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Esther 1-2 Common English Bible (CEB)

Queen Vashti

This is what happened back when Ahasuerus lived, the very Ahasuerus who ruled from India to Cush—one hundred twenty-seven provinces in all. At that time, Ahasuerus ruled the kingdom from his royal throne in the fortified part of Susa. In the third year of his rule he hosted a feast for all his officials and courtiers. The leaders of Persia and Media attended, along with his provincial officials and officers. He showed off the awesome riches of his kingdom and beautiful treasures as mirrors of how very great he was. The event lasted a long time—six whole months, to be exact! After that the king held a seven-day feast for everyone in the fortified part of Susa. Whether they were important people in the town or not, they all met in the walled garden of the royal palace. White linen curtains and purple hangings were held up by shining white and red-purple ropes tied to silver rings and marble posts. Gold and silver couches sat on a mosaic floor made of gleaming purple crystal, marble, and mother-of-pearl. They served the drinks in cups made of gold, and each cup was different. The king made sure there was plenty of royal wine. The rule about the drinks was “No limits!” The king had ordered everyone serving wine in the palace to offer as much as each guest wanted. At the same time, Queen Vashti held a feast for women in King Ahasuerus’ palace.

10 On the seventh day, when wine had put the king in high spirits, he gave an order to Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven eunuchs who served King Ahasuerus personally. 11 They were to bring Queen Vashti before him wearing the royal crown. She was gorgeous, and he wanted to show off her beauty both to the general public and to his important guests. 12 But Queen Vashti refused to come as the king had ordered through the eunuchs. The king was furious, his anger boiling inside. 13 Now, when a need arose, the king would often talk with certain very smart people about the best way to handle it. They were people who knew both the kingdom’s written laws and what judges had decided about cases in the past. 14 The ones he talked with most often were Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan. They were seven very important people in Persia and Media who, as the kingdom’s highest leaders, were in the king’s inner circle. So the king said to them, 15 “According to the law, what should I do with Queen Vashti since she didn’t do what King Ahasuerus ordered her through the eunuchs?”

16 Then Memucan spoke up in front of the king and the officials. “Queen Vashti,” he said, “has done something wrong not just to the king himself. She has also done wrong to all the officials and the peoples in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. 17 This is the reason: News of what the queen did will reach all women, making them look down on their husbands. They will say, ‘King Ahasuerus ordered servants to bring Queen Vashti before him, but she refused to come.’ 18 This very day, the important women of Persia and Media who hear about the queen will tell the royal officials the same thing. There will be no end of put-downs and arguments. 19 Now, if the king wishes, let him send out a royal order and have it written into the laws of Persia and Media, laws no one can ever change. It should say that Vashti will never again come before King Ahasuerus. It should also say that the king will give her royal place to someone better than she. 20 When the order becomes public through the whole empire, vast as it is, all women will treat their husbands properly. The rule should touch everyone, whether from an important family or not.”

21 The king liked the plan, as did the other men, and he did just what Memucan said. 22 He sent written orders to all the king’s provinces. Each province received it written in its own alphabet and each people received it in its own language. It said that each husband should rule over his own house.

Finding a new queen

Sometime later when King Ahasuerus was less angry, he remembered Vashti, what she had done, and what he had decided about her. So his young male servants said, “Let the king have a search made for beautiful young women who haven’t yet married. And let the king choose certain people in all the royal provinces to lead the search. Have them bring all the beautiful young women together to the fortified part of Susa, to the women’s house, to the care of Hegai the king’s eunuch in charge of the women so that he might provide beauty treatments for them. Let the young woman who pleases you the most take Vashti’s place as queen.” The king liked the plan and implemented it.

Now there was a Jew in the fortified part of Susa whose name was Mordecai, Jair’s son. He came from the family line of Shimei and Kish; he was a Benjaminite. (Benjaminites had been taken into exile away from Jerusalem along with the group, which included Judah’s King Jeconiah, whom Babylon’s King Nebuchadnezzar exiled to Babylon.) Mordecai had been a father to Hadassah (that is, Esther), though she was really his cousin, because she had neither father nor mother. The girl had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at. When her parents died, Mordecai had taken her to be his daughter. When the king’s order and his new law became public, many young women were gathered into the fortified part of Susa under the care of Hegai. Esther was also taken to the palace to the care of Hegai, the one in charge of the women. The young woman pleased him and won his kindness. He quickly began her beauty treatments and gave her carefully chosen foods. He also gave her seven servants selected from among the palace servants and moved her and her servants into the nicest rooms in the women’s house. (10 Esther hadn’t told anyone her race and family background because Mordecai had ordered her not to.) 11 Each day found Mordecai pacing back and forth along the wall in front of the women’s house to learn how Esther was doing and what they were doing with her. 12 According to the rules for women, the moment for each young woman to go to King Ahasuerus came at the end of twelve months. (She had six months of treatment with pleasant-smelling creams and six months with fragrant oils and other treatments for women.) 13 So this is how the young woman would go to the king: They gave her anything that she asked to take with her from the women’s house to the palace. 14 In the evening she would go in, and the next morning she would return to the second women’s house under the care of Shaashgaz. He was the king’s eunuch in charge of the secondary wives. She would never go to the king again unless he was so pleased that he called for her by name. 15 Soon the moment came for Esther daughter of Mordecai’s uncle Abihail, whom Mordecai had taken as his own daughter, to go to the king. But she asked for nothing except what Hegai the king’s eunuch in charge of the women told her. (Esther kept winning the favor of everyone who saw her.)

16 Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, to his own palace, in the tenth month (that is, the month of Tevet)[a] in the seventh year of his rule. 17 The king loved Esther more than all the other women; she had won his love and his favor more than all the others. He placed the royal crown on her head and made her ruler in place of Vashti. 18 The king held a magnificent, lavish feast, “the feast of Esther,” for all his officials and courtiers. He declared a public holiday[b] for the provinces and gave out gifts with royal generosity. 19 When they gathered the young women to the second women’s house,[c] Mordecai was working for the king at the King’s Gate. 20 Esther still wasn’t telling anyone her family background and race, just as Mordecai had ordered her. She continued to do what Mordecai said, just as she did when she was in his care.

Mordecai saves the king

21 At that time, as Mordecai continued to work at the King’s Gate, two royal eunuchs, Bigthan and Teresh, became angry with King Ahasuerus. They were among the guards protecting the doorway to the king, but they secretly planned to kill him. 22 When Mordecai got wind of it, he reported it to Queen Esther. She spoke to the king about it, saying the information came from Mordecai. 23 The matter was investigated and found to be true, so the two men were impaled on pointed poles.[d] A report about the event was written in the royal record with the king present.

Footnotes:

  1. Esther 2:16 December–January
  2. Esther 2:18 Or remission of taxes
  3. Esther 2:19 Or to the women’s house a second time
  4. Esther 2:23 Or hanged the two men on gallows
Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

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