Bible Society of South Africa

To The Word – Day 133

Esther 1–7

Bible text(s)

Queen Vashti Defies King Xerxes

1-2From his royal throne in Persia's capital city of Susa, King Xerxes ruled over 127 provinces, all the way from India to Ethiopia.

3In the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his officials and administrators. The armies of Persia and Media were present, as well as the governors and noblemen of the provinces. 4For six whole months he made a show of the riches of the imperial court with all its splendour and majesty.

5After that, the king gave a banquet for all the people in the capital city of Susa, rich and poor alike. It lasted a whole week and was held in the gardens of the royal palace. 6The courtyard there was decorated with blue and white cotton curtains, tied by cords of fine purple linen to silver rings on marble columns. Couches made of gold and silver had been placed in the courtyard, which was paved with white marble, red feldspar, shining mother-of-pearl, and blue turquoise. 7Drinks were served in gold cups, no two of them alike, and the king was generous with the royal wine. 8There were no limits on the drinks; the king had given orders to the palace servants that everyone could have as much as he wanted.

9Meanwhile, inside the royal palace Queen Vashti was giving a banquet for the women.

10On the seventh day of his banquet the king was drinking and feeling merry, so he called in the seven eunuchs who were his personal servants, Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carkas. 11He ordered them to bring in Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown. The queen was a beautiful woman, and the king wanted to show off her beauty to the officials and all his guests. 12But when the servants told Queen Vashti of the king's command, she refused to come. This made the king furious.

13Now it was the king's custom to ask for expert opinion on questions of law and order, so he called for his advisers, who would know what should be done. 14Those he most often turned to for advice were Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan — seven officials of Persia and Media who held the highest offices in the kingdom. 15He said to these men, “I, King Xerxes, sent my servants to Queen Vashti with a command, and she refused to obey it! What does the law say that we should do with her?”

16Then Memucan declared to the king and his officials: “Queen Vashti has insulted not only the king but also his officials — in fact, every man in the empire! 17Every woman in the empire will begin to look down on her husband as soon as she hears what the queen has done. They'll say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to come to him, and she refused.’ 18When the wives of the royal officials of Persia and Media hear about the queen's behaviour they will be telling their husbands about it before the day is out. Wives everywhere will have no respect for their husbands, and husbands will be angry with their wives. 19If it please Your Majesty, issue a royal proclamation that Vashti may never again appear before the king. Order it to be written into the laws of Persia and Media, so that it can never be changed. Then give her place as queen to some better woman. 20When your proclamation is made known all over this huge empire, every woman will treat her husband with proper respect, whether he's rich or poor.”

21The king and his officials liked this idea, and the king did what Memucan suggested. 22To each of the royal provinces he sent a message in the language and the system of writing of that province, saying that every husband should be the master of his home and speak with final authority.

Esther Becomes Queen

1Later, even after the king's anger had cooled down, he kept thinking about what Vashti had done and about his proclamation against her. 2So some of the king's advisers who were close to him suggested, “Why don't you make a search to find some beautiful young virgins? 3You can appoint officials in every province of the empire and order them to bring all these beautiful young women to your harem here in Susa, the capital city. Put them in the care of Hegai, the eunuch who is in charge of your women, and let them be given a beauty treatment. 4Then take the young woman you like best and make her queen in Vashti's place.”

The king thought this was good advice, so he followed it.

5There in Susa lived a Jew named Mordecai son of Jair; he was from the tribe of Benjamin and was a descendant of Kish and Shimei. 6When King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took King Jehoiachin of Judah into exile from Jerusalem, along with a group of captives, Mordecai was among them. 7He had a cousin, Esther, whose Hebrew name was Hadassah; she was a beautiful young woman, and had a good figure. At the death of her parents, Mordecai had adopted her and brought her up as his own daughter.

