ESTHER (ESS ter) (star)

ESTHER (ESS ter) (star)

The Jewish queen of the Persian king Ahasuerus (Xerxes). Esther saved her people, the Jews, from a plot to eliminate them. A daughter of Abihail (Esth. 2:15; 9:29 ) and a cousin of Mordecai (Esth. 2:7, 15), Esther was raised by Mordecai as his own daughter after her mother and father died. Esther was a member of a family carried into captivity in Babylon that later chose to stay in Persia rather than return to Jerusalem. Her Jewish name was Hadassah, which means “myrtle” (Esth. 2:7).

The story of Esther’s rise from an unknown Jewish girl to become queen of a mighty empire illustrates how God used events and people as instruments to fulfil His promise to His Chosen People. Following several days of revelry, the drunken king Ahasuerus- identified with Xerxes I (reigned 486-465 B.C)- asked his queen, Vashti, to display herself to his guests. When Vashti courageously refused, she was banished from the palace. Ahasuerus then had “all the beautiful young virgins” (Esth. 2:3) of his kingdom brought to his palace to choose Vashti’s replacement.

Scripture records the “the young woman (Esther) was lovely and beautiful”. (Esth. 2:7). The king loved Esther more than all the other women. He appointed her queen to replace Vashti (Esth. 2:17).

At the time, Haman, was Ahasuerus’ most trusted adviser. An egotistical and ambitious man, Haman demanded that people bow to him as he passed- something that Mordecai, a devout Jew, could not do in good conscience. In rage, Haman sought revenge not only on Mordacia but also on the entire Jewish population of the empire. He persuaded the king to issue an edict permitting him to kill all the Jews and seize their property.

With great tact and skill, Esther exposed Haman’s plot and true character to the king. As a result, Ahasuerus granted the Jews the right to defend themselves and to destroy their enemies. With ironic justice, “they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordacia” (Esth 7:10).

Even today Jews celebrate their deliverance from Ahasuerus’ edict at the Feast of Purim (Esth. 9:26-32), celebrated on the 14th and 15th days of the month of Adar.

Thomas Nelson Publishers. Illustrated by Hayes, John. (1999), Who Was Who In The Bible- the Ultimate A-Z Resource.

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