Reading 142/341, Esther A, 1-3

If you are reading in a Protestant Bible, you will find today's reading shorter. This is because, unlike Judith and Tobit, Esther is in the Protestant bible, but only half of it is. As usual, this is because the Protestant Old Testament only includes those books written in Hebrew, and there are 2 versions of Esther: a Hebrew version and a longer Greek version. If you read the shorter version, you will not miss any essential details of the story.

In the second year of the reign of Artexerxes the great, in the first day of the month Nisan, Mardocheus the son of Jairus, the son of Semei, the son of Cisai, of the tribe of Benjamin, had a dream; Who was a Jew, and dwelt in the city of Susa, a great man, being a servitor in the king's court. He was also one of the captives, which Nabuchodonosor the king of Babylon carried from Jerusalem with Jechonias king of Judea, and this was his dream, Behold a noise of a tumult, with thunder, and earthquakes, and uproar in the land, And, behold, two great dragons came forth ready to fight, and their cry was great. And at their cry all nations were prepared to battle, that they might fight against the righteous people. And lo a day of darkness and obscurity, tribulation and anguish, affliction and great uproar, upon earth. And the whole righteous nation was troubled, fearing their own evils, and were ready to perish. Then they cried unto God, and upon their cry, as it were from a little fountain, was made a great flood, much water. The light and the sun rose up, and the lowly were exalted, and devoured the glorious. Now when Mardocheus, who had seen this dream, and what God had determined to do, was awake, he bare this dream in mind, and until night by all means was desirous to know it. And Mardocheus took his rest in the court with Gabatha and Tharra, the two eunuchs of the king, and keepers of the palace. And he heard their devices, and searched out their purposes, and learned that they were about to lay hands upon Artexerxes the king, and so he certified the king of them. Then the king examined the two eunuchs, and after that they had confessed it, they were strangled. And the king made a record of these things, and Mardocheus also wrote thereof. So the king commanded, Mardocheus to serve in the court, and for this he rewarded him. Howbeit Aman the son of Amadathus the Agagite, who was in great honour with the king, sought to molest Mardocheus and his people because of the two eunuchs of the king. Now it happened in the days of Ahasuerus (this is Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia, over one hundred twenty-seven provinces), that in those days, when the King Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace, in the third year of his reign, he made a feast for all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him. He displayed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honor of his excellent majesty many days, one hundred eighty days. When these days were fulfilled, the king made a seven day feast for all the people who were present in Shushan the palace, both great and small, in the court of the garden of the king's palace. There were hangings of white, green, and blue material, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and marble pillars. The couches were of gold and silver, on a pavement of red, white, yellow, and black marble. They gave them drinks in golden vessels of various kinds, including royal wine in abundance, according to the bounty of the king. In accordance with the law, the drinking was not compulsory; for so the king had instructed all the officials of his house, that they should do according to every man's pleasure. Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house which belonged to King Ahasuerus. On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcass, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king, to bring Vashti the queen before the king with the royal crown, to show the people and the princes her beauty; for she was beautiful. But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king's commandment by the eunuchs. Therefore the king was very angry, and his anger burned in him. Then the king said to the wise men, who knew the times, (for it was the king's custom to consult those who knew law and judgment, and the next to him were Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, who saw the king's face, and sat first in the kingdom), "What shall we do to the queen Vashti according to law, because she has not done the bidding of the King Ahasuerus by the eunuchs?" Memucan answered before the king and the princes, "Vashti the queen has not done wrong to just the king, but also to all the princes, and to all the people who are in all the provinces of the King Ahasuerus. For this deed of the queen will become known to all women, causing them to show contempt for their husbands, when it is reported, 'King Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she did not come.' Today, the princesses of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen's deed will tell all the king's princes. This will cause much contempt and wrath. If it please the king, let a royal commandment go from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, so that it cannot be altered, that Vashti may never again come before King Ahasuerus, and let the king give her royal estate to another who is better than she. When the king's decree which he shall make is published throughout all his kingdom (for it is great), all the wives will give their husbands honor, both great and small." This advice pleased the king and the princes, and the king did according to the word of Memucan, for he sent letters into all the king's provinces, into every province according to its writing, and to every people in their language, that every man should rule his own house, speaking in the language of his own people. After these things, when the wrath of King Ahasuerus was pacified, he remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her. Then the king's servants who served him said, "Let beautiful young virgins be sought for the king. Let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the beautiful young virgins to the citadel of Susa, to the women's house, to the custody of Hegai the king's eunuch, keeper of the women. Let cosmetics be given them, and let the maiden who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti." The thing pleased the king, and he did so. There was a certain Jew in the citadel of Susa, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite, who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captives who had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away. He brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle's daughter; for she had nor father nor mother. The maiden was fair and beautiful, and when her father and mother were dead, Mordecai took her for his own daughter. So it happened, when the king's commandment and his decree was heard, and when many maidens were gathered together to the citadel of Susa, to the custody of Hegai, that Esther was taken into the king's house, to the custody of Hegai, keeper of the women. The maiden pleased him, and