Esther 5:13
Yet none of this satisfies me as long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the King's Gate."
Haman's ConfessionHomilistEsther 5:13
Human LimitationsJ. Parker, D. D.Esther 5:13
On the Disorders of the PassionsH. Blair, D. D.Esther 5:13
Outward Prosperity and an Evil HeartT. McEwan.Esther 5:13
Poisoned PleasuresG. Lawson.Esther 5:13
Small Things Annoy the GreatestBp. Hall.Esther 5:13
The Bathos of ConfessionP.C. Barker Esther 5:13
The Black EweEsther 5:13
The Festering Thorn that Poisons the BodyJ. J. S. Bird.Esther 5:13
The Mission and the Curse of JealousyW. Wilberforce Newton.Esther 5:13
The Ruinous Nature of DiscontentW. Richardson.Esther 5:13
Things that Ought to be Unnecessary for HappinessEsther 5:13
Unavailing HonourF. Hastings Esther 5:13
UnsatisfiedHugh Macmillan, D. D.Esther 5:13
Vain ProperityS. H. Tyng, D. D.Esther 5:13
Wealth not HappinessH. Burton.Esther 5:13
Worldly Possessions Cannot Give Full SatisfactionF. Hastings.Esther 5:13
A Conquest by Feminine BeautyT. De Witt Talmage.Esther 5:1-14
A Queen on the Vanity of JewelleryEsther 5:1-14
Confidence in PrayerT. McEwan.Esther 5:1-14
Crisis HelpW. M. Taylor, D. D.Esther 5:1-14
Directions for PrayerW. Burrows, B. A.Esther 5:1-14
Esther's NoblenessW. F. Adeney, M. A.Esther 5:1-14
God Grants RequestsT. McCrie.Esther 5:1-14
Large OffersA. B. Davidson, D. D.Esther 5:1-14
Performance Must Follow ResolveG. Lawson.Esther 5:1-14
Prayer Should be DefiniteEsther 5:1-14
The Gifts of the Heavenly KingJ. Hughes.Esther 5:1-14
The Glory of IntercessionD. J. Burrell, D. D.Esther 5:1-14
The Golden SceptreA. Raleigh, D. D.Esther 5:1-14
The Royalty of FaithW. Burrows, B. A.Esther 5:1-14
The Sight of a FaceA. Raleigh, D. D.Esther 5:1-14
There is Nothing StationaryT. McEwan.Esther 5:1-14
Touching the SceptreW. M. Statham.Esther 5:1-14
Prudence Versus GuileW. Dinwiddie Esther 5:4-14
The Discontented Man as a ReckonerW. Burrows, B. A.Esther 5:11-13

After all necessary allowances and substitutions have been made, it may be very justly said that Shakespeare's Wolsey is essentially dwarfed by Scripture's Haman, and that not the finest of Shakespeare's five act plays - wonderful products of human genius as they are - but must yield to the ten briefer chapters, with their five chief characters, of our Book of Esther. The book is indeed a consummate epic of the human heart. Its photographs are vivid and accurate, but they are not the facsimile of a countenance alone, but of things revealed and laid bare, in the fallen type of man, by the most skilful anatomy. What an extraordinary proclamation it makes, at one and the same time, of the vanity of human greatness and of the greatness of human vanity. How forcibly does it remind us of that Scripture that saith not in vain, "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked;" and there bids us hold our breath awhile. We can scarcely go on to say, Who can know it?" for we find it manifestly set forth as known by One at all events, whose finger guides us to the observation of it, and whose pencil limns it. Certainly the present passage lays bare such a heart to the core of it, and at the core it is bad. It is of an aggravated type. It reveals a miserable creature on his own showing, judged by his own standard, and at the confession of his own lips. We have no difficulty in understanding the description which Haman gives of himself. But the difficulty would lie in crediting the phenomenon of any man, knowing his own symptoms so well, being ready to speak them so frankly, where they are what they are here. Let us notice -

I. SOME STRIKING AND DISCREDITABLE FACTS WHICH HAMAN'S OWN LANGUAGE REVEALS ABOUT HIMSELF. Haman finds himself in trouble. He analyses it himself, and unhesitatingly publishes the results And in doing so he shows these two things about himself: -

1. He can confess without penitence, without shame. In confession one would have hoped to find a favourable symptom. But it aggravates the case if what in ten thousand other instances would have been some redeeming feature, is none here. His confession proves that his trouble is of the smallest kind, and of the smallest quantity. He is exalted with honour, he is laden with wealth, he is closely surrounded with a profusion of earthly blessings. It is the very point of his own representation that he had touched the summit of success. But there was a humble man, no competitor whatever of his, low down on the rungs of the ladder, nor seeking to climb higher. He did not cross Haman's path, but Haman sometimes crossed his. This man, not for whim, nor to affront, but for his religion's sake, did not make the obeisance which the rest around were making to this rising or risen sun. Haman did not know the loss by feeling it. He did not know it till some one, who owned to the gift of not being able to do anything so well as mischief, informed him of the fact. And on this omission, recurring at a critical moment of Haman's glory, it is that Haman confesses to himself, to his wife, to his friends specially called together, that all his wealth, glory, promotion are "nothing" to him while Mordecai withholds his obeisance. This is the confession he makes without one expression of penitence, without one sign of shame.

