Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber

The Jews Saved from Death

On the night after Estherís visit, it happened that the king was very restless, and could not sleep. So he called one of his servants and bade him read aloud the annals of his reign. Ahasuerus listened, well pleased, until the man came to the part which told of the kingís danger, and how he had been saved from death by Mordecaiís warning.

The king, thus reminded of this great service, quickly asked what reward had been given to the man who had saved him. When the servant answered that nothing had been done for Mordecai, Ahasuerus was very indignant, and called for someone to advise him what reward would be best. The servant went in search of a courtier, and found Haman, who had come to the palace very early, so that he could get an order to hang Mordecai.

As soon as he was brought into the kingís presence, Ahasuerus cried, "What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honor?"

Like the vain man that he was, Haman fancied that the reward could be intended only for himself; so he promptly answered that the man ought to be clad in royal robes, and set upon one of the kingís own horses. Then some noble prince ought to lead the horse by the bridle through the principal streets of the city, calling aloud to all the people to bow down before the kingís faithful servant.

Delighted with this answer, Ahasuerus told Haman to call Mordecai, and have him richly dressed, and mounted upon the best horse in the royal stables. The king added that Haman, as the greatest person at court, should lead the horse by the bridle and do all that he had said.

Hamanís heart was full of rage when he heard this, and he hated Mordecai worse than ever. Still he did not dare to disobey, and had to do all as he had said. But as he bade the people bow down before Mordecai, he kept thinking that his turn would soon come; for the day named for the massacre of the Jews was near at hand.

When evening came, Haman went to the palace to attend the queenís feast, little thinking what awaited him there. The supper passed off well, and when it was nearly ended the king reminded. Esther that she had not yet asked him the favor which he had promised to grant.

Then Esther fell at the kingís feet and told him that a traitor had plotted to bring about her death, and that of all her race. A few astonished questions on the kingís part soon brought to light the whole story, and Ahasuerus, seeing Hamanís baseness, condemned him to be hung on the gallows which had been built for Mordecaiís execution.

As a royal decree could not be set aside in Persia, Ahasuerus now made another, warning all the Jews in his kingdom of their peril, and allowing them to defend themselves. The result of these two conflicting orders was a desperate armed struggle, in which seventy-five thousand Persians lost their lives. It was then that the Jews won the victory which they have celebrated ever since at a feast called Purim.

We know nothing further of the Jews, who were still in captivity, until Ezra got from another Persian monarch a permit to go to Jerusalem, with all the Jews who wished to accompany him thither. This new caravan reached the Holy City in safety, and Ezra is said to have made many reforms in the government of the people.

Some thirteen years later, when he was again in the city, Ezra was joined there by Nehemiah, another noted Jew, who, after visiting the place by night, decided to rebuild the old walls. Encouraged by his words and example, the Jews labored so hard that the work was soon done, in spite of the hindrances raised by their many enemies.

On another visit to Jerusalem, a few years later, Nehemiah purified the temple, made the people remember to keep the Sabbath holy, and began many other reforms. These are all written in the book bearing his name, which also contains many appeals to God to have mercy upon his Chosen People.

The last book in the Old Testament, and the last considered sacred by the Jews, is the book of the prophet Malachi, "the voice of one crying in the wilderness." He preached repentance to the people, told them it was the only right way to get ready for the coming of the long-promised Messiah, and foretold the birth of John the Baptist, four hundred years before he came.

Although the Old Testament ends here and the New Testament begins more than four centuries later, we find in history a record of the principal events which happened to the Jews during those long years when first the Greeks and then the Romans became masters of the Old World.