Esther

JB ESTHER Chapter 1

INTRODUCTORY (CHAPTER 1)

Mordecai’s dream[*a]

1:1a In the second year of the reign of the great King Ahasuerus,[*b] on the first day of Nisan, a dream came to Mordecai son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin,

1:1b a Jew living at Susa and holding high office at the royal court.

1:1c He was one of the captives whom Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had deported from Jerusalem with Jeconiah, king of Judah.[*c]

1:1d This was his dream There were cries and noise, thunder and earthquakes, and disorder over the whole earth.

1:1e Then two great dragons came forward, each ready for the fray, and set up a great roar.

1:1f At the sound of them every nation made ready to wage war against the nation of the just.

1:1g A day of darkness and gloom, of affliction and distress, oppression and great disturbance on earth!

1:1h The righteous nation was thrown into consternation at the fear of the evils awaiting them, and prepared for death, crying out to God.

1:1i Then from their cry, as from a little spring, there grew a great river, a flood of water.

1:1k Light came as the sun rose, and the humble were raised up and devoured the mighty.

1:1l On awakening from this dream and vision of God’s designs, Mordecai thought deeply on the matter, trying his best all day to discover what its meaning might be.

A plot against the king

1:1m Lodging at court with Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who guarded the palace,

1:1n Mordecai got wind of their intentions and uncovered their plot. Learning that they were preparing to assassinate King Ahasuerus, he warned the king against them.

1:1o The king gave orders for the two eunuchs to be tortured; they confessed and were executed.

1:1p The king then had these events recorded in his Chronicles, while Mordecai himself also wrote an account of them.

1:1q The king then appointed Mordecai to an office at court and rewarded him with presents.

1:1r But Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, who enjoyed high favour with the king, determined to injure Mordecai in revenge for the king’s two eunuchs.

I. AHASUERUS AND VASHTI

Ahasuerus’ banquet

1:1 It was in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus whose empire stretched from India to Ethiopia and comprised one hundred and twenty-seven provinces.

1:2 In those days, when King Ahasuerus was sitting on his royal throne in the citadel of Susa,

1:3 in the third year of his reign, he gave a banquet at his court for all his administrators and ministers, chiefs of the army of Persia and Media, nobles and governors of provinces.

1:4 Thus he displayed the riches and splendour of his empire and the pomp and glory of his majesty; the festivities went on for a long time, a hundred and eighty days.

1:5 When this period was over, for seven days the king gave a banquet for all the people living in the citadel of Susa, to high and low alike, in the enclosure adjoining the king’s palace.

1:6 There were white and violet hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple thread to silver rings on marble columns, couches of gold and silver on a pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and precious stones.

1:7 For drinking there were golden cups of various design and the royal wine in plenty according to the king’s bounty.

1:8 By royal command however, drinking was not obligatory, the king having instructed the officials of his household to treat each guest according to his own wishes.

The affair of Vashti

1:9 Queen Vashti,[*d] too, had given a banquet for the women in the royal palace of King Ahasuerus.

1:10 On the seventh day, when the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs in attendance on the person of King Ahasuerus,

1:11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king crowned with her royal diadem, in order to display her beauty to the people and the administrators, for she was very beautiful.

1:12 But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command delivered by the eunuchs. The king was very angry at this and his rage grew hot.

1:13 He then consulted the wise men who were versed in the law, since it was the practice to refer matters affecting the king to expert lawyers and jurists.

1:14 He summoned Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena and Memucan, the seven administrators of Persia and Media who had privileged access to the royal presence and occupied the leading positions in the kingdom.

1:15 ‘According to law,’ he said ‘what is to be done to Queen Vashti for not obeying the command of King Ahasuerus delivered by the eunuchs?’

1:16 In the presence of the king and of the administrators Memucan answered, ‘Vashti has wronged not only the king, but also all the administrators and nations inhabiting the provinces of King Ahasuerus.

1:17 The queen’s conduct will soon become known to all the women and encourage them in a contemptuous attitude towards their husbands, since they will say, “King Ahasuerus ordered Queen Vashti to appear before him and she did not come”.

1:18 The wives of all the Persian and Median administrators will hear of the queen’s answer before the day is out, and will start talking to the king’s administrators in the same way; that will mean contempt and anger all round.

1:19 If it is the king’s pleasure, let him issue a royal edict, to be irrevocably incorporated into the laws of the Persians and Medes, to the effect that Vashti is never to appear again before King Ahasuerus, and let the king confer her royal dignity on a worthier woman.

1:20 Let this edict issued by the king be proclaimed throughout the length and breadth of his realm, and all the women will henceforth bow to the authority of their husbands, both high and low alike.’

1:21 This speech pleased the king and the administrators and the king did as Memucan advised.

