Long ago, in a country called Persia (Babylon), there was a king named Achashveyrosh (as known in Jewish... his Persian name was Xerxes) and a queen named Vashti. King Achashveyrosh ordered his wife the queen to appear before him at a party so he could show everyone how pretty she was. When she refused, the king was furious.
To make matters worse, a rather nasty man named Haman was one of the King's advisors. Haman teased the king that if word got around, no one's wife would think she had to listen to her husband. At Haman's urging, King Achashveyrosh ordered that his wife be put to death.
King Achashveyrosh wasn't happy for long without a queen, so he ordered a search through the kingdom for a beautiful girl to be his bride. It wasn't too long before the King's scouts happened upon Esther. Esther was beautiful, gracious and kind -- just what the king was looking for. In no time at all, Esther was married to the king.
Now Esther was a Jew. The Jews had been driven out of Israel, their home, about 70 years before and exiled in Persia. Although they did there best to make a living in this strange land, they prayed that someday they would be able to return to their home. Esther's uncle Mordechai, was the leader of the Jews. Mordechai encouraged Esther to hide her faith from the King and his advisors, which she did.
Haman had, by this time, become a powerful man in the kingdom - Prime Minister of
Persia in fact. He decided that given his rise in power, it would be appropriate for
everyone to bow down to him. But Mordechai refused to bow down to him. Haman
was very angry and asked the King to authorize a royal decree to annihilate the Jews.
Haman cast lots to determine the day this was to happen. And so it was decreed that in Adar of the coming year, on the 13th day of the month, all the Jews were to be killed, in every province and every nation of the land. There would be no place to run, and no place to hide.
This is where our brave Queen Esther comes into the picture -- Mordechai, having found out about Haman's evil intentions, sent
Esther a message. He told her what Haman was plotting and asked her to go to the King on the Jews behalf.
Esther was afraid. She hadn't been allowed to see the King for a month. In fact, no one could see him without being invited. But she fasted and prayed for three days, mustered up her courage and went to see the king. Although he was initially angry at her, King Achashveyrosh spared her life and offered "half my kingdom for your wishes,"
All she asked was that the King and Haman join her for dinner that night.
As they were drinking wine, the king again asked Esther, "Now what is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted." Esther replied, "My petition and my request is this: If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king's question." Of course, both the King and Haman agreed to attend a second banquet with the lovely young Queen.
Haman was very pleased that he'd been asked to dine with Achashveyrosh and Esther two nights in a row and was filled with pride. But then he saw Mordecai at the king's gate and still Mordecai refused to bow to him. Haman was filled with rage. He decided that night to build a gallows with which to hang Mordechai and planned to speak to the king about it the very next morning. That way, he'd have the whole matter dealt with during the day and be able to enjoy the next evening's banquet in peace.
That same night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the
record of his reign, to be brought in and
read to him. The book was turned to the day Mordecai exposed a plot to assassinate the King. The King was reminded of this tale and asked what reward Mordecai had received. The king's attendants told him that nothing had been done for Mordecai.
The next morning, just as Haman was arriving to ask that Mordecai be hanged the king asked him, "What should be done for the man the king delights to honor?" Haman, still filled with pride, mistakenly thought the king was referring to him. So he answered the king, "For the man the king delights to honor, have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king's most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, `This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!'"
Imagine Haman's shock when the King commanded, "Go at once. Get the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king's gate." Haman obeyed the king, of course, but not happily! He was very upset that Mordecai, his enemy, was being honored by the king. Immediately after leading Mordecai around the city proclaiming, "This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!", Haman had to go to the banquet with the King and Queen.
Finally Esther shared the secret of her faith and proclaimed herself a Jew. She begged the king to spare her people. Harbona, one of the king's attendants told the king of the gallows that Haman had built to have Mordecai hanged. The king was furious with Haman and ordered that he be hanged on those gallows. Haman's pride and cruelty had led to his own destruction and the brave, young Esther had saved her people.
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