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THE BEAUTIFUL QUEEN OF PERSIA
Esther i: 1, to x: 3.
HEN Darius, the great king, died, his son Xerxes, who is
called in the Bible Ahasuerus, took his place upon the
throne of Persia. Ahasuerus was not, like his father
Darius, a wise man. He was hasty in his temper and did
many foolish acts.
At that time the palace where the king of Persia lived
was no longer at Babylon, but at a city named Shushan,
among the mountains of a region called Elam. King
Ahasuerus held at Shushan a great feast with his
nobles. When the king and his company were all drunken
with wine, he sent for his queen, Vashti, that he might
let all the nobles see how beautiful she was. Among the
Persians it was held to be very wrong for a woman ever
to allow her face to be seen by any man except her
husband. Queen Vashti refused to come to the feast that
these drunken men might stare at her. This made the
king very angry. He said that because Vashti would not
obey him, she should not be queen any longer, and he
put her away from him and from his house.
After this King Ahasuerus thought to choose another
woman to be his queen instead of Vashti. He sent
commands throughout all the kingdom that in every land
and province they should find the most beautiful young
women and bring them to the royal city of Shushan.
There the king would see them all, and among them he
would choose the one that pleased him best, and would
take her as his queen. So from every land in the great
empire of Persia the loveliest young women were brought
to Shushan, and there they were left in the care of
Hegai, the chief of the king's palace.
At that time many Jews were living in the cities of
Persia, for we have seen that only a small part of the
Jews went back to the land of Israel when King Cyrus
allowed them to return. (See Story 104.)
There was a Jew living in Shushan, named
 Mordecai. He belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, and
came from the same family and line with Saul, the first
of the kings of Israel. At the house of Mordecai lived
his cousin, a young girl named Hadassah, or Esther, a
name which means "Star." Her father and mother had
died, and she had been left alone; so Mordecai took her
to his own house, and brought her up as his own
daughter. Esther was very beautiful, and was as lovely
in her heart as she was in her face. Among the other
beautiful young women she was taken to the palace
as one of those who were to be brought before the king.
QUEEN ESTHER COMING TO THE KING
When King Ahasuerus saw Esther, the Jewish girl, he
loved her, and chose her out of all the young women to
be his queen, and set upon her head the royal crown of
Persia. Esther was taken into the king's palace; rooms
and servants were given to her, and she lived in the
state of a queen. When the king wisher to see her he
sent for her, and she came to his room. No one could go
to the king or could see him unless sent for. And if
any one, man or woman, came before the king without
being called, that person was seized by the guards, and
was led away to death, unless the king held out toward
him his golden scepter, the rod which he held.
In the palace Mordecai could no longer meet his cousin
Esther, for no man except the king could enter the
rooms set apart for the women. But Esther from her
window could see Mordecai as he walked by, and by her
servants she could send word to him, and in the same
way could hear word from him. Mordecai loved the lovely
young queen who was to him as a daughter, and every day
sat at the gate of the palace to hear from her.
While Mordecai was sitting by the gate he saw two men
who were keepers of the gate often whispering together.
He watched them closely, and found that they had made a
plan to kill King Ahasuerus. He sent word of this to
Queen Esther, and Esther told the king of it. The men
were taken, and, as Mordecai's word was found to be
true, they were both slain by being hanged on a tree.
And an account or story of all their plan, of how they
were found out by Mordecai the Jew, and how they were
punished by death, was written in the book of records
of the kingdom.
After this a man named Haman arose to great power in
the kingdom. The king have him a seat above all the
other princes, and asked his advice in all matters, and
allowed Haman to do whatever he pleased. Of course
everybody in the palace showed great
 respect to Haman, the man who stood next to the king.
When he came near, all the men in the palace and in the
city bowed down before him, and many fell on their
faces, even in the very dust. But Mordecai was a
worshipper of God, and he would not fall upon his face
before any man. Haman noticed that there was one man
who did not bow down, as did the others around him. He
said to his servants, "Who is that man sitting by the
gate, who does not bow down when I pass by?"
They answered Haman, "That is Mordecai the Jew."
But they did not tell Haman, for they did not know,
that Mordecai was the cousin of Queen Esther, and that
the queen of Persia herself was a Jewess.
