1Three days later, Esther dressed in her royal robes and went to the inner court of the palace in front of the throne. The king was sitting there, facing the open doorway. 2He was happy to see Esther, and he held out the gold scepter to her.
When Esther came up and touched the tip of the scepter, 3the king said, “Esther, what brings you here? Just ask, and I will give you as much as half of my kingdom.”
4Esther answered, “Your Majesty, please come with Haman to a dinner I will prepare for you later today.”
5The king said to his servants, “Hurry and get Haman, so we can accept Esther's invitation.”
The king and Haman went to Esther's dinner, 6and while they were drinking wine, the king asked her, “What can I do for you? Just ask, and I will give you as much as half of my kingdom.”
7-8Esther replied, “Your Majesty, if you really care for me and are willing to do what I want, please come again tomorrow with Haman to the dinner I will prepare for you. At that time I will answer Your Majesty's question.”
We have much to learn from Esther about how to make our needs known, especially if we are uncertain of getting a favourable response.
Queen Esther knows how to nurture good interpersonal relationships, even with Xerxes, the imperfect King and husband. She is also attuned cross-culturally to the Persian royal context. She implements her plan by following royal protocol and taking time to dress in royal robes, to enter the king’s presence with the formality and respect due the king.
King Xerxes is happy to see Esther and is in a welcoming and generous mood.
Esther does not blurt out her request. Instead, she is tactful, sensitive to the king’s penchant for respect and honour. She addresses him as “Your Majesty.” She does not treat him simply as a means to the end she wants. Instead, Esther treats the King relationally well, with affection and care, requesting he come to a dinner she wants to host for him, along with Haman. She speaks the king’s language, giving him honour.
As the dinner finishes, the king asks Esther again what he can do for her. She postpones her request and instead puts the focus on their relationship, telling King Xerxes that if he really cares for her and is willing to do what she wants, he must return for a second dinner. Only then will she answer his question. Only then will she tell him what she wants from him.
At first glance, our take-away from this text might be that we be shrewd and manipulative with people in order to persuade them to give us what we want. But the truth is, everybody, including powerful leaders of nations, communities, and families, though flawed, are fellow human beings. Esther provides us a model of what treating people well looks like.
God, teach us to relate well with the people we share our lives and work with. Show us ways we can grow in interpersonal sensitivity, care, and love, as well as in intercultural awareness. We want to honour you in our relationships with others. In Jesus’ name, Amen.