After Xerxes had been king of Persia for three years, he gave a feast for all his officials, officers, and servants. The commanders of the armies of Persia and Media, the nobles and governors were before him; while for one hundred and eighty days he showed them the wonderful riches of his kingdom and the costliness of his magnificent regalia.
When these days were ended, the king made a seven days' feast in the enclosed garden of the royal palace, for all classes of people who were in the royal palace at Susa. Vashti, the queen, also gave a feast for the women in the royal palace which belonged to King Xerxes.
On the seventh day, when King Xerxes had been drinking wine, he commanded his seven court attendants to bring Vashti, the queen, before him with the royal crown on her head, to show the peoples and the officials her beauty, for she was very fair. But Queen Vashti refused to come as the king commanded. Therefore the king was very angry.
In his anger the king said to the wise men, |According to law what shall we do to Queen Vashti?| Memucan, one of the seven high officials, said before the king and his officers, |Vashti, the queen, has done wrong not only to the king but also to all the officials and to all the peoples in all of the king's provinces. For the refusal of the queen will be reported to all the women so that they will disobey their husbands, for they will say, 'King Xerxes commanded Vashti, the queen, to be brought in before him, but she did not come!' And this very day the ladies of Persia and Media who have heard of the refusal of the queen will tell it to all the king's officials, and there will be contempt and strife! If it seems best to the king, let him send out a royal command, and let it be written among the laws of Persia and Media, in order that it may not be changed, that Vashti may never again come before King Xerxes; and let the king give her place as queen to another who is better than she. And when the king's command shall be heard throughout his kingdom -- great as it is -- the wives of all classes will give honor to their husbands!|
The plan pleased the king and the officials, and the king did as Memucan advised. Then the king's pages who waited upon him said, |Let beautiful young girls be sought for the king, and let the king appoint officers to all the provinces of his kingdom to gather them all to the palace at Susa. Then give them what is needed to make them beautiful, and let the girl who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.| The plan pleased the king and he did so.
There was in the royal palace at Susa, a certain Jew named Mordecai, who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captives by Nebuchadrezzar, the king of Babylon. He had adopted Esther, his uncle's daughter, for she had neither father nor mother. The girl was attractive and beautiful, and after her father and mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.
So when the king's command was made known, and when many girls were brought to the royal palace at Susa, Esther also was taken into the king's palace and placed in the charge of Hegai, who took care of the women. The girl pleased him and won his favor, so that he quickly gave her what she needed to make her more beautiful and her allowance of food and the seven maids chosen from the king's household. He also moved her and her maids to the best place in the women's quarters. Esther had not told who were her people or her family, for Mordecai had told her not to tell. Every day Mordecai used to walk in front of the court of the women's quarters to ask after Esther's health and what had been done with her.
When Esther's turn came to go in to the king, he loved her more than all the other women, and she became his favorite and won his love, so that he placed the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. Then the king gave a great feast to all his officials and servants in honor of Esther.
In those days while Mordecai was sitting in the king's gate, two of the king's servants, who guarded the entrance of the palace, became enraged and tried to kill King Xerxes. But Mordecai learned of the plot and told it to Queen Esther, and she told the king in Mordecai's name. When the truth was known, the men who plotted against the king were both hanged on a tree; and it was written down in the daily record of events that was kept before the king.
After these events King Xerxes promoted Haman, the Agagite, and gave him a place above all the officials who were with him. All the king's servants who were in the king's gate used to bow down before Haman, for so the king had commanded. But Mordecai did not bow down before Haman.
Then the king's servants, who were in the king's gate, said to Mordecai, |Why do you disobey the king's command?| When they had spoken to him day after day without his listening to them, they told Haman, so as to find out whether Mordecai's acts would be permitted, for he had told them that he was a Jew. When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down before him, he was very angry; but as they had told him that Mordecai was a Jew, he decided not to lay hands on him alone but to plot to destroy all the Jews in the whole kingdom of Xerxes.
