Have you ever given bad advice? And as soon as you gave it, you began to regret it, but it was too late and everyone else was already on board?
In today’s episode of All God’s Women we look at Zeresh, our final woman in the Women of Esther series. Zeresh gave really bad advice to her husband and paid the ultimate price because of it.
Zeresh was the wife of Haman, prime minister during King Ahasuerus’s reign.
We meet her in the book of Esther chapter 5 verse 10. Haman was enjoying his new position as second in command under the king, especially having everyone in the court bow and pay homage to him. Everything was going great until he saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, and Mordecai paid him no mind. This infuriated him, but he held his temper until he got home. Then he called his friends to come over and brought in his wife Zeresh so that he might pour out his indignation with them.
Haman reminded them how rich he was, how many children he had, and how the king had promoted him so that he was over all the other officials and servants. Not to mention, Queen Esther had invited him to an intimate dinner with just him and the king. But none of it mattered to him because there was Mordecai the Jew sitting there at the king’s gate.
Then his wife and friends gave their advice. They told him to build a gallows and in the morning go to the king and suggest that Mordecai be hanged on it. After that, he could go to the banquet worry free.
What they didn’t account for was that night the king couldn’t sleep. So he commanded his servant to bring in the book of records and read it to the king so that it might help him sleep. But as he read, he ran across the account where Mordecai had warned him about an attempt on his life.
The king asked what had been done for Mordecai to thank him for saving the king’s life, and the servant said nothing had been done. The king asked who was in the court.
Well, at the moment he asked, Haman had just arrived eager to present his request to the king. The king brought in Haman and asked him what should be done for someone the king wished to honor. Haman, of course, assumed the king was talking about him, so he came up with an elaborate plan that involved a royal robe and a parade through the city.
The king liked the idea and ordered him to bring the plan to fruition for Mordechai.
Haman followed orders, but as soon as he was through parading Mordecai around, he went into mourning, covering his head. He hurried home to pour out his sorrows to his wife and friends again.
When she heard what had happened, Zeresh warned him, “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of Jewish descent, you will not prevail against him but will surely fall before him.”
They had no time to discuss further, for at that time the king’s eunuchs came to escort him to Esther’s second banquet.
The king, Esther, and Haman dined together, and after the meal, the king repeated his appeal to find out what it was that Esther requested. This time she was ready.
“If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request. For we have been sold, my people and I, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated.”
The king, completely clueless what she was talking about, wanted to know who would do such a thing. She pointed her finger at Haman, calling him a wicked adversary and enemy.
Her accusation caused Haman to tremble in fear and the king to tremble in rage. The king left behind his wine and stormed to the palace garden. Haman, realizing the king was plotting against him, decided to make a plea to Esther. Only, as he advanced towards Esther, he tripped and landed no the couch where she sat. King Ahasuerus arrived in time to see him draped over the queen.
The king exclaimed. “Will he also assault the queen while I am in the house?” As the word left the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face. One of the eunuchs pointed out that Haman had set up gallows for Mordecai, the one who’d saved the king’s life. The king ordered Hamas be impaled on the gallows, which they did. When it was done, the king calmed down.
That day, the king gave Haman’s house to Esther, and appointed Mordecai to Haman’s position, and Esther appointed Mordecai over Haman’s house.
The Rest of the Story
Isn’t it interesting that in a time when women were seen as little more than property, that Haman sought out advice from his wife? When he was first upset by Mordecai’s refusal to bow, Haman called in his friends and his wife. It’s funny that he begins by pointing out to them his power and influence. Of course, they already knew that. But maybe he just needed a soundboard to reassure himself. And perhaps that’s why he listened to Zeresh’s crazy suggestion to build 50 foot gallows, because it appealed to his ego.
So what about Zeresh? Was she flattered that he consulted her? As Haman reminded them of his powerful position, did it go to her head, since she was the wife of such an important man and this very important man was seeking her opinion? Perhaps that’s why she came up with such an extravagant suggestion, to further prove both his power, and hers as his wife. Obviously, she spurted it out without thinking through it, and he went along with it without question.
What a contrast to the second time when Haman came to her and his friends for comfort and advice. After hearing what had happened, Zeresh realized the foolishness of her previous advice, but it was too late.
From her later words, we can gather that Zeresh had a gift for insight. If only she had thought through her words the first time and sought wisdom rather than spouting out the first thing that came to mind.
Zeresh was blessed with an amazing opportunity. To have a husband who actively sought her advice was quite an honor. If only she’d cherished that honor and chosen her words more carefully.
I can imagine that Zeresh spent the rest of her life regretting her foolish advice. First, she had to watch her husband impaled by the gallows pole and then left to die high up in the sky in front of her house. Then she lost her house when the king gave it to Esther, and Esther appointed Mordecai to run it. Did they let her remain? I doubt it. More that likely she would have returned to family or else be reduced to a position as a servant or slave.
It’s interesting that the book of Esther opens and closes with wives who were at the top of their game then lost it all due to their impulsive decisions. At least Vashti kept her self respect. Poor Zeresh had no such comfort.
What about you? Do you act impulsively like Vashti and Zeresh, or do you take time to carefully calculate your actions like Esther? Have you ever paid dearly for a few offhand words thrown out without thought? What do you do in such times?
Today let us each challenge ourselves to take seriously anytime someone comes to us for advice and to conscientiously pray and ponder so that the words that come out of our mouth are straight from the Lord.
Oh Lord God, this story of Zeresh’s rash behavior hits far too close to home. Oh, how quick we are to act emotionally, lashing out at those who hurt or disappoint us. Forgive us for those times we speak first and pray last. Grant us wisdom so that we’re prepared and ready whenever anyone comes to us seeking advice. Give us a calm when those around us are upset. Use our words for good and not evil. We love You so very much. In Christ’s name we pray. Amen.
That concludes today’s episode of All God’s Women. It’s also the last in our three week series It’s Not Easy Being a Queen, a study of the women in the book of Esther. If you haven’t already, check out the episodes on Vashti and Esther and join us in the All God’s Women Facebook Bible Study group. Next week we’ll look at Job’s wife, another woman who spoke emotionally and without thought.
Backstory – Esther 3:1-15
Her Story – Esther 5:9-14, 6:1-14
The Rest of the Story – Esther 7:1-10, 8:1-2
Bible Study Review
- Why was Haman upset?
- What was Zeresh’s solution to handle Mordecai?
- What was Zeresh’s response when she found out Mordecai was a Jew?
Thoughts to Ponder
- Why did Haman consult his wife and friends?
- How did Zeresh’s opinion change the second time she offered her thoughts?
- What happened to Zeresh?
- Do you have a tendency to offer advice without thinking it through?
- Have you ever given bad advice to someone you loved?
- What do you do when you realize that you were wrong?
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