1:22 He sent letters to all the provinces of the kingdom, to each province in its own script and to each nation in its own language, ensuring that every husband should be master in his own house.

JB ESTHER Chapter 2

II. MORDECAI AND ESTHER

Esther becomes queen

2:1 Some time after this, when the king’s wrath had abated, Ahasuerus remembered Vashti, how she had behaved, and the measures taken against her.

2:2 The king’s courtiers-in-waiting said, ‘Let beautiful girls be selected for the king.

2:3 Let the king appoint commissioners throughout the provinces of his realm to bring all these beautiful young virgins to the citadel of Susa, to the harem under the authority of Hegai the king’s eunuch, custodian of the women. Let him provide them with what they need for their adornment,

2:4 and let the girl who pleases the king take Vashti’s place as queen.’ This advice pleased the king and he acted on it.

2:5 Now in the citadel of Susa there lived a Jew called Mordecai son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin,

2:6 who had been deported from Jerusalem among the captives taken away with Jeconiah king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon.

2:7 He had brought up Hadassah, otherwise called Esther,[*a] his uncle’s daughter, who had lost both father and mother; the girl had a good figure and a beautiful face, and on the death of her parents Mordecai had adopted her as his daughter.

2:8 Following the promulgation of the king’s edict, a great number of girls were brought to the citadel of Susa where they were entrusted to Hegai. Esther also was taken to the king’s palace and entrusted to Hegai, the custodian of the women.

2:9 The girl pleased him and won his favour. Not only did he quickly provide her with all she needed for her dressing room and her meals, but he gave her seven special maids from the king’s household and transferred her and her maids to the best part of the harem.

2:10 Esther did not reveal her race or kindred, since Mordecai had forbidden her to do so.

2:11 Mordecai walked up and down in front of the courtyard of the harem every day, to learn how Esther was and how she was being treated.

2:12 Each girl had to appear in turn before King Ahasuerus, after a delay of twelve months fixed by the regulations for the women; this preparatory period was occupied as follows: six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with spices and lotions commonly used for feminine beauty treatment.

2:13 Before going into the king, each girl was allowed to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace whatever she chose.

2:14 She went there in the evening, and the following morning returned to another harem entrusted to the care of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch, custodian of the concubines. She did not go to the king any more, unless he was particularly pleased with her and had her summoned by name.

2:15 But when it was the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail whose nephew Mordecai had adopted her as his own daughter, to go into the king’s presence, she did not ask for anything beyond what had been assigned her by Hegai, the king’s eunuch, custodian of the women. And Esther soon won the admiration of all who saw her.

2:16 She was brought to King Ahasuerus in his royal palace in the tenth month, which is called Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign;

2:17 and the king liked Esther better than any of the other women; none of the other girls found so much favour and approval with him. So he set the royal diadem on her head and proclaimed her queen instead of Vashti.

2:18 Then the king gave a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his administrators and ministers, decreed a holiday for all the provinces and distributed largesse with royal prodigality.

Mordecai and Haman

2:19 When Esther, like the other girls, had been transferred to the second harem, she had not revealed her kindred or race, in obedience to the orders of Mordecai, whose instructions she continued to follow as when she had been under his care.

2:20 At this time Mordecai was attached to the Chancellery and two malcontents, Bigthan and Teresh, king’s eunuchs belonging to the Guardians of the Threshold, plotted to assassinate King Ahasuerus.

2:22 Mordecai came to hear of this and informed Queen Esther, who in turn, on Mordecai’s authority, told the king.

2:23 The matter was investigated and proved to be true. The two conspirators were sent to the gallows, and the incident was recorded in the Book of the Chronicles in the presence of the king.

JB ESTHER Chapter 3

3:1 Shortly afterwards, King Ahasuerus singled out Haman son of Hammedatha, from the land of Agag,[*a] for promotion. He raised him in rank and precedence above all his colleagues, the other officers of state,

3:2 and gave orders that all the officials employed at the Chancellery were to bow down and prostrate themselves before Haman. Mordecai refused either to bow or prostrate himself.

3:3 ‘Why do you flout the royal command?’ the officials of the Chancellery asked Mordecai.

3:4 They asked him this day after day, but he took no notice of them. In the end they reported the matter to Haman, wishing to see whether Mordecai would persist in his attitude, since he had told them he was a Jew.

3:5 When Haman had seen for himself that Mordecai did not bow or prostrate himself before him, he was seized with fury.

3:6 Having been told what race Mordecai belonged to, he could not be content with murdering Mordecai but made up his mind to wipe out all the members of Mordecai’s race, the Jews, throughout the empire of Ahasuerus.

