So the sleepy servant begins to read the cuneiform to the unsleepy king. And as he reads, the king gets un- and unsleepier. : – )
He’s hearing the story of how two of his court officials had been plotting to assassinate him, and someone named Mordecai had saved his life by reporting them.
As I’ve noted before, plots against Xerxes’ life were apparently common enough that now the king doesn’t even remember this specific event, even though he had ordered the execution of the conspirators (Es 2.23). In any case, he (probably) sits up in bed and asks what has been done to reward Mordecai for saving his life. The servants attending the king tell him that no reward has been given (Es 6.3).
Well. That’s just not right. He saved my life; we ought to do something for him. Since it was my life—the most important life in the kingdom, obviously—that he saved, we ought to do something really cool.
I need some creative ideas. Who’s got some ideas? Is there anybody in the courtyard?
Well, your Persianness, it’s the middle of the night; but surprisingly, there’s actually somebody out there—Haman, your highest court official (Es 3.1, 6.4).
Excellent! He’s a smart one; he’ll have some ideas. Get him in here.
Now, we can see the comedy coming. The king wants to reward Mordecai in some creative, spectacular way. Haman’s intention is to ask the king to authorize an early execution of, um, that very same Mordecai. The plot is getting downright Shakespearean. Or O. Henryian.
Haman is likely surprised at being ushered into Xerxes’ bedchamber in the middle of the night. This must be a pressing matter of State.
The king asks him a terse question: “What should be done for a man the king wants to honor?”
Now, we already know that Haman is a self-centered person. So we’re not surprised that his revealed motive isn’t “How can I be of service to the king?” but “Ooh! This is about me, isn’t it?!” (Es 6.6).
So Haman assumes that he’s the person the king wants to honor. And since we know that, we have a chance to see deep into his heart.
He offers his counsel—treat the man as if he were the king himself. Adorn the man in the royal robes, and place him on the royal steed, and parade him around the city, proclaiming his greatness.
What does this tell us?
Haman wants to be king.
He’s the very last person the king should want to be advising him. He’s a danger to the king and to the state. He’s no better than those two court officials whom the king had executed.
But the king can’t read Haman’s real motives, and he’s thinking of Mordecai anyway. So the suggestion sounds great to him. He tells Haman to make it so (Es 6.10).
We love imagining the explosion that must have occurred in Haman’s brain when he heard the king’s key words: “Mordecai the Jew.” I wonder what his face looked like.
At this point Haman does the one wise thing recorded of him in the whole Bible. He decides that this probably isn’t a good time to ask for the king’s permission to execute Mordecai.
He has an order from the king, and he obeys it.
Another smart move.
But again, I wonder what his face looked like.
And when Haman’s humiliating obedience is fulfilled, Mordecai returns to his normal life; boy, that was fun, but no big deal. And Haman, unsurprisingly, is humiliated, angry, unbelieving of all that has happened. Of all the rotten luck.
And now he has a second conversation with his household (Es 6.12-13), and the contrast with the earlier one (Es 5.10-14) is dramatic. His wife tells him, “Boy, you’ve done it now. If Mordecai’s a Jew, and the king’s proclamation—at your behest—can’t be altered, then, well, your goose is pretty much cooked.”
And here comes the king’s servant to escort him to dinner.
Stay tuned, my friends. This is going to be fun to watch.