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Peacocks, Providence and Presumption

Esther 5:9 - 6:14

Lesson audio

Many years ago, when I was in the army, I was stationed at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. (Don’t ask me how army went to navy – it’s a long story). The buildings were originally those of the old Del Monte Hotel, which was taken over by the navy. The hotel had some peacocks on the grounds; these were given to the Admiral Commanding, and have remained his property since. This is fortunate for the peacocks, for they are worse than roosters about crowing in the morning, and many a resident has had the firm desire to strangle them.

Peacocks are beautiful birds, but they are dumb. We used to feed them peanuts, just to see if we could get them to come closer, or display their feathers. Sometimes the peanut would land a little too close to the humans; the peacocks would ignore that. Squirrels would do the same – but when the humans left, the squirrels remembered where those peanuts were, and got them. The peacocks could step on them and not remember what they were. Dumb.

The peacock’s display – and its stupidity – are remembered in our saying, “strut like a peacock.” We find out this morning just what is going on in the human peacock’s brain.

The Peacock

Then Haman went out that day glad and pleased of heart; but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king's gate and that he did not stand up or tremble before him, Haman was filled with anger against Mordecai. Haman controlled himself, however, went to his house and sent for his friends and his wife Zeresh. Then Haman recounted to them the glory of his riches, and the number of his sons, and every instance where the king had magnified him and how he had promoted him above the princes and servants of the king. Haman also said, "Even Esther the queen let no one but me come with the king to the banquet which she had prepared; and tomorrow also I am invited by her with the king. "Yet all of this does not satisfy me every time I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate." Then Zeresh his wife and all his friends said to him, "Have a gallows fifty cubits high made and in the morning ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on it; then go joyfully with the king to the banquet." And the advice pleased Haman, so he had the gallows made.

(Est 5:9-14 NASB)

Pride is personal

By the standards of the time Haman had it made. He was wealthy; he was powerful. But all it took to send him into a rage was the site of one man, Mordecai. We might think, “What’s the big deal?” But consider:

  • Sinful pride is essentially competitive. It’s “I’m better than you are.” It is, in the sinner’s eye, my pride against yours – and I’ll do anything to win.
  • Pride gives rise to rage when the sinners whims are frustrated.
  • Pride cannot exist alone. It must have victims to triumph over, and sycophants to praise the victory.

That last is important in marriage. “You are so wonderful, honey, and I am so lucky to be married to you. Take out the trash.”

Anger and envy

Your teacher is in the habit of making balloon animals for small children. This is a fun thing to do, but it has taught me much about children and the adults they become. The animal is nothing but hot air and latex rubber (there’s a great line in there, but I leave that to you), but when placed in the hands of a child it produces a number of reactions that speak much about the child’s character. One thing you notice quickly: if you don’t want the kids screaming and fighting in anger, you have an order for who comes first. I usually start at the youngest (as the older ones might be learning patience) and work to the oldest. When a child feels he’s been skipped, and not going to get one, rage is very quick to arrive.

The cause of this? Envy. Envy arises when I think I should have something (and I don’t) and I know that I deserve it more than you (but you have it). If the little sister gets a balloon big brother can soon get a bad case of green eyes.

This kind of rage – the rage of envy – is something that a prince cannot afford. Such behavior soon damages the kingdom, and it is the wisdom of kings to overlook these things – bigger fish to fry, so to speak. In this, Haman shows that he is not fitted to be a prince among the people.

Pride – strutting

One thing about the peacock – he has to have an audience. Did you notice that Haman sent for his friends? He must have a willing audience. Did you notice he brags not only about his new status but also his old accomplishments? Just to speak of the new would not be enough; you really need to know how truly great I am.

That has its drawbacks. It leaves the man open to the suggestions of his sycophants. Why a gallows 75 feet tall? It’s got to be the biggest and best – and his friends know that such an idea will appeal to him. Anyone can build an ordinary gallows and get the job done – but his must be the tallest.


During that night the king could not sleep so he gave an order to bring the book of records, the chronicles, and they were read before the king. It was found written what Mordecai had reported concerning Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's eunuchs who were doorkeepers, that they had sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. The king said, "What honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?" Then the king's servants who attended him said, "Nothing has been done for him." So the king said, "Who is in the court?" Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king's palace in order to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai on the gallows which he had prepared for him. The king's servants said to him, "Behold, Haman is standing in the court." And the king said, "Let him come in."

(Est 6:1-5 NASB)

It’s all coincidence, right? Well, let’s consider just how slender the thread of coincidence is here.