III. THE JEWS IN PERIL

The decree of extermination against the Jews

3:7 In the first month, that is the month of Nisan, of the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast the pur (that is, the lot) before Haman for the day and the month. The lot falling on the twelfth month, which is Adar,

3:8 Haman said to King Ahasuerus, ‘There is a certain unassimilated nation scattered among the other nations throughout the provinces of your realm; their laws are different from those of all the other nations and they ignore the royal edicts; hence it is not in the king’s interests to tolerate them.

3:9 If it please the king to decree their destruction, I am prepared to pay ten thousand talents of silver to the king’s receivers, to be credited to the royal treasury.’

3:10 The king then took his signet ring off his hand and gave it to Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the persecutor of the Jews.

3:11 ‘Keep the money,’ he said ‘and you can have the people too; do what you like with them.’

3:12 Then on the thirteenth day of the first month the royal scribes were summoned, and copies were made of the orders addressed by Haman to the king’s satraps, to the governors ruling each province and to the principal officials of each people, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language. The edict was signed in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with his ring,

3:13 and letters were sent by runners to every province of the realm ordering the destruction, slaughter and annihilation of all Jews, young and old, women and children, on the one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is Adar, and the seizing of their possessions.

3:13a The text of the letter was as follows: ‘The great King, Ahasuerus, to the governors of the hundred and twenty-seven provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia, and to their subordinate district commissioners.

3:13b ‘Being placed in authority over many nations and ruling the whole world, I have resolved never to be carried away by the insolence of power, but always to rule with moderation and clemency, so as to assure for my subjects a life ever free from storms and, offering my kingdom the benefits of civilisation and free transit from end to end, to restore that peace which all men desire.

3:13c In consultation with our advisers as to how this aim is to be effected, we have been informed by one of them, eminent among us for prudence and well proved for his unfailing devotion and unshakeable trustworthiness, and in rank second only to our majesty, Haman by name,

3:13d that there is, mingled among all the tribes of the earth a certain ill-disposed people, opposed by its laws to every other nation and continually defying the royal ordinances, in such a way as to obstruct that form of government assured by us to the general good.

3:13e ‘Considering therefore that this people, unique of its kind, is in complete opposition to all mankind from which it differs by its outlandish system of laws, that it is hostile to our interests and that it commits the most heinous crimes, to the point of endangering the stability of the realm:

3:13f ‘We command that the people designated to you in the letters written by Haman, appointed to watch over our interests and a second father to us, are all, including women and children, to be destroyed root and branch by the swords of their enemies, without any pity or mercy, on the fourteenth day of the twelfth month, Adar, of the present year,

3:13g so that, these past and present malcontents being in one day forcibly thrown down to Hades, our government may henceforward enjoy perpetual stability and peace.’

3:14 The text of this decree, to be promulgated as law in each province, was published to the various peoples, so that each might be ready for the day aforementioned.

3:15 At the king’s command, the runners set out with all speed; the decree was first promulgated in the citadel of Susa. While the king and Haman gave themselves up to feasting and drinking, consternation reigned in the city of Susa.

JB ESTHER Chapter 4

Mordecai and Esther try to avert the danger

4:1 When Mordecai learned what had happened, he tore his garments and put on sackcloth and ashes. Then he went right through the city, wailing loud and bitterly,

4:2 until he arrived in front of the Chancellery, which no one clothed in sackcloth was allowed to enter.

4:3 And in every province, no sooner had the royal edict been read than among the Jews there was great mourning, fasting, weeping and wailing, and many lay on sackcloth and ashes.

4:4 When Queen Esther’s maids and eunuchs came and told her, she was overcome with grief. She sent clothes for Mordecai to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he refused them.

4:5 Then Esther summoned Hathach, a eunuch whom the king had appointed to wait on her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai and enquire what was the matter and why he was acting in this way.

4:6 Hathach went out to Mordecai, who was still in the city square in front of the Chancellery,

4:7 and Mordecai told him what had happened to him personally, and also about the sum of money which Haman had offered to pay into the royal treasury as compensation for the destruction of the Jews.

4:8 He also gave him a copy of the edict of extermination published in Susa for him to show Esther for her information, with the message that she was to go to the king and implore his favour and plead with him for her people.

4:8a ‘Remember your humbler circumstances,’ he said ‘when you were fed by my hand. Since Haman, the second person in the realm, has petitioned the king for our deaths,

4:8b invoke the Lord, speak to the king for us and save us from death!’

4:9 Hathach came back and told Esther what Mordecai had said;

4:10 and she replied with the following message for Mordecai,

4:11 ‘All the king’s servants and the people of his provinces know that for a man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned there is one penalty: death, unless, by pointing his golden sceptre towards him, the king grants him his life. And I have not been summoned to the king for the last thirty days.’

4:12 These words of Esther were reported to Mordecai,

4:13 who sent back the following reply, ‘Do not suppose that, because you are in the king’s palace, you are going to be the one Jew to escape.

