The second purpose of a king is justice. While righteousness and justice are similar and even interchangeable, we are going to talk about the execution of justice. This function of government is essential and when the kingship ceases to be just, dark and oppressive times are the result. The illustration I have chosen to demonstrate a king’s justice is a famous one, but few other places give a better example of swift justice. The story is found in the book of Esther. Esther and Mordecai were Jews who lived in the Persian capital of Susa. By a strange turn of events, Esther was taken to the palace and made queen – and this was no small kingdom, Ahasuerus, the king of the Persian empire, reigned over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia (Esther 1:1). Haman, the prime minister, was on a mission to destroy all the Jews in the kingdom – oddly enough because Mordecai would not bow down to him. But make no mistake; this was an effort to totally remove the Jewish race from existence (genocide). Let’s see what Haman does in his evil pursuit of God’s people.
And Haman went out that day joyful and glad of heart. But when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he neither rose nor trembled before him, he was filled with wrath against Mordecai. . . . And Haman recounted to them the splendor of his riches, the number of his sons, all the promotions with which the king had honored him, and how he had advanced him above the officials and the servants of the king. Then Haman said, “Even Queen Esther let no one but me come with the king to the feast she prepared. And tomorrow also I am invited by her together with the king. Yet all this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Let a gallows fifty cubits high be made, and in the morning tell the king to have Mordecai hanged upon it. Then go joyfully with the king to the feast.” Esther 5:9, 11-14
Even though Haman planned to hang Mordecai, the decree to destroy the Jews had already gone out. The destruction of Haman’s enemies seemed imminent. But God had already made provision for the Jews deliverance through Esther. And the execution of justice on Haman was just a day away.
And on the second day, as they were drinking wine after the feast, the king again said to Esther, “What is your wish, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.” Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. . . . Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, who has dared to do this?” And Esther said, “A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!” Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen. Esther 7:2-6
If you read the whole story you will see that Esther went to great lengths before getting to this point of accusing the prime minister of his wicked plot. She proceeded carefully and wisely. Before we go on to the final measure of justice to Haman, I want you to notice something. The last quoted sentenced says that Haman was terrified. This is understandable, but it is also very important to notice. Because this is precisely the effect justice has on the wicked. Some versions say Haman was in terror which matches what Proverbs says regarding justice, “When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” (Proverbs 21:15) Justice brings joy to those who do what is right, but holy terror to those intent on evil. This is the purpose of a king or government, to strike terror into the hearts of evil men.
And the king arose in his wrath from the wine-drinking and went into the palace garden, but Haman stayed to beg for his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that harm was determined against him by the king. And the king returned from the palace garden to the place where they were drinking wine, as Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was. And the king said, “Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?” As the word left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman’s face. Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said, “Moreover, the gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, is standing at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.” And the king said, “Hang him on that.” Esther 7:7-10
We know the king was aware of the decree that went out against the Jews, however once word came from his queen, swift justice came to Haman. In chapter 9 we learn that Haman’s ten sons are also killed. It is difficult to fathom that Ahasuerus actually thought Haman would have “intent” toward the queen in this situation; it was more likely an excuse to sentence him to death. Merrill Unger in his commentary says this regarding Ahasuerus:
The king vented his anger to show how he now felt toward Haman, attributing to him the worst of motives in his approach toward the queen. It is utterly inconceivable that the king thought that Haman would force (violate) the queen under those impossible conditions. His preposterous accusation was meant to be a death sentence pronounced against Haman.
We see from the passage that once the king made the statement (even though it was phrased as a question) regarding Haman, they immediately covered his face. This means they understood the king just pronounced his death and they covered his face as one to be executed. And in the end as the king executed swift justice on Haman, we see the irony of the gallows he built. Ahasuerus instructs his servants to hang Haman on the gallows he had built for Mordecai.
Isn’t this exactly what a king should be doing? Righting wrongs and administrating and executing justice on behalf of the people he serves. Psalm 72:4 says, “May he defend the cause of the poor of the people, give deliverance to the children of the needy, and crush the oppressor!” Yes, it is the king’s responsibility to defend the poor, provide deliverance for the needy, and crush the oppressor. Delivering crushing justice is one of the purposes of a king or government. Kings should be zealous in their pursuit of justice. Without it we are progressing toward a dark future. Political kings would be very wise to remember the famous words of Anne Boleyn, “Shall I die without justice?” God sees and hears all oppression and holds kings accountable to administer justice.