Ezra 6:14-22 New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
14 The elders of the Jews continued to build the temple. They enjoyed great success because of the preaching of Haggai and Zechariah, the prophets. Zechariah belonged to the family line of Iddo. The people finished building the temple. That’s what the God of Israel had commanded them to do. Cyrus and Darius had given orders allowing them to do it. Later, Artaxerxes supplied many things that were needed in the temple. Those three men were kings of Persia. 15 So the temple was completed on the third day of the month of Adar. It was in the sixth year that Darius was king.
16 When the house of God was set apart, the people of Israel celebrated with joy. The priests and Levites joined them. So did the rest of those who had returned from the land of Babylon. 17 When the house of God was set apart to him, the people sacrificed 100 bulls. They also sacrificed 200 rams and 400 male lambs. As a sin offering for the whole nation of Israel, the people sacrificed 12 male goats. One goat was sacrificed for each tribe in Israel. 18 The priests were appointed to their groups. And the Levites were appointed to their groups. All of them served God at Jerusalem. They served him in keeping with what is written in the Book of Moses.
The People Celebrate the Passover Feast
19 The people who had returned from the land of Babylon celebrated the Passover Feast. It was on the 14th day of the first month. 20 The priests and Levites had made themselves pure and “clean.” The Levites killed Passover lambs for the people who had returned from Babylon. They also did it for themselves and their relatives, the priests. 21 So the Israelites who had returned ate the Passover lamb. They ate it together with all those who had separated themselves from the practices of their Gentile neighbors. Those practices were “unclean.” The people worshiped the Lord. He is the God of Israel. 22 For seven days they celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread with joy. That’s because the Lord had filled them with joy. They were glad because he had changed the mind of the king of Persia. So the king had helped them with the work on the house of the God of Israel.
Ezra 4:6 New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
Later Enemies Also Oppose the Jews
6 The enemies of the Jews brought charges against the people of Judah and Jerusalem. It happened when Xerxes began to rule over Persia.
Esther 1-4 New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
Vashti Is Removed From Her Position as Queen
1 King Xerxes ruled over the 127 territories in his kingdom. They reached from India all the way to Cush. Here is what happened during the time Xerxes ruled over the whole Persian kingdom. 2 He was ruling from his royal throne in the fort of Susa. 3 In the third year of his rule King Xerxes gave a feast. It was for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media were there. So were the princes and the nobles of the territories he ruled over.
4 Every day for 180 days he showed his guests the great wealth of his kingdom. He also showed them how glorious his kingdom was. 5 When those days were over, the king gave another feast. It lasted for seven days. It was held in the garden of the king’s courtyard. It was for all the people who lived in the fort of Susa. Everyone from the least important person to the most important was invited. 6 The garden was decorated with white and blue linen banners. They hung from ropes that were made out of white linen and purple cloth. The ropes were connected to silver rings on marble pillars. There were gold and silver couches in the garden. They were placed on a floor that was made out of small stones. The floor had purple crystal, marble, mother-of-pearl and other stones of great value. 7 Royal wine was served in gold cups. Each cup was different from all the others. There was plenty of wine. The king always provided as much as his guests wanted. 8 He commanded that they should be allowed to drink as much or as little as they wished. He directed all his servants to give his guests what they asked for.
9 Queen Vashti also gave a feast. Only women were invited. It was held in the royal palace of King Xerxes.
10 On the seventh day Xerxes was in a good mood because he had drunk a lot of wine. So he gave a command to the seven officials who served him. They were Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Karkas. 11 King Xerxes told them to bring Queen Vashti to him. He wanted her to come wearing her royal crown. He wanted to show off her beauty to the people and nobles. She was lovely to look at. 12 The attendants told Queen Vashti what the king had ordered her to do. But she refused to come. So the king became very angry.
13 It was the king’s practice to ask for advice about matters of law and fairness. So he spoke with the wise men who understood what was going on at that time. 14 They were the men closest to the king. Their names were Karshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena and Memukan. They were the seven nobles of Persia and Media. They were the king’s special advisers and the most important men in the kingdom.
15 “You know the law,” the king said. “What should I do to Queen Vashti? She hasn’t obeyed my command. The officials told her what I ordered her to do, didn’t they?”
16 Then Memukan gave a reply to the king and the nobles. He said, “Queen Vashti has done what is wrong. But she didn’t do it only against you, King Xerxes. She did it also against all the nobles. And she did it against the people in all the territories you rule over. 17 All the women will hear about what the queen has done. Then they won’t respect their husbands. They’ll say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought to him. But she wouldn’t come.’ 18 Here is what will start today. The leading women in Persia and Media who have heard about the queen’s actions will act in the same way. They’ll disobey all your nobles, just as she disobeyed you. They won’t have any respect for their husbands. They won’t honor them.
19 “So if it pleases you, send out a royal order. Let it be written down in the laws of Persia and Media. Those laws can never be changed. Let the royal order say that Vashti can never see you again. Also let her position as queen be given to someone who is better than she is. 20 And let your order be announced all through your entire kingdom. Then all women will have respect for their husbands, from the least important to the most important.”