2. He is content to have self-knowledge without realising any of the benefits that might accompany it. It is not every one who knows his nature's and his own disease so well. There are few who could speak the plague of their own heart so plainly. There was also, apparently, freedom from that form of deception which in things of high moment must ever be the worst - self-deception. Yet if we want to commend Haman for all this, it is impossible. We have to take away more with our left hand than we give with the right. He is not ignorant of self, yet he has no idea of improving self. He is not self-deceived, yet he is not awake to the enormity of his danger. He describes his own loathsome symptoms, yet loathes them not. He speaks them, to boast them.


1. Immoderate ambition. From the moment that his lip made the confession which it did make, Haman should have seemed to hear it as charging him to come down and "avoid ambition." His confession should have sounded the knell of ambition, since, if not, it were certain to sound another knell.

2. The intense worship of self. Haman must be all, and have all. He cannot let an obscure exile in the land have a thought, a liberty, a conscience, a will of his own. He cannot tolerate the slightest infringement of his own rights.

3. The rankling of unforgivingness. A forgiving spirit would have saved Haman all the destruction that was about to descend upon his head. No wound of any sort whatsoever has such a determined bias towards a fatal result as the wound received and not forgiven. Do whatsoever else you will for that wound, this undone it is almost certain that, if in itself not fatal, it will become so.

4. A greed that had grown with getting, an appetite that increased with feeding, and which was now rapacious as the grave. Haman had everything except one thing which he would never have missed unless he had been told of it. The whole day was bright but one moment of it, and then it was only overcast. The whole sky was fair and shining except one little touch of it. The whole prospect was glorious except for one duller spot. Life was a luxurious banquet, immensely to his taste, and there were no fingers of a hand writing dread things on the wall to spoil, but it was spoiled. Haman says it was utterly spoiled, profoundly unsatisfactory. One little diminution of dignity, one little drop of incense withheld, one little humble, harmless presence, fascinates him, as a basilisk would, nor releases him till he is lured to his ruin. "Dead flies cause the apothecaries' ointment to stink," says Solomon; and "the buzzing of an insect too near the ear may," says Pascal, "thwart a thought and put back a discovery fifty years; but who can defend the man who says, "I have millions of money, multitudes of titles, honour and glory beyond any one beside, 'yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate."

Lessons: -

1. In the larger, bolder, blacker portrait of Haman is there not some semblance of self, when, amid opportunities and advantages innumerable, comforts and joys innumerable, bright prospects and hopes innumerable, we put them all far from us just because everything conceivable is not to our mind.

2. We are prone to share the perverse nature of Haman when, as mere matter of fact, we overlook a thousand mercies we possess in favour of keenly noticing the absence of one withheld, like Eden's apple, or withdrawn after long enjoyment of it.

3. We are prone to share the unfruitful nature of Haman. No fact has come to be better ascertained in human life than this, that it is not those who have most who give most. The greatest opportunity often witnesses the least improvement of it. - B.

Yet all this avalleth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate.
Haman's misery sprung from his most prominent vice. The avenger did not so much track his path, like an independent retributive messenger, as that it was secreted in his very sin. It is often so in providence. God does not need to stretch forth His hand against the sinner. It is enough that He allows the working of his sin to overtake him. Had there been no pride in Haman's heart he could never have been subjected to this soul-torture because of a harmless affront by an inferior in rank; but forasmuch as he had nursed and cherished his pride to an ungovernable extent, the pain and anguish which he had to endure when it was thwarted and injured was crucifying to all his prosperity and joy. He became his own tormentor. The law is universal, giving to all sin its entail of evil. The sinner may suppose that his sin is not known, and, because not known, that it will escape punishment; but the sin will itself find out the man, and the punishment will grow out of it as a poisonous plant from a hidden seed. Sceptics may theoretically deny the Divine govern. ment, but practically it is beyond dispute. By an inexorable law "evil pursueth sinners, but to the righteous good shall be repaid." Intimately connected with this thought there is another of equal importance — that we are not in a position to judge of the relative amount of happiness or unhappiness in the lot of man upon the earth. Surveyed from without there might not appear to be a more enviable man than Haman. If earthly good could make happiness there was no element awanting in his case. There was ostensibly no comparison between his lot and that of some contented poor man, who, besides meanness and obscurity, has to bear the burden of bodily suffering. Nevertheless you might never get from the poor sufferer under the influence of religion the same confession of wasted happiness and blighted peace that we have from this lordly great man in the high day of his abounding prosperity. Let the outward condition be what it may, his spirit — the real man — rises superior so it, and is not touched by it. But in the other case it was the spirit which was diseased, and which, like the scorpion when surrounded by fire, turned its sting in upon itself. So that, before we could estimate relative individual happiness or unhappiness, we would require to go below the surface of things and look upon the heart. Moreover, we cannot fail to notice that outward prosperity in an unsanctified heart renders the man more susceptible to trifling annoyances. He becomes so accustomed to what is highly pleasing that a very small thing occasions great uneasiness. While he looks at his good things through the large end of the telescope, he beholds what is troublesome and vexatious through the small. The world's broad way is crowded with eager seekers after happiness. "It is here," cries one, and there is a rush in that direction, only to be followed by disappointed looks and longing hearts. "It is there," cries another, and there is anxious toiling and plodding for its attainment; but the cisterns are found at last to he broken and empty. In the midst of this thirsting, moiling, weary world, Jesus has caused His voice to be heard, pleading and saying: "If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink."

