- Esther 1:1-4:17
Around 480 B.C., a new king reigns in Persia—Xerxes. In the third year of his reign, Xerxes threw a banquet for his subjects. This banquet lasted seven days, and on the last day of the feast, Xerxes called for his wife, Queen Vashti, so that he might show her beauty to all the people at the feast. Vashti refused and this infuriated the king.
Xerxes consulted with his wise men in the kingdom as to what should be done to Vashti. The wise men advised the king to divorce Vashti, banishing her from the palace, because of her refusal to obey the king's request. They feared that, if this went unpunished, all the women of the land would no longer submit to their husbands, and would be inspired by the example of Vashti and rebel. And so Xerxes agreed with this plan.
After some period of time, Xerxes recalled Vashti and what he had decreed. Although the Bible doesn't specify, it seems Xerxes was either sad about what happened or lonely as a result of his banishing Vashti. The king's attendants advised that a search be performed to find a new wife for Xerxes.
Among the Jews living in the citadel of Susa was a man named Mordecai, of the tribe of Benjamin. Mordecai was raising his cousin Hadassah, who was also called Esther. Esther was taken as part of this widespread search for the new wife for the king. Mordecai had a rule with Esther that she was not to reveal that she was a Jew. Esther always obeyed Mordecai.
Esther excelled through the beautification process and was given the best position in the harem. Xerxes fell in love with her and quickly made her queen.
One day as Mordecai sat by the king's gate, he overheard two of the king's guards discussing a plot to assassinate the king. Mordecai told Esther about it and she told Xerxes, saving the king's life. Despite Esther giving credit to Mordecai for saving the king's life, Xerxes did not reward him at the time.
After these things, Xerxes honored another man named Haman, giving him a place of higher honor in the kingdom. All the people were told to kneel before Haman, but Mordecai would not. Haman was furious so he plotted how he could destroy all of the Jews instead of just Haman. Haman convinced Xerxes to make a law enabling complete eradication of the Jews.
Upon hearing word of this new law, Mordecai put on sackcloth and ashes and sat at the king's gate, mourning and weeping loudly. Esther sent clothes to him but he refused to change into them. Esther sent a messenger to Mordecai to learn what was troubling him. Mordecai revealed Haman's plot to Esther and asked her to go plead with the king for mercy. Esther reminded Mordecai that anyone who went before the Persian King unsolicited would be killed, unless the king extended the golden scepter.
In one of the more famous conversations in GOD's word, Mordecai reminded Esther that, even though she lived in the palace and her nationality was a secret, she would not survive either. Mordecai said, "Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish."
Esther told Mordecai to spread word among the Jews as to what she would do, she asked the people to fast for three days. She would go before the king and accept whatever happened to her. At the time of this conversation, it had been 30 days since Esther had seen the king. So Mordecai went away and spread word of Esther's instructions.