21 The king and his nobles were pleased with that advice. So he did what Memukan had suggested. 22 The king sent messages out to every territory in the kingdom. He sent them to each territory in its own writing. He sent them to every nation in its own language. The messages announced that every man should rule over his own family, using his own language.
Esther Becomes Queen of Persia
2 Later, the great anger of King Xerxes calmed down. Then he remembered Vashti and what she had done. He also remembered the royal order he had sent out concerning her. 2 At that time the king’s personal attendants made a suggestion. They said, “King Xerxes, let a search be made for some beautiful young virgins for you. 3 Appoint some officials in every territory in your kingdom. Have them bring all these beautiful young women into the fort of Susa. Put them in the special place where the virgins stay. Then put Hegai in charge of them. He’s the official who serves you. He’s in charge of the women. Let beauty care be given to the new group of women. 4 Then let the young woman who pleases you the most become queen in Vashti’s place.” The king liked that advice. So he followed it.
5 There was a Jew living in the fort of Susa. He was from the tribe of Benjamin. His name was Mordecai. He was the son of Jair. Jair was the son of Shimei. Shimei was the son of Kish. 6 Nebuchadnezzar had forced Mordecai to leave Jerusalem. He was among the prisoners who were carried off along with Jehoiachin. Jehoiachin had been king of Judah. Nebuchadnezzar was king of Babylon. 7 Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah. He had raised her because she didn’t have a father or mother. Hadassah was also called Esther. She had a lovely figure and was very beautiful. Mordecai had adopted her as his own daughter. He had done it when her father and mother died.
8 After the king’s order and law were announced, many young women were brought to the fort of Susa. Hegai was put in charge of them. Esther was also taken to the king’s palace. She was put under the control of Hegai. He was in charge of the place where the virgins stayed. 9 Esther pleased him. He showed her how happy he was with her. Right away he provided her with her beauty care and special food. He appointed seven female attendants to help her. They were chosen from the king’s palace. He moved her and her attendants into the best part of the place where the virgins stayed.
10 Esther hadn’t told anyone who her people were. She hadn’t talked about her family. That’s because Mordecai had told her not to. 11 Mordecai tried to find out how Esther was getting along. He wanted to know what was happening to her. So he walked back and forth near the courtyard by the place where the virgins stayed. He did it every day.
12 Each young woman had to complete 12 months of beauty care. They used oil of myrrh for six months. And they used perfume and makeup for the other six months. A virgin’s turn to go in to King Xerxes could come only after a full 12 months had passed. 13 And here is how she would go to the king. She would be given anything she wanted from the place where the virgins stayed. She could take it with her to the king’s palace. 14 In the evening she would go there. In the morning she would leave. Then she would go to the special place where the king’s concubines stayed. She would be put under the control of Shaashgaz. He was the king’s official who was in charge of the concubines. She would never return to the king unless he was pleased with her. He had to send for her by name before she could go to him again.
15 Mordecai had adopted Esther. She had been the daughter of his uncle Abihail. Her turn came to go in to the king. She only asked for what Hegai suggested. He was the king’s official who was in charge of the place where the virgins stayed. Everyone who saw Esther was pleased with her. 16 She was taken to King Xerxes in the royal house. It was now the tenth month. That was the month of Tebeth. It was the seventh year of the rule of Xerxes.
17 The king liked Esther more than he liked any of the other women. She pleased him more than any of the other virgins. So he put a royal crown on her head. He made her queen in Vashti’s place. 18 Then the king gave a feast to honor Esther. All his nobles and officials were invited. He announced a holiday all through the territories he ruled over. He freely gave many gifts in keeping with his royal wealth.
Mordecai Uncovers a Plan to Kill the King
19 The virgins were gathered together a second time. At that time Mordecai was sitting at the palace gate. 20 Esther had kept her family history a secret. She hadn’t told anyone who her people were. Mordecai had told her not to. She continued to follow his directions. That’s what she had always done when he was bringing her up.
21 Bigthana and Teresh were two of the king’s officers. They guarded the door of the royal palace. They became angry with King Xerxes. So they decided to kill him. They made their evil plans while Mordecai was sitting at the palace gate. 22 So Mordecai found out about it and told Queen Esther. Then she reported it to the king. She told him that Mordecai had uncovered the plans against him. 23 Some people checked Esther’s report. And they found out it was true. So the two officials were put to death. Then poles were stuck through them. They were set up where people could see them. All of that was written in the official records. It was written down while the king was watching.
Haman Plans to Destroy the Jews
3 After those events, King Xerxes honored Haman. Haman was the son of Hammedatha. He was from the family line of Agag. The king gave Haman a higher position than he had before. He gave him a seat of honor. It was higher than the positions any of the other nobles had. 2 All the royal officials at the palace gate got down on their knees. They gave honor to Haman. That’s because the king had commanded them to do it. But Mordecai refused to get down on his knees. He wouldn’t give Haman any honor at all.