When Haman found that Mordecai was a Jew he became very
angry, not only at Mordecai, but at all his people. He
hated the Jews, and he resolved to have revenge on
Mordecai, and on his account to make all Mordecai's
people suffer. Haman went in to the king, and said to
him, "O King Ahasuerus, there is a certain people
scattered abroad through your kingdom and apart from
all other peoples. Their laws are different from those
of every other nation, and they do not keep the king's
laws. It is not well to allow such a people to live. If
it is pleasing to the king, let a law be made
that this strange people be destroyed. I will myself
pay all the cost of
putting them to death, and will place the money in the
The king, living in his palace and never going out
among his people, knew nothing of the Jews, and
believed Haman's words. He took from his hand the ring
on which was the royal seal, and gave it to Haman,
"Do as you please; write whatever law you wish, and
stamp it with the king's seal. The money is yours, and
I give this strange people to you. You can do with them
as you please."
Then, by Haman's command, a law was written, and sealed
with the king's seal, that on a certain day, which was
the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, all the Jews
in every part of Persia might be slain. Any one who
chose to kill them might do so; and those who kill them
might take for their own all their money, the gold, and
silver, and garments which they might find in the
houses of the Jews.
The copies of this law were sent to every city of the
 Persia, to be read everywhere, so that all might know
that the Jews were to be destroyed. Everybody who heard
of it was filled with wonder, for no one knew of any
evil against the king that the Jews had done to deserve
death. They could not understand why the law had been
made; but everywhere the enemies of the Jews made ready
to destroy them, that they might have the Jews' riches;
for in those times, even as now, there was great wealth
among the Jews.
The news of this terrible law came to Mordecai, as it
came to all the Jews in Shushan. Mordecai tore his
clothes, as was the manner of those in deep grief; he
put on garments of sackcloth; he covered his head with
ashes, and he went forth in front of the palace, crying
a loud and bitter cry. Queen Esther saw him and heard
his voice. She sent one of her servants, named Hatach,
to Mordecai, to find why he was in such deep trouble.
Hatach came to Mordecai, and Mordecai told him of the
law for killing the Jews on a certain day, the
thirteenth day of the twelfth month, and gave him a
copy of it to show to Queen Esther; and he told Hatach
to ask the queen, in his name, to go in to King
Ahasuerus and beg him to spare the lives
 of her people. Queen Esther heard Hatach's words, and
sent this message to Mordecai:
"It is the rule of the palace that if any man or woman
shall go in to the king in his own room, without being
sent for by the king, he shall be slain unless the king
holds out to him the golden scepter. But I have not
been called to meet the king for thirty days."
When Mordecai heard this message he sent word again by
Hatach to Queen Esther:
"Do not think that in the king's palace you are safe,
and shall escape the fate of your people. If you keep
still, and do nothing to save your people, God will
surely save them in some other way; and you and your
father's family shall be destroyed. Who can tell whether
God has not raised you up and given you your royal
place for such a time as this?"
Then Esther sent this answer to Mordecai, "Go, and
bring together all the Jews in Shushan, and let them
all pray for me, eating and drinking nothing, for three
days. I and my maids in the palace will pray and fast
also at the same time. And then I will go in to the
king, even though it is against the law; and if it be
God's will that I should die in trying to save my
people, then I will die."
When Mordecai heard these words he was glad, for he
felt sure that God would save his people through Queen
Esther. For three days all the Jews in Shushan met
together, praying; and in the palace Esther and her
servants were praying at the same time.
The third day came, and Esther dressed herself in all
her robes as queen. She went out of her own rooms, and
across the open court, and entered the door in front of
the throne where the king was sitting. The king saw her
standing before him, in all her beauty, and his heart
was touched with love for her. He held out toward her
the golden rod or scepter that was in his hand. Esther
came near, and touched the top of the scepter. The king
said to her:
"What do you wish, Queen Esther? It shall be given to
you, even to the half of my kingdom."
But Esther did not at once ask for all that was in her
heart. She was very wise, and she said, "If it pleases
the king, I have come to ask that the king and Haman,
the prince, shall come this day to a dinner that I have
made ready for them."
The king said, "Send word to Haman that he haste, and
come to dine with the king and queen."
 So that day King Ahasuerus and Haman sat at the table
with the queen. She was covered with a veil, for even
Haman was not allowed to look upon her face. While they
were sitting together, the king said, "Queen Esther, is
there anything that you wish? It shall be be given to
you, whatever it is, even to half of the kingdom."
"My wish," answered the queen, "is that the king and
Haman shall come again to a dinner with me to-morrow."
Haman walked out of the palace that day happy at the
honor that had come to him, but when he saw Mordecai
sitting by the gate, and not rising up to bow before
him, all his gladness passed away, and he was angry in
his heart. When he came to his own house he told his
wife Zeresh, and his friends, how the king and the
queen had honored him, and then he said, "But all this
is as nothing to me when I see that man, Mordecai the
Jew, sitting at the king's gate."
