Queen Esther was the queen of the vast Persian Empire. She was a woman of charm, amazing strength and guile. Esther risked her life and saved her nation from genocide.
Queen Esther’s thirteen is not the thirteen usually associated with rebellion and lawlessness. She never forgot her humble heritage, even when living in the luxury of the Persian palace.
Esther was a woman of clear judgement and magnificent self-control, yet, capable or noble self-sacrifice. She was a beautiful woman both inside and out and did not allow limitations to stop her.
Esther’s family preferred to remain in Babylon, when many of their countrymen returned to the ruined Jerusalem. When her parents died she came under the guardianship of her cousin, Mordecai, a palace official.
Mordecai adored his adopted daughter and younger cousin. He counselled Esther to keep her Jewish heritage a secret.
Queen Vashti Deposed
King Ahasuerus spent six months exhibiting the grandeur of his court. His territory extended from Ethiopia to India. He discussed his proposed invasion of Greece, with the military and civil leaders.
The king held a seven-day drinking feast at the conclusion of the six months. The queen also made a feast for the women guests.
On the seventh day of the feast, the king summoned the queen, with the purpose of displaying her beauty. Vashti was a beautiful, but proud woman. As queen of the Persian Empire, she would not allow her husband to show her off to a bunch of drunken nobles and princes.
A national crisis was created. If the queen could disobey the king, all authority in the home would be questioned. They voted to have Queen Vashti deposed and her estates given to another, more worthy.
Find A New Queen
The Greek armies soundly defeated King Ahasuerus. He longed for the comfort of his queen, but there had been an unchangeable edict against Queen Vashti. A search for a new queen began.
Esther’s original name was Hadassah, meaning ‘myrtle’. Esther was her Persian name, meaning ‘the star of hope’.
Hadassah was among cream of the nation’s single females. They were taken to the king’s house of women, and placed in the care of Hege, the king’s chamberlain and a eunuch.
Esther Found Favour
The young women entered a year of purification. Six months oil of myrrh and six months of sweet odours. Esther found favour with Hege. He gave her the best position in the house of women, plus seven maidens to serve her.
A woman was given whatever she desired when the king summoned her. Esther did not choose jewels and elaborate outfits. She only asked for what Hege advised her.
King Ahasuerus was smitten by Esther. She became Queen Esther, four years after Vashti’s divorce. Ahasuerus ignored the Persian law that the king must take a wife from one of the seven great Persian families, and unknowingly took a Jewess as his queen.
The king again added more young women to his harem. Queen Esther could only go to him at his request.
King Ahasuerus promoted Haman above all the princes and nobles of the empire. Haman was from the line of King Agag, an Amalekite. They were descendants of Esau and sworn enemies of all descendants of the Hebrew, Isaac.
The king’s servants bowed and paid reverence to Haman. All except Mordecai. He was a Jew and would revere none but his God.
Mordecai made a powerful enemy. Haman lusted after power and hated any who would not acknowledge his influential position.
Haman learned Mordecai was a Jew. He hatched up a plan to get rid of Mordecai, as well as eliminate all Jews en bloc. The same spirit was in Hitler centuries later.
Haman informed the king there were a group of people throughout the empire, who did not follow the king’s laws. He told the king he would give him 10,000 shekels of silver, or 340 metric tons, if the king allowed him to destroy the Jews. Haman would recoup the bribe money by confiscating the Jews’ property.
The king wrote an edit on the 13th day of the first month. All Jews were to be eliminated on the 13th day of the twelfth month.
Queen Esther’s Outstanding Courage
Mordecai sent a copy of the unchangeable edict to Queen Esther, instructing her to go to the king. She needed to reveal that she was a Jewess and ask for mercy for the Jewish people. Esther could not accept women’s limitations that society tried to impose, even if it meant her life.
To approach the king without being summoned meant Esther could be put to death. Esther followed her uncle’s instructions, through patriotic pride, love for her uncle and the knowledge she would also die on the 13th day of the 12th month.
The king allowed the queen an audience. She had passed the first hurdle and began strategizing. Queen Esther invited the king and Haman to dine with her.
The king offered Esther anything she desired, up to half his kingdom. Considering the size of the Persian kingdom, that was quite an offer. Esther continued her strategy and deferred her decision to the following night, at another banquet for the king and Haman. Proud and over-confident, Haman boasted to his extensive family and friends his privileged position of dining alone with the king and queen.
Haman was so incensed that Mordecai would not acknowledge Haman’s exalted position that he ordered a 23 metre high gallows built in his garden. There he would hang Mordecai.
Mordecai Honoured Haman Humiliated
The king could not sleep, probably wondering what Esther was going to ask. He filled the night hours reading and discovered that Mordecai had foiled an assassination attempt on the king. Mordecai’s act had not been acknowledged.
The king sought Haman’s advice on how to honour someone. Haman told him, “Put royal clothes on the man and seat him on the King’s horse. Place a royal crown on the man’s head. Honour the man by one of the king’s men leading the man through the street, so all could see him.”
Haman led Mordecai through the city in the manner he had described to the king. His humiliation was beyond words.
Queen Ester Reveals Her Heritage
The king was outraged when he learned the Queen’s true identity as a Jewess and that the Queen was condemned to death. He demanded to know who threatened his queen. Esther unmasked Haman.
The king stormed out into the garden. When he finally returned, he found Haman fallen across the queen’s couch, pleading for his life.
Misreading the situation, the king ordered his men to hang Haman on the gallows Haman had built for Mordecai. The king gave Esther Haman’s estate. This she handed over to the care of Mordecai.
13th Of 12th Month
Once again Queen Esther plucked up her courage and appeared before the king to plead for the life of her people. The king could not undo his edict.
Mordecai had been elevated to the position Haman had once held. He sent out an edict in the king’s name, instructing the Jews to arm themselves. They had nine months to prepare.
The rulers of the 126 provinces ordered their people to assist the Jews against their enemies. Many people feared the Jews and converted to Judaism. On the 13th day of the 12th month, there was a great slaughter. 75,000 people died.
Esther stopped any further insurrection. She ordered the hanging of Haman’s 10 sons.
Esther risked her life and saved her nation from genocide. The Jewish people read the Book of Esther annually in memory of what Esther achieved. Other women who showed immense courage are Jael and Hannah.
Women everywhere have a unique voice in their sphere of influence. Social demands or disability should not define them. Like Queen Esther, there are women pioneers whose influence continues long after they are gone. They change history.
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