(T. McEwan.)

The servants of God may be sometimes so foolish as to envy the prosperity of the wicked. But a sure result is before the wicked, and in due time their sin finds them out. They are set in slippery places. We see here the most crafty and accomplished wickedness caught in its own snare, and made the instrument of its own punishment. All its schemes of evil are overruled; all its revengeful and hostile purposes are made to bless those against whom they have been prepared.

1. We see every possible advantage of condition and power conceded to him. God allows the cause opposed to Him to have all the means of apparent triumph and success, so that if such opposition may ever prevail, it shall have the fullest opportunity. When He would show us the vanity of the world He allows it to heap up every possible means of gratification and pleasure. When He would show us the security of piety He permits every possible difficulty and objection to be in its way. Haman shall complain of no want on his side of any instrument which might render his triumph certain. And then, in defiance of all his power and his craft, God will overturn all his schemes. Could the wickedness of man ever succeed, it must in circumstances like his. He was rich; unlimited wealth seemed to be in his control. For a single grant of power he offered the king ten thousand talents of silver, nearly twenty millions of dollars. Not only rich, he was highly exalted in station. No subject of the monarch equalled him in rank or in the influence which his station gave. Rich and exalted, he was powerful also. The king had given him his own ring. All the powers of government in the kingdom were thus placed in the hands of Haman. In this high condition he was flattered and honoured by universal homage. "All the king's servants that were in the king's gate bowed," etc. And as we survey his condition we exclaim, "What gratitude such a man must owe to God! What blessings he might bestow upon his fellow-men." But Haman had no heart for gratitude, no love for mankind. He was an enemy to God, to His people, and to His truth. The controlling spirit of his wicked heart was selfishness. "Though hand join in hand the wicked shall not go unpunished."

2. We see the small amount of Haman's alleged deficiencies. "Mordecai bowed not nor did him reverence." What an illustration of the prosperity of this world. It is impossible that any earthly portion should be free from every cause of complaint. The decay and sorrow which human sin produces must everywhere in some shape be found. It is left as a token of God's authority, as a test of man's submission, as a teacher of contentment and humility in the midst of occasions for pride and self-indulgence. There is to every man a Mordecai in the gate, an unbending and unsubmissive difficulty of some kind in human life, to guard the children of God from the ruin which prosperity would bring, and to awaken the sinful to a consciousness of the insufficiency of an earthly portion, and the importance of something higher and something better than earth can give. Less than Haman's sorrow no living man can have. But this fact of trial in human condition is always a constantly recurring one. It was so here. Day by day Haman must pass the gate, and Mordecai could not be avoided. The sorrow is small, but it is ever present, like a broken tooth, or a missing step in the stairs on which we must habitually pass. It can never be forgotten. A submissive mind receives it as a call for acknowledgment and humility. A rebellious mind makes it an occasion of complaint, and the same annoyance hardens the heart in rebellion and impiety. Let us make a friend and teacher of every Mordecai in our way. We shall never he without him.

3. This leads us to mark the effect of this one exception upon Haman's feelings and mind. This single deficiency completely destroyed all his enjoyment and peace. To make a man happy whose heart is astray from God is impossible. Whatever of earthly bounties may be given, there is the secret feeling of remorse and consciousness of guilt which nothing can silence or dismiss. The mind is in rebellion against the only power which can give it peace.

