Greek Esther 4 Common English Bible (CEB)
A crisis for the Jews
4 When Mordecai learned what was going on, he tore his clothes, dressed in mourning clothes, and put ashes on his head. Then he went out into the heart of the city and cried out loudly, “An innocent nation is being destroyed.” 2 He went only as far as the king’s gate and stood there because it was against the law for anyone to pass through it wearing mourning clothes and ashes. 3 In every region wherever the orders were posted, the Jews gave themselves over to crying and wailing out loud. They clothed themselves in mourning clothes and ashes. 4 When Esther’s female servants and eunuchs came and told her, the queen was noticeably shaken after hearing the news. She sent someone to clothe Mordecai in regular clothes instead of mourning clothes, but he couldn’t be persuaded.
5 Esther then sent for Hathach[a] the royal eunuch who served her. She sent him to discover from Mordecai what was going on.[b] 7 Mordecai told him everything that had happened, how Haman had promised to contribute ten thousand sacks[c] of silver to the royal treasury in exchange for the destruction of the Jews. 8 He also gave Hathach a copy of the king’s order made public in Susa concerning the Jews’ destruction so that Hathach could show it to Esther. Through him, Mordecai ordered her to go to the king to beg his help for her people: “Remember your more humble days when I raised you. Haman, a leader second to the king, has spoken against us to put us to death. Call on the Lord now and speak to the king about us. Deliver us from death!”
9 Hathach came back and told Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 In reply Esther ordered Hathach to tell Mordecai: 11 “All the nations of the empire know that there is no deliverance for the man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without an invitation. Only the person to whom the king holds out the gold scepter will be safe. In my case, I haven’t been called to come to the king for the past thirty days.”
12 When Hathach told Esther’s words to Mordecai, 13 he responded, “Go and tell Esther, ‘Don’t think for one minute that, unlike all the other Jews, you alone will be safe. 14 If you don’t speak up at this very important time, relief and protection will appear for the Jews from another place, but you and your family will die. Who knows? Maybe it was for a moment like this that you were made queen.’”
15 Esther sent back word to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather all the Jews who are in Susa and tell them to fast from eating for my sake. They aren’t to eat or drink anything for three whole days, and I myself will do the same, along with my female servants. Then, even though it’s against the law, I will go to the king, even if it means my death.” 17 So Mordecai left and did exactly what Esther had ordered him.
Mordecai and Esther pray for deliverance
C Then, calling to mind all the works of the Lord, Mordecai pleaded with the Lord, 2 saying, “Lord, Lord, you are the king who rules over all things. The universe is in your power, and there is no one to stop you when you have resolved to save Israel. 3 You made the heavens and the earth, and everything that is wonderful under heaven. 4 You are Lord of all, and there is no one who will oppose you, Lord.
5 “You know all things. You know, Lord, that it wasn’t out of disrespect, pride, or self-importance that I didn’t bow down before proud Haman. 6 To save Israel, I would have been glad to kiss the soles of his feet. 7 Rather, I did this to avoid setting the honor of any human being above God’s honor. I won’t bow down before anyone except you, my Lord. Nor will I do these things out of pride.
8 “Now, Lord God, King, God of Abraham, spare your people, because the enemy seeks our ruin. They desire to destroy what has been your possession from the beginning. 9 Don’t neglect your people, whom you delivered out of Egypt. 10 Listen to my appeal, and have mercy on the people who are your lot. Turn our mourning into feasting, that we might live and sing praises to your name, Lord. Don’t silence the voice of those who praise you.”
11 And all Israel cried out with all their might, for death was staring right at them.
12 Queen Esther, overcome by this contest with death, turned to the Lord for protection. 13 She took off her royal garments and put on mourning clothes. Instead of the finest spices, she smeared her head and body with ashes and dung, and humbled herself. Each place she had once joyfully beautified, she now covered with her tangled hair.
14 Then she begged the Lord God of Israel: “My Lord, you alone are our king. Help me! I have no one to help me but you, 15 and I am in great danger now. 16 From my birth, Lord, I have heard how you chose Israel from among the rest of the nations, and our fathers from their ancestors, to be an everlasting inheritance. I have heard how you did for them all that you had promised. 17 But now we have sinned before you, and you have delivered us into the power of our enemies 18 because we worshipped their gods. You are just, Lord. 19 Yet the enemies weren’t satisfied with our bitter slavery, so they shook hands with their idols in partnership. 20 They plan to set aside the promises you made, to rob you of your inheritance, to silence those who praise you, and to stamp out the honor of your temple and your altar. 21 They want to open the mouths of the nations to praise the wonderful deeds of useless idols[d] so that a human king might be honored forever.
22 “Don’t surrender your scepter, Lord, to things that don’t exist. Don’t let them mock our downfall. Instead, turn their scheme against them and make an example of the one who started this against us. 23 Remember us, Lord, and reveal yourself in the time of our distress. Give me courage, king of the gods and ruler of every authority. 24 When I speak, let my words be persuasive before the lion, and turn the king’s heart to hatred toward the one who is fighting against us, to bring his life to an end along with those who agree with him. 25 Deliver us by your actions, and help me, I who am alone and have no one except you, Lord.
“You know all things. 26 You know that I hate the honor of those who don’t follow your Law. I detest sharing the bed of this uncircumcised king or indeed of any foreigner. 27 You know my trouble: I hate the crown[e] that is on my head when I appear in public. I despise it as I would a menstrual rag, and I don’t wear it when I am in private. 28 I, your servant, didn’t dine at Haman’s table. Nor did I honor the king’s banquet or drink wine that had been offered to the gods. 29 From the day of my crowning until now, your servant hasn’t had any joy except in you, Lord, God of Abraham. 30 All-powerful God, listen to the voice of those who despair, and deliver us from the hands of those who do wrong, and deliver me from my fear!”
Esther appears before the king
D On the third day, when she had finished praying, she removed her mourning clothes and put on her royal robes. 2 Calling on the all-seeing God and savior, she appeared in full view of the court. She took along with her two female servants, 3 delicately leaning on the one, 4 while the other followed behind, carrying her train.
5 She was blushing in the full bloom of her beauty, and her face was delightfully cheerful, but her heart was tense with fear.
6 When she had passed through all the doors, she stood in the presence of the king. He was seated on his royal throne, clothed in all his majesty—all in gold and precious stones—and was terrifying. 7 He lifted his face, which blazed gloriously, about to explode in anger, and looked at her. The queen collapsed. Her color turned pale, and she fell face forward onto the female servant who was walking ahead of her.
8 Then God changed the king’s spirit to tenderness. He leaped anxiously from his throne, and took her up in his arms until she was calm. He tried to comfort her with reassuring words, 9 saying to her: “What is it, Esther? I’m your brother.[f] Take heart! 10 You won’t die, for the order only holds for ordinary people. 11 Come with me!” 12 He then lifted his gold scepter and placed it on her neck. He embraced her and said: “Speak to me.”
13 She said to him, “I saw you, Master, as if you were one of God’s angels, and my heart was struck with terror at the sight of your glory. 14 You inspire awe, Master, and your face is full of divine grace.”[g] 15 But while she was speaking, she collapsed again. The king was distressed, and all his servants tried to comfort her.