Those who deny providence have spent a good deal of ink showing how the king’s insomnia was deliberately induced by Esther. After all, her feminine wiles were sufficient to pull all these strings. (How was she so sure that he’d call for the chronicles?)

Insomnia was a lot rarer then than now. Why? When the sun goes down, it gets dark. People commonly were in bed by sundown. This was powerful conditioning in those days; Edison’s light bulb may be blamed for the change.

Most of us, when insomnia strikes, don’t call for someone to read us a book. No, we go to bed and toss and turn. The king didn’t. It’s just a coincidence.


OK, Mr. Skeptic, let’s try this one on for size. You’re the king. You have insomnia. You also have half the world’s supply of wine and an ample supply of concubines to play with. Having no direct experience with such a harem, I myself could not say – but I find one woman’s favors an excellent antidote to insomnia. Which would you pick?

Now, you might think these chronicles would bore him to sleep. Not so; they were written by the finest poets of the land; they were designed to be read aloud and be eloquent. In other words, they were designed to be heard. Is this what you’d do with insomnia?

Now, one last: it surely must have been “just a coincidence” that the section about Mordecai’s discovery of the plot was what the king was hearing as dawn broke. Instead of telling someone to take a memo, he asks who’s in court. Let’s get it fixed, now. The king is being diligent – right on schedule.


And, of course, just by coincidence, Haman had business with the king that morning. The timing is exquisite. Not only that; you can see what God had planned for Haman – and He set him up beautifully. Haman is there to get rid of Mordecai.

And the king doesn’t ask him what might be done to honor Mordecai. No, he asks the question generically. Did the king plan this? No. He knows nothing of Haman’s errand. He got his question in first (you can do that if you’re the king). So, unknowingly, he sets Haman up – for the fall.


So Haman came in and the king said to him, "What is to be done for the man whom the king desires to honor?" And Haman said to himself, "Whom would the king desire to honor more than me?" Then Haman said to the king, "For the man whom the king desires to honor, let them bring a royal robe which the king has worn, and the horse on which the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown has been placed; and let the robe and the horse be handed over to one of the king's most noble princes and let them array the man whom the king desires to honor and lead him on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him, 'Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor.'" Then the king said to Haman, "Take quickly the robes and the horse as you have said, and do so for Mordecai the Jew, who is sitting at the king's gate; do not fall short in anything of all that you have said." So Haman took the robe and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city square, and proclaimed before him, "Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor." Then Mordecai returned to the king's gate. But Haman hurried home, mourning, with his head covered. Haman recounted to Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then his wise men and Zeresh his wife said to him, "If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of Jewish origin, you will not overcome him, but will surely fall before him." While they were still talking with him, the king's eunuchs arrived and hastily brought Haman to the banquet which Esther had prepared.

(Est 6:6-14 NASB)

A Window on the Peacock’s Soul

This is a fascinating glimpse into the twisted soul of a man of pride.

  • It is completely unthinkable to Haman that it could be someone else the king is speaking of. It’s not a case of rejecting the other candidates; there are no other candidates in Haman’s mind.
  • Note, please, that his ideal of being honored does not include money. It’s not about money; it’s about Haman. Everything he suggests is for show – to show off how wonderful the man is, and how close he is to the king.
  • Note the man to lead the horse: “one of the most noble princes.” The show is not sufficient; there has to be humiliation for one of his rivals – and Haman doesn’t care which one.
No satisfaction

It’s important to see that there is no satisfaction for such pride – for there is always a higher honor to be sought. “The system” is set up that way – to encourage such pride and use it as a motivator which overrides all sense of right and wrong. As Mark Twain once wryly remarked, Satan is the religious head of four fifths of the human race – and the political head of all of it.

There is no satisfaction to pride; there is only repentance, which often requires humbling. Even in the humbling there is still a chance for repentance, as we shall see.

Pride goes before destruction

When God goes to all the trouble of setting up such a situation as this, you can be sure His purposes are in it. One such purpose is the preservation of the nation of Israel, from whom will come the Messiah. But he also provides a chance for Haman – to repent. The humbling for such pride is intense indeed. Note, please, that the king didn’t see it that way. He saw it as a chore; unfinished business of the kingdom. Haman saw it as disaster.

But even in disaster there is room for repentance. Haman’s friends – who were so happy to suggest a gallows about an hour before – now tell him it’s hopeless. Mordecai serves the living God. Now, if I were Haman I think I’d shoot back, “Why didn’t you mention this earlier?”

Probably because he wouldn’t have listened, then. God sends his warnings and opportunities through any available channel. He tells Haman here: repent – or be destroyed. It is his message to the proud.

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