8When the king had issued his new proclamation and many young women were being brought to Susa, Esther was among them. She too was put in the royal palace in the care of Hegai, who had charge of the harem. 9Hegai liked Esther, and she won his favour. He lost no time in beginning her beauty treatment of massage and special diet. He gave her the best place in the harem and assigned seven young women specially chosen from the royal palace to serve her.

10Now, on the advice of Mordecai, Esther had kept it secret that she was Jewish. 11Every day Mordecai would walk to and fro in front of the courtyard of the harem, in order to find out how she was getting on and what was going to happen to her.

12The regular beauty treatment for the women lasted a year — massages with oil of myrrh for six months and with oil of balsam for six more. After that, each young woman would be taken in turn to King Xerxes. 13When she went from the harem to the palace, she could wear whatever she wanted. 14She would go there in the evening, and the next morning she would be taken to another harem and put in the care of Shaashgaz, the eunuch in charge of the king's concubines. She would not go to the king again unless he liked her enough to ask for her by name.

15The time came for Esther to go to the king. Esther — the daughter of Abihail and the cousin of Mordecai, who had adopted her as his daughter; Esther — admired by everyone who saw her. When her turn came, she wore just what Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the harem, advised her to wear. 16So in Xerxes' seventh year as king, in the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, Esther was brought to King Xerxes in the royal palace. 17The king liked her more than any of the other women, and more than any of the others she won his favour and affection. He placed the royal crown on her head and made her queen in place of Vashti. 18Then the king gave a great banquet in Esther's honour and invited all his officials and administrators. He proclaimed a holiday for the whole empire and distributed gifts worthy of a king.

Mordecai Saves the King's Life

19Meanwhile Mordecai had been appointed by the king to an administrative position. 20As for Esther, she had still not let it be known that she was Jewish. Mordecai had told her not to tell anyone, and she obeyed him in this, just as she had obeyed him when she was a little girl under his care.

21During the time that Mordecai held office in the palace, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the palace eunuchs who guarded the entrance to the king's rooms, became hostile to King Xerxes and plotted to assassinate him. 22Mordecai learnt about it and told Queen Esther, who then told the king what Mordecai had found out. 23There was an investigation, and it was discovered that the report was true, so both men were hanged on the gallows. The king ordered an account of this to be written down in the official records of the empire.

Haman Plots to Destroy the Jews

1Some time later King Xerxes promoted a man named Haman to the position of prime minister. Haman was the son of Hammedatha, a descendant of Agag. 2The king ordered all the officials in his service to show their respect for Haman by kneeling and bowing to him. They all did so, except for Mordecai, who refused to do it. 3The other officials in the royal service asked him why he was disobeying the king's command; 4day after day they urged him to give in, but he would not listen to them. “I am a Jew,” he explained, “and I cannot bow to Haman.” So they told Haman about this, wondering if he would tolerate Mordecai's conduct. 5Haman was furious when he realized that Mordecai was not going to kneel and bow to him, 6and when he learnt that Mordecai was a Jew, he decided to do more than punish Mordecai alone. He made plans to kill every Jew in the whole Persian Empire.

7In the twelfth year of King Xerxes' rule, in the first month, the month of Nisan, Haman ordered the lots to be cast (“purim”, they were called) to find out the right day and month to carry out his plot. The thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, was decided on.

8So Haman told the king, “There is a certain race of people scattered all over your empire and found in every province. They observe customs that are not like those of any other people. Moreover, they do not obey the laws of the empire, so it is not in your best interests to tolerate them. 9If it please Your Majesty, issue a decree that they are to be put to death. If you do, I guarantee that I will be able to put more than 340 tonnes of silver into the royal treasury for the administration of the empire.”

10The king took off his ring, which was used to stamp proclamations and make them official, and gave it to the enemy of the Jewish people, Haman son of Hammedatha, the descendant of Agag. 11The king told him, “The people and their money are yours; do as you like with them.”

