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Women’s History Month: Queen Esther

esther-view-iiThe story of Queen Esther is a biblical fable, something along the lines of “Romeo and Juliet” meets “Cinderella”.  It tells the story of one of the most celebrated heroines of the Jewish people, and one of only two women to have a book in the Bible named after them, with the other being “Ruth”.  Given that it’s a work of historical fiction, there will be two things you notice that differ in this article from that of every other in this series: there are no dates, and there is only one source from which the story is ultimately cited: the Bible itself, as translated through multiple websites and articles on the story.  While it’s fictional nature seems to preclude the story of Queen Esther from this series, I felt that the story was so widely known in certain cultures, and so inspirational to those of certain religious beliefs, that it was worth including here, for whether or not Queen Esther existed, it could be argued that her character helped shape history, making her a necessary addition here.

Queen Esther was born “Hadassah”, a beautiful Jewish girl growing up within the kingdom of Persia.  She was raised by either her uncle, or cousin “Mordecai”, who taught her to conceal her jewish heritage when the King put out a call for all the beautiful virgins of the land to come join his harem, as he searched for his new queen.  Hadassah did so, calling herself Esther, and going to the king’s court.  He was looking to replace his last queen “Vashti”, who he’d had executed.  He was so proud of her beauty, he’d ordered her to go without a veil in front of a group of princes.  The social equivalent of being naked at the time and in the area, Vashti had refused, and the king’s council convinced him her execution was necessary to set an example to Persian wives throughout the land, lest they follow her example and begin disobeying their husbands.  After having his queen killed, King Ahaseurus sought a new bride.

Of all the beautiful virgins who came to his court, the king selected Esther to be his bride, setting her on course for the year long process to become his bride.  Esther spent the next 6 months being bathed in oil of myrrh, and the 6 months after that being bathed in sweet smelling oils, to properly prepare her to be queen.  After this year, she was wed to the king, a man she felt no love for, but was obligated to please him and serve him as his wife, or certainly face the same end as Vashti had.  So ensued a long 6 years of marriage, to which Esther silently submitted, having no other choice, but never growing feelings for the man who called himself her husband.

Over time, the relationship between Mordecai-Esther’s “guardian”-and Haman, the Prime Minister under King Ahasuerus soured.  Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman as was custom, citing religious reasons, and Haman was greatly displeased with this perceived disrespect.  So displeased in fact, that he promised the king a fortune of 10,000 silver pieces if Haman were permitted to order the execution of all Jews within the kingdom.  Not just men, but women and children as well.  The king agreed, and the date for the bloodbath was set for the 13th of the month.  It wasn’t very long before Mordecai discovered the prime minister’s plans however, and set into action efforts to defend himself and his people, tearing his clothes from his body and dousing himself in ashes in a public display of despair.

Hearing of her guardian’s troubles, Queen Esther first sent him clothes-which he refused-and then sent a soldier to learn of his troubles.  Mordecai sent back a plea for help to the queen, along with one of the more famous quotes in the Bible: “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.  And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”  In short: it’s time to put all your chips on the table and go all in, or we’re all going to die.  Mordecai put all his hope in Esther, standing strong and doing what was right for her people.

Esther thought a long time, and fasted for 3 days before getting the strength up to approach the king.  Approaching the king uninvited even for a queen was a crime, and so Esther put on her best and went to him.  He welcomed her, and she explained she was there to feast with the king and his prime minister.  After 2 days of feasting, the king was so pleased with Esther that he offered her anything she wished, as much as half his kingdom if she desired.  Instead, she plead for her life and the life of her people, outing herself as a Jew and revealing her kinship with Mordecai as well as their knowledge of Haman’s plot.  In the story the king grew outraged (despite having been paid to approve of the mass execution earlier in the story) and ordered Haman executed on the spot.  He then approved the Jews to “defend themselves” and they rose up on the 13th-the day previously reserved for their very own execution-and slaughtered Haman’s henchmen.  The Jews spent the next two days feasting and celebrating their rescue, laying the groundwork for the Jewish holiday “Purim”.

 


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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]

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