she obtained kindness from him. He quickly gave her cosmetics and her portions of food, and the seven choice maidens who were to be given her out of the king's house. He moved her and her maidens to the best place in the women's house. Esther had not made known her people nor her kin, because Mordecai had instructed her that she should not make it known. Mordecai walked every day in front of the court of the women's house, to find out how Esther did, and what would become of her. Each young woman's turn came to go in to King Ahasuerus after her purification for twelve months (for so were the days of their purification accomplished, six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet fragrances and with preparations for beautifying women). The young woman then came to the king like this, whatever she desired was given her to go with her out of the women's house to the king's house. In the evening she went, and on the next day she returned into the second women's house, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king's eunuch, who kept the concubines. She came in to the king no more, unless the king delighted in her, and she was called by name. Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her for his daughter, came to go in to the king, she required nothing but what Hegai the king's eunuch, the keeper of the women, advised. Esther obtained favor in the sight of all those who looked at her. So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus into his royal house in the tenth month, which is the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. The king loved Esther more than all the women, and she obtained favor and kindness in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown on her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti. Then the king made a great feast for all his princes and his servants, Esther's feast, and he proclaimed a holiday in the provinces, and gave gifts according to the king's bounty. When the virgins were gathered together the second time, Mordecai was sitting in the king's gate. Esther had not yet made known her kin nor her people, as Mordecai had charged her; for Esther obeyed Mordecai, like she did when she was brought up by him. In those days, while Mordecai was sitting in the king's gate, two of the king's eunuchs, Bigthan and Teresh, who were doorkeepers, were angry, and sought to lay hands on the King Ahasuerus. This thing became known to Mordecai, who informed Esther the queen, and Esther informed the king in Mordecai's name. When this matter was investigated, and it was found to be so, they were both hanged on a tree, and it was written in the book of the chronicles in the king's presence. After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes who were with him. All the king's servants who were in the king's gate bowed down, and paid homage to Haman; for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai did not bow down or pay him homage. Then the king's servants, who were in the king's gate, said to Mordecai, "Why do you disobey the king's commandment?" Now it came to pass, when they spoke daily to him, and he did not listen to them, that they told Haman, to see whether Mordecai's reason would stand; for he had told them that he was a Jew. When Haman saw that Mordecai did not bow down, nor pay him homage, Haman was full of wrath. But he scorned the thought of laying hands on Mordecai alone, for they had made known to him Mordecai's people. Therefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews who were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, the Mordecai's people. In the first month, which is the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, and chose the twelfth month, which is the month Adar. Haman said to King Ahasuerus, "There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom, and their laws are different than other people's. They do not keep the king's laws. Therefore it is not for the king's profit to allow them to remain. If it pleases the king, let it be written that they be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver into the hands of those who are in charge of the king's business, to bring it into the king's treasuries." The king took his ring from his hand, and gave it to Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, the Jews' enemy. The king said to Haman, "The silver is given to you, the people also, to do with them as it seems good to you." Then the king's scribes were called in on the first month, on the thirteenth day of the month, and all that Haman commanded was written to the king's satraps, and to the governors who were over every province, and to the princes of every people, to every province according its writing, and to every people in their language. It was written in the name of King Ahasuerus, and it was sealed with the king's ring. Letters were sent by couriers into all the king's provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to plunder their possessions. The copy of the letters was this, The great king Artexerxes writeth these things to the princes and governours that are under him from India unto Ethiopia in an hundred and seven and twenty provinces. After that I became lord over many nations and had dominion over the whole world, not lifted up with presumption of my authority, but carrying myself always with equity and mildness, I purposed to settle my subjects continually in a quiet life, and making my kingdom peaceable, and open for passage to the utmost coasts, to renew peace, which is desired of all men. Now when I asked my counsellors how this might be brought to pass, Aman, that excelled in wisdom among us, and was approved for his constant good will and steadfast fidelity, and had the honour of the second place in the kingdom, Declared unto us, that in all nations throughout the world there was scattered a certain malicious people, that had laws contrary to ail nations, and continually despised the commandments of kings, so as the uniting of our kingdoms, honourably intended by us cannot go forward. Seeing then we understand that this people alone is continually in opposition unto all men, differing in the strange manner of their laws, and evil affected to our state, working all the mischief they can that our kingdom may not be firmly established, Therefore have we commanded, that all they that are signified in writing unto you by Aman, who is ordained over the affairs, and is next unto us, shall all, with their wives and children, be utterly destroyed by the sword of their enemies, without all mercy and pity, the fourteenth day of the twelfth month Adar of this present year, That they, who of old and now also are malicious, may in one day with violence go into the grave, and so ever hereafter cause our affairs to be well settled, and without trouble. A copy of the letter, that the decree should be given out in every province, was published to all the peoples, that they should be ready against that day. The couriers went forth in haste by the king's commandment, and the decree was given out in the citadel of Susa. The king and Haman sat down to drink; but the city of Shushan was perplexed.

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