Esther 5

The First Banquet

The Courtyard

Esther . . . stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, in front of the king’s quarters (Esther 5:1).

The inner court was situated directly to the north of the throne hall. Access to this court was tightly restricted as it gave direct access to the king, with a straight line of sight to the throne. The pavement of the inner courtyard is well preserved in many sections, as shown here. This is a view looking from the southeast corner towards the southwest corner of the inner courtyard. Access to the throne room was through the entryway on the left.

Approaching the King

He held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand, so Esther drew near (Esther 5:2).

This is the final doorway through which Esther would have proceeded to enter the throne room. Two foundation inscriptions were discovered below this passageway. The one found on the left was written in Akkadian; the one on the right was written in the Elamite language. The presence of these inscriptions supports the identification of this chamber as the king’s throne room.

Ancient Banquets

And Esther said . . . “Let the king and Haman come today to the banquet that I have prepared” (Esther 5:4).

This relief depicts Ashurbanipal, who ruled Assyria in the 7th century BC, drinking wine with his wife in a garden. Servants and musicians can be seen attending to them. This scene gives us some idea of what the private banquet with Xerxes, Esther, and Haman may have looked like.

The Apadana

So the king and Haman came to the banquet which Esther had prepared (Esther 5:5).

The text does not say where Esther’s banquet was held, but evidently it was next to the palace garden (cf. Esth. 7:7). The garden was located in the overgrown area in the distance, on the left side of this photo. Perhaps Esther held her banquet in the poorly preserved area next to the inner courtyard.

The Fifty-Cubit Pole

Let a pole be set up, fifty cubits high (Esther 5:14).

This photo of the traditional tomb of Daniel in Susa shows the relationship between the elevated royal palace and the lower surrounding area. This helps to make sense of Haman’s otherwise strange request to build the pole for Mordecai 50 cubits (75 ft, 23 m) high. His purpose apparently was that he would be able to see Mordecai’s dead body from the garden of the king’s palace, while he feasted with the king and queen.


Haman's Request

And in the morning speak to the king to have Mordecai impaled on it (Esther 5:14).

This relief of Darius I on his throne shows one of his subjects approaching him with a request. Zeresh advised Haman to do the same with Xerxes. The hand-to-mouth gesture depicted in this relief is a symbol of deference being shown to the king.

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