1:1 1 The following events happened 2 in the days of Ahasuerus. 3 (I am referring to 4 that Ahasuerus who used to rule over a hundred and twenty-seven provinces 5 extending all the way from India to Ethiopia. 6 ) 1:2 In those days, as King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in Susa 7 the citadel, 8 1:3 in the third 9 year of his reign he provided a banquet for all his officials and his servants. The army 10 of Persia and Media 11 was present, 12 as well as the nobles and the officials of the provinces.
1:4 He displayed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor of his majestic greatness for a lengthy period of time 13 – a hundred and eighty days, to be exact! 14 1:5 When those days 15 were completed, the king then provided a seven-day 16 banquet for all the people who were present 17 in Susa the citadel, for those of highest standing to the most lowly. 18 It was held in the court located in the garden of the royal palace. 1:6 The furnishings included linen and purple curtains hung by cords of the finest linen 19 and purple wool on silver rings, alabaster columns, gold and silver couches 20 displayed on a floor made of valuable stones of alabaster, mother-of-pearl, and mineral stone. 1:7 Drinks 21 were served in golden containers, all of which differed from one another. Royal wine was available in abundance at the king’s expense. 1:8 There were no restrictions on the drinking, 22 for the king had instructed all of his supervisors 23 that they should do as everyone so desired. 24 1:9 Queen Vashti 25 also gave a banquet for the women in King Ahasuerus’ royal palace.
1:10 On the seventh day, as King Ahasuerus was feeling the effects of the wine, 26 he ordered Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven eunuchs who attended him, 27 1:11 to bring Queen Vashti into the king’s presence wearing her royal high turban. He wanted to show the people and the officials her beauty, for she was very attractive. 28 1:12 But Queen Vashti refused 29 to come at the king’s bidding 30 conveyed through the eunuchs. Then the king became extremely angry, and his rage consumed 31 him.
1:13 The king then inquired of the wise men who were discerners of the times – for it was the royal custom to confer with all those who were proficient in laws and legalities. 32 1:14 Those who were closest to him were Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan. These men were the seven officials of Persia and Media who saw the king on a regular basis 33 and had the most prominent offices 34 in the kingdom. 1:15 The king asked, 35 “By law, 36 what should be done to Queen Vashti in light of the fact that she has not obeyed the instructions of King Ahasuerus conveyed through the eunuchs?”
1:16 Memucan then replied to the king and the officials, “The wrong of Queen Vashti is not against the king alone, but against all the officials and all the people who are throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. 1:17 For the matter concerning the queen will spread to all the women, leading them to treat their husbands with contempt, saying, ‘When King Ahasuerus gave orders to bring Queen Vashti into his presence, she would not come.’ 1:18 And this very day the noble ladies of Persia and Media who have heard the matter concerning the queen will respond in the same way to all the royal officials, and there will be more than enough contempt and anger! 1:19 If the king is so inclined, 37 let a royal edict go forth from him, and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media that cannot be repealed, 38 that Vashti 39 may not come into the presence of King Ahasuerus, and let the king convey her royalty to another 40 who is more deserving than she. 41 1:20 And let the king’s decision which he will enact be disseminated 42 throughout all his kingdom, vast though it is. 43 Then all the women will give honor to their husbands, from the most prominent to the lowly.”
1:21 The matter seemed appropriate to the king and the officials. So the king acted on the advice of Memucan. 1:22 He sent letters throughout all the royal provinces, to each province according to its own script and to each people according to its own language, 44 that every man should be ruling his family 45 and should be speaking the language of his own people. 46
2:1 When these things had been accomplished 47 and the rage of King Ahasuerus had diminished, he remembered 48 Vashti and what she had done and what had been decided 49 against her. 2:2 The king’s servants who attended him said, “Let a search be conducted in the king’s behalf for attractive young women. 50 2:3 And let the king appoint officers throughout all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the attractive young women to Susa the citadel, to the harem 51 under the authority of Hegai, the king’s eunuch who oversees the women, and let him provide whatever cosmetics they desire. 52 2:4 Let the young woman whom the king finds most attractive 53 become queen in place of Vashti.” This seemed like a good idea to the king, 54 so he acted accordingly.