So Haman said to King Xerxes, |There is a certain people scattered among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom, whose laws differ from those of every other and who do not keep the king's laws. Therefore it is not right for the king to leave them alone. If it seems best to the king, let an order be given to destroy them, and I will pay ten thousand silver talents into the royal treasury.|
So the king took off his ring from his hand and gave it to Haman, |The money is yours and the people also to do with them as you wish.| So messages were sent by men on horses to all the king's provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to put an end to all the Jews, young and old, little children and women, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, and to rob them of all that they had. Then the king and Haman sat down to drink, but the people of Susa were troubled.
When Mordecai learned all that had been done, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and put ashes on his head, and went out into the city and raised a loud and bitter cry of sorrow. And he went as far as the king's gate, for no one could enter the gate clothed with sackcloth. In every province, wherever the king's command went, there was great mourning, fasting, weeping, and wailing among the Jews; and many of them sat in sackcloth and ashes.
When Esther's maids and servants told her about it, she was greatly troubled. She sent garments for Mordecai to put on, that he might take off his sackcloth; but he would not accept them. So Esther called Hathach, one of the king's servants whom he had appointed to wait on her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what this meant and how it had happened.
So Hathach went to Mordecai at the city square in front of the king's gate. And Mordecai told him all that had happened to him and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king's treasury. Also he gave him a copy of the order to destroy them, that had been given out in Susa, to show to Esther that she might know about it. He also urged her to go to the king and ask his mercy and plead with him for her people.
When Hathach came and told Esther what Mordecai had said, she commanded Hathach to go and say to Mordecai, |All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that death is the punishment for every man or woman who goes to the king into the inner court without being called, except for the one to whom the king may hold out the golden sceptre, which means that he may live. But now for thirty days I have not been called to go in to the king.|
When Mordecai was told what Esther had said, he sent back this answer to Esther, |Do not think that you alone of all the Jews will escape because you belong to the king's household. If you keep silent at this time, help will come to the Jews from somewhere else, but you and your family will perish. Who knows but that you have been raised to the throne for a time like this?|
Then Esther sent this message to Mordecai: |Go, gather all the Jews in Susa and fast for me; do not eat nor drink anything for three days and nights. I and my maids will fast also, and so I will go in to the king, although it is against the law. And if I perish I perish.| So Mordecai went away and did as Esther directed.
On the third day, Esther put on her royal garments and stood in the inner court of the royal palace opposite the king's house. The king was sitting on his throne in the palace, opposite the entrance. When he saw Esther, the queen, standing in the court, she won his favor, and he held out to her the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther went up and touched the top of the sceptre. Then the king said to her, |Whatever you wish, Queen Esther, and whatever you ask, it shall be granted, even if it is the half of the kingdom.| Esther said, |If it seems best to the king, let the king and Haman come to-day to the feast that I have prepared for him.| Then the king said, |Bring Haman quickly, that Esther's wish may be granted.|
So the king and Haman went to the feast that Esther had prepared. While they were drinking wine, the king said to Esther, |Whatever you ask shall be granted, even if it takes the half of my kingdom.| Esther answered, |If I have won the king's favor and if it seems best to the king to grant what I ask, let the king and Haman come to the feast which I shall prepare for them; and to-morrow I will do as the king wishes.|
So Haman went out that day joyful and happy, but when he saw Mordecai in the king's gate and noticed that he neither stood up nor moved for him, he was furiously angry with Mordecai. But Haman controlled his temper and went home. Then he called together his friends and Zeresh, his wife, and told them the greatness of his wealth, how many children he had, and all the ways in which the king had honored him, and how he had given him a place above the officials and the royal servants. Haman said, |Queen Esther brought no one in with the king to the feast which she had prepared but me, and to-morrow also I am invited by her along with the king. Yet all this does not satisfy me as long as I see Mordecai, the Jew, sitting at the king's gate.|
Then Zeresh, his wife, and all his friends said to him, |Let a gallows seventy-five feet high be built and in the morning speak to the king and let Mordecai be hanged on it. Then go merrily with the king to the feast.| The advice pleased Haman, and so he had the gallows built.
