A short story written by Sheila Gail Landgraf
A KING WITH A FUNNY NAME
Once upon a time in the great land of Persia there lived a king named Achashveyrosh.
Please don’t worry too much if you are unable to pronounce this king’s name the Jewish way, just say Xerxes instead; which is the Persian translation. Xerxes is a lot easier to roll off the tongue. There were actually three generations of kings named Xerxes, and Achashveyrosh was one of these three.
Of course every king has a beautiful queen, and Xerxes had Vashti.
THE KING THREW A PARTY
In the third year of his reign Xerxes threw quite a lavish party. It lasted for 180 days! The food was abundant and the wine flowed freely.
The crowd that the king invited to come grew in progression. First he invited all the people of his court, then he invited all the dignitaries of the area. Next he opened the doors of the palace to all the people of the capital city of Shushan.
Xerxes wanted the beautiful Vashti to appear before him at his feast. It was his prideful desire to show off her excellent beauty.
For some reason, and there are many different theoriess about her reasons; Vashti refused to come before the king.
This blatant, public refusal made the king very angry.
His subjects and chief advisers did not make matters any easier for the king. The adviser, named Haman, insisted that the Queen’s refusal to the King meant disaster to every household in the kingdom. She was setting a very wrong example for the other wives. If the King could not even control the actions of the Queen, how on earth could any of his subjects keep order in their own homes?
One has to wonder about the motives of Haman even this early in the story. Was he jealous of the queen’s power over the king? Did he fear being found out by her? No matter; what was done was done. Haman kept insisting that this was a terrible problem, and he suggested that the King set a good example for the kingdom and do away with Vashti. Giving in to the peer pressure of his subjects, the King ordered that Vashti be banished from the kingdom. Some even believe that she was put to death.
THE KING REGRETS HIS BAD DECISION
When the party was over and the King was sober, he deeply regretted his hasty decision.
Now he was a very lonely King with no one beautiful to gaze upon.
As a matter of fact, he had to look at the ugly faces of his royal staff day in and day out. He missed the beautiful Vashti.
The greedy ambitious Haman probably noticed this and wondered if he had made a grave mistake. Perhaps the king would turn on him because of this lonely state which the King was in.
As he watched the king mope around the palace a plan was formed to change the situation before it had time to get out of Haman’s control.
The king was quickly advised and convinced that he should search the kingdom high and low for the most beautiful girl in the land and make her his new queen. Scouts who were experts on beauty were sent out to the far corners of the city to gather all the most beautiful young maidens and bring them to be prepared to meet the king.
The king had an employee named Mordecai.
Mordecai was a Jew, but the King had not really paid any attention to this fact. Mordecai had stayed in Babylon instead of returning to Jerusalem as part of the remnant of the Jewish people who had taken advantage of the decree from King Cyrus which released them from captivity.
Mordecai had been blessed in the land of Persia. He was prosperous in the employment of the King, and he had used his prosperity to raise his beautiful niece.
Many historians have wondered whether Mordecai was also secretly using his prosperity in the land to secretly fund the return of more exiles to the homeland.
THERE WAS A BEAUTIFUL YOUNG GIRL NAMED ESTHER
As mentioned; Mordecai had adopted his uncle’s daughter.
She was named Hadassah.
This Jewish name meant “myrtle.” It was the Jewish tradition in those days for the myrtle flower to be worn on the head of a bride at a wedding feast. The Jewish women loved the myrtle flower, and Hadassah’s mother and father had given her this lovely name probably hoping that it would bring her favor with God.
While living with Mordecai in the land of Persia, she was called by the name Esther. Esther was the Persian translation of Hadassah. Most Persian names were perversions of Jewish names and picked to honor pagan gods. However, the Persian name despite its perversions, did mean “a star.”
It was said that Esther was as beautiful as the morning star and legend has it that Mordecai often quoted Psalm 22 to her, which was instructed by David to be used as The Chief Musician played a song called The Hind of The Morning, which is just another way of describing The Glory of God and the hope that it brings.
Esther was raised up to put her hope and trust in God and to wait for the Messiah that David gave prophecy to in this Psalm which was written one thousand years before the Messiah was born.
I like to believe that the words of David and the Messianic psalm were often sung from the lips of this beautiful young maiden as she went about the chores of her daily life in the House of Mordecai.
Esther’s mother and father had been assassinated by cruel men who were Agagites. They were the hateful descendants of King Agag. These men hated the Jews. They were a cold, hateful and murderous people who considered it an honor to kill anyone of Jewish descent.
Haman, from Xerxes court, was also an Agagite.
Esther’s father’s name was Abihail. He was a Benjamite. The Benjamites were hated more than any other tribe by the Agagites. It was this tragic hatred that brought Esther to be an orphan and eventually find her home with Mordecai. God is continually working for good in all things, even tragedy.