2:5 Now there happened to be a Jewish man in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai. 55 He was the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjaminite, 2:6 who had been taken into exile from Jerusalem 56 with the captives who had been carried into exile with Jeconiah 57 king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken into exile. 2:7 Now he was acting as the guardian 58 of Hadassah 59 (that is, Esther), the daughter of his uncle, for neither her father nor her mother was alive. 60 This young woman was very attractive and had a beautiful figure. 61 When her father and mother died, Mordecai had raised her 62 as if she were his own daughter.
2:8 It so happened that when the king’s edict and his law became known 63 many young women were taken to Susa the citadel to be placed under the authority of Hegai. Esther also was taken to the royal palace 64 to be under the authority of Hegai, who was overseeing the women. 2:9 This young woman pleased him, 65 and she found favor with him. He quickly provided her with her cosmetics and her rations; he also provided her with the seven specially chosen 66 young women who were from the palace. He then transferred her and her young women to the best quarters in the harem. 67
2:10 Now Esther had not disclosed her people or her lineage, 68 for Mordecai had instructed her not to do so. 69 2:11 And day after day Mordecai used to walk back and forth in front of the court of the harem in order to learn how Esther was doing 70 and what might happen to her.
2:12 At the end of the twelve months that were required for the women, 71 when the turn of each young woman arrived to go to King Ahasuerus – for in this way they had to fulfill their time of cosmetic treatment: six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with perfume and various ointments used by women – 2:13 the woman would go to the king in the following way: Whatever she asked for would be provided for her to take with her from the harem to the royal palace. 2:14 In the evening she went, and in the morning she returned to a separate part 72 of the harem, to the authority of Shaashgaz the king’s eunuch who was overseeing the concubines. She would not go back to the king unless the king was pleased with her 73 and she was requested by name.
2:15 When it became the turn of Esther daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai (who had raised her as if she were his own daughter 74 ) to go to the king, she did not request anything except what Hegai the king’s eunuch, who was overseer of the women, had recommended. Yet Esther met with the approval of all who saw her. 2:16 Then Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus at his royal residence in the tenth 75 month (that is, the month of Tebeth) in the seventh 76 year of his reign. 2:17 And the king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she met with his loving approval 77 more than all the other young women. 78 So he placed the royal high turban on her head and appointed her queen 79 in place of Vashti. 2:18 Then the king prepared a large banquet for all his officials and his servants – it was actually Esther’s banquet. He also set aside a holiday for the provinces, and he provided for offerings at the king’s expense. 80
2:19 Now when the young women were being gathered again, 81 Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate. 82 2:20 Esther was still not divulging her lineage or her people, 83 just as Mordecai had instructed her. 84 Esther continued to do whatever Mordecai said, just as she had done when he was raising her.
2:21 In those days while Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthan 85 and Teresh, 86 two of the king’s eunuchs who protected the entrance, 87 became angry and plotted to assassinate 88 King Ahasuerus. 2:22 When Mordecai learned of the conspiracy, 89 he informed Queen Esther, 90 and Esther told the king in Mordecai’s behalf. 91 2:23 The king then had the matter investigated and, finding it to be so, had the two conspirators 92 hanged on a gallows. 93 It was then recorded in the daily chronicles in the king’s presence.
3:1 Some time later 94 King Ahasuerus promoted 95 Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, exalting him and setting his position 96 above that of all the officials who were with him. 3:2 As a result, 97 all the king’s servants who were at the king’s gate were bowing and paying homage to Haman, for the king had so commanded. However, Mordecai did not bow, 98 nor did he pay him homage.
