Reading 143/341, Esther 4, C, 5-6

[A] Reading 143 and 144 for today
[B] The two entrances of Esther, one in the Greek chapter C and one immediately following at the beginning of the Hebrew chapter 5 show the significant difference in styles between the two Esther books, though they are the same story.

..>Esther...

Now when Mordecai found out all that was done, Mordecai tore his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and wailed loudly and bitterly. He came before the king's gate, for no one is allowed inside the king's gate clothed with sackcloth. In every province, wherever the king's commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing, and many lay in sackcloth and ashes. Esther's maidens and her eunuchs came and told her this, and the queen was exceedingly grieved. She sent clothing to Mordecai, to replace his sackcloth, but he did not accept it. Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king's eunuchs, whom he had appointed to attend her, and commanded him to go to Mordecai, to find out what this was, and why it was. So Hathach went out to Mordecai, to the city square which was before the king's gate. Mordecai told him of all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay to the king's treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. He also gave him the copy of the writing of the decree that was given out in Susa to destroy them, to show it to Esther, and to explain it to her, and to urge her to go to the king, to make supplication to him, and to make request before him for her people. Hathach came and told Esther the words of Mordecai. Then Esther spoke to Hathach, and gave him a message to Mordecai, “All the king's servants, and the people of the king's provinces, know that for whomever, whether man or woman, comes to the king in the inner court without being called, there is one law for them: that they be put to death, except for those to whom the king might hold out the golden scepter, that they may live. I have not been called to come in to the king for thirty days.” They told Mordecai Esther's words. Then Mordecai asked them to return an answer to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that you will escape in the king's house anymore than all the Jews. For if you remain silent now, then relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Who knows if you have not come in to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Then Esther asked them to answer Mordecai, “Go, gather together all the Jews who are present in Susa, and fast for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day. I and my maidens will also fast the same way. Then I will go to the king, which is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.

Then Mordecai thought upon all the works of the Lord, and made his prayer unto him, saying, “O Lord, Lord, the King Almighty, for the whole world is in your power, and if you appointed to save Israel, there is no man that can prevent you, for you have made heaven and earth, and all the wondrous things under the heavens. You are Lord of all things, and and there is no man who can resist you, who are the Lord. You know all things, and you know, Lord, that it was neither in contempt nor pride, nor for any desire of glory, that I did not bow down to proud Haman. For I could have been content with goodwill to, for the salvation of Israel, kiss the soles of his feet. But I did this that I might not prefer the glory of man above the glory of God, nor will I worship any but you, O God, nor will I do it in pride. And now, O Lord God and King, spare your people, for their eyes are upon us to bring us to nought. Indeed, they desire to destroy the inheritance that has been yours from the beginning. Despise not the portion, which you have delivered out of Egypt for your own self. Hear my prayer, and be merciful unto your inheritance, turn our sorrow into joy, that we may live, O Lord, and praise your name, and destroy not the mouths of those who praise you, O Lord.” All Israel in like manner cried most earnestly unto the Lord, because their death was before their eyes. Queen Esther also, being in fear of death, resorted unto the Lord, and laid away her glorious apparel, and put on the garments of anguish and mourning, and instead of precious ointments, she covered her head with ashes and dung, and she humbled her body greatly, and all the places of her joy she filled with her torn hair. She prayed unto the Lord God of Israel, saying, “O my Lord, you only are our King, help me, a desolate woman, who have no helper but you. For my life is in my hands. From my youth up I have heard in the tribe of my family that you, O Lord, took Israel from among all people, and our fathers from all their predecessors, for a perpetual inheritance, and you have performed whatever you promised them. And now we have sinned before you, and so you have given us into the hands of our enemies, because we worshipped their gods, O Lord, who are righteous. Nevertheless it satisfies them not that we are in bitter captivity, but they have sworn an oath to their idols, that they will abolish the thing that you with your mouth have ordained, and destroy your inheritance, and stop the mouth of those who praise you, and quench the glory of your house, and of your altar. They open the mouths of the heathen to set forth the praises of the idols and magnify a fleshly king forever. O Lord, do not give your scepter unto those who are nothing, and let them not laugh at our fall, but turn their device upon themselves, and make him an example, who has begun this against us. Remember, O Lord, make yourself known in time of our affliction, and give me boldness, O King of the nations, and Lord of all power. Put eloquent speech in my mouth before the lion and turn his heart to hate the man who fights against us, so that he and those who agree with him may be finished. Save us by your hand, and help me, who am alone and have no helper but you, O Lord. You know all things, O Lord. You know that I hate the glory of the unrighteous, and abhor the bed of the uncircumcised, and of all the heathen. You know my necessity, for I abhor the sign of my high estate, which is upon my head on the days on which I show myself, and that I abhor it as a menstruous rag, and that I wear it not when I am private by myself. You know that your handmaid has not eaten at Haman's table, and that I have not greatly esteemed the king's feast, nor drunk the wine of the drink offerings. Nor has your handmaid had any joy since the day that I was brought to this situation, except in you, O Lord God of Abraham. O God almighty, hear the voice of the despairing, and save us from the hands of evildoers, and save me from my fear.”