Mordecai loved Esther as if she were born to him. He was careful to raise her well.
Mordecai was known in the gates of the city and among the Jews left in Persia for his excellent knowledge of the scriptures.
Esther had been taught the scriptures from the first day she came to live with Mordecai.
She was raised to honor and keep the commandments of God. These things were reflected in her demeanor, in her dress, in her diet, in her daily habits in every way. She was devoted to prayer and seeking God’s will in all that she did.
Within Mordecai’s house they lived as devout Jews, but Mordecai did not flaunt his Jewishness in the court of the Persian King where he did his work. He simply used his prosperity to the glory of God and went humbly about his days.
ESTHER MOVES TO THE PALACE
One day Esther’s quiet life in the house of Mordecai was disrupted by the King’s beauty experts scouting the land for the most beautiful virgins for the King.
They had seen Esther in the streets, and they had noticed her great beauty. They had followed her home, and Mordecai was quickly informed that she had a great destiny to fulfill at the palace. Esther and Mordecai seemed to have no choice in the matter.
As they took the trembling Esther away, Mordecai only had time to whisper one word of caution to her; “do not reveal your true identity to these people, do not tell them of your Jewish heritage.”
He was probably thinking of her safety, knowing the evil Agagites, such as Haman, who worked in the court of the King. Mordecai had learned to protect himself from these men, but Esther was innocent of such hatred. She had been sheltered in him home. Mordecai had quickly advised her, and she was gone.
The house of Mordecai must have felt very lonely that night.
Before Esther could imagine what was happening to her, she was whisked off to live among the other concubines of the King. She was to spend months preparing to meet her day of destiny.
There was a whole staff of servants who were masters of beauty preparations for the women of the King’s court.
ESTHER RECEIVES A SIGN THAT GIVES HER HOPE
Esther was given a choice of what she would like to adorn herself with when her time came to go to the King. She very wisely passed on the gaudy bangles and baubles the other girls were grabbing. She asked her adviser what would please the King. He was amazed, as this was such a wise question which no other maiden had ever even thought to ask.
Esther’s adviser immediately recognized the fact that Esther was special, different, one who could handle the life of royalty. He chose a simple necklace for her. It turned out to be the very same necklace that her parents had given her at birth; a beautiful necklace which made a reflection of The Star of David when it was held up to the light, one that had been taken from her when her parents were murdered.
Esther was amazed at becoming the owner of this necklace again, but she said nothing. By some miracle her very own necklace had made its way to the treasury of the King and by chance or destiny; this will forever remain a mystery; it had made its way back to the possession of Esther. She took this as a sign from Heaven, and it encouraged her when she was homesick.
She did not reveal this secret of the necklace to anyone, but she took the necklace and cherished it and wore it close to her heart every day after its discovery.
Esther’s life soon returned to days and days and days of beauty preparations.
At the palace, the king’s advisers tried to get Esther to eat the King’s rich food, but she refused, preferring to maintain her simple kosher diet of fruit and vegetables and to abstain from forbidden foods.
She was able to hide in the chambers of the palace for a long time, then one night she was called to the king’s chambers.
Esther’s heart skipped a few beats as she took a deep breath and prepared to meet her destiny with the king.
Legend had it that the king had compared everyone to the portrait of Vashti hanging across from his couch. When each new maiden arrived the king would have them stand in front of this beautiful portrait. He compared their beauty to Vasti’s; and no one could ever equal or surpass it. No one that is; until Esther.
When Esther stood before the King he did not even notice Vashti’s portrait; for Esther’s beauty was far more beautiful and she took his breath away.
Soon the portrait of Vashti was removed and never returned again after the King laid eyes on Esther. He fell instantly in love with her and soon asked her to be his queen.
ESTHER IS THE QUEEN
So the little Jewish girl became the Queen of Persia, all the while remembering Mordecai’s advice and never revealing her nationality.
Esther retired to a quiet life in the courts of the Queen, going into the King’s chambers only whenever he chose to summon her. Mordecai secretly visited her whenever he could.
One day Mordecai was sitting in the King’s gates and he overheard an evil plot of the king’s chamberlains to assassinate the king.
Mordecai quickly rushed to Esther and told her of this plot in order to save the life of the king. Because Esther was quick to send Mordecai’s vigilant message to the King, the plot was foiled.
Mordecai’s faithful service and loyalty were duly recorded in the king’s royal diary, called The Chronicles of The King.
Soon the selection of a new queen, and the heroic deeds of Mordecai were forgotten by the kingdom.
All the latest talk of the kingdom was about Haman.