3:3 Then the servants of the king who were at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why are you violating the king’s commandment?” 3:4 And after they had spoken to him day after day 99 without his paying any attention to them, they informed Haman to see whether this attitude on Mordecai’s part would be permitted. 100 Furthermore, he had disclosed to them that he was a Jew. 101
3:5 When Haman saw that Mordecai was not bowing or paying homage to him, he 102 was filled with rage. 3:6 But the thought of striking out against 103 Mordecai alone was repugnant to him, for he had been informed 104 of the identity of Mordecai’s people. 105 So Haman sought to destroy all the Jews (that is, the people of Mordecai) 106 who were in all the kingdom of Ahasuerus.
3:7 In the first month (that is, the month of Nisan), in the twelfth year 107 of King Ahasuerus’ reign, pur 108 (that is, the lot) was cast before Haman in order to determine a day and a month. 109 It turned out to be the twelfth month (that is, the month of Adar). 110
3:8 Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a particular people 111 that is dispersed and spread among the inhabitants 112 throughout all the provinces of your kingdom whose laws differ from those of all other peoples. Furthermore, they do not observe the king’s laws. It is not appropriate for the king to provide a haven for them. 113 3:9 If the king is so inclined, 114 let an edict be issued 115 to destroy them. I will pay ten thousand talents of silver 116 to be conveyed to the king’s treasuries for the officials who carry out this business.”
3:10 So the king removed his signet ring 117 from his hand and gave it to Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, who was hostile toward the Jews. 3:11 The king replied to Haman, “Keep your money, 118 and do with those people whatever you wish.” 119
3:12 So the royal scribes 120 were summoned in the first month, on the thirteenth day of the month. Everything Haman commanded was written to the king’s satraps 121 and governors who were in every province and to the officials of every people, province by province according to its script and people by people according to its language. In the name of King Ahasuerus it was written and sealed with the king’s signet ring. 3:13 Letters were sent by the runners to all the king’s provinces stating that 122 they should destroy, kill, and annihilate all the Jews, from youth to elderly, both women and children, 123 on a particular day, namely the thirteenth day 124 of the twelfth month (that is, the month of Adar), and to loot and plunder their possessions. 3:14 A copy of this edict was to be presented as law throughout every province; it was to be made known to all the inhabitants, 125 so that they would be prepared for this day. 3:15 The messengers 126 scurried forth 127 with the king’s order. 128 The edict was issued in Susa the citadel. While the king and Haman sat down to drink, the city of Susa was in an uproar! 129
[1:1] 1 sn In the English Bible Esther appears adjacent to Ezra-Nehemiah and with the historical books, but in the Hebrew Bible it is one of five short books (the so-called Megillot) that appear toward the end of the biblical writings. The canonicity of the book was questioned by some in ancient Judaism and early Christianity. It is one of five OT books that were at one time regarded as antilegomena (i.e., books “spoken against”). The problem with Esther was the absence of any direct mention of God. Some questioned whether a book that did not mention God could be considered sacred scripture. Attempts to resolve this by discovering the tetragrammaton (
[1:1] 3 tn Where the Hebrew text has “Ahasuerus” (so KJV, NAB, NASB, NRSV) in this book the LXX has “Artaxerxes.” The ruler mentioned in the Hebrew text is Xerxes I (ca. 486-465
[1:1] 4 tn Heb “in the days of Ahasuerus, that Ahasuerus who used to rule…” The phrase “I am referring to” has been supplied to clarify the force of the third person masculine singular pronoun, which is functioning like a demonstrative pronoun.
[1:1] 6 tn Heb “Cush” (so NIV, NCV; KJV “Ethiopia”) referring to the region of the upper Nile in Africa. India and Cush (i.e., Ethiopia) are both mentioned in a tablet taken from the foundation of Xerxes’ palace in Persepolis that describes the extent of this empire. See ANET 316-17.
[1:2] sn The city of Susa served as one of several capitals of Persia during this time; the other locations were Ecbatana, Babylon, and Persepolis. Partly due to the extreme heat of its summers, Susa was a place where Persian kings stayed mainly in the winter months. Strabo indicates that reptiles attempting to cross roads at midday died from the extreme heat (Geography 15.3.10-11).