4:14 No; if you persist in remaining silent at such a time, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place,[*a] but both you and the House of your father will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to the throne for just such a time as this.’

4:15 Whereupon Esther sent this reply to Mordecai,

4:16 ‘Go and assemble all the Jews now in Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink day or night for three days. For my part, I and my maids will keep the same fast, after which I shall go to the king in spite of the law; and if I perish, I perish.’

4:17 Mordecai went away and carried out Esther’s instructions.

Mordecai’s prayer

4:17a Then calling to mind all the wonderful works of the Lord, he offered this prayer:

4:17b ‘Lord, Lord, King and Master of all things, everything is subject to your power, and there is no one who can withstand you in your will to save Israel.

4:17c ‘Yes, you have made heaven and earth, and all the marvels that are under heaven. You are the Lord of all, and there is none who can resist you, Lord.

4:17d ‘You know all things; you know, Lord, you know, that no insolence, arrogance, vainglory prompted me to this, to this refusal to bow down before proud Haman. I would readily have kissed his feet for the safety of Israel.

4:17e ‘But what I did, I did rather than place the glory of a man above the glory of God; and I will not bow down to any but to you, Lord; in so refusing I will not act in pride.

4:17f ‘And now, Lord God, King, God of Abraham, spare your people! For men are seeking our ruin and plan to destroy your ancient heritage.

4:17g Do not overlook your inheritance, which you redeemed for your own out of the land of Egypt.

4:17h Hear my supplication, have mercy on your heritage, and turn our grief into rejoicing, that we may live to hymn your name, Lord. Do not suffer the mouths of those who praise you to perish.’

4:17i And all Israel cried out with all their might, for they were faced with death.

Esther’s prayer

4:17k Queen Esther also took refuge with the Lord in the mortal peril which had overtaken her. She took off her sumptuous robes and put on sorrowful mourning. Instead of expensive perfumes she covered her head with ashes and dung. She humbled her body severely, and the former scenes of her happiness and elegance were now littered with tresses torn from her hair. She besought the Lord God of Israel in these words:

4:17l ‘My Lord, our King, the only one, come to my help, for I am alone and have no helper but you and am about to take my life in my hands.

4:17m ‘I have been taught from my earliest years, in the bosom of my family, that you, Lord, chose Israel out of all the nations and our ancestors out of all the people of old times to be your heritage for ever; and that you have treated them as you promised.

4:17n ‘But then we sinned against you, and you handed us over to our enemies for paying honour to their gods. Lord, you are just.

4:17o ‘But even now they are not satisfied with the bitterness of our slavery: they have put their hands in the hands of their idols[*b] to abolish the decree that your own lips have uttered, to blot out your heritage, to stop the mouths of those who praise you, to quench your altar and the glory of your House,

4:17p and instead to open the mouths of the heathen, to sing the praise of worthless idols and forever to idolise a king of flesh.

4:17q ‘Do not yield your sceptre, Lord, to non-existent beings. Never let men mock at our ruin. Turn their designs against themselves, and make an example of him who leads the attack on us.

4:17r Remember, Lord; reveal yourself in the time of our distress. As for me, give me courage, King of gods and master of all power.

4:17s Put persuasive words into my mouth when I face the lion; change his feeling into hatred for our enemy, that the latter and all like him may be brought to their end.

4:17t ‘As for ourselves, save us by your hand, and come to my help, for I am alone and have no one but you, Lord.

4:17u You have knowledge of all things, and you know that I hate honours from the godless, that I loathe the bed of the uncircumcised, of any foreigner whatever.

4:17w You know I am under constraint, that I loathe the symbol of my high position bound round my brow when I appear at court; I loathe it as if it were a filthy rag and do not wear it on my days of leisure.

4:17x Your handmaid has not eaten at Haman’s table, nor taken pleasure in the royal banquets, nor drunk the wine of libations.

4:17y Nor has your handmaid found pleasure from the day of her promotion until now except in you, Lord, God of Abraham.

4:17z O God, whose strength prevails over all, listen to the voice of the desperate, save us from the hand of the wicked, and free me from my fear.’

JB ESTHER Chapter 5

Esther presents herself at the palace

5:1a On the third day, when she had finished praying, she took off her suppliant’s mourning attire and dressed herself in her full spendour. Radiant as she then appeared, she invoked God who watches over all men and saves them. Then she took two maids with her. With a delicate air she leaned on one, while the other accompanied her carrying her train. She leaned on the maid’s arm as though languidly, but in fact because her body was too weak to support her; the other maid followed her mistress, lifting her robes which swept the ground.

5:1b Rosy with the full flush of her beauty, her face radiated joy and love: but her heart shrank with fear.

