Esther Becomes Queen
There were a great many Jews living in the land of Persia. Over this land there reigned a king named Ahasuerus. In the third year of his reign, he made a great feast for all his princes and servants in the city of Shushan, where he had a great palace. When the princes and servants came to the feast the king showed them all his riches and glories and entertained them for many months. Then the king made a feast unto the people that were in Shushan and this feast lasted seven days.
The king lived in a magnificent palace. There were white, green, and blue curtains, which were fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble. The people drank out of vessels of gold and were given wine and food in great abundance. Every man was allowed to eat and drink as much as he chose according to his pleasure.
Vashti, the queen, also made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to the king. It was the custom in those days for women to live in a separate part of the same house and never show themselves to men without wearing veils over their faces. On the seventh day of the king's feast, Ahasuerus commanded his seven chamberlains to bring Vashti, the queen, before the king, that the people and princes might see her beauty, for she was fair to look upon. Vashti refused to come at the king's command. Therefore, the king was very angry and said to some of his princes: "What shall we do to Queen Vashti because she has not obeyed the orders of the king and has not come to the feast as I bade her, that the princes and people might see her beauty?"
"Vashti, the queen, has done wrong to the king," said one of the princes, "and also to us and to all the people. This deed of the queen will make all the women despise their husbands and they will no longer obey them."
The princes then advised King Ahasuerus to issue a royal commandment that Vashti should come no more before the king and that her royal estate should be given to another, who was better and more obedient than she. In this way all the wives of Persia would understand that they must honor their husbands and do as they were told.
This saying pleased the king. He sent letters throughout his kingdom that every man should bear rule in his own house, and whatever he ordered his women should obey. Then he put Vashti away and she was no longer his queen.
Ahasuerus, now set out to get another queen. Everywhere there was a search for fair and beautiful young women that they might be brought to the king's palace for the king himself to choose. The maiden which pleased the king should be queen instead of Vashti.
There was a servant at the palace, named Mordecai, who was a Jew and who had a cousin named Esther. Her mother and father were dead and Mordecai had taken her for his own daughter. The maid was fair and beautiful, so that those who were choosing maidens brought her also unto the king's palace and gave her to the keeper of the women. Esther did not tell that she was a Jewess, for Mordecai had advised her to keep her counsel. The officer who had charge of the women was more pleased with Esther than with any other of the women and gave her maidens to wait upon her and put her in the best part of the house.
When the time came for the king to choose among the maidens, his heart turned towards Esther above all the women and she obtained grace and favor in his sight. He set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. The king made a great feast unto all his princes and servants and he called it Esther's feast. He also gave gifts to the people and the servants for her sake. But all the time Esther was careful not to let the king know that she was a Jewess, for her cousin Mordecai had warned her to keep her own counsel.
It so happened that two of the king's officers were angry with the king and plotted to kill him Mordecai, who was also a watchman at the king's gate, heard them plotting against the king. He told Esther about it and she at once went and told the king. Ahasuerus ordered the two officers to be hanged on a tree and thus it was that Mordecai saved the king's life and the king knew that Mordecai had done it.
There was another servant in the palace of the king named Haman. The king favored him a great deal and set him above all the other princes, so much so, that all his servants had to bow down and do reverence to him. Mordecai, however, would not bow down and would not do reverence to Haman.
Those who were at the king's gate advised Mordecai to do as the king commanded but Mordecai refused. Whereupon, they went to Haman and said: "Mordecai, who watches at the king's gate will not bow down to you and you had better see how matters stand with him."
Haman was full of wrath and made up his min not only to destroy Mordecai but all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus. Therefore, he went to the king and said:
"There is a certain people everywhere in the province of your kingdom, and their laws are different from your laws, and they do not keep the king's laws, and they are dangerous to have in your dominion. If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed and I will pay ten thousand talents into the king's treasury."
The king, not thinking of the evil that he was about to do, agreed to the request of Haman and issued the decree that all the Jews in his kingdom should be destroyed. He sealed the decree with his own ring. Then the scribes wrote to the governors and rulers in every province in the name of the king and told them all the Jews, both young and old, women and little children, should be destroyed, and the decree went forth throughout Persia, even as the king had commanded.