The Banquets of the King
1 It was in the days of Ahasuerus ([a]Xerxes) who reigned from India to Ethiopia (Cush) over 127 provinces, 2 in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne which was at the citadel in [b]Susa [the capital of the Persian Empire], 3 in the third year of his reign he held a banquet for all his officials and his attendants. The army officers of Persia and Media, the nobles and the officials of the provinces were there in his presence. 4 And he displayed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the splendor of his great majesty for many days, 180 days in all.
5 When these days were completed, the king held a banquet for all the people who were present at the citadel in Susa [the capital], from the greatest [in importance] to the least, a seven-day feast in the courtyard of the garden of the king’s palace. 6 There were curtains (draperies) of fine white and violet linen fastened with cords of fine purple linen to silver rings and marble columns. The couches of gold and silver rested on a mosaic floor of [c]porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and precious colored stones. 7 Drinks were served in various kinds of golden goblets, and the royal wine was plentiful, in accordance with the generosity of the king. 8 The drinking was carried on in accordance with the law; no one was compelled [to drink], for the king had directed each official of his household to comply with each guest’s wishes. 9 Queen Vashti also held a [separate] banquet for the women in the palace of King Ahasuerus.
Queen Vashti’s Refusal
10 On the seventh day, when the king’s heart was joyful with wine (in high spirits), he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carkas, the seven [d]eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus [as his attendants], 11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king, [e]wearing her royal crown (high turban), to display her beauty before the people and the officials, for she was lovely to see. 12 But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command, which was delivered [to her] by the eunuchs. So the king became extremely angry and burned with rage.
13 Then the king spoke to the wise men who understood the times [asking for their advice]—for it was the custom of the king to speak before all those who were familiar with law and legal matters— 14 and who were close to him [as advisors]: Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven officials of Persia and Media who had access to the king and were ranked highest in the kingdom. 15 [He said,] “According to the law, what is to be done with Queen Vashti because she did not obey the command of King Ahasuerus which was conveyed by the eunuchs?” 16 And Memucan answered in the presence of the king and the officials, “Vashti the queen has not only wronged the king but [also] all the officials (royal representatives) and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. 17 For the queen’s conduct will become known to all women, causing them to look on their husbands with contempt (disrespect), since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she did not come.’ 18 This [very] day the ladies of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s refusal will speak [in the same way] to all the king’s officials, and there will be plenty of contempt and anger. 19 If it pleases the king, let a royal command be issued by him and let it be written in the laws of the Persians and Medes so that it cannot be repealed or modified, that Vashti is [f]no longer to come before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better and more worthy than she. 20 So when the king’s great decree is proclaimed throughout his [extensive] kingdom, all women will give honor to their husbands, from the great to the insignificant.”
21 This statement (advice) pleased the king and the officials, and the king did what Memucan proposed. 22 So he sent letters to all the royal provinces, to each province in its own script and to each people in their own language, saying that every man should be the master and rule in his own home and that [g]he should speak [in the household] in the language of his own people.
Vashti’s Successor Sought
2 After these things, when the wrath of King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) had subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her. 2 Then the king’s attendants, who served him, said, “Let beautiful young virgins be sought for the king. 3 Let the king appoint administrators in all the provinces of his kingdom, and have them gather all the beautiful young virgins to the citadel in Susa, into the harem, under the custody of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let their beauty preparations be given to them. 4 Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen in place of Vashti.” This pleased the king, and he did accordingly.
5 There was a certain Jew in the citadel of Susa whose name was Mordecai the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite, 6 who had been deported from Jerusalem with the captives who had been exiled with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had exiled. 7 He was the guardian of [h]Hadassah, that is Esther, his uncle’s daughter, for she had no father or mother. The young woman was beautiful of form and [i]face; and when her father and mother died, Mordecai took her in as his own daughter.