5:1c Having passed through door after door, she found herself in the presence of the king. He was seated on the royal throne, dressed in all his robes of state, glittering with gold and precious stones-a formidable sight.

5:1d Raising his face, afire with majesty, he looked on her, blazing with anger. The queen sank down. She grew faint and the colour drained from her face, and she leaned her head against the maid who accompanied her.

5:1e But God changed the king’s heart, inducing a milder spirit. He sprang from his throne in alarm and took her in his arms until she recovered, comforting her with soothing words.

5:1f ‘What is the matter, Esther?’ he said ‘I am your brother. Take heart; you will not die; our order only applies to ordinary people. Come to me.’

5:2 And raising his golden sceptre he laid it on her neck, embraced her and said, ‘Speak to me’.

5:2a ‘My lord,’ she said ‘you looked to me like an angel of God, and my heart was moved with fear of your majesty. For you are a figure of wonder, my lord, and your face is full of graciousness.’

5:2b But as she spoke she fell down in a faint. The king was distressed, and all his attendants tried their best to revive her.

5:3 ‘What is the matter, Queen Esther?’ the king said. ‘Tell me what you desire; even if it is half my kingdom, I grant it you.’

5:4 ‘Would the king be pleased’ Esther replied ‘to come with Haman today to the banquet I have prepared for him?’

5:5 The king said, ‘Tell Haman to come at once, so that Esther may have her wish’. So the king and Haman came to the banquet that Esther had prepared.

5:6 As they drank their wine, the king again said to Esther, ‘Tell me what you request; I grant it to you. Tell me what you desire; even if it is half my kingdom, it is yours for the asking.’

5:7 ‘What do I desire, what do I request?’ Esther replied.

5:8 ‘If I have found favour in the king’s eyes, and if it is his pleasure to grant what I ask and to agree to my request, let the king and Haman come to the other banquet I intend to give them tomorrow, and then I will do as the king says.’

5:9 Haman left full of joy and high spirits that day; but when he saw Mordecai at the Chancellery, neither standing up nor stirring at his approach, he felt a gust of anger.

5:10 He restrained himself, however. Returning home, he sent for his friends and Zeresh his wife

5:11 and held forth to them about his dazzling wealth, his many children, how the king had raised him to a position of honour and promoted him over the heads of the king’s administrators and ministers.

5:12 ‘What is more,’ he added ‘Queen Esther just invited me and the king-no one else except me-to a banquet she was giving, and better still she has invited me and the king again tomorrow.

5:13 But what do I care about all this when all the while I see Mordecai the Jew sitting there at the Chancellery?’

5:14 ‘Have a fifty-cubit gallows run up,’ Zeresh his wife and all his friends said ‘and in the morning ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on it. Then accompany the king to the feast without a care in the world!’ Delighted with this advice, Haman had the gallows erected.

JB ESTHER Chapter 6

IV. THE JEWS’ REVENGE

The discomfiture of Haman

6:1 That night, the king could not sleep; he called for the Record Book, the Chronicles, to be brought and read to him.

6:2 They contained an account of how Mordecai had denounced Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs serving as Guardians of the Threshold, who had plotted to assassinate king Ahasuerus.

6:3 ‘And what honour and dignity’ the king asked ‘was conferred on Mordecai for this?’ ‘Nothing has been done for him’ the courtiers in attendance replied.

6:4 Then the king said, ‘Who is on duty in the antechamber?’ Haman had at that moment entered the outer antechamber of the king’s palace to ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on the gallows which he had just put up for the purpose.

6:5 So the king’s courtiers replied, ‘Haman is waiting in the antechamber’. ‘Bring him in’ the king said,

6:6 and went on to ask as soon as Haman had entered, ‘What is the right way to treat a man whom the king wishes to honour?’ ‘Whom’ thought Haman ‘would the king wish to honour, if not me?’

6:7 So he replied, ‘If the king wishes to honour someone,

6:8 have royal robes brought, which the king has worn, and a horse which the king has ridden, with a royal diadem on its head.

6:9 The robes and horse should be handed to one of the noblest of the king’s officers, and he should array the man whom the king wishes to honour and lead him on horseback, through the city square, proclaiming before him: “This is the way to treat a man whom the king wishes to honour”.’

6:10 ‘Hurry,’ the king said to Haman ‘take the robes and the horse, and do everything you have just said to Mordecai the Jew, who works at the Chancellery. On no account leave anything out that you have mentioned.’

6:11 So taking the robes and the horse, Haman arrayed Mordecai and led him on horseback through the city square, proclaiming before him: ‘This is the way to treat a man whom the king wishes to honour’.

6:12 After this Mordecai returned to the Chancellery, while Haman went hurrying home dejected, covering his face.

