2 A little while later, when King Ahasuerus was no longer angry, he began thinking about Vashti, her actions that night at the party, and his decision to dismiss her from his presence. 2 Seeing the king’s mood, his servants had a suggestion.
Servants: King Ahasuerus, someone should find beautiful young women who are old enough to be married for you. 3 We suggest you appoint officers in every province of Persia to round up every eligible woman and add her to your harem in the citadel of Susa. Hegai, the king’s eunuch who is in charge of the harem, will see to it that all of the women are properly prepared and receive all the needed cosmetics. 4 Then whichever young woman delights you the most will reign as queen in Vashti’s place.
King Ahasuerus liked the advice of his servants and gave them permission to execute the plan.
5 Meanwhile in the citadel of Susa, there was a Jewish man from the tribe of Benjamin named Mordecai. He was the son of Jair who was a descendent of Shimei and Kish. 6 It was at the hand of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon that Jeconiah (king of Judah) and Mordecai’s ancestors had been forced out of the city of Jerusalem to live as exiles in Babylon. 7 Mordecai had a cousin who was a young and beautiful girl named Hadassah, and she was also called Esther. After her mother and father died, Mordecai adopted her into his family as his daughter.
8 As the result of the king’s decree, Esther, along with many other young women, was brought to the royal palace in the citadel of Susa, and she was put in the care of Hegai (who was in charge of the harem). 9 Esther soon impressed Hegai and was favored. He arranged that she be given the most lustrous beauty treatments and fed the finest fruits and vegetables from the king’s garden. He assigned to her seven servants and moved her and her servants to the harem’s finest rooms. 10 Mordecai had instructed Esther to keep her Jewish heritage a secret, and so she told no one. Still her cousin worried about her. 11 Every day Mordecai paced back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to see if he could find out some news, any news, about Esther.
12 Before going in to the king, each young woman went through 12 months of beauty treatments, as the harem’s rules prescribed. For the first 6 months the women were treated with the palace’s finest myrrh oil, and that was followed by 6 months in perfume and other women’s cosmetics. 13 This is how a young woman would go in to the king: each woman was allowed to take whatever she wanted or needed from the harem into the king’s rooms. 14 In the evening the woman would go in to King Ahasuerus’ chambers and then, the next morning, she would return to the harem again, but now she would be watched over by Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch in charge of his concubines. No woman returned to the king’s rooms unless he was pleased by her and called for her by name.
15 Esther was the daughter of Abihail who in turn was the uncle of Mordecai. When it was time for Esther, whom Mordecai had adopted, to go in to the king, she didn’t ask for anything special. She took only what Hegai suggested. Since he was the king’s eunuch in charge of the women, he would know what was best. Now Esther had some special qualities, and all who met her favored her. 16 In the 10th month (the month of Tebeth) during the 7th year of his reign, four years after King Ahasuerus dethroned Queen Vashti, Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus in the king’s rooms. 17 The king found her to be more desirable than all of the other women. Unlike the other young women brought before him, she alone won his heart and his favor. So he made her his queen instead of Vashti and placed the royal crown on her head. 18 King Ahasuerus invited all of the nobles and officials to a state banquet in honor of Esther, his new queen. He declared that day as a holiday throughout his entire kingdom and distributed extravagant gifts.
19 When the young women were gathered together for a second time, Mordecai was sitting at the palace gate where the men gathered for business and legal decisions. 20 Since Mordecai had required Esther to keep her Jewish heritage a secret, she had told no one. She continued to obey him as she did when he took care of her. 21 One day while Mordecai was at the gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who guarded the door, were plotting to kill King Ahasuerus. They were angry over some matter. 22 But Mordecai learned of their plan and reported it to Queen Esther who told the king about the plot, giving credit to her cousin. 23 After a thorough investigation, the report was proven true. So the two officers were killed and displayed on a pole. All of this information was chronicled in the presence of the king, in the public record.