4. All these circumstances in Haman's condition showed how small was his temptation to crime. Haman had no reasonable excuse, no motive but in his own wicked heart, for the course of crime on which he was to enter. It was simply the working of malicious wickedness, his own fretful, hateful temper. Mordecai did him no injury, diminished none of his real advantages or possessions. Such is the process of yielding to the suggestions and claims of a sinful temper. It leads us from one step to another in the course of sin, until the sinner is ensnared in unexpected guilt, and entangled in crimes hideous in their aspect and beyond his power to escape. It may be the appetite for gain, the haste to be rich, which pushes him on to every sacrifice of duty, and through every species of fraud and every scheme of attempted concealment, till God suddenly reveals the whole plot and the man is ruined beyond recovery. Let no young man feel that he is safe from temptation to the worst of crimes in allowing the power for a moment of such a spirit. Watch against its first encroachment. Cultivate, as the rule of life, high and pure motives, habits of self-control, refusal to receive affronts or to take offence at the errors or neglect of others.

(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)

Give a whole world of pleasure to a man who loves the world and the things of it, he will soon find that something is wanted, though perhaps he does not know, so well as Haman thought he did, what it is. He finds some gall and wormwood that spread poison over his pleasures. All his abundance cannot compensate for the loss of some one thing or other that he deems essential to his happiness. The fact is that the world cannot give a right constitution to his disordered soul, or be a substitute for that Divine favour in which lies the life of our souls.

(G. Lawson.)

These are the words of one who, though high in station and power, confessed himself to be miserable. His whole soul was shaken with a storm of passion. Wrath, pride, and desire of revenge rose into fury. With difficulty he restrained himself in public; but as soon as he came to his own house he was forced to disclose the agony of his mind.

I. HOW MISERABLE IS VICE WHEN ONE GUILTY PASSION IS CAPABLE OF CREATING SO MUCH TORMENT! We might reason from the constitution of the rational frame, where the understanding is appointed to be supreme and the passions to be subordinate, and where, if this due arrangement of its parts be overthrown, misery as necessarily ensues as pain is consequent in the animal frame upon the distortion of its members. Had this been a soliloquy of Haman's within himself, it would have been a sufficient discovery of his misery. But when we consider it as a confession which he makes to others, it is a proof that his misery was become insupportable. For such agitations of the mind every man strives to conceal, because he knows they dishonour him. Other griefs and sorrows he can with freedom pour out to a confidant. When he suffers from the injustice or malice of the world he is not ashamed to acknowledge. But when his suffering arises from the bad dispositions of his own heart; when, in the height of prosperity, he is rendered miserable solely by disappointed pride, every ordinary motive for communication ceases. Nothing but the violence of anguish can drive him to confess a passion which renders him odious, and a weakness which renders him despicable. To what extremity in particular must he be reduced before he can disclose to his own family the infamous secret of his misery! In the eye of his family every man wishes to appear respectable, and to cover from their knowledge whatever may vilify or degrade him. Attacked or reproached abroad, he consoles himself with his importance at home; and in domestic attachment and respect seeks for some compensation for the injustice of the world. Judge, then, of the degree of torment which Haman endured by its breaking through all these restraints and forcing him to publish his shame before those from whom all men seek most to hide it. How severe must have been the conflict. Assemble all the evils which poverty, disease, or violence can inflict, and their stings will be found by far less pungent than those which such guilty passions dart into the heart. Amidst the ordinary calamities of the world the mind can exert its powers and suggest relief. And the mind is properly the man; the sufferer and his sufferings can be distinguished. But those disorders of passion, by seizing directly on the mind, attack human nature in its stronghold, and cut off its last resource. They penetrate to the very seat of sensation, and convert all the powers of thought into instruments of torture.

1. Let us remark, in the event that is now before us, the awful hand of God, and admire His justice in thus making the sinner's own wickedness to reprove him, and his backslidings to correct him. Sceptics reason in vain against the reality of Divine government. It is not a subject of dispute It is a fact which carries the evidence of sense and displays itself before our eyes. We see the Almighty manifestly pursuing the sinner with evil.

2. Let us remark also, from this example, how imperfectly we can judge, from external appearances, concerning real happiness or misery. All Persia, it is probable, envied Haman as the happiest person in the empire; while yet, at the moment of which we now treat, there was not, within its bounds, one more thoroughly wretched. Think not, when you behold a pageant of grandeur displayed to public view, that you discern the ensign of certain happiness. In order to form any just conclusion you must follow the great man in the retired apartment, where he lays aside his disguise; you must not only be able to penetrate into the interior of families, but you must have a faculty by which you can look into the inside of hearts.

3. Unjust are our complaints of the promiscuous distribution made by providence of its favours among men. From superficial views such complaints arise. The distribution of the goods of fortune, indeed, may often be promiscuous; that is, disproportioned to the moral characters of men: but the allotment of real happiness is never so. For to the wicked there is no peace. They are like the troubled sea when it cannot rest. They travail with pain all their days. Trouble and anguish prevail against them. Terrors make them afraid on every side.

