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Esther and Mordecai in Ancient Persia: How the Jews Survived Persecution There

Updated on November 12, 2013

Jewish Queen of Persia

Esther
Esther

The Story of Amazing Luck

During the Persian Empire's rule over the Middle East, including Israel, there was a big party thrown in the capital city. Jewish people at that time, about three generations after the return of the Jews from their captivity in Babylonia, lived in various parts of the empire, which was spread over thousands of miles. The king of Persia's wife refused his order to come to the location of the party where the king was entertaining. The king, Ahasuerus, got mad because she was setting a bad example for other wives. He decided to replace her.

Esther was one of the candidates for replacement queen. The king chose her as queen over all others. Mordecai, her older cousin who raised her as her godfather after her parents died, learned of a plot against the king and told Esther to warn him. She did, and the criminals were caught. But the king forgot to reward Mordecai at that time.

The king later put a certain prince in a position of power, but Mordecai refused to pay homage to that prince, Haman, who became enraged and persuaded the king to order that all people of Mordecai's nationality (i.e., Jews) be killed throughout the kingdom, which stretched from India to Ethiopia. Haman told the king that these Jews did not respect the Persian rulers, and that the king could profit by taking away all the belongings of the Jews after they were killed.

Esther learned of this. She invited the king and Haman to a banquet, but beforehand Haman had a gallows prepared for Mordecai, after he angered Haman one more time.

The king by chance remembered one night how it was Mordecai who had saved him previously from the criminals' plan to lay hands on the king, and asked Haman a theoretical question of how a king should repay someone he wanted to honor. Haman thought the king was going to honor him, so he suggested a public display of a gift of a fine robe and a fine horse on which to ride, while being led around the city by another prince who would proclaim repeatedly to all that the king delights in honoring this man.

The king surprised Haman by ordering him to be that proclaiming prince for Mordecai, who rode on the horse. Then that night at the queen's banquet she requested that her people be spared and revealed that Haman was the evil person who instigated the plan to annihilate the Jews. The king loved Esther very much, and had Haman hanged on the same gallows he'd built for Mordecai.

The king sent out a revocation of his order to kill the Jews. On the day of the twelfth month when Jews were to be annihilated, they gathered together and killed all those who sought to kill them. The sons of Haman were all killed. The house of Haman was given to Queen Esther. Mordecai became second to King Ahasuerus. Many people became Jews when they heard of the story and power of Mordecai.

The Book of Esther is similar to many stories in the Old Testament in which Jews triumph over their enemies in situations of life or death.

Esther and Mordecai
Esther and Mordecai

Mordecai

Mordecai lived in what now is Iran, but then was Persia. He adopted his cousin, Esther. But they were not in the same generation. Mordecai was like a father to her.

Mordecai was close to the King of Persia because he'd married Esther, making her queen. Mordecai saved the king's life by discovering a plot to kill him.

Mordecai disliked a certain Haman and refused to worship him in the king's court. Haman's ancestors were enemies of the Jews like Mordecai and Esther. Mordecai was instrumental in frustrating Haman's plan to murder the king. Mordecai was rewarded for this.

Haman was so evil that he drew lots to decide which Jew he'd kill first. In modern times, the religious Jews celebrate the Feast of Lots, a holiday in remembrance of his, and of Mordecai.

Mordecai lived around 400 BC. He motivated Esther to help warn the king of Haman's evil plot by telling Esther that she too, because she was Jewish, would perish unless Haman were stopped. Thus, Mordecai was one of the great heroes described in the Bible.

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