Esther Finds Favor
8 So it came about when the king’s command and his decree were proclaimed and when many young women were gathered together in the citadel of Susa into the custody of Hegai, that Esther was taken to the king’s palace [and placed] in the custody of Hegai, who was in charge of the women. 9 Now the young woman pleased Hegai and found favor with him. So he quickly provided her with beauty preparations and her [portion of] food, and he gave her seven choice maids from the king’s palace; then he transferred her and her maids to the best place in the harem. 10 Esther did not reveal [the Jewish background of] her people or her family, for Mordecai had instructed her not to do so. 11 Every day Mordecai [who was an [j]attendant in the king’s court] walked back and forth in front of the courtyard of the harem to learn how Esther was getting along and what was happening to her.
12 Now when it was each young woman’s turn to go before King Ahasuerus, after the end of her twelve months under the regulations for the women—for the days of their beautification were completed as follows: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with [sweet] spices and perfumes and the beauty preparations for women— 13 then the young woman would go before the king in this way: anything that she wanted was given her to take with her from the harem into the king’s palace. 14 In the evening she would go in and the next morning she would return to the [k]second harem, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the [l]concubines. She would not return to the king unless he delighted in her and she was summoned by name.
15 Now as for Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai who had taken her in as his [own] daughter, when her turn came to go in to the king, she requested nothing except what Hegai the king’s eunuch [and attendant] who was in charge of the women, advised. And Esther found favor in the sight of all who saw her. 16 So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, to his royal palace in the tenth month, that is, the month of Tebeth (Dec-Jan), in the seventh year of his reign.
Esther Becomes Queen
17 Now the king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she found favor and kindness with him more than all the [other] virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen in the place of Vashti. 18 Then the king held a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his officials and his servants; and he made a [m]festival for the provinces and gave gifts in accordance with the resources of the king.
19 And when the virgins were gathered together the second time, Mordecai [n]was sitting at the king’s gate. 20 Esther had not revealed her family or her people [that is, her Jewish background], just as Mordecai had instructed her; for Esther did what Mordecai told her just as when she was under his care.
Mordecai Saves the King
21 In those days, while Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who guarded the door, became [o]angry and [p]conspired to attack King Ahasuerus. 22 But the plot became known to Mordecai, who informed Queen Esther, and Esther told the king in Mordecai’s name. 23 Now when the plot was investigated and found to be true, both men were [q]hanged on the gallows. And it was recorded in the Book of the Chronicles in the king’s presence.
Haman’s Plot against the Jews
3 After these things King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the [r]Agagite, and advanced him and [s]established his authority over all the officials who were with him. 2 All the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate [in royal service] bowed down and honored and paid homage to Haman; for this is what the king had commanded in regard to him. But Mordecai [a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin] neither bowed down nor paid homage [to him]. 3 Then the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate said to Mordecai, “Why are you disregarding the king’s command?” 4 Now it happened when they had spoken to him day after day and he would not listen to them, that they told Haman to see whether Mordecai’s reason [for his behavior] would stand [as valid]; for he had told them that he was a Jew. 5 When Haman saw that Mordecai neither bowed down nor paid homage to him, he was furious. 6 But he disdained laying hands on Mordecai alone, for they had told him who the people of Mordecai were (his nationality); so Haman determined to destroy all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, who lived throughout the kingdom of Ahasuerus.
7 In the first month, the month of Nisan (Mar-Apr), in the [t]twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, Haman cast Pur, that is, the lot, cast before him day after day [to find a lucky day to approach the king], month after month, until the twelfth month, the month of Adar (Feb-Mar). 8 Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered [abroad] and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom; their laws are different from those of all other people, and they do not observe the king’s laws. Therefore it is not in the king’s interest to [tolerate them and] let them stay here. 9 If it pleases the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who carry out the king’s business, to put into the king’s treasuries.” 10 Then the king removed his signet ring from his hand [that is, the special ring which was used to seal his letters] and gave it to Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the enemy of the Jews. 11 The king said to Haman, “The silver is given to you, and the people also, to do with them as you please.”