The wicked man had been very successful, and he had gained much power in the kingdom. The king had recently appointed him to be Prime Minister of Persia.
HAMAN’S HORRID PLOTS
Haman decided, since he had been given such a high position of power, that everyone should bow down to him. Most did bow, but Mordecai, knowing Haman’s wicked heart, refused to bow to him.
This made Haman very angry, and he quickly went to the King, knowing that Mordecai was a Jew, and asked the King to authorize a royal decree to annihilate the Jews from the land.
Haman cast lots to determine the day this annihilation was to happen. It was decreed to be Adar 13 of the coming year. On this day all Jews were to be executed and wiped off the map of every province and every nation of the earth.
Mordecai, hearing the evil intentions of Haman, sent a message to Queen Esther. He told her the plot of Haman and asked her to go to the King on behalf of the Jews. The time had come for Esther to reveal her identity.
Esther had not been called to the side of the King for at least a month.
She was terrified to receive the news of this horrid plot from Mordecai.
There was a strictly enforced rule that no one could see the king uninvited, not even the Queen.
ESTHER RISKED HER LIFE TO SPEAK TO THE KING
Being a woman of faith and prayer, Esther fasted and prayed for three days. She asked the servants who waited on her to fast and pray with her. Then she bravely gathered her courage and set out to see the King.
In an amazing act, totally unexpected by the court, the King not only spared Esther’s life, but offered her up to half the kingdom to express her wishes to him.
All Esther asked initially was that the King and Haman join her for dinner.
Of course they did, and the King once again inquired of his Bride to know her wishes. Her only reply was to tell him that she was planning another banquet and she wished for him to attend and to bring Haman along with him. Deeply curious by now, and intrigued by this little string of events, the King once again agreed.
Haman was feeling so important! Being invited to a private banquet of the King and Queen twice in one week!
Who else had ever been given such an honor? He swelled with pride. Haman went out and bragged in the streets of his great position in the kingdom, then he went home and told his family how powerful he was and how rich and famous they were in the land.
After the second banquet, in which Esther requested just one more audience to reveal her request to the King, Haman could not contain himself.
He was invited once again!
His head was as big as a house, and he could barely hold his three-cornered hat on his head because of his swelling pride. He hurried home to do some more bragging, but on the way he met Mordecai in the street.
Of course, Mordecai did not bow to him and Haman’s anger outweighed his pride.
In his rage he decided to build a gallows with which to hang Mordecai.
He planned to speak to the King about this the very next morning. He wanted to get Mordecai out of his way for good so he could go on and enjoy the rest of his day while he banqueted with the King and Esther again.
Pride always comes before a fall, and Haman was no exception to the rule.
HAMAN’S PLOT IS TURNED ON HIS OWN HEAD
That night the King could not sleep. Since he would be awake anyway, he ordered the Book of Chronicles that documented his reign to be brought in and read to him until he found himself sleepy.
It just so happened that the reader turned to the page that documented the day that Mordecai exposed a plot to assassinate the King. This reminded the king that the good man, Mordecai, had not been rewarded for his good deed. The King determined to set the record straight. No good deed to the King should ever go unrewarded.
As Haman arrived the next morning anxious to get on with the murder of Mordecai, the King asked him a question.
“What should be done for the man the King delights to honor?”
Haman’s pride went into overtime and he mistakenly thought the king was referring to him.
Haman loved to be honored publicly, so he quickly answered that such a man should be brought a royal robe that the King himself had worn, and a horse that the King himself had ridden, and a royal crest should be placed upon this man’s head, then one of the King’s most trusted nobles should robe the man and lead him on the horse through the city streets proclaiming before him that “this is what is done for the man the King delights to honor!”
The King loved this idea!
Imagine the horror of Haman as the King commanded him to get the robe and the horse and do just as he had described for Mordecai the Jew who sits at the King’s gate!
Haman was caught between a rock and hard place.
He had to obey the king’s commandment. So he got Mordecai ready and led him around the city proclaiming, “THIS IS WHAT IS DONE FOR THE MAN THAT THE KING WANTS TO HONOR!”
It was a very, very, bad day for Haman, but things got progressively worse as the evening came
ESTHER REVEALS HER TRUE IDENTITY
It was time for the banquet with the King and Esther.
At a crucial point in the banquet Esther did share her request with the King.
First she declared that she was Jewish.
Next she begged the king to spare her people.
One of the attendants of the King told him of the gallows that Haman had built to have Mordecai hanged upon.
All of this made the King furious with Haman. He ordered that Haman be hanged on his own gallows.
Esther’s people were saved.
The King could not reverse his decree, but he allowed the Jews to defend themselves.
The King replaced Haman with Mordecai as Prime Minister, and Esther lived happily ever after in the kingdom surrounded by those that she loved.