3 The royal officials at the palace gate asked Mordecai a question. They said, “Why don’t you obey the king’s command?” 4 Day after day they spoke to him. But he still refused to obey. So they told Haman about it. They wanted to see whether he would let Mordecai get away with what he was doing. Mordecai had told them he was a Jew.
5 Haman noticed that Mordecai wouldn’t get down on his knees. He wouldn’t give Haman any honor. So Haman was very angry. 6 But he had found out who Mordecai’s people were. So he didn’t want to kill only Mordecai. He also looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people. They were Jews. He wanted to kill all of them everywhere in the kingdom of Xerxes.
7 The lot was cast in front of Haman. The lot was called Pur. It was cast in the first month of the 12th year that Xerxes was king. That month was called Nisan. The lot was cast to choose a day and a month. The month chosen was the 12th month. That month was called Adar.
8 Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “Certain people are scattered among the nations. They live in all the territories in your kingdom. They keep themselves separate from everyone else. Their practices are different from the practices of all other people. They don’t obey your laws. It really isn’t good for you to put up with them. 9 If it pleases you, give the order to destroy them. I’ll even add 375 tons of silver to the king’s officials for the royal treasures.”
10 So the king took his ring off his finger. The ring had his royal seal on it. He gave the ring to Haman. Haman was the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite. Haman was the enemy of the Jews. 11 “Keep the money,” the king said to Haman. “Do what you want to with those people.”
12 The king sent for the royal secretaries. It was the 13th day of the first month. The secretaries wrote down all Haman’s orders. They wrote them down in the writing of each territory in the kingdom. They also wrote them in the language of each nation. The orders were sent to the royal officials and to the governors of the territories. And the orders were also sent to the nobles of the nations. The orders were written in the name of King Xerxes himself. And they were stamped with his own official mark. 13 They were carried by messengers. They were sent to all the king’s territories. The orders commanded people to destroy, kill and wipe out all the Jews. That included young people and old people alike. It included women and children. All the Jews were supposed to be killed on a single day. That day was the 13th day of the 12th month. It was the month of Adar. The orders also commanded people to take everything that belonged to the Jews. 14 A copy of the order had to be sent out as law. It had to be sent to every territory in the kingdom. It had to be announced to the people of every nation. Then they would be ready for that day.
15 The king commanded the messengers to go out. So they did. The order was sent out from the fort of Susa. Then the king and Haman sat down to drink wine. But the people in the city were bewildered.
Mordecai Talks Esther Into Helping the Jews
4 Mordecai found out about everything that had been done. So he tore his clothes. He put on the rough clothing people wear when they’re sad. He sat down in ashes. Then he went out into the city. He wept out loud. He cried bitter tears. 2 But he only went as far as the palace gate. That’s because no one dressed in that rough clothing was allowed to go through it. 3 All the Jews were very sad. They didn’t eat anything. They wept and cried. Many of them put on the rough clothing people wear when they’re sad. They were lying down in ashes. They did all these things in every territory where the king’s order and law had been sent.
4 Esther’s male and female attendants came to her. They told her about Mordecai. So she became very troubled. She wanted him to take off his rough clothing. So she sent him other clothes to wear. But he wouldn’t accept them. 5 Then Esther sent for Hathak. He was one of the king’s officials. He had been appointed to take care of her. She ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai. She wanted to know why he was so upset.
6 So Hathak went out to see Mordecai. He was in the open area in front of the palace gate. 7 Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him. He told him about the exact amount of money Haman had promised to add to the royal treasures. He said Haman wanted it to be used to pay some men to destroy the Jews. 8 Mordecai also gave Hathak a copy of the order. It commanded people to wipe out the Jews. The order had been sent from Susa. Mordecai told Hathak to show the order to Esther. He wanted Hathak to explain it to her. Mordecai told him to tell her to go and beg the king for mercy. Mordecai wanted her to make an appeal to the king for her people.
9 Hathak went back and reported to Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then Esther directed him to give an answer to Mordecai. She told him to say, 11 “There is a certain law that everyone knows about. All the king’s officials know about it. The people in the royal territories know about it. It applies to any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner courtyard without being sent for. It says they must be put to death. But there is a way out. Suppose the king reaches out his gold scepter toward them. Then their lives will be spared. But 30 days have gone by since the king sent for me.”
12 Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai. 13 Then he sent back an answer. He said, “You live in the king’s palace. But don’t think that just because you are there you will be the only Jew who will escape. 14 What if you don’t say anything at this time? Then help for the Jews will come from another place. But you and your family will die. Who knows? It’s possible that you became queen for a time just like this.”
15 Then Esther sent a reply to Mordecai. She said, 16 “Go. Gather together all the Jews who are in Susa. And fast for my benefit. Don’t eat or drink anything for three days. Don’t do it night or day. I and my attendants will fast just as you do. Then I’ll go to the king. I’ll do it even though it’s against the law. And if I have to die, I’ll die.”
17 So Mordecai went away. He carried out all Esther’s directions.
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