Esther 7:8 (ESV)

8 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.

In the ancient Near East, people did not sit at table, but rather lay down on couches or on the floor (see also Esther 1:6; Matthew 26:20). Haman, finding no sympathy from Esther, fell at her feet. This was a customary way of begging for mercy (1 Samuel 25:24; 2 Kings 4:27; Matthew 28:9).

Irony is so often part of biblical history, and Haman’s case is no exception. He was the man before whom everyone had to bow down. When one Jew refused to bow, all the Jews came under the threat of death. Now Haman, the bloodthirsty Amalekite, fell on his knees before a Jew, and a woman at that!

When the king saw Haman down on his knees, he of course realized that Haman was begging for mercy. However, he purposefully misinterpreted Haman’s actions and accused him of sexually assaulting the queen. Upon this accusation, the king’s eunuchs covered Haman’s face. Among the Persians, Greeks, and Romans, this was often done with a criminal before he was executed.

Why did Esther not listen to Haman’s pleas for mercy? If she had, she would have been guilty of the same sin as Saul, when he showed mercy to an Amalekite king (1 Samuel 15:1–35). Recall that her uncle Mordecai even refused to bow before Haman. Esther was loyal to God, who had forever forbidden peace with the Amalekites (Deuteronomy 25:19).