The Bible is the Word of God. It is also great literature. The Scriptures are full of exciting stories, suspense, and memorable figures.
However, it is the plot twists in the book of Esther that are among the Bible’s greatest literary triumphs. After all, the Esther story is the basis for Purim, one of the most festive Jewish holidays. Each year, the book of Esther is read aloud in synagogues around the world. Congregants shout “boo” or use noisemakers to drown out Haman’s name every time it appears in the text.
Other customs include dressing in costume, putting on plays related to the Purim story, giving to the poor, and eating special cookies called Hamantaschen. Surely, one aspect of Purim’s appeal is the edge-of-your-seat suspense. It can be easy for those familiar with the story to lose sight of its irony and plot twists. So, this article will break down three key plot twists in Esther and show what they reveal about God’s character.
Introducing Haman (Boo!)
In the first several chapters of Esther, Haman seems to be doing quite well for himself. When he first appears in Esther chapter three, he had just received a promotion. The king placed him over all his “princes.” In this verse, the Hebrew word translated as “princes” is שרים (sarim). This term does not refer to someone in the royal family, as the English counterpart suggests. Rather, “sarim” denotes people who hold positions of authority. Other translations could be “official,” “chiefs,” “rulers,” or “leaders.”
In short, the king made Haman the most powerful man in his empire. Haman was second only to the king himself. So, all the servants bowed down to him—except Mordecai. His refusal so enraged Haman that he “sought to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai” (Esth 3:6). Given Haman’s high position and the king’s support, his plot’s success seemed assured. But God had other plans.
1. Haman Honoring Mordecai
Haman’s luck began to shift in chapter six. He had just gloated over his power and desire to murder Mordecai. When Haman went to the king’s court to ask to hang Mordecai, however, something unexpected happened. As he entered, the king greeted him by asking how he should reward someone he wishes to honor. Haman, in his pride, assumed the king was talking about him. After all, he was the grand vizier.
So, Haman confidently described just what he wanted—to wear the king’s robe, ride his horse, wear his crown, and be led through the city square (Esth 6:8–9). But then God flipped the script. Haman’s hasty assumption backfired. The king told him, “Take quickly the robes and the horse as you have said, and do so for Mordecai the Jew, who is sitting at the king’s gate; do not fall short in anything of all that you have said” (Esth 6:10).
What Haman meant for his own honor worked in favor of Mordecai, the man he despised. That night, the king could not sleep, so he had a servant read him the book of records. Of all the matters the servant could read, he spoke of how Mordecai had uncovered an assassination attempt and saved the king’s life. God was clearly working through this event to rebuke Haman and exalt Mordecai. Haman got the message. After honoring Mordecai, he “hurried home, mourning, with his head covered” (Esth 6:12). He realized that his scheme was doomed. If he continued his attempt to murder the man the king honored, he would be in big trouble.
2. Haman Hanged on His Own Gallows
Haman’s lot worsened after the second dinner Esther hosted. At this meal, Esther revealed her Jewish identity—that she was part of the people Haman had set out to destroy. She said, “we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed and to be annihilated” (Esth 7:4a). The king’s anger flared, and he went into the courtyard. As Haman watched his plan crumble, he grew desperate. He approached Esther to beg for mercy, falling on the couch on which she was reclining. In the ancient Near East, people often lay on couches as they dined.
So, Haman likely fell at Esther’s feet and kissed them as he sought forgiveness. His desperate posture shows how drastically the tables had turned on him. As one commentator wrote, “the irony here is that Haman, who had demanded that Mordecai bow before him, was at the feet of the Jew Esther.” When the king returned, Haman’s position led him to think that he was attacking her. Then, yet another of Haman’s actions backfired.
A eunuch revealed to the king that Haman had made gallows specifically for Mordecai. The king, who had just recently heard how Mordecai saved his life, sealed Haman’s fate. “So they hanged Haman on the gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai, and the king’s anger subsided” (Esth 7:10). Within moments, Haman was destroyed by his own crafty decisions. His demise is deeply ironic. Haman’s rage and hatred were so strong that he built an execution site—just for Mordecai. But in a God-appointed plot twist, Haman was hanged instead. Even his attempt to secure mercy worked against him, inflaming the king’s anger yet further. Once again, God had flipped the script in favor of His people.
3. Haman’s Position Given to Mordecai
After Haman was out of the picture, the problem remained. The edict to destroy the Jewish people had already gone out. Thankfully, God continued to vindicate Israel. The king handed Haman’s property over to Esther. He also turned the signet ring he had given Haman over to Mordecai. Indeed, Mordecai got the very promotion Haman received at the beginning of the book—second only to the king (Esth 10:3).
The irony deepens. Mordecai used the very signet ring Haman used to order the death of all Jewish people. This time, however, the edict allowed God’s chosen people to defend themselves. Even the wording of this second edict mirrored the first. Haman’s letter directed the empire “to destroy, to kill and to annihilate all the Jews” (Esth 3:13). Mordecai’s letter is virtually the opposite, telling the Jewish people “to destroy, to kill and to annihilate” any who might threaten them (Esth 8:11). The first edict caused Jewish people to mourn—the second fostered joy and gladness (Esth 4:3, 8:16–17). As Israel avenged themselves, all Persia learned not to mess with what God has blessed.
Mordecai himself grew in honor and prominence. His position ensured that the Jewish people had a voice at the highest level of the Persian Empire. He also established the holiday of Purim so that every generation would remember how God rescued His people. The book of Esther closes with this final plot twist. Mordecai, the original target of Haman’s rage, prospered in the post that once belonged to Haman. What Haman intended as the slaughter of Israel God turned to blessing for Israel.
Why These Plot Twists in Esther?
Through the story of Esther, we see God’s Word in action. Back in Genesis, God told Abraham, “And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen 12:3). Each of these three promises come into play in Esther. Esther’s courage paid off, saving herself and her people. Mordecai, who supported Esther, rose in prominence. In contrast, Haman, his sons, and all who rallied to his cause were cursed. Anyone who sets out to curse what God has determined to bless will ultimately fail.
In some ways, the Esther story is similar to that of Balaam, whom Balak hired to curse the Israelites. Though Balak planned harm for Israel, God would not allow it. The Lord Himself spoke to Balaam and told him just what to say. Contrary to Balak’s plot, Balaam ended up blessing Israel instead—another plot twist. As Balaam explained, “How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how can I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?” (Numbers 23:8). Both Haman and Balak wished to curse the Jewish people. In each case, God flipped the script and blessed His people.
Finally, the events of Purim play an essential role in God’s promise to bless all the earth through Israel. If Haman had succeeded, Jesus the Jewish Messiah would not have been born. Like Esther, Jesus put His life on the line for His people. His sacrifice and resurrection saves all who trust in Him. Truly this son of Abraham blesses all the nations. In the book of Esther, God was sovereignly protecting His people and paving the way for the Messiah. These plot twists encourage us that no person or force can stop God’s plan.
 William Lee Holladay and Ludwig Köhler, A Concise Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament: Based upon the Lexical Work of Ludwig Koehler and Walter Baumgartner, 12. corr. impr. 1991, reprinted. (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 354.
 Mervin Breneman, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, The New American Commentary, v. 10 (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 326.
 Ibid., 350.