12So on the thirteenth day of the first month Haman called the king's secretaries and dictated a proclamation to be translated into every language and system of writing used in the empire and to be sent to all the rulers, governors, and officials. It was issued in the name of King Xerxes and stamped with his ring. 13Runners took this proclamation to every province of the empire. It contained the instructions that on a single day, the thirteenth day of Adar, all Jews — young and old, women and children — were to be killed. They were to be slaughtered without mercy and their belongings were to be taken. 14The contents of the proclamation were to be made public in every province, so that everyone would be prepared when that day came.

15At the king's command the decree was made public in the capital city of Susa, and runners carried the news to the provinces. The king and Haman sat down and had a drink while the city of Susa was being thrown into confusion.

Mordecai Asks for Esther's Help

1When Mordecai learnt of all that had been done, he tore his clothes in anguish. Then he dressed in sackcloth, covered his head with ashes, and walked through the city, wailing loudly and bitterly, 2until he came to the entrance of the palace. He did not go in because no one wearing sackcloth was allowed inside. 3Throughout all the provinces, wherever the king's proclamation was made known, there was loud mourning among the Jews. They fasted, wept and wailed, and most of them put on sackcloth and lay in ashes.

4When Esther's young women and eunuchs told her what Mordecai was doing, she was deeply disturbed. She sent Mordecai some clothes to put on instead of the sackcloth, but he would not accept them. 5Then she called Hathach, one of the palace eunuchs appointed as her servant by the king, and told him to go to Mordecai and find out what was happening and why. 6Hathach went to Mordecai in the city square at the entrance of the palace. 7Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him and just how much money Haman had promised to put into the royal treasury if all the Jews were killed. 8He gave Hathach a copy of the proclamation that had been issued in Susa, ordering the destruction of the Jews. Mordecai asked him to take it to Esther, explain the situation to her, and ask her to go and plead with the king and beg him to have mercy on her people. 9Hathach did this, 10and Esther gave him this message to take back to Mordecai: 11“If anyone, man or woman, goes to the inner courtyard and sees the king without being summoned, that person must die. That is the law; everyone, from the king's advisers to the people in the provinces, knows that. There is only one way to get round this law: if the king holds out his gold sceptre to someone, then that person's life is spared. But it has been a month since the king sent for me.”

12When Mordecai received Esther's message, 13he sent her this warning: “Don't imagine that you are safer than any other Jew just because you are in the royal palace. 14If you keep quiet at a time like this, help will come from heaven to the Jews, and they will be saved, but you will die and your father's family will come to an end. Yet who knows — maybe it was for a time like this that you were made queen!”

15Esther sent Mordecai this reply: 16“Go and gather all the Jews in Susa together; hold a fast and pray for me. Don't eat or drink anything for three days and nights. My young women and I will be doing the same. After that, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. If I must die for doing it, I will die.”

17Mordecai then left and did everything that Esther had told him to do.

Esther Invites the King and Haman to a Banquet

1On the third day of her fast Esther put on her royal robes and went and stood in the inner courtyard of the palace, facing the throne room. The king was inside, seated on the royal throne, facing the entrance. 2When the king saw Queen Esther standing outside, she won his favour, and he held out to her the gold sceptre. She then came up and touched the tip of it. 3“What is it, Queen Esther?” the king asked. “Tell me what you want, and you shall have it — even if it is half my empire.”

4Esther replied, “If it please Your Majesty, I would like you and Haman to be my guests tonight at a banquet I am preparing for you.”

5The king then ordered Haman to come quickly, so that they could be Esther's guests. So the king and Haman went to Esther's banquet. 6Over the wine the king asked her, “Tell me what you want, and you shall have it. I will grant your request, even if you ask for half my empire.”

7Esther replied, 8“If Your Majesty is kind enough to grant my request, I would like you and Haman to be my guests tomorrow at another banquet that I will prepare for you. At that time I will tell you what I want.”