II. HOW UNAVAILING WORLDLY PROSPERITY IS, SINCE, IN THE MIDST OF IT, A SINGLE DISAPPOINTMENT IS SUFFICIENT TO EMBITTER ALL ITS PLEASURES. We might at first imagine that the natural effect of prosperity would be to diffuse over the mind a prevailing satisfaction which the lesser evils of life could not ruffle or disturb. We might expect that as one in the full glow of health despises the inclemency of the weather, so one in possession of all the advantages of high power and station should disregard slight injuries, and, at perfect ease with himself, should view in the most favourable light the behaviour of others around him. Such effects would indeed follow if worldly prosperity contained in itself the true principles of human felicity. But as it possesses them not, the very reverse of those consequences generally obtains. Prosperity debilitates instead of strengthening the mind. Its most common effect is to create an extreme sensibility to the slightest wound. It foments impatient desires, and raises expectations which no success can satisfy. It fosters a false delicacy, which sickens in the midst of indulgence. By repeated gratification it blunts the feelings of men to what is pleasing, and leaves them unhappily acute to whatever is uneasy. Hence the gale, which another would scarcely feel, is to the prosperous a rude tempest. Hence the rose-leaf doubled below them on the couch, as it is told of the effeminate Sybarite, breaks their rest. Hence the disrespect shown by Mordecai preyed with such violence on the heart of Haman. Upon no principle of reason can we assign a sufficient cause for all the distress which this incident occasioned to him. The cause lay not in the external incident — it lays within himself; it arose from a mind distempered by prosperity. Let this example correct that blind eagerness with which we rush to the chase of worldly greatness and honours. Let the memorable fate of Haman suggest to us also how often, besides corrupting the mind and engendering internal misery, they lead us among precipices and betray us into ruin. At the moment when fortune seemed to smile upon him with the most serene and settled aspect she was digging in secret the pit for his fail. Prosperity was weaving around his head the web of destruction. Success inflamed his pride; pride increased his thirst of revenge; the revenge which, for the sake of one man, he sought to execute on a whole nation, incensed the queen; and he is doomed to suffer the same death which he had prepared for Mordecai. An extensive contemplation of human affairs will lead us to this conclusion, that among the different conditions and ranks of men the balance of happiness is preserved in a great measure equal; and that the high and the low, the rich and the poor, approach, in point of real enjoyment, much nearer to each other than is commonly imagined. In the lot of man mutual compensations, both of pleasure and of pain, universally take place. Providence never intended that any state here should be either completely happy or entirely miserable. If the feelings of pleasure are more numerous and more lively in the higher departments of life, such also are those of pain. If greatness flatters our vanity, it multiplies our dangers. Ii opulence increases our gratifications, it increases, in the same proportion, our desires and demands. If the poor are confined to a more narrow circle, yet within that circle lie most of those natural satisfactions which, after all the refinements of art, are found to be the most genuine and true.

III. HOW WEAK HUMAN NATURE IS WHICH, IN THE ABSENCE OF REAL, IS THUS PRONE TO CREATE TO ITSELF IMAGINARY woes. Let it not be thought that troubles of this kind are incident only to the great and the mighty. Though they, perhaps, from the intemperance of their passions, are peculiarly exposed to them, yet the disease itself belongs to human nature, and spreads through all ranks. In the humble and seemingly quiet shade of private life, discontent broods over its imaginary sorrows, preys upon the citizen no less than upon the courtier, and often nourishes passions equally malignant in the cottage and in the palace. Having once seized the mind, it spreads its own gloom over every surrounding object; it everywhere searches out materials for itself, and in no direction more frequently employs its unhappy activity than in creating divisions amongst mankind and in magnifying slight provocations into mortal injuries. Those self-created miseries, imaginary in the cause but real in the suffering, will be found to form a proportion of human evils not inferior, either in severity or in number, to all that we endure from the unavoidable calamities of life. In situations where much comfort might be enjoyed, this man's superiority, and that man's neglect, our jealousy of a friend, our hatred of a rival, an imagined affront, or a mistaken point of honour, allow us no repose. Hence discords in families, animosities among friends, and wars among nations. Hence Haman miserable in the midst of all that greatness could bestow. Hence multitudes in the most obscure stations for whom providence seemed to have prepared a quiet life, no less eager in their petty broils, nor less tormented by their passions, than if princely honours were the prize for which they contended. From this train of observation which the text has suggested, can we avoid reflecting upon the disorder in which human nature plainly appears at present to lie? Amidst this wreck of human nature, traces still remain which indicate its Author. Those high powers of conscience and reason, that capacity for happiness, that ardour of enterprise, that glow of affection, which often break through the gloom of human vanity and guilt, are like the scattered columns, the broken arches, and defaced sculptures of some fallen temple, whose ancient splendour appears amidst its ruins. In this view let us with reverence look up to that Divine Personage, who descended into this world on purpose to be the light and the life of men; who came in the fulness of grace and truth to repair the desolation of many generations, to restore order among the works of God, and to raise up a new earth and new heavens, wherein righteousness shall dwell for ever. Under His tuition let us put ourselves; and amidst the storms of passion to which we are here exposed, and the slippery paths which we are left to tread, never trust presumptuously to our own understanding. Thankful that a heavenly Conductor vouchsafes His aid, let us earnestly pray that from Him may descend Divine light to guide our steps, and Divine strength to fortify our minds. Fix, then, this conclusion in your minds, that the destruction of your virtue is the destruction of your peace. At your first setting out in life, especially when yet unacquainted with the world and its snares, when every pleasure enchants with its smile, and every object shines with the gloss of novelty, beware of the seducing appearances which surround you, and recollect what others have suffered from the power of headstrong desire. If you allow any passion, even though it be esteemed innocent, to acquire an absolute ascendant, your inward peace will be impaired. From the first to the last of man's abode on earth, the discipline must never be relaxed of guarding the heart from the dominion of passion. Eager passions and violent desires were not made for man. They exceed his sphere. They find no adequate objects on earth, and of course can be productive of nothing but misery.

