The story of Purim is one of a faithful queen, a dedicated advisor, a traitor, and a plot gone wrong. Here’s what you need to know.
Esther Becomes Queen
In Ancient Persia, King Ahasuerus threw an extravagant party, at which he commanded his wife Vashti to dance before the men who attended. When she refused, the king stripped her of her title and ordered her execution.
Without a queen, the king grew lonely and decided to hold a beauty contest to find a suitable replacement. Many beautiful women came for it; one among them was Esther, a Jewish woman whose cousin, Mordechai, worked under the king. King Ahasuerus was immediately taken with Esther and made her queen.
Mordechai, knowing the tension surrounding the Jewish people at the time, advised Esther not to reveal her heritage to the king.
Haman and Mordechai
Shortly after Esther took the throne, Mordechai uncovered a plot to assassinate the king. When he reported it, the chamberlains involved were hanged and the deed was written into the royal chronicles.
At the same time, a new prime minister came into power: Haman. Haman was a known antisemite. When, after a decree commanding the people to bow to Haman, Mordechai refused to comply, Haman flew into a rage and vowed revenge on Mordechai’s people.
Haman went to the king and put in a request that a declaration be made to kill the Jews in Persia on the 13th day of the month of Adar. The king, indifferent toward Jews, granted his request.
The Feasts and Honoring Mordechai
Mordechai, having heard of this declaration, begged Esther to change the king’s mind. After some persuasion, fasting, and prayer, Esther invited the king and Haman to a great feast, and told them to come back for another to hear her request.
That night, the king found it impossible to sleep and asked his servants to read the chronicles to him. They read over Mordechai’s thwarting of the attempted assassination. The king learned that Mordechai hadn’t been rewarded yet just as Haman walked in. He asked Haman how should honor someone important to him.
Haman, thinking that the king meant him, suggested dressing the person in royal garb and parading them through the streets on horseback declaring their good deeds. The king liked the idea and asked Haman to honor Mordechai in this way; Haman, furious, had no choice but to comply.
That night, at the second feast, Esther revealed that she was Jewish, and that Haman had ordered the death of her people. The king complied with her request to save them, and had Haman killed on the very gallows he’d constructed for Mordechai.
The Jews Defend Themselves
Though the order couldn’t be rescinded, the Jewish people were given full permission to defend themselves, and were able to slay their attackers. Following the battles, there was a period of celebration over their salvation.
The reason it still celebrated today is because the Jewish people see in the story of Purim the hand of God who orchestrated that Esther should be miraculous in the right place at the right time . So too today the Jewish are still a vibrant Nation because of God’s kindness to them.
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