On the night between Esther’s two banquets, the king cannot sleep, so he asks for the royal annals to be read to him. He hears from the annals the story of how Mordecai saved him from an assassination attempt. Haman, who has come to the king’s chambers to ask for permission to kill Mordecai, is asked by the king instead how to honor someone whom the king wishes to honor. Thinking that the king means to honor him, Haman advises that the honoree be given a royal parade. Then, in a great reversal, the king orders Haman to honor Mordecai with said parade. Haman goes home humiliated, and his wife and friends predict his eventual fall before Mordecai the Jew.
In a book full of reversals, chapter 6 is the pivotal point at which the fortunes of the Jews (in the person of Mordecai) take a sudden turn for the better, while the enemies of the Jews (in the person of Haman) begin to fall. The end of the previous chapter sees Haman in a cheerful mood, seemingly honored by the king and queen, and building a set of gallows to hang Mordecai. By the end of this chapter, Haman is humiliated and escorted away to Esther’s second banquet, a dead man walking.
This chapter is full of happy coincidences. On the night before the second banquet, the king just happens to suffer from insomnia. Of all the annals available to him, the one read to him just happens to tell the story of Mordecai saving his life. As the king is pondering what to do to honor Mordecai, Haman just happens to come into the outer court, looking to get permission to kill Mordecai. These coincidences, along with others in the book, have been interpreted by commentators over the centuries as evidence of divine providence at work. Though it is impossible to prove authorial intent, it seems reasonable to assume, as biblical scholar Jon Levenson writes, “that the author endorsed the old saw that ‘a coincidence is a miracle in which God prefers to remain anonymous.’”1
1 Jon Levenson, Queen in Persia who prevented an anti-Jewish pogrom More, The Old Testament Library (Westminster John Knox, 1997), 19.