This story is edited and modernized from Charles Foster’s version told in simple language.
Preview: CHAPTERS 1-4 [521-510 BCE]
- King Ahasuerus makes a great feast to his servants in his palace.
- Vashti, the queen, refuses to obey him.
- Esther is made queen.
- Haman, because Mordecai will not bow to him, tries to destroy all the Jews in the kingdom.
THE Jews had not all returned with Zerubbabel and Ezra from exile to Jerusalem. Many of them still lived in the land of Persia. The name of the king who reigned over Persia at this time was Ahasuerus. In the third year of his reign he made a great feast for his servants in the court, or garden, of his palace that was in the city of Shushan, where the kings of Persia lived during the winter.
Around the court were hung curtains of white and green and blue, which were fastened by cords and silver rings, to pillars of marble. The beds in the palace were made of gold and silver, and the pavement was of red and blue, and white and black marble. The persons at the feast drank out of vessels of gold, and the king’s wine was given in abundance, so that every man might drink as much as he wanted.
Vashti, the queen, also made a feast for the women in the palace of King Ahasuerus. And on the seventh day of the king’s feast, after he had drunk wine and was merry, he sent to bring Vashti before him, with the crown upon her head, that the princes and people might see her beauty.
Now in Persia the women lived in a separate part of the house, by themselves, and never came out before men unless they wore veils. And when King Ahasuerus sent for Vashti, the queen, to come before all the princes and people, that they might see her face unveiled, she refused to obey the king’s commandment.
Therefore the king was angry, and said to his wise men, What shall we do to queen Vashti, and how shall she be punished, because she has not obeyed the commandment of the king?
One of the wise men answered, Vashti has done wrong, not only to the king, but also to all the princes and people of your kingdom. For all the women of Persia will no more obey their husbands when they hear that king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti, the queen, to come in before him and she came not.
Therefore, let the king make a decree, and let it be written among the laws of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be changed, that Vashti shall come no more before the king; and let the king choose another woman for queen who is better than she. Then, when this decree shall be known throughout the kingdom, all the wives, both of rich men and of poor men, will obey their husbands.
These words pleased the king and his princes, and the king did as the wise man had told him. For he sent letters through all the different provinces of his kingdom, commanding that every man should be ruler in his own house, and that this law should be made known to all the people.
Then the king’s servants came to him, saying, Let the king send officers to all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the beautiful young women of Persia into the palace at Shushan; and let the one who pleases the king best be queen instead of Vashti. And the king did as his servants said.
Now there was among the servants at the palace a Jew named Mordecai, who had a cousin named Esther. She was also of the Jews. Her father and mother were dead, and when they had died, Mordecai took Esther to his house. Since that time, he had brought her up as his own daughter. And the maid was fair and beautiful.
It happened, when the king’s commandment was made known through the land, that many young maidens were gathered together at Shushan, the palace. Esther was brought there among them and given to the care of the king’s officer who had the charge of the women.
The officer was pleased with Esther, and gave her a present, and also seven young maidens to wait on her; and he put her and her maidens into the best part of the house of the women. But Esther did not let it be known that she was Jewish, for Mordecai had advised her not to tell it.
When King Ahasuerus saw Esther, he loved her more than all the other maidens who were brought before him, so that he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. Then the king made a great feast that was called Esther’s feast, and he gave gifts to his servants for her sake.
But Esther was still careful to do all that Mordecai told her, for she obeyed him now, although she was made queen, as willingly as when she lived in his house and was brought up as his own daughter.