6:13 He told his wife Zeresh and all his friends what had just happened. His wife Zeresh and his friends said, ‘Thanks to Mordecai, you have just had a fall; if he happens to belong to the Jewish race, you will never recover the upper hand again. Far from it; once having begun, thanks to him you will fall and fall again.’

Haman at Esther’s banquet

6:14 While they were still talking, the king’s eunuchs arrived in a hurry to escort Haman to the banquet that Esther had prepared.

JB ESTHER Chapter 7

7:1 When the king and Haman were seated at the banquet with Queen Esther

7:2 this second day, the king again said to Esther as they drank their wine, ‘Tell me what you request, Queen Esther? I grant it to you. Tell me what you desire; even if it is half my kingdom, it is yours for the asking.’

7:3 ‘If I have found favour in your eyes, O king,’ Queen Esther replied ‘and if it please your majesty, grant me my life-that is what I request; and the lives of my people-that is what I desire.

7:4 For we are doomed, I and my people, to destruction, slaughter and annihilation; if we had merely been condemned to become slaves and servant-girls, I would have said nothing; but as things are, it will be beyond the means of the persecutor to make good the loss that the king is about to sustain.’

7:5 King Ahasuerus interrupted Queen Esther, ‘Who is this man?’ he exclaimed. ‘Where is he, the schemer of such an outrage?’

7:6 Esther replied, ‘The persecutor, the enemy? Why, this wretch Haman!’ Haman quaked with terror in the presence of the king and queen.

7:7 In a rage the king rose and left the banquet to go into the palace garden; while Haman, realising that the king was determined on his ruin, stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life.

7:8 When the king returned from the palace garden into the banqueting hall, he found Haman huddled across the couch where Esther was reclining. ‘What!’ the king exclaimed. ‘Is he going to rape the queen before my eyes in my own palace?’ The words were scarcely out of his mouth than a veil was thrown over Haman’s face.

7:9 Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, was present. He said, ‘How convenient! There is that fifty-cubit gallows which Haman ran up for Mordecai, whose report saved the king’s life. It is all ready at his house.’ ‘Hang him on it’ said the king.

7:10 So Haman was hanged on the gallows which he had erected for Mordecai, and the king’s wrath subsided.

JB ESTHER Chapter 8

The royal favour passes to the Jews

8:1 That same day King Ahasuerus gave Queen Esther the house of Haman, the persecutor of the Jews. Mordecai was presented to the king, Esther having revealed their mutual relationship.

8:2 The king, who had recovered his signet ring from Haman, took it off and gave it to Mordecai, while Esther gave Mordecai charge of Haman’s house.

8:3 Esther again went to speak to the king. She fell at his feet, weeping and imploring his favour, to frustrate the wicked scheme devised by Haman the Agagite and his plot against the Jews.

8:4 The king held out the golden sceptre to her, whereupon Esther rose and stood face to face with him.

8:5 ‘If such is the king’s good pleasure,’ she said ‘and if I have found favour before him, if my petition seems proper to him and if I myself am pleasing to his eyes, may he be pleased to issue a written revocation of the letters which Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, contrived to have written to procure the destruction of the Jews in every province of the realm.

8:6 For how can I look on, while my people suffer what is in store for them? How can I bear to witness the extermination of my race?’

8:7 King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, ‘I for my part have given Esther Haman’s house, and have had him hanged on the gallows for planning to destroy the Jews.

8:8 You are free now to write to them as you judge best, in the king’s name, and seal what you write with the king’s signet; for an order written in the king’s name and sealed with his signet is irrevocable.’

8:9 The royal scribes summoned at once-it was the third month, the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day-and at Mordecai’s dictation an order was written to the Jews, the satraps, governors and administrators of the provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia, a hundred and twenty-seven provinces, to each province in its own script, and to each people in its own language, and to the Jews in their own script and language.

8:10 These letters, written in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed with the king’s signet, were carried by couriers mounted on horses from the king’s own stud-farms.

8:11 In them the king granted the Jews, in whatever city they lived, the right to assemble in self-defence, with permission to destroy, slaughter and annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, together with their women and children, and to plunder their possessions,

8:12 with effect from the same day throughout the provinces of King Ahasuerus – the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is Adar.

The decree of rehabilitation

8:12a The text of the letter was as follows:

8:12b ‘The great King, Ahasuerus, to the satraps of the hundred and twenty-seven provinces which stretch from India to Ethiopia, to the provincial governors and to all our loyal subjects, greeting.

8:12c ‘Many men, repeatedly honoured by the extreme bounty of their benefactors, only grow the more arrogant. It is not enough for them to seek our subjects’ injury, but unable as they are to support the weight of their own surfeit they turn to scheming against their benefactors themselves.