(H. Blair, D. D.)

In the formation of character, as in the makeup of the world, nothing is ever lost or misplaced. The heat of the tropics in the belt of the equator makes trade-wind currents, and trade-wind currents make northerly gales, and northerly gales bring hail and snow, and the rivers swollen from the mountain streams flow again into the ocean. There are scavengers on land and sea which consume the world's refuse; there are processes at work in the economy of nature by which the refuse of the barn-yard and the dry bones of the slaughter-house become restorers of the soil and fertilisers of Mother Earth robbed yearly of her life-giving qualities. And in the economy of character we see this same endless chain of results. God does not work at right angles to His guiding principles. When a great law or tendency is boldly thrown out in the material world, we shall be sure, if we look closely enough, to find a corresponding principle in the mental and moral world. Just as there are sharks in the ocean and crocodiles in the jungle, and lizards and snakes and a world of crawling things about us; just as there are fevers and poisons and dreadful illnesses stored up in certain lovely-looking regions, so there are dreadful passions and instincts, revenges and jealousies, stored away in nature, which look as charming but are as deceitful as Brazilian wild meadow land. All these things have their use. Consider the mission and curse of jealousy.

I. ITS MISSION. Have you ever felt in a yacht that the masts and the sails could not stand the strain of wind much longer? But the skipper at the helm laughs down your fears, for he knows how much lead is on the keel, or how much centre-board is down. Bulk is planted in that boat somewhere on purpose to steady it when the wind draws on for a blow. In some such way has jealousy been planted in human nature to steady the character when flaws of temptation or gusty currents of animalism strike us. In its existence we find the reason for monogamy and marriage faithfulness and domestic happiness and concord. Why should we be jealous if the Christian view of marriage is false? God has placed this Cerberus-like attribute, this watch-dog instinct, chained but barking, at the door of domestic happiness on purpose to guard the honour and sanctity of those within.

II. ITS CURSE. Any force perverted becomes an evil, and when jealousy steps an inch beyond its lawful limits, then it becomes the direst curse. It is just like the mission or the curse of any strong drug or medicine. Any instinct or attribute which becomes inflamed or enlarged and assumes an undue prominence, causes trouble in the character, in the same way in which any enlarged or congested organ asserts itself with pain and irritation in the physical system. And when jealousy passes beyond its proper sphere and rankles in the nature like some smouldering back-log, it lights up every new object which is thrown upon it. It is like a secret fever, which burns and keeps one hot amid all sorts of cool surroundings, as when Haman said, "Yet all this availeth me nothing so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate." It assumes many varying forms. It appears as tribe jealousy with its clannish smallness; it appears in the countless bickerings of society, in the pride of caste, and in that vulgar pride which rejoices in trampling upon caste; it is the great motive power of ambitious and scheming women; it gives the cud of reflection to innumerable artists, painters, musicians, and business men. It is with the physician in consultation with his fellow physician as they finger the pulse of their dying patient. It is with the warring lawyers, in strife over the sentence upon the accused murderer; it defiles the sacred chancel, it defiles the pulpit steps; it makes us think hard things of our brethren. In all these instances it is a moral malaria within the soul. It is the sight of the hated Mordecai sitting at the gate. The old Goth Alaric was called the scourge of God, as he came thundering down the plains of Lombardy. But jealousy is a greater scourge than the old Goth. It is the root of all our domestic troubles. Jealousy means pride; it means selfishness; it means inordinate self-conceit; it means being first all the time; it means a blighted life and a miserable old age. If you want to please yourself you can count up what you save and all you have got, as Haman did, and yet all this will avail you nothing every time you see the one you are jealous of sitting where you want to be. But if you cast these demons out — jealousy, selfishness, self-conceit — if you sink yourself and throw overboard for ever this thought of always being first, a whole new world of life and honour will be before you.

(W. Wilberforce Newton.)

