I. ON WHAT AUTHORITY THIS DESCRIPTION RESTS. For the history is not of a flattering kind. In all its brevity it is of an exceedingly cutting nature. It is of the nature of a stricture, and a severe one. It is a keen incisive thrust into an individual character. In every such case it behoves us to be more than ever careful "not to judge, lest we be judged," and to scrutinise narrowly the authority on which they speak when others pronounce judgment in our heating. For if the judgment of what is in the depth of another's heart be not absolutely true, it is essentially unjust and uncharitable. Our own superficial criticisms often err. They carry on their face their condemnation, and but for this would be more reprehensible and more disastrous than they are. But what we have before us is no superficial critique, it is the pronouncement of the authoritative Spirit of all truth himself. The scalpel of the inspired anatomist cuts deep, and as trenchantly as deep. We are glad to recollect whose is the responsibility; and when we recollect we think with firmer thought and tread with surer step.
II. WHAT WAS THE NATURE OF THE THOUGHT IT REVEALED. It was a thought of self, and of what was supposed to be self's glory and advancement. There are times for all when it is tight and needful to think of self, and to act for what shall seem, on the whole, the best for self. There are other times when it is the greatest mistake to think of self. The occasion in question was one of this kind. It is an occasion in itself far from destitute of its own proper honour.
1. Haman is called in as a counsellor, and a counsellor of his king.
2. He is appealed to for something beyond advice. With him lies the determining of a certain case laid before him. To be the dispenser of dignities and rewards is to sit upon a throne very near royalty itself.
3. The occasion is not a mere formality, to be guided only by precedents, and requiring a musty search to find them.
4. The recipient of the distinction, whoever he might be, would also be ever beholden in some sort to the word that should drop from Haman's lip. The occasion, therefore, was one which especially begged for a single eye, a clear judgment, transparency of motive. But, in fact, self blocks up the whole prospect. The thought in the heart of the king's counsellor at that moment was this: "To whom would the king delight to do honour more than to myself? Among all unjust and partial judges, was there ever any more unjust?
III. WHAT WERE SOME OF THE MORE CONDEMNING OR AGGRAVATING SYMPTOMS OF THE THOUGHT ITSELF.
1. It was not only self, but self in the shape of insufferable vanity. It mounted to the pitch of morbid vanity. Some are hurried on by selfishness headlong. But it is a sleek, a smiling, a self-garlanded victim we have here. To the dignity of position already belonging to him fuller gratification (as has been seen) is offered; but it is not honour that his eye can see, that his mind can appreciate. The grace and the force of his honoured position weigh nothing with him. But the most egotistic vanity shuts out, and at a most critical moment, the very idea of the barest possibility of a worthy competitor with himself! He cannot credit the notion of a fellow-creature to compare with himself. Alas, from flattering lips and double tongue" he had neither prayed nor striven to be saved; but least of all from those flattering lips, above all measure the worst, which first belong to self and then flatter the vanity of self.
2. It was not only self, but self in the shape of an un-chastised, unmortified haughtiness of heart. How exquisitely beautiful the reverse of this. How plaintive the honest and deeply-felt disowning, of it: "Lord, my heart is not haughty, nor mine eyes lofty: neither do I exercise myself in great matters, or in things too high for me. Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child" (Psalm 131:1, 2). Turn from David in this psalm to Haman, and how is one revolted! The thoughts of yesterday afternoon and last night, which saw such an amazing fitness in a "gallows fifty cubits high" for the obscure and sorrowful and stung man Mordecai, who did not so much as turn round upon him like the trodden worm, but who only could not bring himself "to rise nor move to him" - these were the "imaginations and the high things" which, because he had not mortified them nor cast them down, were now going to mortify him to the quick, and to cast him down for ever. He had schooled himself to "refrain himself" - no, not to refrain himself, but only for a short while, for policy's sake (Esther 5:10), the manifestations of self.
IV. TO WHAT THIS "THOUGHT IN THE HEART" LED. It is to be remarked, and with the seriousness that belongs to a moral phenomenon and fact in our life, with what unerring certainty, with what unpitying pace, the moment travels on which shall prove the fatal, because unguarded, moment for those who knowingly and continuously "regard iniquity in their heart." It may linger, but it is on the move. It may not be seen, yet it is only just out of sight. Till that which is snatched at, as the crowning moment of choicest opportunity of all the life, proves that which peremptorily seals the man's fate. Never with surer conviction, never with more intuitive perception, never with more ill-concealed self-gratulation, never with glibber tongue, had moment come to Haman than that which sounded for him the knell of death itself, and left him to the company of stricken amazement for ever. And though as yet no one uttered a whisper of this to Haman, and he bowed his neck to the yoke and did the day's dread task to the minutest point, "letting nothing fail," Haman knew it all. Then wife and friends confirmed it. And for the first time this many a day he saw himself and his position when "he hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered." How strange the contrast to the Haman who the morning of that day "thought in his heart," etc. - B.
And Mordecai came again to the king's gate
(A. Raleigh, D. D.)
(T. McCrie, D. D.)
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