Queen Vashti Defies King Ahasuerus
1 1 This is the story of something that happened in the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled from India to Ethiopia - 127 provinces in all. 2 King Xerxes ruled from his royal throne in the palace complex of Susa. 3 In the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his officials and ministers. The military brass of Persia and Media were also there, along with the princes and governors of the provinces. 4 For six months he put on exhibit the huge wealth of his empire and its stunningly beautiful royal splendors. 5 At the conclusion of the exhibit, the king threw a weeklong party for everyone living in Susa, the capital - important and unimportant alike. The party was in the garden courtyard of the king's summer house. 6 The courtyard was elaborately decorated with white and blue cotton curtains tied with linen and purple cords to silver rings on marble columns. Silver and gold couches were arranged on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and colored stones. 7 Drinks were served in gold chalices, each chalice one-of-a-kind. The royal wine flowed freely - a generous king! 8 The guests could drink as much as they liked - king's orders! - with waiters at their elbows to refill the drinks. 9 Meanwhile, Queen Vashti was throwing a separate party for women inside King Xerxes' royal palace.
10 On the seventh day of the party, the king, high on the wine, ordered the seven eunuchs who were his personal servants (Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas) 11 to bring him Queen Vashti resplendent in her royal crown. He wanted to show off her beauty to the guests and officials. She was extremely good-looking. 12 But Queen Vashti refused to come, refused the summons delivered by the eunuchs. The king lost his temper. Seething with anger over her insolence, 13 the king called in his counselors, all experts in legal matters. It was the king's practice to consult his expert advisors. 14 Those closest to him were Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven highest-ranking princes of Persia and Media, the inner circle with access to the king's ear. 15 He asked them what legal recourse they had against Queen Vashti for not obeying King Xerxes' summons delivered by the eunuchs. 16 Memucan spoke up in the council of the king and princes: "It's not only the king Queen Vashti has insulted, it's all of us, leaders and people alike in every last one of King Xerxes' provinces. 17 The word's going to get out: 'Did you hear the latest about Queen Vashti? King Xerxes ordered her to be brought before him and she wouldn't do it!' When the women hear it, they'll start treating their husbands with contempt. 18 The day the wives of the Persian and Mede officials get wind of the queen's insolence, they'll be out of control. Is that what we want, a country of angry women who don't know their place? 19 "So, if the king agrees, let him pronounce a royal ruling and have it recorded in the laws of the Persians and Medes so that it cannot be revoked, that Vashti is permanently banned from King Xerxes' presence. And then let the king give her royal position to a woman who knows her place. 20 When the king's ruling becomes public knowledge throughout the kingdom, extensive as it is, every woman, regardless of her social position, will show proper respect to her husband." 21 The king and the princes liked this. The king did what Memucan proposed. 22 He sent bulletins to every part of the kingdom, to each province in its own script, to each people in their own language: "Every man is master of his own house; whatever he says, goes."
