In Esther 7:5 it says

וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵר֔וֹשׁ וַיֹּ֖אמֶר לְאֶסְתֵּ֣ר הַמַּלְכָּ֑ה מִ֣י ה֥וּא זֶה֙ וְאֵֽי־זֶ֣ה ה֔וּא אֲשֶׁר־מְלָא֥וֹ לִבּ֖וֹ לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת כֵּֽן׃

Thereupon King Ahasuerus demanded of Queen Esther, “Who is he and where is he who dared to do this?”

Esther had just explained that she and her people had been sold to be wiped out. This was exactly what Haman proposed (3:9) to the king only a few days earlier. Why is the king asking who is responsible for the decree, surely he knows!?

  • 2
    He doesn't know she's a Jew...
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 2:51
  • @DoubleAA how many other nations had he recently sold for destruction? Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 3:15
  • It doesn't say.
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 3:17
  • 1
    She didn't say he sold anyone, but that her nation was sold. Achashverosh obviously thought it was by someone other than himself
    – robev
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 4:09
  • @robev what? Who else would have the power to do so? why would such a far fetched thing even be considered when he himself was involved in the exact incident she is describing just days earlier? Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 12:59

3 Answers 3


Haman hated the Jewish people and yearned to wipe them out, but he doubted that Achashveirosh would agree. Therefore, he fooled Achashveirosh into issuing a decree to destroy the Jewish people.

Haman said to Achashveirosh, “im al hamelech tov yikateiv le’avdam (3:9) — “If the King agrees, letters should be sent out to make slaves (לעבדם) out of the Jewish people.” Achashveirosh consented and gave Haman authority to send the letters. However, in the letters, Haman did not write לעבדם (slavery) but "לאבדם" (le’abdam)“complete annihilation.”

Therefore, Esther said to Achashveirosh, “If we were being sold into slavery as you and Haman originally planned, I would reluctantly keep silent because you are the King and this is your wish, but the scoundrel tricked you and has sent letters in your name ordering the annihilation of the Jewish people.”

When Achashveirosh heard that he had been fooled, he became furious and bellowed, “Who is this who had the audacity to do such a thing?”

(אוהב ישראל)

(Taken from chabad.org)

  • 3
    Haman spoke to Achashverosh in Hebrew??
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 2:55
  • 2
    but in 3:9 it says לאבדם! Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 3:14
  • 1
    Aside from its being totally obvious they spoke Persian, we know from the additional ככתבם וכלשונם that everything else was mistama not in Hebrew. Also the Gemara says Mordochai understood Bigtan's plot because he spoke other languages
    – Double AA
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 3:27
  • 1
    The Persian Empire would have relatively recently taken over from Babylon. Aramaic was widely used in the provinces. Perhaps the language of a lot of the Haman documents or even court conversations, were still done in Aramaic despite the Persian rulership. Aramaic and Hebrew would be similar. Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 3:43
  • 2
    Another way to understand the proposed answer: Just like the Megillah's "destroy" and "enslave" are so close to each other, the drashah suggests that Haman used similar verbal tricks with the king to advance his plot of genocide without proper permission. OR, ignore the play on words attempt. Esther, by saying "if we were sold" is aludung to the fact that Haman advanced his agenda to include genocide while telling the king he was simply going to enslave. Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 3:47

My rav explained that Achashverush's question was addressing Esther's claim at the end that "the enemy doesn't care about the king's damage" (I think it's the previous verse.)

In other words, Esther is hinting that the Jews pay taxes to the King and the King benefits from this. If he lets this adversary destroy the Jews, the king will lose a lot of money and this will be a huge loss.

Incidentally, this is a repetitive historic precedent. Nearly every country that hosted Jews prospered. When they expelled Jews the economy didn't do as well. Spain was a good example of this.

  • I have trouble understanding this answer, didn't Haman pay an exorbitant amount to avoid just such an issue? 3:9 Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 3:12
  • @rikitikitembo Ah! You forgot Ahcashevrush's response in 3:11. He tells Haman, "You can keep the money". Apparently, Achashverush didn't care who these people were. He was disturbed that they weren't following the king's laws. So much so, they he refused Haman's money.
    – DanF
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 14:16
  • see this question, it is highly unlikely that Haman kept the money. judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/15159/… Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 14:37
  • @rikitikitembo Thanks for the link. All of the answers there don't seem to contradict what I've stated here, though. The fact that Haman didn't keep the money doesn't contradict the king's refusal to take it. Even if we take Haman's words literally, it seems that Haman proposed that the money would pay for the work of the destruction, not that the king should keep the money anyway. It seems that he didn't want the king to pay the expenses.
    – DanF
    Commented Mar 15, 2018 at 14:46

In Rav Yosef Deutsch's Let My Nation Live, Mesorah Publications Ltd, p.305 (footnote 17) he suggests a few reasons:

Some suggest that Achashverosh truly did not remember the letters that had been sent four days earlier, and wished to know what it was all about (D'na Pishra). Others say that Achashverosh had known that Haman's decree to kill the Jews had been enacted but he had not realised that this would include Esther. Therefore he wondered who else could have been responsible for such an edict (Ma'amar Mordechai). Some posit that Achashverosh surely knew what Esther was telling him; he himself had implemented the decree together with Haman. Embarrassed that his own designs were now threatening his queen, he feigned astonishment and ignorance (Iggeres Purim - refer to the last paragraph on the page). Others say that Achashverosh had only granted permission for the Jews to be sold. Esther told him that, were this the extent of the decree, she would have remained silent; such was as expected experience in exile and not familiar in our nation's history. However, Haman altered the decree, changing the word לעבד, le'abeid, written with the letter ayin, meaning to enslave them, to לאבד written with an aleph, which means to destroy them.

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