King Achashverush asks Esther who is this person who wants to do harm? In Esther 7:6, she responds:

איש צר ואויב המן הרע הזה

A narrow man and an enemy of this evil Haman

Who is this narrow (thin) man that Esther is referring to? And, if he is an enemy of Haman, why would she complain about him? Shouldn't she allow this enemy to destroy Haman, or, perhaps, suggest that the King let the enemy do the job of taking care of Haman?

Note: I'm assuming that Esther doesn't know about the tree that Haman prepared for Mordechai, nor does she outright suggest that Haman be killed. There's nothing apparent about either one in the Megilla.

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This has long been a mystery, but a recent find at Qumran turned up a previously-unknown section of Megilat Ester and now it's clear. Well, pretty clear; the manuscript is a little hard to read because of all the wine stains.

The conspiracy of Bigtan and Teresh was bigger than first thought. There were two other conspirators, an Egyptian (צר, a shortened form of מִצְרָיִם) and Haman, their leader, who sought to eliminate Achashverosh and claim the throne.

It was quite ironic, then, that after Bigtan and Teresh were executed, the king promoted Haman to the #2 spot. But hey, the king was always kind of oblivious; Bigtan would have failed a security check had the king bothered to check the annals before hiring him, but he didn't. Haman was content to bide his time, but the Egyptian was rightly concerned that Haman would sacrifice his former conspirator at a moment's notice. After all, the guy was ready to start a major bloodbath over one guy not bowing down to him, and that stake was big enough for more than just Mordechai. Haman was clearly unstable and the צר would have to eliminate both Haman and Achashverosh before Haman eliminated him.

Now Ester wouldn't mind at all if the צר eliminated Haman, but she couldn't guarantee the outcome. The צר might first kill Achashverosh and then fail to kill Haman, and we'd end up with King Haman, a horrifying thought. So she warned the king about the צר who was coming for both of them, but since she knew that the king was pretty reckless (look how he treated Vashti), she focused on the threat to the king's trusted advisor instead of relying on his own self-interest. She hoped that, at the least, the צר would not have a vendetta against her people like Haman did. But in the best case, she hoped, when Achashverosh interrogated the man the truth would come out מִן-הַמֵּצַר and the king would remove both enemies.

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  • Good analysis. I had to ruin a good PTIJ answer, but, how do you know that צר means an Egyptian? – DanF Feb 27 '18 at 17:58
  • @DanF oh I'm sorry; I thought that was more obvious than it was. See my edit. – Monica Cellio Feb 27 '18 at 18:50
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    The first piece of Esther finally found at Qumran! – Double AA Feb 27 '18 at 18:53
  • @MonicaCellio I deduced that idea, myself. I'm curious if this your own interpretation, though. – DanF Feb 27 '18 at 19:01
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    @DanF the Qumran manuscript doesn't say explicitly, no, so that's my interpretation. – Monica Cellio Feb 27 '18 at 19:08

@Monica Cellio gave a very learned and erudite answer, but I would like to suggest something much simpler. I would like my enemies to all be scrawny and ineffectual. Our enemies' enemies should be large, strong, smart, and ruthless. Esther was informing Achashverosh that Haman's enemy was not up to the job and he would need to step in.

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