8:12d Not content with banishing gratitude from the human heart, but elated by the plaudits of men unacquainted with goodness, notwithstanding that all is for ever under the eye of God, they vainly expect to escape his justice, so hostile to the wicked.

8:12e Thus it has often happened to those placed in authority that, having entrusted friends with the conduct of affairs and allowed themselves to be influenced by them, they find themselves sharing with these the guilt of innocent blood and involved in irremediable misfortunes,

8:12f the upright intentions of rulers having been misled by false arguments of the evilly disposed.

8:12g This may be seen without recourse to the history of earlier times to which we have referred; you have only to look at what is before you, at the crimes perpetrated by a plague of unworthy officials.

8:12h For the future we will exert our efforts to assure the tranquillity and peace of the realm for all,

8:12i by adopting new policies and by always judging matters that are brought to our notice in the most equitable spirit.

8:12k ‘Thus Haman son of Hammedatha, a Macedonian, without a drop of Persian blood and far removed from our goodness, enjoyed our hospitality

8:12l and was treated by us with the benevolence which we show to every nation, even to the extent of being proclaimed our ‘father’ and being accorded universally the prostration of respect as second in dignity to the royal throne.

8:12m But he, unable to keep within his own high rank, schemed to deprive us of our realm and of our life.

8:12n Furthermore, by tortuous wiles and arguments, he would have had us destroy Mordecai, our saviour and constant benefactor, with Esther the blameless partner of our majesty, and their whole nation besides.

8:12o He thought by these means to leave us without support and so to transfer the Persian empire to the Macedonians.

8:12p But we find that the Jews, marked out for annihilation by this arch-scoundrel, are not criminals; they are in fact governed by the most just of laws.

8:12q They are sons of the Most High, the great and living God to whom we and our ancestors owe the continuing prosperity of our realm.

8:12r You will therefore do well not to act on the letters sent by Haman son of Hammedatha, since their author has been hanged at the gates of Susa with his whole household: a well-earned punishment which God, the ruler of all things, has speedily inflicted on him.

8:12s Put up copies of this letter everywhere, allow the Jews freedom to observe their own customs, and come to their help against anyone who attacks them on the day originally chosen for their maltreatment, that is the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is Adar.

8:12t For the all-powerful God has made this day a day of joy and not of ruin for his chosen people.

8:12u Jews, for your part, among your solemn festivals celebrate this as a special day with every kind of feasting, so that now and in the future, for you and for Persians of good will it may commemorate your rescue, and for your enemies may stand as a reminder of their ruin.

8:12v ‘Every city and, more generally, every country, which does not follow these instructions, will be mercilessly devastated with fire and sword, and made not only inaccessible to men but hateful to wild animals and even birds for ever.’

8:13 The text of this edict, to be promulgated as law in each province, was published to the various peoples, so that the Jews could be ready on the day stated to avenge themselves on their enemies.

8:14 The couriers, mounted on the king’s horses, set out in great haste and urgency at the king’s command. The edict was also published in the citadel of Susa.

8:15 Mordecai left the royal presence in a princely gown of violet and white, with a great golden crown and a cloak of fine linen and purple. The city of Susa shouted for joy.

8:16 For the Jews there was light and gladness, joy and honour.

8:17 In every province and in every city, wherever the king’s command and decree arrived, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and holiday-making. Of the country’s population many became Jews, since now the Jews were feared.

JB ESTHER Chapter 9

The great day of Purim

9:1 The king’s command and decree came into force on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, Adar, and the day on which the enemies of the Jews had hoped to crush them produced the very opposite effect: the Jews it was who crushed their enemies.

9:2 In their towns throughout the provinces of King Ahasuerus, the Jews assembled to strike at those who had planned to injure them. No one resisted them, since the various peoples were now all afraid of them.

9:3 Provincial administrators, satraps, governors and officers of the king, all supported the Jews for fear of Mordecai.

9:4 And indeed Mordecai was a power in the palace, and his fame was spreading through all the provinces; Mordecai was steadily growing more powerful.

9:5 So the Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, with resulting slaughter and destruction, and worked their will on their opponents.

9:6 In the citadel of Susa alone the Jews put five hundred men to death,

9:7 notably Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha,

9:8 Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha,

9:9 Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai and Jezatha,

9:10 the ten sons of Haman son of Hammedatha, the persecutor of the Jews. But they took no plunder.

9:11 The number of those killed in the citadel of Susa was reported the same day to the king,

9:12 who said to Queen Esther, ‘In the citadel of Susa the Jews have killed five hundred men and also the ten sons of Haman. What must they have done in the other provinces of the realm? Tell me what you request; I grant it to you. Tell me what else you desire; it is yours for the asking.’

