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A Rock and a Hard Place A Rock and a Hard Place

A Rock and a Hard Place


The idiom “stuck between a rock and a hard place” can be traced back to Homer’s epic poem Odyssey, in which Odysseus must pass between Scylla, a cliff-dwelling monster (the rock), and Charybdis, a treacherous whirlpool (the hard place). Ever since, the expression has been used to describe a person who is faced with a difficult dilemma and no easy way out.

In today’s passage, King Xerxes finds himself in such a spot. In verse 5, the king asked Queen Esther to tell him who had ordered the destruction of her people. He was already angry. The staccato of the original Hebrew expresses a fury that doesn’t entirely translate to the English text. We can see that Esther’s response was also emotionally charged: “An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!” (v. 6).

Upon hearing this news, the King reacted in a fury (v. 7). He stormed out of the banquet hall and into the garden. He was stuck between the sinister plot of his vengeful second-in-command and the impending death of his Jewish wife. But the situation was even further complicated by the fact that he himself had signed the unspeakable edict into irrevocable law. What way forward could the king possibly find?

The passage doesn’t indicate what the King planned to do or say when he returned. Providentially, he didn’t need to come up with an answer because he found Haman illegally alone with Esther, falling on her sofa in despair. Haman sealed his own fate with his foolishness (v. 8). Thus, King Xerxes was justified in sending Haman to his death. The hanging of Haman was the dramatic climax to the personal portion of the Esther conflict. However, with the kingdom-wide edict still in place, the fate of God’s people was not yet resolved. Stay tuned.

>> One sin—left unconfessed—will often lead to another. Let’s keep short accounts. If you do not regularly spend time in confession, search your heart today and set aside time to confess your sins to our God who promises forgiveness.

Pray with Us

What irony! Haman found his death on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. His story is also a stern warning for us of the seriousness of sin. May we heed this warning and strive to live holy lives.

BY Kelli Worrall

Kelli Worrall is Professor of Communications and Chair of the Division of Music and Media Arts at Moody Bible Institute. She is the author of several books, including Pierced and Embraced: 7 Life-Changing Encounters with the Love of Christ. Kelli studied at Cedarville University (BA), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (MRE), and Roosevelt University (MFA).  She enjoys speaking both individually and with Peter at events and retreats. They live in northwest Illinois with their two children.

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