It does not take much to spoil a man's life. One little thing may mar his usefulness and the veriest trifle may destroy his peace. The record of lost men will be a record of apparent trifles. "One thing lacking" will be the keynote of the wail of hell, as it is the cry of those who have slipped down when they have reached the topmost rung but one of the ladder of life's ambition. This man would have been the greatest of senators but for one infirmity. He has brilliance, power, eloquence, wisdom, but he has no stability. That man would have been the greatest soldier. He has courage, knowledge, skill, self-denial, but he has an unbridled temper. And so it is in every grade of life. In Haman we have a notable example of a worldly life, and a potent instance of the working of sin, sending its poisonous influence through a man's character until it works out its own deadly end. "Sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death." We have the history of sin in the world exemplified in this individual man.

I. THE POISON LATENT. There is not a thing on earth but is poisoned. We attain learning, and while attaining it we swallow the poison with which it is infected. We derive honour, but at the same time we lay hold of the seeds of misery which accompany it. Heavy is the head that wears a crown. The baton of power is a symbol of weariness. The seat of honour is a seat of persecution. There is a great system of compensation in life which makes men much more nearly equal than they appear to be.

II. Notice THE SORE FESTERING. This festering grievance was nothing but a sentimental fancy. And such are most of our festering sores. Mental, moral, or bodily maladies are soon got rid of, but visionary troubles — never. A man will recover after small-pox or fever; he will revive after bereavement or sorrow; he will be cheerful after the loss of a leg or the ruin of his pecuniary affairs. But once let him get a sentimental grievance, and he is never the same again.


(J. J. S. Bird.)

In treating upon these words I shall endeavour to show —




(W. Richardson.)

Is there not a gnawing worm in the heart of every joy? Is there not a Mordecai in the way of every ambitious man? We cannot have all things exactly our own way; there is one nail we cannot extract, one lock we cannot undo, one gate we cannot open, one claim we cannot pacify. In every path there would seem to be a deep, gaping grave which even mountains cannot fill up. How near are some men to perfect bliss! If but one thorn could be extracted, then the men themselves would be safe in heaven; but that one thorn abides to remind them of their limitations, and to sting them with a useful sense of disappointment.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

This confession is calculated to impress two things upon us.


II. THAT HUMAN HAPPINESS IS ALL TOO EASILY DESTROYED. The work of destruction is, in general, easy. What is a flower worth after you roughly plant your foot upon it? What damage is done to a fair picture by throwing a bottle of ink against it! A servant can by mistake burn in a few minutes a MS. on which years of study were expended by her master. A succession of strokes with a hammer soon disfigure the most skilful and costly piece of furniture that ever was made; and it cannot have escaped the notice of any thoughtful man that human happiness is a flower of amazing delicacy. It takes but little to lay it low. A headache or the scratch of a pin unfits us for enjoying ourselves. An unkind remark renders us miserable for days. A disappointment does the same; and so with scores of other things. Mordecai's want of respect was in itself a small matter; but it sadly interfered with Haman's enjoyment. It had the effect of neutralising, and more than neutralising, all the felicities of his office and condition. He may be compared to the owner of s mansion sitting at a blind window seeing nothing, and all the while there are windows in every room from which excellent views of the surrounding scenery can be obtained if he would only place himself at them and look through them. Haman made the mistake —

1. Of thinking too much about Mordecai's refusal to pay him the honour to which he considered he was entitled.

2. Of setting too high a value on the respect of Mordecai.


A forcible writer of our day has some remarks to the point which will well bear quotation — a few words only being altered. He is speaking of the great Lord Bacon. After describing the chancellor's strenuous efforts within his library, where his rare powers were guided by an enlarged philanthropy and a sincere love of truth, this writer observes: "Far different was the situation of the great philosopher when he Came forth from his study and laboratory to mingle with the crowd which filled the galleries of Whitehall. In all that crowd there was no man equally qualified to render great and lasting services to mankind. But in all that crowd there was not a heart more set on things which no man ought to suffer to be necessary to his happiness — on things which can often be obtained only by the sacrifice of integrity and honour. To be the leader of the human race in the career of improvement ... to be revered by the latest generations as the most illustrious among the benefactors of mankind — all this was within his reach. But all this availed him nothing, while some quibbling special pleader was promoted before him to the bench, while some obscure commoner took precedence of him by virtue of a purchased coronet... while some buffoon, versed in all the latest scandal of the court, could draw a louder laugh from the king." This illustration shows how the profoundest intellect may be enslaved by a puerile self-conceit. It shows that refined mental power, together with exalted rank, immense reputation, European greatness (in fact or in tendency), may yet be coupled with a wretched, drivelling idolatry of toys and follies. And the difference is soon reached; we see that the soul of man is too capacious to be filled by the largest gifts of earth, and that time will not satisfy the cravings of a spirit made for eternity.

