This story begins with Esther making a bold approach. She summons the King to her banquet! Bold move, but I respect it! And while he’s at the banquet, he offers her up to half of his kingdom. She cleverly asks only that he attend her second banquet the following night. The tale of two banquets? What a strange way of wooing the King. This is the turning point in the entire story. The night between the two banquets is the night that changes everything.
Haman spends the night building a 75 foot pole on which to hang Mordecai, and he can barely wait to ask the King to allow him to have Mordecai killed. In fact, he’s so excited that he goes to the King’s court before dawn to wait for him to wake up.
The interesting thing, however, is that the King has also been awake all night. Esther 6:1 tells us that the King could not sleep all night – he was tossing and turning with insomnia! He does what most of us do when confronted with that cruel mistress, insomnia – he tries boring himself to sleep. He summons one of his servants to read to him his own records. The servant ends up reading aloud to him the details of the failed assassination attempt from the beginning of the story, by Mordecai. The King is not lulled to sleep, but rather jumps up with concern that he never gave Mordecai the honor due him for rescuing the King. The king can barely wait to share the news with Haman – there is someone he needs to exalt!
At the break of dawn, Haman and the King meet in the courtyard – each with plans of ‘lifting up’ Mordecai. Haman had intended to plot Mordecai’s death and accidentally plots his honor!
Look closer: there’s something going on here that’s quite powerful.
The book of Esther can be broken down into a Chiastic Structure. The book is a mirror of itself and this text here, this sleepless night for both Haman and Mordecai is the center of the story.
A The splendor of the Persian king + Two banquets [1:1-8]
B Esther becomes Queen + Mordecai saves the king [1:9-2:20 + 2:21-23]
C Haman elevated to power [3:1-6]
D Haman’s decree to destroy the Jewish people [3:7-15]
E Esther and Mordecai’s plan [4:1-17]
F Esther’s 1st banquet + Haman plots Mordecai’s execution [5:1-8 + 5:9-14]
X – PIVOT: Insomnia of the King [6:1-14]
F’ Esther’s 2nd banquet + Haman executed instead of Mordecai [7:1-10]
E’ Esther and Mordecai plan to reverse the decree [8:1-8]
D’ Mordecai’s counter-decree to save the Jewish people [8:9-14]
C’ Mordecai elevated to power [8:15-17]
B’ Queen Esther and Mordecai save the Jewish people [9:1-19]
A’ Two feasts + The splendor of Mordecai [9:20-32 + 10:1-3]
The book of Esther contains no mention of God – the hand of God is invisible, if it’s there at all. But when we consider the way this sleepless night changes everything, we have to ask ourselves: Who keeps the King awake at night?
Perhaps God is content to move behind the scenes – this night, lurking is his spiritual gift. He is in the shadows, whispering into the ear of the most powerful man alive. Esther has no idea about the insomnia of the King, but it’s this sleeplessness that changes the entire trajectory of the story. God’s response to the crisis in the story isn’t to come in with an army or with the plagues of Moses – he comes in with a whisper saying, “wake up!”
We must consider the ways God is moving behind the scenes, whispering for us to wake up – to wait with him, and to trust that he moves like a lynx in the background and arranges all things.