MORDECAI DOES NOT KNEEL BEFORE HAMAN
But his wife said to him, "That is nothing. Before you
go to the feast to-morrow, have a gallows made, and
then ask the king to command that Mordecai be hanged
upon it. The king will do whatever you wish, and then,
when you have sent Mordecai to death, you can be happy
at your feast with the king and the queen."
This was very pleasing to Haman; and on that very day
he caused the gallows to be set up, ready for hanging
Mordecai on the next day.
It so happened that on that night the king could not
sleep. He told them to read in the book of records of
the kingdom, hoping that the reading might put him to
sleep. They read in the book how Mordecai had told of
the two men who had sought to murder the king. The king
stopped the reading, and said, "What reward has been
given to Mordecai for saving the life of the king from
"O king," they answered, "nothing has been done for
Then said the king, "Is any one of the princes standing
outside in the court?"
"Yes, O king," was answered; "the noble Haman is in the
Haman had come in at that very moment to ask the king
that Mordecai might be put to death. The king sent word
 to come in, and as soon as he entered said to him,
"What shall be done to any man whom the king wishes
especially to honor?"
Now Haman thought within himself, "There is no man whom
the king will wish to honor more than myself." Then he
said, "The man whom the king wishes especially to
honor, let him be dressed in the garments of the king,
and let him sit on the horse that the king rides upon,
and let the royal crown be set upon his head; let him
ride through the main street of the city, and let one of
the nobles call out before him, 'This is the man whom
the king delights to honor.' "
Then the king said to Haman, "Make haste, and do all
this that you have said to Mordecai the Jew, who sits
in the king's gate. See that nothing is left out of
what you have spoken."
Haman was astonished, and was cut to the heart, but he
did not dare speak as he felt. He obeyed the king's
command, sent for the king's horse, his robes, and his
crown; dressed Mordecai like a king, mounted him on the
horse, and went before him through the street of
Shushan, calling aloud, "This is the man whom the king
 delights to honor!" And after that Haman hid his anger
and his sorrow of heart, and sat down to the feast in
the queen's palace. He had not said a word to the king
of having Mordecai hanged upon the gallows which he had
set up the day before.
King Ahasuerus knew very well that his queen had still
some favor to ask; and at the feast he said to her,
"What do you wish, Queen Esther? Tell me, and I will
give it to you, even though it be half of my kingdom."
Then Esther saw that her time had come. She said to the
"If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it
please you, let my life be given me, and the lives of
my people. For we have been sold, I and all my people,
to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. If only we
had been sold as slaves, I would have said nothing; but
we are to be slain, in order to please our enemy."
Then said the king, "Who is the man, and where is he,
that has dared to do this thing?"
"The enemy," said Queen Esther, "is this wicked Haman!"
ESTHER POINTS TO HAMAN AS HER ENEMY
As the king heard this he was so angry that he rose up
from the table, and walked out into the garden. In a
moment he came back and saw Haman fallen down upon his
face, begging the queen to spare his life. The king
looked at him in anger, and the servants at once
covered Haman's face, as of one doomed to death. One of
the officers standing near said, "There stands the
gallows, seventy-five feet high, which Haman set up
yesterday for Mordecai to be hanged upon it."
HAMAN BEGS FOR HIS LIFE FROM ESTHER
"Hang Haman himself on it," commanded the king. So
Haman died upon the very gallows that he had made for
And on that day the king gave Haman's place to
Mordecai, and set him over the princes. He gave to
Mordecai his own ring, with its seal. And all the
family of Haman, his sons, were put to death for their
father's evil-doing, according to the cruel usage of
The law for killing the Jews on the thirteenth day of
the twelfth month had been made and sent abroad; and no
law of the Persians could be changed. But though this
law could not be taken back, another law was made that
the Jews could defend themselves against any who might
try to do them harm. When the day came most of their
enemies feared to harm the Jews, for
 now they were under the care of the king, and Mordecai,
a Jew, stood next to the king; and such of their
enemies as tried to kill them on that day were soon
So everywhere, instead of sorrow and death, on the
thirteenth day of the twelth month, the Jews had joy
and gladness. And on the day following, the fourteenth
day of the twelfth month, the Jews kept a feast of
thanksgiving to God for his mercy in saving them from
their enemies. The same feast was kept on that day,
every year afterward, and it is still kept among the
Jews in all lands, and is called the feast of Purim. On
that feast the story of Esther, the beautiful queen, is
read by all the Jewish people.