Esther Saves Her People
Ahasuerus, the king, was troubled in his mind and could not sleep. He ordered his men to bring him the book in which the records of his kingdom were kept. The king lay upon his couch while they read to him, and they happened to read that portion which told how Mordecai, the Jew, had saved the life of the king from the two chamberlains who had plotted to kill him.
"What honor and dignity have been done to Mordecai for this?" demanded the king. And they told him that nothing had been done.
"Who is now in the court of the palace?" asked the king.
It so happened that Haman had come into the outer court for the very purpose of asking the king to hang Mordecai upon the gallows which he had prepared for him. The king's servants, therefore, answered: "Haman stands in the outer court."
"Let him come in," ordered Ahasuerus. So Haman came in and stood before the king.
"What shall be done with the man whom the king delights to honor?" asked Ahasuerus of him. Haman thought in his heart: "Whom does the king delight to honor more than myself?" And with this joyful thought he answered:
"Let the royal apparel which the king wears, and the horse on which the king rides, and the royal crown which the king wears be brought, and let the apparel and the horse be given to the hand of one of the most noble princes and also the crown, that he may array the man whom the king delights to honor. Let the princes lead him on horseback with the crown on his head, and proclaim in the streets: "Thus it is that shall be done to the man whom the king delights to honor."
"You have answered well," said Ahasuerus. "Make haste and take the apparel, and the horse, and the crown, and do as you have said to Mordecai, the Jew, that sits at the king's gate. Let nothing be left undone of all you have said."
So Haman did as the king commanded, and himself led through the streets of the city the horse upon which Mordecai sat, wearing the king's royal robes and the king's crown. Haman cried in the hearing of all: "This is the man whom the king delights to honor." But the cry was a bitter one for Haman, and at the end he went to his house in great wrath and mortification.
His wife and friends gathered around him to console him, but they foresaw the fall of Haman before the king's favor and could say but little that was comforting. While they were talking, the king's chamberlain came to bring Haman to the banquet which Esther had prepared for him and for the king.
At the banquet the king turned to his beautiful wife and said: "What is your petition, Queen Esther? And what is your request? It shall be granted you, even to the half of my kingdom."
"If I have found favor in your sight," replied the queen, "and if it please the king, I pray that you spare my life and that of my people. We are sold to be destroyed and slain and to perish, and I, your queen, am among those whose lives are to be taken away."
Then was Ahasuerus in great wrath. "Who is he and where is he, who dares do such a thing?" asked the king in an angry voice.
Esther turned and pointing her finger at Haman, said: "The man who has dared to do this is Haman, for he has plotted to destroy all the Jews in your kingdom. Mordecai, who saved your life and I, Esther, your queen, are of that tribe. I pray you, avenge us of our wicked enemy."
The king arose from the banquet in his wrath and went into the palace garden. His face was clouded and his heart was full of anger. Haman saw him go and knew that the king would not spare him. He stood trembling before Esther and begged her to intercede with the king that he be not slain. Esther gave him no answer and Haman fell upon the queen's couch, not knowing what he did.
Soon Ahasuerus returned from the garden and saw Haman lying upon the queen's couch. This made him angrier than ever and he called for his men to get him and take him out of the palace and keep him until he should decide what to do with him.
One of the king's men came in and said: "Haman has made a gallows, fifty cubits high, upon which he had hoped to hang Mordecai, the Jew, who saved the king's life. The gallows yet stand in the yard of Haman."
The king turned to the man and said: "Take Haman and hang him thereon." And so they hanged Haman upon the gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai, and the king's wrath was appeased.
Then Esther told Ahasuerus that Mordecai was her kinsman, and the king gave him a ring which he had taken from Haman. The king gave Haman's house to Esther, who gave it to Mordecai and put him in charge of it. Then the question arose as to what was to be done to save all the Jews that the king had decreed to be slain upon a certain day.
Esther went to the king and knelt down before him. She had tears in her eyes as she said: "How can I endure to see the destruction of my people?" And she prayed the king to reverse the decree which he had issued.
The king could not reverse his own decree, but he issued another one in which he said: "All the Jews in all the provinces of my kingdom will stand together and fight for their lives." And the decree was sent forth under the king's seal to all the people in all the provinces, and there was great rejoicing among the Jews and they made ready to defend themselves.
When the day came the Jews smote all their enemies with the sword for the Lord was with them, and they took vengeance upon them that hated them. And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white and with a crown of gold upon his head. The city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad, for the people loved Mordecai and paid him great respect. And he was next to Ahasuerus himself and great among the people, for he sought only the welfare of the king and the glory of his kingdom.