12 Then the king’s scribes (secretaries) were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month, and it was written just as Haman commanded to the king’s satraps (chief rulers), and to the governors who were over each province and to the officials of each people, each province according to its script (writing), each people according to their own language; being written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the king’s signet ring. 13 Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces to destroy, to kill and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth [day] of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar (March 7, 473 b.c.), and to seize their belongings as plunder. 14 A copy of the edict to be decreed as law in every province was published to all the peoples, so that they would be ready for this day. 15 The couriers went out hurriedly by order of the king, and the decree was issued at the citadel in Susa. And while the king and Haman sat down to drink, the city of Susa was perplexed [by the unusual and alarming decree].
Esther Learns of Haman’s Plot
4 Now when Mordecai learned of everything that had been done, he tore his clothes [in mourning], and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the center of the city and cried out loudly and bitterly. 2 He went [only] as far as the king’s gate, because no one was to enter the king’s gate dressed in sackcloth. 3 In each and every province that the decree and law of the king reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing; and many lay on sackcloth and ashes.
4 When Esther’s maids and her eunuchs came and told her [what had happened], the queen was seized by great fear. She sent garments to clothe Mordecai so that he would remove his sackcloth, but he did not accept them. 5 Then Esther summoned Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs, whom the king had appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to find out what this issue was and why it had come about. 6 So Hathach went out to Mordecai in the [open] square of the city, which was in front of the king’s gate. 7 Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, and the exact [u]amount of money that Haman had promised to pay to the king’s treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. 8 Mordecai also gave him a copy of the text of the decree which had been issued in Susa for the Jews destruction, so that he might show Esther and explain it to her, and order her to go in to the king to seek his favor and plead with him for [the lives of] her people.
9 Hathach came back and told Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach and ordered him to reply to Mordecai, saying: 11 “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that for any man or woman who comes to the king to the inner court without being summoned, he has but one law, that he is to be put to death, unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter so that he may live. And as for me, I have not been summoned to come to the king for these [last] thirty days.” 12 So they told Mordecai what Esther had said.
13 Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, liberation and rescue will arise for the Jews from another place, and you and your father’s house will perish [since you did not help when you had the chance]. And who knows whether you have attained royalty for such a time as this [and for this very purpose]?”
Esther Plans to Intercede
15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go, gather all the Jews that are present in Susa, and observe a fast for me; do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids also will fast in the same way. Then I will go in to [see] the king [without being summoned], which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish.” 17 So Mordecai went away and did exactly as Esther had commanded him.
Esther Plans a Banquet
5 On the third day [of the fast] Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace opposite his [throne] room. The king was sitting on his royal throne, facing the [main] entrance of the palace. 2 When the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, she found favor in his sight; and the king extended to her the golden scepter which was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the top of the scepter. 3 Then the king said to her, “What is troubling you, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you, [v]up to half of the kingdom.” 4 Esther said, “If it pleases the king, may the king and Haman come this day to the banquet that I have prepared for him.”
5 Then the king said, “Bring Haman quickly so that we may do as Esther says.” So the king and Haman came to the banquet which Esther had prepared. 6 As they drank their wine at the banquet, the king said to Esther, “What is your [w]petition? It shall be granted to you. And what is your request? Even to half of the kingdom it shall be done.” 7 Then Esther replied, “My petition and my request is this: 8 if I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and to do as I request, may the king and Haman come to the banquet that I will prepare for them; and tomorrow I will do as the king says [and express my request].”
9 Haman went away that day joyful and in good spirits. But when he saw Mordecai at the king’s gate refusing to stand up or show fear before him, he was filled with rage toward Mordecai. 10 Nevertheless, Haman controlled himself and went home. There he sent for his friends and his wife Zeresh. 11 Then Haman recounted to them the glory of his riches, the large number of his sons, and every instance in which the king had magnified him and how he had promoted him over the officials and servants of the king. 12 Haman also said, “Even Queen Esther let no one but me come with the king to the banquet she had prepared; and tomorrow also I am invited by her [together] with the king. 13 Yet all of this does not satisfy me as long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate.” 14 Then his wife Zeresh and all his friends said to him, “Have a gallows [x]fifty cubits high made, and in the morning ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on it; then go joyfully to the banquet with the king.” And the advice pleased Haman, so he had the gallows made.