Esther Made Queen
2 1 Later, when King Xerxes' anger had cooled and he was having second thoughts about what Vashti had done and what he had ordered against her, 2 the king's young attendants stepped in and got the ball rolling: "Let's begin a search for beautiful young virgins for the king. 3 Let the king appoint officials in every province of his kingdom to bring every beautiful young virgin to the palace complex of Susa and to the harem run by Hegai, the king's eunuch who oversees the women; he will put them through their beauty treatments. 4 Then let the girl who best pleases the king be made queen in place of Vashti." The king liked this advice and took it. 5 Now there was a Jew who lived in the palace complex in Susa. His name was Mordecai the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish - a Benjaminite. 6 His ancestors had been taken from Jerusalem with the exiles and carried off with King Jehoiachin of Judah by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon into exile. 7 Mordecai had reared his cousin Hadassah, otherwise known as Esther, since she had no father or mother. The girl had a good figure and a beautiful face. After her parents died, Mordecai had adopted her. 8 When the king's order had been publicly posted, many young girls were brought to the palace complex of Susa and given over to Hegai who was overseer of the women. Esther was among them. 9 Hegai liked Esther and took a special interest in her. Right off he started her beauty treatments, ordered special food, assigned her seven personal maids from the palace, and put her and her maids in the best rooms in the harem. 10 Esther didn't say anything about her family and racial background because Mordecai had told her not to. 11 Every day Mordecai strolled beside the court of the harem to find out how Esther was and get news of what she was doing. 12 Each girl's turn came to go in to King Xerxes after she had completed the twelve months of prescribed beauty treatments - six months' treatment with oil of myrrh followed by six months with perfumes and various cosmetics. 13 When it was time for the girl to go to the king, she was given whatever she wanted to take with her when she left the harem for the king's quarters. 14 She would go there in the evening; in the morning she would return to a second harem overseen by Shaashgaz, the king's eunuch in charge of the concubines. She never again went back to the king unless the king took a special liking to her and asked for her by name. 15 When it was Esther's turn to go to the king (Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had adopted her as his daughter), she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king's eunuch in charge of the harem, had recommended. Esther, just as she was, won the admiration of everyone who saw her. 16 She was taken to King Xerxes in the royal palace in the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of the king's reign. 17 The king fell in love with Esther far more than with any of his other women or any of the other virgins - he was totally smitten by her. He placed a royal crown on her head and made her queen in place of Vashti. 18 Then the king gave a great banquet for all his nobles and officials - "Esther's Banquet." He proclaimed a holiday for all the provinces and handed out gifts with royal generosity.
Mordecai Reveals a Conspiracy against the King
19 On one of the occasions when the virgins were being gathered together, Mordecai was sitting at the King's Gate. 20 All this time, Esther had kept her family background and race a secret as Mordecai had ordered; Esther still did what Mordecai told her, just as when she was being raised by him.
21 On this day, with Mordecai sitting at the King's Gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's eunuchs who guarded the entrance, had it in for the king and were making plans to kill King Xerxes. 22 But Mordecai learned of the plot and told Queen Esther, who then told King Xerxes, giving credit to Mordecai. When the thing was investigated and confirmed as true, the two men were hanged on a gallows. This was all written down in a logbook kept for the king's use.
Haman's Plot to Destroy the Jews
3 1 Some time later, King Xerxes promoted Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, making him the highest-ranking official in the government. 2 All the king's servants at the King's Gate used to honor him by bowing down and kneeling before Haman - that's what the king had commanded. 3 The king's servants at the King's Gate asked Mordecai about it: "Why do you cross the king's command?" 4 Day after day they spoke to him about this but he wouldn't listen, so they went to Haman to see whether something shouldn't be done about it. Mordecai had told them that he was a Jew. 5 When Haman saw for himself that Mordecai didn't bow down and kneel before him, he was outraged. 6 Meanwhile, having learned that Mordecai was a Jew, Haman hated to waste his fury on just one Jew; he looked for a way to eliminate not just Mordecai but all Jews throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.
7 In the first month, the month of Nisan, of the twelfth year of Xerxes, the pur - that is, the lot - was cast under Haman's charge to determine the propitious day and month. The lot turned up the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar. 8 Haman then spoke with King Xerxes: "There is an odd set of people scattered through the provinces of your kingdom who don't fit in. Their customs and ways are different from those of everybody else. Worse, they disregard the king's laws. They're an affront; the king shouldn't put up with them. 9 If it please the king, let orders be given that they be destroyed. I'll pay for it myself. I'll deposit 375 tons of silver in the royal bank to finance the operation." 10 The king slipped his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, archenemy of the Jews. 11 "Go ahead," the king said to Haman. "It's your money - do whatever you want with those people." 12 The king's secretaries were brought in on the thirteenth day of the first month. The orders were written out word for word as Haman had addressed them to the king's satraps, the governors of every province, and the officials of every people. They were written in the script of each province and the language of each people in the name of King Xerxes and sealed with the royal signet ring. 13 Bulletins were sent out by couriers to all the king's provinces with orders to massacre, kill, and eliminate all the Jews - youngsters and old men, women and babies - on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month Adar, and to plunder their goods. 14 Copies of the bulletin were to be posted in each province, publicly available to all peoples, to get them ready for that day. 15 At the king's command, the couriers took off; the order was also posted in the palace complex of Susa. The king and Haman sat back and had a drink while the city of Susa reeled from the news.