On the third day, when she had ended her prayers, she laid away her mourning garments, and put on her glorious apparel. And being gloriously adorned, after she had called upon God, who is the beholder and savior of all things, she took two maids with her. Upon the one she leaned, as carrying herself daintily, and the other followed, bearing up her train. And she was stunning through the perfection of her beauty, and her countenance was cheerful and very amiable, but her heart was in anguish for fear. Then having passed through all the doors, she stood before the king, who sat upon his royal throne, and was clothed with all his robes of majesty, all glittering with gold and precious stones, and he was very dreadful. Then lifting up his countenance that shone with majesty, he looked very fiercely upon her, and the queen fell down, and was pale, and fainted, and bowed herself upon the head of the maid that went before her. Then God changed the spirit of the king into mildness. In fear, he leaped from his throne, and took her in his arms, until she came to herself again, and comforted her with loving words and said unto her, “Esther, what is the matter? I am your brother, be of good cheer, You shall not die, though our commandment be general, come near.” And so he held up his golden sceptre, and laid it upon her neck, and embraced her, and said, “Speak to me.” Then said she unto him, “I saw you, my lord, as an angel of God, and my heart was troubled for fear of your majesty. For wonderful are you, lord, and your countenance is full of grace.” And as she was speaking, she fell down for faintness. Then the king was troubled, and ail his servants comforted her.

Now it happened on the third day that Esther put on her royal clothing, and stood in the inner court of the king's house, next to the king's house. The king sat on his royal throne in the royal house, next to the entrance of the house. When the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, she obtained favor in his sight, and the king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand. So Esther came near, and touched the top of the scepter. Then the king asked her, "What would you like, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you, up to half of the kingdom." Esther said, “If it seems good to the king, let the king and Haman come today to the banquet that I have prepared for him.” Then the king said, “Bring Haman quickly, so that it may be done as Esther has said.” So the king and Haman came to the banquet that Esther had prepared. The king said to Esther at the banquet of wine, “What is your petition? It shall be granted you. What is your request? Up to half of the kingdom, it shall be performed.” Then Esther answered and said, “My petition and my request is this. If I have found favor in the sight of the king, and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and to perform my request, let the king and Haman come to the banquet that I will prepare for them, and I will do tomorrow as the king has said.” Then Haman went out that day joyful and glad of heart, but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king's gate, that he did not stand up nor move for him, he was filled with wrath against Mordecai. Nevertheless, Haman restrained himself, and went home. There, he sent and called for his friends and Zeresh his wife. Haman recounted to them the glory of his riches, the multitude of his children, all the things in which the king had promoted him, and how he had advanced him above the princes and servants of the king. Haman also said, “Yes, Esther the queen let no man come in with the king to the banquet that she had prepared except me, and tomorrow I am also invited by her together with the king. Yet all this avails me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate.” Then Zeresh his wife and all his friends said to him, “Let a gallows be made fifty cubits high, and in the morning speak to the king about hanging Mordecai on it. Then go in merrily with the king to the banquet.” This pleased Haman, so he had the gallows made. On that night, the king could not sleep. He commanded the book of records of the chronicles to be brought, and they were read to the king. It was found written that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's eunuchs, who were doorkeepers, who had tried to lay hands on the King Ahasuerus. The king said, “What honor and dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” Then the king's servants who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.” The king said, “Who is in the court?” Now Haman had come into the outer court of the king's house, to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him. The king's servants said to him, “Behold, Haman stands in the court.” The king said, “Let him come in.” So Haman came in. The king said to him, “What shall be done to the man whom the king delights to honor?” Now Haman said in his heart, “Who would the king delight to honor more than myself?” Haman said to the king, “For the man whom the king delights to honor, let royal clothing be brought which the king has worn, and the horse that the king rides on, and on the head of which a crown royal is set. Let the clothing and the horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king's most noble princes, that they may array the man whom the king delights to honor with them, and have him ride on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him, ‘Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!’” Then the king said to Haman, “Hurry and take the clothing and the horse, as you have said, and do this for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king's gate. Let nothing fail of all that you have spoken.” Then Haman took the clothing and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and had him ride through the city square, and proclaimed before him, “Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delights to honor!” Mordecai came back to the king's gate, but Haman hurried to his house, mourning and having his head covered. Haman recounted to Zeresh his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then his wise men and Zeresh his wife said to him, “If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of Jewish descent, you will not prevail against him, but you will surely fall before him.” While they were yet talking with him, the king's eunuchs came, and hurried to bring Haman to the banquet that Esther had prepared.

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