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Esther 5:9-14 ESV

And Haman went out that day joyful and glad of heart. But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he neither rose nor trembled before him, he was filled with wrath against Mordecai. Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself and went home, and he sent and brought his friends and his wife Zeresh. And Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the servants of the king. Then Haman said, “Even Queen Esther let no one but me come with the king to the feast she prepared. And tomorrow also I am invited by her together with the king. Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Let a gallows fifty cubits high be made, and in the morning tell the king to have Mordecai hanged upon it. Then go joyfully with the king to the feast.” This idea pleased Haman, and he had the gallows made.

Today’s passage is a bit long and requires some explanation. First of all, this is one of those times that the use of the word “joy” is hardly a Godly, spiritual joy. Instead, it is the puffed up prideful joy of a man who is blissfully unaware of the ending in store for him.

Haman is the kind of guy we all love to hate (think the Wicked Witch of the West, Thomas on Downton Abbey, Angela on The Office, or Cinderella’s evil step-sisters). As outsiders reading this story, it’s easy to think, “why can’t the king see what kind of lousy guy Haman is?” Mordecai, on the other hand, is a Jew and Esther’s uncle, the man who raised her. He is hated by Haman but always does the right thing. So of course Haman wants to kill him.

Haman throws a party to brag about all of the great things he’s accomplished, in particular the latest invitation to have dinner with the king and Esther. It’s a big deal! Esther only invited two people to this dinner, Haman and the king! Doesn’t that make him big stuff?

In other translations of this passage, the first use of “joyful” is instead “happy,” while the second is “pleased” or “delighted.” I might lean towards those more so than joy, knowing that this is certainly not the joy of the Lord. But I’ll let it stand because of the upcoming twist in the story: Haman’s joy, much like the rich fool in Jesus’ parable, will dissolve when he finds that his life is all that he has. He cannot take any of the riches or accomplishments with him. Haman will be hanged on the gallows he constructed for Mordecai, and his high position handed over to the very man he sought to kill.

This is but one of many instances in my searches where the word “joy” is used to describe the happy emotions of an enemy. Praise be to God that He gets the final say, and that our joy is ultimately found in Him!

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