Esther Promises to Intercede for Her People
4 1 When Mordecai learned what had been done, he ripped his clothes to shreds and put on sackcloth and ashes. Then he went out in the streets of the city crying out in loud and bitter cries. 2 He came only as far as the King's Gate, for no one dressed in sackcloth was allowed to enter the King's Gate. 3 As the king's order was posted in every province, there was loud lament among the Jews - fasting, weeping, wailing. And most of them stretched out on sackcloth and ashes. 4 Esther's maids and eunuchs came and told her. The queen was stunned. She sent fresh clothes to Mordecai so he could take off his sackcloth but he wouldn't accept them.
5 Esther called for Hathach, one of the royal eunuchs whom the king had assigned to wait on her, and told him to go to Mordecai and get the full story of what was happening. 6 So Hathach went to Mordecai in the town square in front of the King's Gate. 7 Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him. He also told him the exact amount of money that Haman had promised to deposit in the royal bank to finance the massacre of the Jews. 8 Mordecai also gave him a copy of the bulletin that had been posted in Susa ordering the massacre so he could show it to Esther when he reported back with instructions to go to the king and intercede and plead with him for her people. 9 Hathach came back and told Esther everything Mordecai had said. 10 Esther talked it over with Hathach and then sent him back to Mordecai with this message: 11 "Everyone who works for the king here, and even the people out in the provinces, knows that there is a single fate for every man or woman who approaches the king without being invited: death. The one exception is if the king extends his gold scepter; then he or she may live. And it's been thirty days now since I've been invited to come to the king." 12 When Hathach told Mordecai what Esther had said, 13 Mordecai sent her this message: "Don't think that just because you live in the king's house you're the one Jew who will get out of this alive. 14 If you persist in staying silent at a time like this, help and deliverance will arrive for the Jews from someplace else; but you and your family will be wiped out. Who knows? Maybe you were made queen for just such a time as this." 15 Esther sent back her answer to Mordecai: 16 "Go and get all the Jews living in Susa together. Fast for me. Don't eat or drink for three days, either day or night. I and my maids will fast with you. If you will do this, I'll go to the king, even though it's forbidden. If I die, I die." 17 Mordecai left and carried out Esther's instructions.
Esther Invites the King and Haman to a Banquet
5 1 Three days later Esther dressed in her royal robes and took up a position in the inner court of the palace in front of the king's throne room. The king was on his throne facing the entrance. 2 When he noticed Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased to see her; the king extended the gold scepter in his hand. Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. 3 The king asked, "And what's your desire, Queen Esther? What do you want? Ask and it's yours - even if it's half my kingdom!" 4 "If it please the king," said Esther, "let the king come with Haman to a dinner I've prepared for him." 5 "Get Haman at once," said the king, "so we can go to dinner with Esther." 6 As they were drinking the wine, the king said, "Now, what is it you want? Half of my kingdom isn't too much to ask! Just ask." 7 Esther answered, "Here's what I want. 8 If the king favors me and is pleased to do what I desire and ask, let the king and Haman come again tomorrow to the dinner that I will fix for them. Then I'll give a straight answer to the king's question."
9 Haman left the palace that day happy, beaming. And then he saw Mordecai sitting at the King's Gate ignoring him, oblivious to him. Haman was furious with Mordecai. 10 But he held himself in and went on home. He got his friends together with his wife Zeresh 11 and started bragging about how much money he had, his many sons, all the times the king had honored him, and his promotion to the highest position in the government. 12 "On top of all that," Haman continued, "Queen Esther invited me to a private dinner she gave for the king, just the three of us. And she's invited me to another one tomorrow. 13 But I can't enjoy any of it when I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the King's Gate." 14 His wife Zeresh and all his friends said, "Build a gallows seventy-five feet high. First thing in the morning speak with the king; get him to order Mordecai hanged on it. Then happily go with the king to dinner." Haman liked that. He had the gallows built.