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The Story of Queen Esther

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Queen Esther in the Old Testament is the Queen of Ahasuerus. Historians will identify this group of people alongside Xerxes I an Xerxes II. She is the heroine of one of the books in the bible – Book of Esther. This is clearly named after her. Esther’s best contribution was her influence and intervention with the Persian people. Ahasuerus, her husband, followed the footsteps of Cyrus the Great, his grandfather and showed mercy to the Jews who were living in Persia. It Cyrus who issued a decree of the end of captivity of the Jews in Babylon. Using the bible as the reference and turning to the Book of Esther, Esther is a Persian Jewish woman whose birth name is Hadassah. Upon entering  the royal harem,she changed her name to Esther which means ‘mytrile’ in Hebrew. The name is also related to the Median word astra, which means myrtle, as well as setarah which is Persian for Star. Some scholars say that Esther was as beautiful as the Evening Star.

There is a link between Jewish and Persian history, thus modern day Jews call themselves “Esther’s Children” in honor of their queen. Another explanation of her name is “hidden” in Hebrew. This is appropriate because while she was in Midrash, she was asked by her cousin Mordecai to hide her lineage as well as her nationality. The Book of Esther, in Hebrew, therefore has two meanings. It is the story of Queen Esther and at the same time, this part of the book represnets the time when God was in hiding. (Pinto-Delgado, 34) Esther’s story begins as thus. She was the orphaned daughter of Abihail. She lived with her cousin Mordecai who was part of the office in the household of the Persian King. Because of her cousin’s connections, Esther was made aware of the plot by Teresh and Bigthan, two palace guards. They wanted to assassinate the king.

King Ahasuerus in Jewish history, who is King Xerxes in Persian history, had a feast celebrating his wealth as well as the vastness of his kingdom. He basked in all his glory and his splendor. The King then ordered Queen Vashti to display her beauty. Vashti didn’t do what he commanded. Because of this, she was banished. King Ahasuerus started searching for another wife. Beautiful and young women from every province lined up. They all wanted to be queen. For 12 months, these women underwent beauty treatments in the harem. Then they would go see the King. Historians said that every evening, the woman is given anything she wants. In the morning, she goes to another part of the harem. She becomes a concubine. She does not return to the King unless he himself summons her. (Philip, 39) Amazed by her beauty, King Ahasuerus chose Esther to be his queen. Soon after her coronation, the King gave Haman the Agatite power and authority to be his prime minister.

Haman rode his horse down the street. It was a rule that evenyone bowed down to him. Everyone did this, except for Mordecai. According to him, he would only bow down to god. This drove Haman mad and he decided to kill all Jews in the Persian empire. He received the approval from the King.  Upon hearing the news, the Jews were in despair. Mordecai, for example, tore his robes and placed ash on his head. Esther sent out clean clothes to her cousin but he didn’t accept these. He believed that the Jews would be delivered in some other way. He also adviced Esther to do as what was expected from Jews because she would be killed if she didn’t. Even if she were already queen, Esther could not see the King unless he called for her. If she broke this rule, she could be put to death in 30 days. Esther and her maid servants earnestly prayed for three days. This mustered enough courage in Esther. She walked into the king’s presence. Ahasuerus held out his scepter. It meant that he accepted Esther’s visit. Esther’s request to have a banquet with the king and his prime minister Haman was granted. While dining, she requested for another banquet with the king and the prime minsiter the next day. (Cohen, 482)

Haman ordered his men to construct a gallow that was 75 feet high. This was where they would hang Mordecai. That very evening, the king called haman and asked, “What should be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?” Initially, Haman thought that he was “the man” the king was referring to. His answer was to let the man wear a royal robe and lead the king’s horses along the streets of the city. King Ahasuerus agreed with the idea. He then asked Haman to lead Mordecai through the streets. In the vey way Haman suggested, Mordecai was honored. Turned out Mordecai informed the king about the plot against him. Haman, caught in his sly plans, rushed home and grieved his loss of honor. During the second banquet, Esther informed King Ahasuerus of Haman’s plan to massacre all the Jews in the Persian Empire. She then confessed her Jewish lineage. The minute he found out about this, the king was furious. He ordered Haman to be hanged on the gallows that was built especially for Mordecai. The king appointed Mordecai as his new prime minister. With that annotation, the Jews have the right to defend themselves against their oppresors.

All through out, Esther is seen as a woman who has deep faith, patriotic and courageous. She is willing to risk her life for her cousin Mordecai and the rest of the Jewish people. She was used as an instrument by God in order to avert the destruciton of the Jews. Because of her power as Queen, she was protected from the captivity of Haman.  Some scholars claim that Esther was a descendant of Kish whose roots come from the tribe of Benjamin, making her related to King Saul. This was coincidental because Haman twas a descendant of King Agag from the Amalekites. The Amalekites were wiped out by Saul. This sub-plot is said to be a quest for revenge for Haman, as well Esther’s redemption for the mistake Saul made. (Solovochiek) In modern times, people ask how Esther can be an example to the girls. What can we tell them about her which they can use in their daily lives?

An answer is we can teach our children to be righteous. By demanding a high level of spiritual self development, Esther proves to be true to her faith which allows her to save her people. There are woman in the Jewish bible who are also righteous but Queen Esther has one chapter in the book just for her because of this trait. Esther’s purpose was to save the Jews from harm. Apparently, her name reflects that very purpose. She serves as the Evening Star which led the Jews away from impending doom. It also helps that she comes from the family of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca. These only exemplify her certain characteristics, as well as the degree of what she has achieved.

She is also a strong queen. She was courageous to do something, despite the risk this aciton has in her life, just to do something right for her people. She is also portrayed to be a mediator. She has a relationship with the Jews, just as she has relationship with the Persians. The crucial time when she must not reveal her identity because of the danger of being a Jew proved to be otherwise. That was the very moment she declared her lineage (despite the fact that she hid this from most people before) in order for her to save her people. Another trait our daughters can learn from Esther today is self-control. This is to keep silent when necessary. Apparently, it is not only our daughters who have to learn this, it is a trait that we must also develop ourselves. (Sharon, 97) Like David, Esther is one of the pillars who prove that being in power can allow us to save those who need. She teaches us what we must learn in life. That just as we are wounded, we eventually develop from the scars we acquire.


Pinto-Delgado, Jao, The Poem of Queen Esther, Oxford US, 1999
Goodman, Philip, The Purim of Anthology, Jewish Publication Society, 1988
Cohen, Mortimer J, Pathways Through the Bible, The Jewish Publication Society

of America
Solovecheik, Meir, “The Virtue of Hate”, First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion

and Public Life, February 2003

Murphy, Sharon, “Sharing Time Goes Awry. Or Does It,” Journal of Research in

Childhood Education, Vol 17, 2003

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