|The Nursery Book of Bible Stories|
|by Amy Steedman|
|Ideal introduction to the stories of the Bible for young children, including as it does those stories best suited for the youngest listeners, retold with rare literary skill. Dozens of attractive illustrations complement the text. Ages 5-9 |
 THERE was a great stir in the palace of Shushan, the beautiful palace which
King Darius, the friend and master of Daniel, had built. King Darius
was dead now, and Ahasuerus sat upon the throne of Babylon; and he
had just chosen for his queen, Esther, the Jewish maiden, one who belonged
to that race of people who had been carried away captive from Jerusalem.
It was little wonder that Ahasuerus had chosen her as his queen,
for there was no other maiden in all the land as beautiful as she was;
and he was one of those selfish, greedy kings who want everything that
pleases their eyes. And Esther's beauty pleased Ahasuerus more than
all the riches and treasures he possessed. He did not know she was a
Jewess—it would not have troubled him if he had known; but Mordecai,
her kinsman, had bade her keep that a secret.
It was Mordecai who had brought up the little orphan Jewish girl,
and she obeyed him as if he were her father. His heart was filled with
joy to think that Esther had been chosen to be queen, for he hoped that
some day she might be able to help her poor people, and speak a good
word for them to the king.
But before that time came he and Esther between them were able
to do the king himself a great service, and this was how it happened.
Mordecai, who held an important post in the court, spent a good
deal of his time in what was called the king's gate, a beautiful hall
outside the palace, where men waited to have an audience with the king.
It was while waiting there one day that he discovered that a plot
was on foot to kill the king, and he immediately sent secretly and told
Esther. She, of course, took the news to the king; and it was all so
quickly done that the plotters were seized at once and put to death, and
the king's life was saved. No one thought of rewarding Mordecai,
and it was all soon forgotten. But the account was written down in
the king's book just as it happened.
Soon after this trouble began to gather round Mordecai. The king
had put a man called Haman at the head of all the princes of the palace,
to be obeyed as if he were the king himself. All the servants and officers
of the court bowed before him as he swept proudly through the waiting
throng at the king's gate-all except one old man, the Jew Mordecai.
It was not pride which made Mordecai refuse to bow his head to
Haman. It was quite a different reason. To bow to a heathen ruler
 was considered just the same as bowing to the god whom he represented;
and Mordecai, who loved and obeyed the true God, would do no
reverence to any other. He knew it was dangerous to refuse; but, like Daniel,
he was not afraid to show that he served God. People whispered as they
watched him, and the whispers grew louder and louder, until they reached
the ears of Haman and made him furiously angry.
Day by day the same thing happened, and as Haman saw that
upright figure and unbowed head, he hated Mordecai more and more.
What was the use of all his state and power as long as that unbending
figure stood in his way?
So Haman thought, and he planned a terrible vengeance. The
punishment should fall not only on Mordecai, but upon all his people too.
The Jews in every part of the country should be swept out of existence.
It would be necessary, of course, to work with great cunning; but, after
all, the selfish king was easily managed.
"These strange people, the Jews, who are scattered about all thy
kingdom, are always giving trouble," he said to Ahasuerus one day.
"They have different laws, and refuse to keep the king's law. If it
please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed."
Then he went on to offer to pay a large sum of money if he were
allowed to carry out the plan. But the king needed no bribe—he was
more than willing to grant such a request; and he at once gave his
signet ring to Haman, that he might seal the letters that ordered all Jews
to be killed.
With a joyful heart Haman set to work at once to write out the letters
and fix the day of the massacre, and messengers were sent out to carry
the orders into every land.
It was a terrible vengeance, and Mordecai was troubled beyond words.
There was but one thing to do: Esther must be told, and she must try
to save her people. She must not think of herself. God had given her
power, and the time had come when she must use it for His people.
It was no easy thing for Esther to do. No one dared to go in and
speak. to the king without special permission. Any one who went
uninvited might be put to death. It was only if the king should hold
out his golden sceptre in token of forgiveness that the intruder would
be allowed to live.
But Esther took her courage in both hands. She dressed herself in
all her most beautiful, queenly robes and then entered into the royal
hall, where the king sat upon his golden throne.
 The king looked up with an angry frown to see who it was who dared
to come into his presence uninvited; but as soon as his eye fell upon
his queen, standing there in all her beauty, with her head humbly bent, his
anger died away, and he held out to her his golden sceptre.
No wonder that the king's heart softened as he looked at Esther.
She was always beautiful, but to-day there was something almost dazzling
about her loveliness, the beauty of her soul shining through the earthly
beauty; and as she came forward to touch the sceptre held out towards
her, the king was ready to do anything that she asked.
"What wilt thou, Queen Esther?" he said, "and what is thy
request? It shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom."
But Esther did not tell him at once what she wanted. Perhaps she
thought it wiser to wait. Instead, she only asked that the king and
Haman should come to a feast she had prepared for them.
The feast put the king in a better temper than ever, and again he
asked her what it was that she wanted. But once more Esther hesitated,
and merely asked that he would be her guest again next day.
Meanwhile Haman's heart overflowed with joy and pride, because
he had been chosen to sit at the queen's table, and because soon all
the hated Jews would be killed, and Mordecai would stand no longer in
his path. He could scarcely wait for the day of the massacre to dawn,
and he began to make ready a great gallows on which Mordecai should
But that very night it so happened that the king was wakeful; and
as he could not sleep he ordered that his books should be brought, and
the records read aloud to him. And what should be read to him but
the story of how Mordecai the Jew had saved the king's life!
The king was quite interested as he listened. "What honour and
dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this?" he asked.
"There is nothing done for him," answered the servants.
"That must be put right at once," said the king; and he
immediately sent for Haman, and asked him, "What shall be done unto the man
whom the king delighteth to honour?"
Now Haman, of course, thought he must be the man whom the king
meant, so he suggested the most splendid honours he could think of.
The man should be dressed in the king's own royal robes, he said, and
ride upon the king's horse, and the most noble of all the princes should
bring him on horseback through the streets of the city.
This answer pleased the king. "Make haste," he said, "and take
 the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai
the Jew: let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken."
It was a bitter moment for proud Haman, and there was no escape
from the bitterness. The king must be obeyed. Only when it was all
done, and he had been obliged to act as the servant of the man he hated,
he hid himself in his house and gave vent to his furious anger. But
even then he was obliged to quickly hide his feelings, for the king's
servants came to tell him that Esther's feast was ready, and he must come
And now the time had come for Esther to risk all. And when the
king asked her again to tell him her request, she went and knelt at his
feet, and begged for her own life, and for the life of her people.
"Who is he, and where is he, who has dared to threaten thy life?"
thundered the king.
Then Esther rose up and pointed to the terrified Haman, who stood
trembling before them. Well might he tremble, for the king's wrath
was a terrible thing to see; and the order was given that they should
hang Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.
It was impossible to change the wicked order that Haman had written,
for it was sealed with the king's signet. But yet there was another way
of granting the queen's request, and the king sent out other letters,
ordering that all the Jews should be allowed to arm and defend
themselves. And so Queen Esther's people were saved. She had willingly
risked her own life, and now she had her reward, for there was joy and
gladness amongst all the Jews. Mordecai was given a post of great
honour, and was dressed in royal robes of blue and white, covering a
garment of fine linen and purple, and he had, too, a golden crown; while
Esther, the queen, had all that she could desire, and never forgot to
thank God that He had used her to save His people.
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