Haman Plots to Kill Mordecai

9When Haman left the banquet he was happy and in a good mood. But then he saw Mordecai at the entrance of the palace, and when Mordecai did not rise or show any sign of respect as he passed, Haman was furious with him. 10But he controlled himself and went home. Then he invited his friends to his house and asked his wife Zeresh to join them. 11He boasted to them how rich he was, how many sons he had, how the king had promoted him to high office, and how much more important he was than any of the king's other officials. 12“What is more,” Haman went on, “Queen Esther gave a banquet for no one but the king and me, and we are invited back tomorrow. 13But none of this means a thing to me as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the entrance of the palace.”

14So his wife and all his friends suggested, “Why don't you have a gallows built, 22 metres tall? Tomorrow morning you can ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on it, and then you can go to the banquet happy.”

Haman thought this was a good idea, so he had the gallows built.

The King Honours Mordecai

1That same night the king could not get to sleep, so he ordered the official records of the empire to be brought and read to him. 2The part they read included the account of how Mordecai had uncovered a plot to assassinate the king — the plot made by Bigthana and Teresh, the two palace eunuchs who had guarded the king's rooms. 3The king asked, “How have we honoured and rewarded Mordecai for this?”

His servants answered, “Nothing has been done for him.”

4“Are any of my officials in the palace?” the king asked.

Now Haman had just entered the courtyard; he had come to ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on the gallows that was now ready. 5So the servants answered, “Haman is here, waiting to see you.”

“Show him in,” said the king.

6So Haman came in, and the king said to him, “There is someone I wish very much to honour. What should I do for this man?”

Haman thought to himself, “Now who could the king want to honour so much? Me, of course.”

7-8So he answered the king, “Order royal robes to be brought for this man — robes that you yourself wear. Order a royal ornament to be put on your own horse. 9Then get one of your highest noblemen to dress the man in these robes and lead him, mounted on the horse, through the city square. Let the nobleman announce as they go: ‘See how the king rewards a person he wishes to honour!’ ”

10Then the king said to Haman, “Hurry and get the robes and the horse, and provide these honours for Mordecai the Jew. Do everything for him that you have suggested. You will find him sitting at the entrance of the palace.”

11So Haman got the robes and the horse, and he put the robes on Mordecai. Mordecai got on the horse, and Haman led him through the city square, announcing to the people as they went: “See how the king rewards a man he wishes to honour!”

12Mordecai then went back to the palace entrance while Haman hurried home, covering his face in embarrassment. 13He told his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then she and those wise friends of his said to him, “You are beginning to lose power to Mordecai. He is a Jew, and you cannot overcome him. He will certainly defeat you.”

Haman is Put to Death

14While they were still talking, the palace eunuchs arrived in a hurry to take Haman to Esther's banquet.

1And so the king and Haman went to eat with Esther 2for a second time. Over the wine the king asked her again, “Now, Queen Esther, what do you want? Tell me and you shall have it. I'll even give you half the empire.”

3Queen Esther answered, “If it please Your Majesty to grant my humble request, my wish is that I may live and that my people may live. 4My people and I have been sold for slaughter. If it were nothing more serious than being sold into slavery, I would have kept quiet and not bothered you about it; but we are about to be destroyed — exterminated!”

5Then King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, “Who dares to do such a thing? Where is this man?”

6Esther answered, “Our enemy, our persecutor, is this evil man Haman!”

Haman stared at the king and queen in terror. 7The king got up in a fury, left the room, and went outside to the palace gardens. Haman could see that the king was determined to punish him for this, so he stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life. 8He had just thrown himself down on Esther's couch to beg for mercy, when the king came back into the room from the gardens. Seeing this, the king cried out, “Is this man going to rape the queen right here in front of me, in my own palace?”

The king had no sooner said this than the eunuchs covered Haman's head. 9Then one of them, who was named Harbonah, said, “Haman even went so far as to build a gallows at his house so that he could hang Mordecai, who saved Your Majesty's life. And it's 22 metres tall!”

“Hang Haman on it!” the king commanded.

10So Haman was hanged on the gallows that he had built for Mordecai. Then the king's anger cooled down.

Bible Society of South Africav.4.16.20
Find us on