrew for just plain regular life is “chai.” If you are talking about the better life, “the good life,” or you are speaking about your own life as a royal person, then the Hebrew becomes “Chaim,” which is the plural form–the royal “we.” Still to this day, Jews make toasts to one another by saying “l’chaim,” “to life.” However, Esther does not use that expected Hebrew term at all.

Esther says, “give me my soul.” The word in Hebrew is “nephesh.” It could be translated as “give me my very self.” You may now this term from the Great Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength.” It is a reference to the inner spiritual self.

I want to translate this Hebrew as “Give me myself, my soul, who I am.” Remember that Esther has never told the king that she is a Jew. She is not just asking to breathe and have life as a mammal or any other animal. She wants the king to recognize her selfhood, her faith, and inner being. She is saying to her husband and king, “see me for who I really am.”

I was once asked to make a visitation to a man and his wife who were in long-term care. I came into the room, never having met the couple before. She was seated next to her husband who was on a bed with all kinds of tubes coming out of him. I was sure that he was about to die. I asked the wife how long he had been in such a state. He could not speak, did not open his eyes, and seemed to have only involuntary movements. She told me that the feeding tube had gone in almost three years before. He had been on the breathing tube for only a few weeks.

My mind began to spin at hearing this. He had been in bed for three years basically unresponsive. We prayed together over the situation. My prayer after leaving the care home was that God just take him–to release his soul from the agony. He was technically alive, but he was not alive. This is the understanding that is in the Hebrew and what Esther is asking for. Remember that all the other Jews are already wearing sackcloth and ashes waiting for their own deaths. In a way, it is almost like asking to be resurrected from the dead. The edict has already been written. The Jewish race was prepared for their end. Then, the plea comes: “Give me my soul, my life” asks the queen to her king. “Give me my self, my soul.”

If I could choose just one term to describe our present age, I would say “searching for its soul.” So many people are just walking around without a true sense of self or soulfulness. They need to pray to God to give them their soul back! Give them the reason to live. Give them hope and grace again.

Here is my warning that I am about to get political for a moment: The ancient Greek philosopher Aeschylus stated that “The first victim of war is Truth.” I believe the first victim is our ability to see that the other side has a soul. And, this is the greater Truth that is sacrificed first. Did you know that the Ukrainians call Russian soldiers “Orks”? Taken from Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Orks are nameless goblin creatures with no basic worth that are amassed and thrown into war. The first thing to do in a war is take the other’s soul away. In that way, you can believe that you are really not killing any one person at all. So, Esther is petitioning to have her soul given back to her so that the genocide will stop. How quickly we forget that the people on both sides are just people.

Jesus told us in his Great Commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. Love your own soul. Love the souls of others. Above all, love God.


Esther goes on to say to Ahasuerus that her soul has been sold unto death. What is a life worth? I find it interesting that this last week my annual life insurance bill came in the mail. I open up the billing invoice, and I can see exactly how much my life is worth. There is actually a price on my head. Have you ever wondered why it is called “life” insurance, when it is actually “death” insurance? My life insurance is actually Jesus Christ–for this life and the next. It is all up to the Lord. But, I digress.

Ahasuerus is taken aback by Esther’s statement and asks who it is that wants to kill her and her people. Esther answers back “this wicked Haman.” Please note the use of the term “wicked” here. Esther does not just say “His lordship and first counselor to the King, Haman.”

In our world today, we shy away from using labels on people. Here Esther courageously calls Haman the evil man that he is. In the New Testament, when Jesus goes out into the wilderness he calls satan, satan. In the prayer he teaches His disciples he states “and save us from the evil one” (Deliver us from evil). When Peter comes up and denies that the Christ must go to the Cross and sacrifice himself, Jesus states “Get behind me, Satan.” (Matthew 16:23) Without focussing too much on evil, and thus inviting it into the sermon, we do need to recognize when it is out there confronting us.


Ahasuerus is apparently a king that knows that it is not a good thing to simply blow up and lose one’s cool. What does he do upon learning of Haman’s plot? In his anger, he goes for a walk in the garden. He needs to think through his next course of action. He is deliberate in his thoughts. He does not just ast out in anger. He is actually a relatively wise king after all. What is he considering while in the garden? He may have been remembering not just the story about how Mordecai (a Jew) had saved his life before, but also about the fact that the Jews had been freed from slavery and allowed to go back to Judah, to Jerusalem to rebuild their Temple. Ahasuerus has in fact already saved the Jews once. He released them from exile in Babylon when he conquered that kingdom. He had even given back the Temple treasures to the Jews for the rebuilding of the Temple. The Jews in return had honored and paid tribute back to Ahasuerus. Now he discovers as well that his Queen, his family, is also Jewish. In all of this he fully understands the treachery of wicked Haman.


Now here is the clincher. He comes back into the banquet hall to discover wicked Haman groveling at the couch of his queen. He is begging for his life of course, but it looks like something else entirely. He tells wicked Haman to remove himself.

And, that could have been it. Truth is out. All is known. However, one of the Eunuchs named Harbona does the unthinkable and speaks in the presence of the King (that is a death penalty move) and points out that Haman had already constructed a gallows to hang Mordecai on. Ahasuerus might have looked out from the palace to see this huge structure, 150 feet tall. That is the absolute last straw, “Hang Haman on his gallows” the king commands. Now, the scene is over. Haman is “hoisted on his own petard.” (Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act III)


I want to back up in the story for just a moment. Remember when Esther makes her plea to the king? She says that she and her people are about to not just be killed, but that they were to be annihilated. Actually, to be sure, Esther asks not to be annihilated. The Hebrew here is “to become nothing,” which is exactly what “annihilate” means. “Do not turn me into nothing.” That is amazingly profound. This is like saying, “I want to matter.” I do not want to be nothing to this world. I want to be remembered somehow.

Jared and I were having an afternoon conversation about this last week. What will remain of our souls here in this place when our bodies are gone? How will we be remembered? It is interesting therefore to note that on the festival days of Purim, to this day the Jews close off this chapter of Esther saying, “And it is good and right that we remember the eunuch Harbona!” He did speak the Truth and helped the people of God. He stood against the wickedness of genocide when it mattered.

How will you be remembered? What is your soul worth? Ask Jesus these questions today.