On that night the king was unable to sleep; so he gave orders to bring the books that told of great deeds; and they were read before the king. And it was written how Mordecai had told about the two servants of the king who had tried to kill King Xerxes. Then the king said, |How has Mordecai been honored and rewarded for this?| When the king's pages who waited on him replied, |Nothing has been done for him,| the king said, |Who is in the court?| Now Haman had just entered the outer court of the king's house to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him. So the king's pages said to him, |Haman is standing there in the court.| The king said, |Let him enter.|
So Haman entered, and the king said to him, |What shall be done for the man whom the king wishes to honor?| Haman said to himself, |Whom besides me does the king wish to honor?| So Haman said to the king, |For the man whom the king wishes to honor let a royal garment be brought, which the king has worn, and the horse on which the king has ridden and on whose head a royal crown has been placed. Then let the garment and the horse be placed in charge of one of the king's noble officials and let him clothe the man whom the king longs to honor and make him ride on the horse through the city square and proclaim before him, 'This is what is done for the man whom the king wishes to honor.'|
Then the king said to Haman, |Make haste and take the garment and the horse, as you have said, and do thus to Mordecai, the Jew, who sits in the king's gate. Do not fail to do all you have said.| So Haman took the garment and the horse and clothed Mordecai, and made him ride through the city square and proclaimed before him, |This is what is done for the man whom the king wishes to honor.|
Mordecai returned to the king's gate, but Haman hurried to his house, mourning, with his head covered. And Haman told Zeresh, his wife, and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then his wise men and Zeresh, his wife, said to him, |If Mordecai before whom you have already been disgraced is of the Jewish race, you can do nothing against him, but you will surely fall before him.|
While they were still talking with him, the king's servants came and quickly took Haman to the feast that Esther had prepared. So the king and Haman went to drink with Queen Esther. And the king said to Esther, as they were drinking wine, |Whatever you ask, Queen Esther, it shall be granted you, even if it takes half of the kingdom.| Then Queen Esther answered, |If I have won your favor, O king, and if it seems best to the king, let my life and my people be given me at my request, for I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, to be killed, and to perish!|
The King Xerxes said to Queen Esther, |Who is he and where is he who dares to do so?| Esther answered, |A foe, an enemy, this wicked Haman.| Then Haman shrank in terror before the king and the queen, and Harbonah, one of those who waited on the king, said, |There, standing in the house of Haman, are the gallows, seventy-five feet high, which Haman built for Mordecai, who spoke a good word for the king.| The king said, |Hang him on them.| So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the wrath of the king was quieted.
At that time King Xerxes gave the property of Haman, the Jews' enemy, to Queen Esther. And Mordecai was made one of the king's advisers, for Esther had told of his relationship to her. The king also drew off his signet-ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai; and Esther placed Mordecai in charge of Haman's property.
Then Esther came again before the king and fell at his feet and with tears begged him to prevent the evil that Haman had planned against the Jews. The king held out to her the golden sceptre, and she arose and stood before him. Then King Xerxes said to Queen Esther and to Mordecai, the Jew, |Write in behalf of the Jews, as seems best to you, in the king's name and seal it with the king's ring; for what is written in the king's name and sealed with the king's ring no one may disobey.|
So Mordecai wrote in the name of King Xerxes and sealed it with the king's ring. And he sent by messengers, who rode the king's swift horses, mules, and camels, the king's command that the Jews who were in every city should gather together and protect their lives.
The command had also been given out in the royal palace at Susa; and Mordecai had gone out from the presence of the king in royal garments of violet and white and with a great crown of gold and with a robe of fine linen and purple. The people of Susa shouted and were glad. To the Jews there came light and gladness and joy and honor. And in every country and city, where the king's command came, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, and a holiday.
On the fourteenth day of the month Adar, the Jews rested and made it a day of feasting and rejoicing. Therefore the Jews who live in the country villages keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar as a day of rejoicing and feasting and a holiday, and as a day on which they send gifts to one another. But the Jews in Susa rested on the fifteenth day of the same month and made it a day of feasting and rejoicing.
The Jews made it a custom for them, and for their children, and for all who should join them, so that it might not be changed, that they should observe these two days as feasts each year. For Haman had plotted to destroy the Jews completely, and he cast pur, that is, the lot, to destroy them. For this reason these days are called Purim.