King Ahasuerus bragged. “I’m the richest king ever. My armies are the greatest and I have the world’s most beautiful queen!”
“Ah.” Sighed the crowd. They had heard of Queen Vashti.
“Show her to us, we want to see the queen!” The people chanted.
The king’s servants ran to where Queen Vashti was having her own party. They told her.
“The king has ordered you to come before his guests.”
The queen sighed and put her hands on her hips. “Why?”
“He wants to show them how beautiful you are.”
To their amazement, the queen shook her head. “No. Tell him I’ll come later. Can’t you see I’m busy right now?”
The servants were shocked. They hurried back to the king with the news. His guests were shocked. Everyone watched King Ahasuerus to see what he would do. The king was furious! He called for his advisers. He said. “How should I punish the queen for not doing what I told her?”
His advisers said. “You must act quickly, otherwise all the wives of all the princes in the kingdom will start saying no to their husbands. The men won’t like that! Send out a royal order that Vashti is no longer your queen. Then look for someone else to take her place.”
The king liked this idea. He sent out the order. It was written in many different languages so everyone understood. The king was looking for a new queen.
King Ahasuerus sent out his most trusted men. They searched for the prettiest girls in the kingdom, among them was the Jewish girl Esther. Esther and the other young women were brought to the palace. There they climbed the front steps to their new home. They were given the best of everything, the most beautiful clothes and perfumes. Servants massaged them and fed them. They even dressed and put their makeup on for them. For an entire year the girls were treated like princesses.
While living in the palace, Esther made sure no one found out she was a Jew. This was something her cousin had told her to keep secret. Since Mordecai had always been like a father to her, Esther did as he said.
When the king’s men took Esther to the palace, Mordecai had followed. Every morning for the next year, he paced the yard outside the palace. This way he could check on Esther. When the year was up, it was time for the king to judge his very own beauty contest. Whichever girl won would become his new queen. Oh, the king enjoyed this very much indeed!
It was finally Esther’s turn to meet the king. Everyone agreed, they had never seen a more beautiful young lady. Sure enough, the king said. “There is no one like Esther, the lovely Esther was the new queen of Persia!
Everyday, Mordecai paced outside the palace waiting to hear how Esther was doing. She was queen and could have anything she wanted but all the same, Mordecai still worried about her as if he were her father. There was a very powerful man in the king’s court called Haman. He was second only to the king himself. Haman ordered that whenever he passed by, people should kneel before him.
At the king’s gate, though, there was one man who would not bow down. That was Mordecai! He knew Haman was an Amalekite, one of Israel’s most hated enemies. There was no way he would bow down to an Amalekite. Over and over again Haman walked by Mordecai and over and over again Mordecai refused to bow down.
Haman grew angrier and angrier until finally, he told the king. “There is a people who do not obey orders. I will pay you to let me kill them all.”
Haman did not want just Mordecai dead; he wanted all the Jews dead!
The king agreed, without even knowing who Haman was talking about! The king’s scribes sent out letters to all of Persia. The orders were to kill every single Jew, young and old, women and children, and to do it within the year!
Mordecai was so upset about the order to kill the Jews; he tore off his clothes and walked up and down the city streets, wailing. He and Esther sent messages back and forth. Mordecai told her. “You must go to the king and beg for our lives.”
Esther turned white with fear. “But the king sees only those people he sends for. If I visit him without being asked, he could have me killed. My only chance is if he holds out his golden scepter and chooses to listen to me.”
Mordecai was firm. He said. “You’re not going to be saved just because you’re the queen! If you stay quiet at a time like this, God will save His people through someone else. This is probably why you became queen.”
Esther prayed. Then she said, “Tell Mordecai I’ve agreed. If I have to die, I will die.”
Three days later, Esther entered the throne room. The king looked up and saw her. He smiled and held out the golden scepter. “Ah, Esther. What is it? I would give you anything, even half my kingdom.”
“If it pleases the king, I would like to invite you and Haman to eat dinner with me tonight.” She waited and hoped.
“Why of course!” The king agreed.
That evening, and the evening after, Esther ate with the king and Haman. After the first meal, Haman went home and bragged to his friends. He showed them his money and said. “Why, I’m so great, even the king and queen eat with me.”
It was the second time that Haman and the king had eaten with Esther. This was the moment she had been praying about. Once again, she had served only the best of the best. As the king looked at his lovely bride, he felt very pleased.
“Now tell me, my dear.” He turned to Esther. “What is this all about, what is it that you want?”
Esther felt the push from inside her heart. She took a deep breath. “Please, I beg for my life, as well as the lives of my people. We are going to be destroyed, killed, all of us!” Esther bowed her head.
“How can this be?” The king cried.”What evil man would ever do this, who is he?”
Esther sat up and pointed at Haman. “The wicked enemy is this man here, it is Haman!”
Terrified, Haman choked on his wine. The king was furious. He stumbled out of the room and into Esther’s garden. Haman threw himself at Esther’s feet and begged for mercy.
The king came back in the room. When he saw Haman clinging to Esther, he lost his temper. “You! How dare you attack the queen?!
“Don’t touch her like that!”
The king’s guards came running. They took one look and knew Haman was not going to live much longer. The king said. “Hang this man!”
Then King Ahasuerus gave Haman’s house and all he owned to Queen Esther. Mordecai came forward and Esther told the king that he was her cousin, but had loved her like a father. The king took off his special ring and gave it to Mordecai then Esther gave him all of Haman’s property.
After Mordecai received his reward, the queen went to the king for a second time. Again, she was risking her life. If the king did not hold out his golden scepter, it meant she would die that very day. As soon as Esther saw the king, she threw herself at his feet. She wept and sobbed and the king held out his golden scepter.
She was safe! “Oh, please! Is there any way my people can be saved from Haman’s terrible order?”
Esther knew that once the king had ordered something, it could not be stopped. The king had an idea. He sent for Mordecai.
“Mordecai, you have my ring now. Send out another order, one which can save the Jews.”
Mordecai ordered. “All Jews are allowed to fight back when their enemies attack them on the day of battle.”
As the news spread, the Jews were overjoyed. Many people who were not Jews wanted to become Jews. They knew who the winner of the coming battle would be. When the day of the battle came, it was the same day that Haman had set. However what happened was nowhere near what Haman had wanted. God blessed the Jews and made them into great fighters. The enemies of God’s people were the ones who died that day, not the other way around!
On the day of battle, all the princes and generals joined Mordecai’s side. They helped God’s people defend themselves against their enemies. Then Mordecai sent out another order. This one said that Jews all over the kingdom should never, ever forget how God had helped them in strange and powerful ways. Every year they should remember and have a feast. Then everyone would give gifts of food to the poor. After the feast Queen Esther went on to rule Persia by the side of the king for many, many years.