Haman's wealth, honour, power, palace, friends, etc., failed to satisfy and make him happy. "There be as many miseries beyond riches, as on this side of them." "Pleasure is like lightning, a flash and away. The world is like an artichoke — nine parts of it are unprofitable leaves; about it there is a little picking meat, and, in the midst, there is a core enough to choke them that devour it." It may be said of the world, as of Athens, "It is a fine place to pass through, for there is much to be learned there; but it is a bad place to live at, there are so many dangers in it." The pleasures of sin are momentary and unsatisfying; its punish. ment is eternal and terrible. Adrian, a pope of Rome, said, "I had great hardships and troubles in early life, but none gave me such misery as the papal crown." Diocletian, a Roman emperor, gave up his sovereignty, and retired to private life for comfort and happiness. It would be very foolish to pay genuine golden sovereigns for base counterfeit farthings. It is incredible that an angel should come from heaven to seek enjoyment with a baby's toys. And the soul should seek satisfaction and blessing from God.

(H. Burton.)

In the deserts of Central Australia there grows a plant called the Nardoo plant, which although it satisfies hunger, is said to be destitute of nutritious elements, and a party of English explorers once perished of starvation while feeding daily upon it. It is so in the experience of those who find their portion in earthly things. Their desires are crowned, but they are actually perishing of want.

(Hugh Macmillan, D. D.)

Some time ago, as a gentleman was passing over one of the extensive downs in the West of England, about mid-day, where a large flock of sheep was feeding, and observing the shepherd sitting by the roadside preparing to eat his dinner, he stopped his horse, and entered rote" conversation with him to this effect: Well, shepherd, you look cheerful and contented, and I daresay you have few cares to vex you. I, who am a man of pretty large property, cannot but look at such men as you with a kind of envy." "Why, sir," replied the shepherd, "'tis true I have no troubles like yours; and I could do well enough was it not for that black owe that you see yonder amongst my flock. I have often begged my master to kill or sell her; but he won't, though she is the plague of my life, for no sooner do I sit down to look at my book, or take up my wallet to get my dinner, but away she sets off over the down, and the rest follow her, so that I have many a weary step after them. There, you see, she's off, and they are all after her." "Ah, friend," said the gentleman, "I see every man has a black ewe in his flock to plague him as well as I."

How small things may annoy the greatest! Even a mouse troubles an elephant, a gnat a lion, a very ties may disquiet a giant. What weapon can be nearer to nothing than the sting of this wasp? Yet what a painful wound hath it given me! That scarce visible point, how it envenoms, and rankles, and swells up the flesh. The tenderness of the part adds much to the grief. If I be thus vexed with the touch of an angry fly, how shall I be able to endure the sting of a tormenting conscience.

(Bp. Hall.)

Who that looked upon Haman as he rode forth in all the glory of purple and gold, or as he lounged on his divan in the midst of his friends, would have supposed that he had anything to cause him so much annoyance? And yet is it not always so? There is a skeleton in every house, the worm in every rose, sorrow in every heart. Look into that stately mansion. See how richly it is furnished with finely carved chairs, luxurious lounges, marble-topped tables, and bookcases with rows of costly books. Pictures of the choicest character deck the walls. Busts and antiques are here and there. The velvety carpets feel like a mossy bank beneath the feet. Ask the occupants of the mansion if they are content, and perhaps the owner will tell you, "All this availeth me nothing" so long as my neighbour on the hill has a house larger and better furnished. The wife will perhaps tell you that "all availeth nothing" so long as a certain family is accounted as higher in the social scale than hers; or because at a dinner-party she noticed with annoyance that some one had taken precedence of herself; or because she had not been invited to some great gathering where certain of the elite were expected. The absurdities and vexations of the weak-minded and exclusive are more than equal to those of the excluded. The petty social fanciful annoyances oft make all comforts and possessions to "avail nothing" in the production of real happiness. Enter the shop of that tradesman. What a large business he carries on! Yet he in his soul is not happy. He is envious. He will confess to himself, if not to you, "All this availeth me nothing" so long as a certain competitor in the same business can buy cheaper or make money more rapidly than myself. Go along a country road, and note some pretty homestead nestling among the trees;. surely that must be the abode of content and peace! You approach it, and meeting the occupant thereof, you congratulate him on the beauty of his dwelling-place and charm of the surrounding hills; he, haggard and worn, only replies, "All this availeth me nothing." Look at my neighbour's barn, how much larger, and his crops how much finer than mine! So the warrior or statesman, the preacher and the potentate, are alike discontented. Dissatisfied, successful men! The blessings and privileges they possess are nothing; the trifling lack or annoyance is everything. Their state is as sinful as it is miserable. They are lineal descendants of Haman the Agagite. It is not in the nature of worldly possessions or position to give full satisfaction. If they could, the results would have been injurious to man's moral nature. No thoughts of higher things entering man's mind, he would soon have been degraded to the level of the brute creation.

(F. Hastings.)

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