Esther’s Banquet & Signet Rings

Does Esther know that Haman wants to hang her uncle?  If so, I think she has something up her sleeve. 

Is something going to happen to Haman?

“So the king and Haman came to banquet with Esther the queen.

And the king said again unto Esther on the second day at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition, queen Esther? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? and it shall be performed, even to the half of the kingdom.

The painting Xerxes and Haman at the Feast of Esther is one of the few works of Rembrandt Van Rijn whose complete provenance is known.
The origin of the paining can be traced back to 1662, two years after its completion.

The painting is rather dark because of the varnish that was once used.

Then Esther the queen answered and said, If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request:

For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king’s damage.

Then the king Ahasuerus answered and said unto Esther the queen, Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so?

And Esther said, The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman. Then Haman was afraid before the king and the queen.

And the king arising from the banquet of wine in his wrath went into the palace garden: and Haman stood up to make request for his life to Esther the queen; for he saw that there was evil determined against him by the king.

Then the king returned out of the palace garden into the place of the banquet of wine; and Haman was fallen upon the bed whereon Esther was. Then said the king, Will he force the queen also before me in the house? As the word went out of king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face.

And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him thereon.

So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king’s wrath pacified” (Est 7:1-10).

“On that day did the king Ahasuerus give the house of Haman the Jews’ enemy unto Esther the queen. And Mordecai came before the king; for Esther had told what he was unto her.

And the king took off his ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it unto Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.

Inscribed jar with demotic, hieroglyphic, and cuneiform
This small calcite (Egyptian alabaster) jar probably once held a type of ungent, oil, or other precious material. The ovoid shape, squared-off rim, and lug handles are typical features of the alabastron, a common Egyptian stone vessel type from the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty through the Roman Period.

The unusual feature of this jar lies in its multiple inscriptions, with two texts in three distinct scripts, representing four different languages. Through the different scripts and languages of its inscriptions, this small cosmetic jar embodies the diversity and far-flung political and economic connections of Persian-period Egypt.

And Esther spake yet again before the king, and fell down at his feet, and besought him with tears to put away the mischief of Haman the Agagite, and his device that he had devised against the Jews.

Then the king held out the golden sceptre toward Esther. So Esther arose, and stood before the king,

And said, If it please the king, and if I have favour in his sight, and the thing seem right before the king, and I be pleasing in his eyes, let it be written to reverse the letters devised by Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, which he wrote to destroy the Jews which are in all the king’s provinces:

The Punishment of Haman by Michaelangel (1508-1512).
Haman is the antagonist in the biblical Book of Esther.

According to this story, Haman was a 4th century B.C. Persian noble and vizier of the empire under Persian King Ahasuerus, traditionally identified as Artaxerxes II but thought by most modern scholars to be Xerxes I.

In the Book of Esther, Haman conceives an implacable hatred for the Jews after Queen Esther’s uncle Mordecai refuses to bow before him as commanded by the king.

He then receives the king’s authority to exterminate the Jews throughout the empire.

Esther, however, cleverly foils his plot, and Haman ends up hanged on the very gallows he had intended for Mordecai.

True of Fiction?
The story of Esther, Mordecai, and Haman is generally considered fictional by scholars today, as no such figures appear in the annals of Persian history, and the story has more of the qualities of a fairy tale than a historical account.

In Jewish tradition, Haman is the archetypal enemy of the Jews, a type of Hitler before-the-fact. At the Jewish festival of Purim, he is the object of much scorn by participants, especially children, who delight in eating pastries known variously as “Haman’s hats” and “Haman’s ears.”

For how can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people? or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?

Then the king Ahasuerus said unto Esther the queen and to Mordecai the Jew, Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and him they have hanged upon the gallows, because he laid his hand upon the Jews.

Write ye also for the Jews, as it liketh you, in the king’s name, and seal it with the king’s ring: for the writing which is written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s ring, may no man reverse.

Then were the king’s scribes called at that time in the third month, that is, the month Sivan, on the three and twentieth day thereof; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded unto the Jews, and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the provinces which are from India unto Ethiopia, an hundred twenty and seven provinces, unto every province according to the writing thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews according to their writing, and according to their language.

And he wrote in the king Ahasuerus’ name, and sealed it with the king’s ring, and sent letters by posts on horseback, and riders on mules, camels, and young dromedaries:

Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey,

Upon one day in all the provinces of king Ahasuerus, namely, upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar.

The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people, and that the Jews should be ready against that day to avenge themselves on their enemies.

So the posts that rode upon mules and camels went out, being hastened and pressed on by the king’s commandment. And the decree was given at Shushan the palace.

Signet Rings
Many people wear or own signet rings today. They are expressions of individuality and fashion statements, sometimes they are even family heirlooms. In fact the signet ring used to be an important cultural item of jewellery and has played a surprisingly significant role in history.

Originally signet rings were emblazoned with a family crest and they would frequently be used to stamp, or sign a document. The metal shapes would leave a permanent mark in any soft wax or even clay and this would be placed onto a variety of legal documents. Some of the most important documents in history have been stamped with a signet ring. In its day the stamp of a ring was seen as more authentic than a signature.

Before the days of the internet and other electronic wizardry it was normal for all the most influential people in the world to have these rings and use them to confirm the authenticity of any document. These rings usually look magnificent but they were designed with a very practical purpose in mind.

Every ring was unique, the markings usually included the family crest but there would always be a significant mark which personally identified the ring holder. Some of the rings were simple monograms or icons which were associated with the most important families. All rings were reverse engineered to ensure that the design came out properly when they were stamped on a document. Of course, this level of detail also ensured the rings were expensive and very difficult to copy.

And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple: and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad.

The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour.

And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them” (Est 8:1-17).

Signet Rings

Signets were a type of seal, worn either as a ring or on a cord around the neck and used to leave impressions in clay or wax.

The impression functioned as a signa­ture to authorize or authenticate a document, or to indicate that some­thing had been sealed shut by the signet’s owner.

The signet ring of Pharaoh Tutankhamun’s Throne Name (King Tut).

Although the use of signet rings is attested from early times (Gen 41:42), in the ancient Near East cylinder seals and scarabs (stone beetles used as talismans, ornaments or symbols of resurrection) were also common.

Seals on finger rings became more popular from the 5th century b.c. onward, and most Biblical examples come from the late pre-exilic (Jer 22:24) or Persian period.

King Darius used his signet ring to seal the stone over the lions’ den (Dan 6:17), and rulers gave signet rings to individuals as signs of high office and to enable them to imple­ment official business.

King Xerxes first pre­sented his signet ring to Haman, authorizing him to dispose of the Jews (Est 3:10ff.).

Later, Xerxes reclaimed the ring and bestowed it instead upon Mordecai, who issued an edict permitting the Jews to defend themselves against any attackers (8:2,8).

In Hag 2:23 God se­lected Zerubbabel as his representative, likening him to God’s own signet ring, as though God’s name were stamped upon his representative as a verification of his office.

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