ESTHER

As international women’s day celebrates focus on the role played by women globally, the holiday of Purim is celebrated in a fashion enjoyed by young and old alike. Children and some grown ups dress up in costume, eat tasty triangular shaped cookies called hamantashen and are, this one time a year, allowed to make lots of noise at synagogue as villain’s name is read during the retelling of the Purim story. Today reminds Christian believers of Queen Esther’s pretty smart move as well, her courage.  This shapely and beautiful woman won the king’s heart when the king’s edict is proclaimed, Esther is gathered up along with all of the other fair maidens in the realm, and brought to the palace. She spends the next year living in a harem with other candidates but kept her Jewish identity a secret. Esther risked her life to save her people in the Bible between 486–465 BCE in Shushan. The king’s presence cannot be entered without permission yet urgency of the falsity of attack required prompt action. So the young Jewess orphan named Esther whose Jewish name is Hadassah rescued her people through intercession, fasting and prayer. On the death of her parents she was fostered by her cousin Mordecai. The Book of Esther, also known in Hebrew as the Scroll Megillah in the third section Ketuvim Writings of the Jewish Tanakh or the Hebrew Bible and in the Christian Old Testament. She finds favour in the king’s eyes by listening to the Kings’s courtier Hegai for advice on the king’s taste. So earned regard of Hegai, the king’s eunuch who gave Esther advice. Esther, sought to please and impress the king so sought advice on most suitable preference for costumes and perfumes for advantage to be chosen as the king’s bride and queen. Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate in Esther 2:19 as a royal courtier. So advised Esther not to reveal she is Jewish. Afterwards, Mordecai discovered a plot by courtiers Bigthan and Teresh to assassinate Ahasuerus or Xerxes. Mordecai intervened to report the conspirators who were apprehended and hanged and Mordecai’s service to the king was recorded.

Later, Ahasuerus appoints Haman as prime minister. Mordecai, who sits at the palace gates, falls into Haman’s disfavour as he refuses to bow down to him. Realising Mordecai is Jewish, Haman plans to kill Mordecai and all the Jews in the empire. He obtains Ahasuerus’ permission to execute this plan, against payment of ten thousand talents of silver which the King declines to accept and rather allows him to execute his plan on the thirteenth of the month of Adar. On that day, everyone in the empire is free to massacre the Jews and despoil their property. When Mordecai finds out about the plans he and all Jews mourn and fast. Mordecai informs Esther what has happened and tells her to intercede with the King. Afraid to break the law to go to the King if not summoned, such action incurs death penalty but Esther took the chance. She orders Mordecai to have all Jews fast for three days together with her, and on the third day she goes to Ahasuerus, who stretches out his sceptre to her which shows that she is not to be punished. She invites him to a feast in the company of Haman. During the feast, she asks them to attend a further feast the next evening. Meanwhile, Haman is again offended by Mordecai and consults with his friends. At his wife’s suggestion, he builds a hangman for Mordecai. Ahasuerus that night, unable to sleep tosses and turns in his bed so calls upon a servant to read to him from the royal book of records. As God would have it, the servant read account of Mordecai saving the king’s life in the court records to learn of the services rendered by Mordecai in the previous plot against his life. Ahasuerus was told Mordecai did not receive recognition for saving the king’s life. Haman appears to ask the King to hang Mordecai, but before his request, King Ahasuerus asks Haman what should be done for the man the king wishes to honour. Thinking the man the king referred to is himself, Haman says the man should be dressed in the king’s royal robes and led around on the king’s royal horse, while a herald calls: “See how the king honours a man he wishes to reward!” To his surprise the king instructs Haman to do so to Mordecai. After leading Mordecai’s parade he returned mourning to wife and friends about his downfall. Ahasuerus and Haman attend Esther’s second banquet as she reveals she is Jewish and Haman was planning to annihilate her people plus her. Ahasuerus enraged left the room as Haman stays behind and begs Esther for his life. The king comes back and thinks Haman is assaulting the queen. This made him angrier than before so orders Haman hanged on the hangman Haman prepared for Mordecai. The decree against the Jews was annulled so the king allowed the Jews to defend themselves during attacks. On 13 Adar, 500 attackers and Haman’s 10 sons are killed in Shushan, 75,000 Persians slaughtered. Esther sent a letter instituting annual commemoration of Jewish people’s redemption holiday called Purim or lots. Ahasuerus remained powerful so continued reigning with Mordecai as prominent courtier.

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