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Women of the Word: Zeresh


Zeresh was the wife of Haman, a Jew hater who we are introduced to in the book of Esther. He was prime minister under King Ahasuerus (also called King Xerxes) and was one of Ahasuerus’ favorite officials. Ahasuerus often consulted him on matters concerning the governing of the kingdom of Persia. In Esther 3:1-2, we are told that Ahasuerus elevated Haman to a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles and commanded everyone to kneel down and pay honor to Haman.

After Ahasuerus deposed of his first beautiful wife, Vashti, he married another beautiful woman named Esther. Esther and her uncle Mordecai, who raised her, were Jewish, and this is where Haman’s real problem began. Even though Haman had been elevated to a high position in the kingdom, Mordecai refused to kneel down to him and refused to pay him any kind of honor. This made Haman furious. When he found out that Mordecai was a Jew, he was not content to only destroy Mordecai. He wanted to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews.

What did Zeresh think of her husband’s violent hatred of Mordecai? What did she think of his plot to destroy the Jews? Did she support him or did she try to stop him? The Bible gives us some answers.

1. Initially, Zeresh was an enabler. Despite his vast wealth, his many sons, being honored by King Ahasuerus, and being invited to Esther’s special banquet, Haman complained to his wife and friends in Esther 5:9-13 that he would not be satisfied until Mordecai was no more. Instead of rebuking Haman for his horrible behavior and words, Zeresh encouraged him in his hatred of Mordecai. She encouraged him to the point of telling him how to get rid of Mordecai. Zeresh, along with Haman’s friends, said, “Have a pole set up, reaching to a height of fifty cubits, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai impaled on it. Then go with the king to the banquet and enjoy yourself.”

Haman was delighted with Zeresh’s suggestion and immediately had the pole set up. But God had this plot to kill Mordecai foiled. The very night that Haman went to King Ahasuerus to request that Mordecai be impaled on the pole, the king commanded that Mordecai be honored for previously exposing two officers who had conspired to assassinate him. This upset Haman terribly. He rushed home in grief and told his wife and friends what happened.

Zeresh could have saved her husband this embarrassment if she had not been an enabler in his hatred. An enabler is a person who encourages or enables negative or self-destructive behavior in another. Instead of encouraging Haman to kill Mordecai, Zeresh should have told her husband that he was wrong for hating one man and an entire race of people. She should have told him that there would be consequences if he carried out his plot to kill and destroy.

Some of the worst dictators, tyrants, and haters this world has ever known were able to carry out their violent agendas because they were surrounded by enablers who encouraged their wrongdoing and affirmed their evil actions. When we hear people speaking hate and see people plotting to hurt others, we don’t need to encourage them. We need to discourage them. We need to speak out in opposition, not in support, of hatred and injustice. At the end of time when everyone stands before God, those who have committed acts of hated, oppression, and cruelty will not be the only ones condemned by God, but those who enabled them will also be condemned.

2. Zeresh got smart. After hearing about how King Ahasuerus had honored Mordecai and basically humiliated Haman, Zeresh was smart enough to stop playing the role of an enabler. She told her husband that if he continued down his path of hatred he would come to ruin. She, along with Haman’s friends, said, “Since Mordecai, before whom your downfall has started, is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him—you will surely come to ruin!” And that is exactly what happened. Haman came to utter ruin.

God used Esther to reveal Haman’s plot to destroy the Jews. Instead of the Jews being killed, it was Haman who was killed. He was impaled on the pole he had set up for Mordecai. His ten sons were also killed. It must have been heartbreaking for Zeresh to lose her husband and sons. Perhaps she wished she had done more to stop Haman from plotting to do evil. Maybe she thought her wise word of warning came too little, too late. It did. But better late than never. Zeresh realized that her husband could not stand against Mordecai and the Jews because God was with them. She did right by warning Haman of this fact. It was not her fault that he was too blinded by hate to listen to her and repent of his ways.

Don’t be afraid to speak a wise word of warning to someone who is engaged in doing wrong. Regardless of what their response may be, we are right to warn them that there will be consequences to their evil actions.

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