Remember that tall, mostly naked dude from the 300? The one with all of the piercings and crazy jewelry? That’s Xerxes. I’m sure the depiction is historically accurate, so we’ll go with it. During the reign of Xerxes, he threw a huge party. All of his people from the least to the greatest were invited to join and drink as much wine as they possibly could. During the party, drunk Xerxes decided that he wanted to show off his beautiful wife, Queen Vashti, to the people. So, he sent a bunch of his eunuchs to collect her. But Queen Vashti refused to come.
This was a problem. Xerxes and his advisors all agreed that this kind disrespect could not go without punishment, because then all wives would think it was ok to disrespect their husbands and not answer to their every whims. Which is bad. They decided that, in order to punish her, they would strip her of her title and never allow her in the presence of the king ever again. So there 😛 *I can’t depict it in the picture, but this tongue-sticky-out face is making a raspberry.
Afterward, Xerxes sobered up and remembered that he needed a queen, because Vashti had done things. What things it doesn’t say. I’m guessing bang the king and carry babies. The advisors decided that they would have the country searched for the most beautiful virgins, whom they would bring back to the palace, fix them up Miss Congeniality style and present to the king to choose amongst them.
It just so happened that there was a beautiful virgin who was also Jewish; her name was Esther. She had been taken in by her uncle, Mordecai, when both of her parents passed away. Mordecai had forbidden her to tell anyone what her nationality was, and she was taken to the palace to be presented to the king. Xerxes fell for her immediately, and she found favor with everyone who met her. Soon, she was made queen in Vashti’s place and given everything she could ever want.
Mordecai happened to overhear two of Xerxes’ advisors plotting to kill the king. Mordecai informed Esther, who told Xerxes immediately. The accusations were found to be true, and Xerxes favored Esther and Mordecai even more than he had before. (Though apparently he didn’t realize that they were related.)
And then Xerxes picked a real douche bag, Haman, to be his top advisor. Everyone bowed to Haman, except Mordecai. When asked why he would not kneel to Haman, Mordecai responded that he was Jewish. It does’t say why that explains anything, but I guess it does. Haman is super-pissed that Mordecai will not bow to him, and soon finds out that Mordecai is Jewish. Instead of taking out his anger on Mordecai, Haman decides to just kill all of the Jews instead.
Haman went to Xerxes and told him about how awful the Jews were, how they refused to live as other Persians lived, and how they refused to follow Xerxes’ laws. Xerxes gave Haman permission to exterminate the Jews, and even put out on edict giving the date that this extermination would take place.
When Mordecai found out, he was understandably upset; he tore his clothes and stuff. Then he sent a messenger to Esther asking that she make an appeal to the king to save her people. Unfortunately, there was a rule in the Persian court. You did not present yourself to the king unless requested by the king. Ever. Or you would be executed. Knowing this, Esther replied to her uncle that she could not go to the king, or she would risk death. Mordecai laid the guilt on really thick, telling her that she will have stood by while her father’s family was murdered. True, harsh, effective.
Esther agrees to risk her life to protect her people. She went to the king, who was pleased to see her and waived his scepter thing to show he would speak with her instead of kill her. She requested that he and Haman join her for a banquet. So they did. Then she asked them both to join her the next day as well. Human went home really excited and happy that the queen had invited him to her banquet. But on the way there, he passed Mordecai who still would not bow to him. It enraged him. His family suggested that he build a scaffolds and request permission from the King to hang Mordecai from it. That seemed like a good idea to Haman, so he built the scaffolds.
The next day, Haman went to Xerxes to request Mordecai’s death. It just so happened that Xerxes had had trouble sleeping the night before and had requested the chronicles of his kingship be read to him. When the part about Mordecai reporting rumors of an assassination and saving Xerxes’ life, he decided to honor Mordecai. He brought Haman in, and asked him what should be done for a man whom the king wished to honor. Thinking that the king intended to honor himself, Haman gave a big long answer about things that he would like done for him. Xerxes liked Haman’s idea and told him to do it at once! For Mordecai. So Haman ended up leading Mordecai, his mortal enemy, through the city streets on the king’s horse proclaiming that the king was honoring Mordecai.
Embarrassed and enraged, Haman left to go to Queen Esther’s banquet. (No one knows that she’s related to Mordecai or even that she’s Jewish, remember?) When asked why she had requested the audience, Esther told Xerxes that she wished to save her own life and the lives of her people. Xerxes became enraged at the thought of someone harming his beloved wife and asked who would do such a thing. Esther answered that Haman was the man who had sentenced her and her people to death.
Xerxes became even more enraged. Human begged Esther for his life, but this only made Xerxes even angrier, if that’s possible. As Haman was being carried out of the room, and Xerxes was trying to decide what to do with him, one his servants pointed out that Haman had built a large scaffolds on which to hang Mordecai, the man who had saved the king’s life. And so, Xerxes had Haman hanged on his own scaffolds.
Turns out, a edict of the king cannot be undone. Even by the king. So Xerxes couldn’t take back his “kill all the Jews” thing (you would think he’d a bit more careful about what he signs). And so he sent out a second edict, this one giving the Jews the right to protect themselves against anyone who might harm them.
When the big day arrived, word of Mordecai’s importance and close proximity had spread, and everyone was afraid of the Jews. The Jews killed those who would stand against them, killing hundreds just in Susa, the Persian capital. They also hanged all of Haman’s sons.
The day after the jews were to have been killed, they partied and had a big feast. Mordecai spread word far and wide that the day should be celebrated by all Jews and would be known as Purim. This book about Esther, the woman who risked her own life to protect her people, ends with a section subtitled, “The Greatness of Mordecai.” Yeah. He becomes second only to Xerxes, widely respected for standing up for his people. Not much else is said about the woman who directly risked her life to do so. Not really surprising.
Up next, Job!