- Esther 1:1 Ahasuerus’ Greek name was Xerxes (I), his Persian name was Khshayarshan. Xerxes I (also known as Xerxes the Great the son of Darius the Great), ruled 486-465 b.c. He is the Xerxes who invaded Greece, was stopped temporarily at Thermopylae, defeated at the naval battle at Salamis, and nearly annihilated at Plataea (479 b.c.). The French excavations at Susa in 1880-1890 uncovered the great palace of Xerxes, where Esther would have lived. The building covered two and one-half acres. The finds at Susa from this period were so astonishing that the Louvre in Paris devoted two large rooms to the exhibition of the treasures. Xerxes’ tomb (looted in antiquity) is believed to be among the rock-cut tombs located at Naqsh-e Rajab, an archeological site in Iran about ten miles northwest of the site of ancient Persepolis.
- Esther 1:2 Susa was located about a hundred and fifty miles east of the Tigris River. The site, now modern day Shush, Iran, is considered to be one of the world’s oldest continuously inhabited cities. An ancient tomb presumed to be that of Daniel is located in the area.
- Esther 1:6 An Egyptian rock of feldspar crystals embedded in a dark red or purple groundmass used as flooring.
- Esther 1:10 Eunuchs were the men who were placed in charge of the king’s harem, and for that reason had been castrated.
- Esther 1:11 According to Jewish tradition Ahasuerus’ guests demanded that Vashti be naked, except for her royal turban to confirm that she was the queen and not just a servant-girl. She pleaded with Ahasuerus using several arguments, one of which was that if the guests found her beautiful, they would want to ravish her and kill him; and if not, her lack of beauty would disgrace him.
- Esther 1:19 The intent may have been simply to confine Vashti to the king’s harem and put another wife on the throne. The ancient rabbis said, however, that when the king accepted the advice, he ordered that Vashti be beheaded and her head brought to him on a platter.
- Esther 1:22 In recognition of the position of her husband a foreign-born wife was to speak his language.
- Esther 2:7 Hebrew meaning “myrtle.”
- Esther 2:7 Lit good of appearance.
- Esther 2:11 See note v 19.
- Esther 2:14 Evidently to keep track of all the women, the first harem was comprised only of those who had not yet had personal relations with the king, while those who had were transferred to a second harem.
- Esther 2:14 See note Gen 22:24.
- Esther 2:18 Or a release from taxes. The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain.
- Esther 2:19 The phrase sitting at the king’s gate implies that Mordecai was some sort of an official in the service of the king.
- Esther 2:21 The reasons for their anger is never explained. The ancient rabbis suggested that the king had replaced them with Mordecai, whom they considered a barbarian.
- Esther 2:21 Lit sought to lay hands on.
- Esther 2:23 Or impaled on a stake. It is uncertain which method was used.
- Esther 3:1 The origin of this ethnic term is unclear. It probably refers to descendants of King Agag of the Amalekites, who were longstanding tribal enemies of the Jews. If so, it would explain the natural animosity between Haman and Mordecai.
- Esther 3:1 Lit set his seat.
- Esther 3:7 At this time Esther had been queen about four or five years.
- Esther 4:7 This money may have been what was expected to be received from the plunder of the Jews’ property.
- Esther 5:3 This was probably a common expression of great generosity, rather than a literal offer.
- Esther 5:6 Having been sumptuously entertained at the banquet, the king was now obligated by tradition to grant Esther something better in return.
- Esther 5:14 I.e. about seventy-five feet. This may instead have been a pole or spike for impalement.