9:13 ‘If such is the king’s pleasure,’ Esther replied ‘let the Jews of Susa be allowed to enforce today’s decree tomorrow as well. And as for the ten sons of Haman, let their bodies be hanged on the gallows.’

9:14 Whereupon the king ordered this to be done; the edict was issued in Susa and the ten sons of Haman were hanged.

9:15 Thus the Jews of Susa reassembled on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and killed three hundred men in the city. But they took no plunder.

9:16 The other Jews who lived in the king’s provinces also assembled to defend their lives and rid themselves of their enemies. They slaughtered seventy-five thousand of their opponents. But they took no plunder.

9:17 This was on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar. On the fourteenth day they rested and made it a day of feasting and gladness.

9:18 But for the Jews of Susa, who had assembled on the thirteenth and fourteenth days, the fifteenth was the day they rested, making that a day of feasting and gladness.

9:19 This is why Jewish country people, those who live in undefended villages, keep the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a day of gladness, feasting and holiday-making, and exchange portions with one another,

9:19a whereas for those who live in cities the day of rejoicing and exchanging portions with their neighbours is the fifteenth day of Adar.

V. THE FEAST OF PURIM

The official institution of the feast of Purim

9:20 Mordecai committed these events to writing. Then he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far,

9:21 enjoining them to celebrate the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar every year,

9:22 as the days on which the Jews had rid themselves of their enemies, and the month in which their sorrow had been turned into gladness, and mourning into a holiday. He therefore told them to keep these as days of festivity and gladness when they were to exchange portions and make gifts to the poor.

9:23 Once having begun to observe them, the Jews undertook to continue these practices about which Mordecai had written these words to them,

9:24 ‘Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the persecutor of all the Jews, had plotted their destruction and had cast the pur, that is, the lot, for their overthrow and ruin.

9:25 But when he went again to the king to ask him to order the hanging of Mordecai, the wicked scheme which he had devised against the Jews recoiled on his own head, and both he and his sons were hanged on the gallows.

9:26 That is why these days were called Purim, from the word pur.’ And so, because of what was written in this letter, because of what they had seen for themselves and because of what had happened to them,

9:27 the Jews vowed and took on themselves and their descendants and on all who should join them, to celebrate these two days without fail, in the manner prescribed and at the time appointed, year after year.

9:28 Thus commemorated and celebrated from generation to generation, in each family, each province and each city, these days of Purim shall never be abrogated among the Jews, nor shall their memory die out among their race.

9:29 Queen Esther, the daughter of Abihail, wrote with full authority to ratify this second letter,

9:30 and sent letters to all the Jews of the hundred and twenty-seven provinces of the realm of Ahasuerus in terms of kindness and friendship

9:31 enjoining them to observe these days of Purim at the appointed time, as Mordecai the Jew had recommended, and in the manner prescribed for themselves and their descendants, with additional ordinances for fasts and lamentations.

9:32 The ordinance of Esther fixed this observance of Purim and it was recorded in writing.

JB ESTHER Chapter 10

Praise of Mordecai

10:1 King Ahasuerus levied tribute from the continent and the islands of the sea.

10:2 All his mighty acts of power and the account of the high honour to which he raised Mordecai, is not all this recorded in the Book of the Annals of the Kings of Media and Persia?

10:3 How ‘Mordecai the Jew was next in rank to King Ahasuerus. He was a man held in respect among the Jews, esteemed by thousands of his brothers, a man who sought the good of his people and cared for the welfare of his entire race.’ And Mordecai said, ‘All this is God’s doing.

10:3a I remember the dream I had about these matters, nothing of which has failed to come true:

10:3c the little spring that became a river, the light that shone, the sun, the flood of water. Esther is the river-she whom the king married and made queen.

10:3d The two dragons are Haman and myself.

10:3e The nations are those that banded together to blot out the name of Jew.

10:3f The single nation, mine, is Israel, those who cried out to God and were saved. Yes, the Lord has saved his people, the Lord has delivered us from all these evils, God has worked such signs and great wonders as have never happened among the nations.

10:3g ‘Two destinies he appointed, one for his own people, one for the nations at large.

10:3h And these two destinies were worked out at the hour and time and day laid down by God involving all the nations.

10:3i In this way God has remembered his people and vindicated his heritage;

10:3k and for them these days, the fourteenth and fifteenth of the month of Adar, are to be days of assembly, of joy and of gladness before God, through all generations and for ever among his people Israel.’

Note on the Greek translation of the book

10:3l In the fourth year of the reign of Ptolemy and Cleopatra, Dositheus, who affirmed that he was a priest and Levite, and Ptolemy his son brought the foregoing letter concerning the Purim. They maintained it as being authentic, the translation having been made by Lysimachus son of Ptolemy, a member of the Jerusalem community.

END OF JB ESTHER [10 Chapters].

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