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This article is about the queen. You may be looking for the book that records her life.

Esther (or Ester, born: Hadassah) was the daughter of Abihail, of the tribe of Benjamin. She was the cousin, and the adopted daughter, of Mordecai. On the orders of the Persian King Ahasuerus (Xerxes), Esther replaced Vashti as queen. And at Mordecai's request, Esther concealed her Jewish birth.

Biography

Early Life and Beginnings

Esther was born as Hadassah, daughter of Abihail and was the cousin of Mordecai.[1] Her father and mother died at one point and so was raised by her cousin Mordecai.[2]

Recruited into Xerxes' Harem

Esther was living in Persia under the reign of King Xerxes (Heb: Ahasuerus). When his consort, Queen Vashti refused to do his bidding, she was banned from his court[3]. Ahasuerus chose to find a new queen by building a harem. He did this by asking those deemed beautiful enough to present themselves as potential wives[4]. Among all the young women in the vast land, Esther was chosen[5].

Foiling the genocide of the Jews

When Haman, the king's chief minister, found out that his foe, Mordecai, was a Jew, he devised a plan to have all Jews killed. Haman secured the king's permission to massacre of all the Jews in the empire[6]. In a blatant affront to God, on the first day of the Jewish calendar[7], he ordered a lottery be administered to find a day in the coming year to execute his plan. The lot fell in the last month of the year, just two weeks from the end of the year[8]. Not willing to wait, Haman built a gallows to hang Mordecai on the charge of sedition[9].

Esther, however, acted to foil the plot. She revealed to the king that she was Jewish, and that the Jews were destined to be massacred by orders from Haman. Haman's last-minute appeal to the queen's mercy was misinterpreted by the king as an attempt at seduction, and the king ordered that Haman be hung on the same gallows he had built for Mordecai[10].

Disaster Averted

After the execution of Haman, Esther and Mordecai were awarded his estate. With Esther as queen and Mordecai as the new chief minister, the fate of the Jews was still "sealed" by the irreversible decree of the king, Esther pled for some sort of stay of execution, but instead the king issued a counter-edict, permitting the Jews to arm and defend themselves[11].

With about eleven months until the fateful day, the 14th of Adar, the Jews had ample time to prepare. Haman's hate, though, had not been unique to him. Many of the general populace had no respect for the Jews. They eagerly awaited the day they could kill the aliens living in their land. However, most of the leaders supported the Jews. In the end, the Jews were successful in stopping their enemies, but no one took anything for themselves[12].

Legacy

No children are listed for Esther, but she and her cousin left a mark upon the history of the Jews. As the most powerful people in the land besides the King, their word was almost as good as his. In a way, it was more secure, for it became part of the culture of the restored Jewish people after their return to Judah and Jerusalem[13].

By their decree, a new two-day holiday was created to commemorate the battle between the forces of innocent aliens and bigoted natives in the land of Persia. The annual festival of "Purim," which means "throwing dice," was instituted in the twelfth year of Ahasuerus, king of Persia. Two days in late winter every year, the feast of Purim is observed on Adar 13-14 (near March 1st on modern-day calendars). This holiday was to be a festival of joy, with gift exchanges and charity to the poor[14].

For more information on the context of the life and times of Esther please see the article on the book of Esther.

Verses

  1. Esther 9:29 (Link)
  2. Esther 2:7 (Link)
  3. Esther 1:19 (Link)
  4. Esther 2:1-4 (Link)
  5. Esther 2:16-17 (Link)
  6. Esther 3:8-10 (Link)
  7. Exodus 12:2 (Link)
  8. Esther 3:5-11 (Link)
  9. Esther 5:14 (Link)
  10. Esther 7:1-10 (Link)
  11. Esther 8:1-13 (Link)
  12. Esther 9:1-16 (Link)
  13. Esther 9:31-32 (Link)
  14. Esther 9:17-19 (Link)

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