[1:2] 8 tn The Hebrew word בִּירָה (birah) can refer to a castle or palace or temple. Here it seems to have in mind that fortified part of the city that might be called an acropolis or citadel. Cf. KJV “palace”; NAB “stronghold”; NASB “capital”; NLT “fortress.”
[1:3] 10 tc Due to the large numbers of people implied, some scholars suggest that the original text may have read “leaders of the army” (cf. NAB “Persian and Median aristocracy”; NASB “the army officers”; NIV “the military leaders”). However, there is no textual evidence for this emendation, and the large numbers are not necessarily improbable.
[1:3] 11 sn Unlike the Book of Daniel, the usual order for this expression in Esther is “Persia and Media” (cf. vv. 14, 18, 19). In Daniel the order is “Media and Persia,” indicating a time in their history when Media was in the ascendancy.
[1:3] 12 sn The size of the banquet described here, the number of its invited guests, and the length of its duration, although certainly immense by any standard, are not without precedent in the ancient world. C. A. Moore documents a Persian banquet for 15,000 people and an Assyrian celebration with 69,574 guests (Esther [AB], 6).
[1:4] 14 tn The words “to be exact!” are not in the Hebrew text but have been supplied in the translation to bring out the clarifying nuance of the time period mentioned. Cf. KJV “even an hundred and fourscore days.”
[1:5] 15 tc The Hebrew text of Esther does not indicate why this elaborate show of wealth and power was undertaken. According to the LXX these were “the days of the wedding” (αἱ ἡμέραι τοῦ γάμου, Jai Jhmerai tou gamou), presumably the king’s wedding. However, a number of scholars have called attention to the fact that this celebration takes place just shortly before Xerxes’ invasion of Greece. It is possible that the banquet was a rallying for the up-coming military effort. See Herodotus, Histories 7.8. There is no reason to adopt the longer reading of the LXX here.
[1:6] 20 tn The Hebrew noun מִטָּה (mittah) refers to a reclining couch (cf. KJV “beds”) spread with covers, cloth and pillow for feasting and carousing (Ezek 23:41; Amos 3:12; 6:4; Esth 1:6; 7:8). See BDB 641-42 s.v.; HALOT 573 s.v.
[1:7] 21 tn Heb “to cause to drink” (Hiphil infinitive construct of שָׁקָה, shaqah). As the etymology of the Hebrew word for “banquet” (מִשְׁתֶּה, mishteh, from שָׁתָה, shatah, “to drink”) hints, drinking was a prominent feature of ancient Near Eastern banquets.
[1:9] 25 sn Vashti is the name of Xerxes’ queen according to the Book of Esther. But in the Greek histories of this period the queen’s name is given as Amestris (e.g., Herodotus, Histories 9.108-13). The name Vashti does not seem to occur in the nonbiblical records from this period. Apparently the two women are not to be confused, but not enough is known about this period to reconcile completely the biblical and extrabiblical accounts.
[1:12] 29 sn Refusal to obey the king was risky even for a queen in the ancient world. It is not clear why Vashti behaved so rashly and put herself in such danger. Apparently she anticipated humiliation of some kind and was unwilling to subject herself to it, in spite of the obvious dangers. There is no justification in the biblical text for an ancient Jewish targumic tradition that the king told her to appear before his guests dressed in nothing but her royal high turban, that is, essentially naked.
[1:15] 36 tc The location of the prepositional phrase “according to law” is somewhat unusual in the Hebrew text, but not so much so as to require emendation. Some scholars suggest deleting the phrase as an instance of dittography from the final part of the immediately preceding word in v. 14. Others suggest taking the phrase with the end of v. 14 rather than with v. 15. Both proposals, however, lack adequate justification.
[1:19] 41 tn Heb “who is better than she.” The reference is apparently to worthiness of the royal position as demonstrated by compliance with the king’s wishes, although the word טוֹב (tob, “good”) can also be used of physical beauty. Cf. NAB, NASB, NLT “more worthy than she.”
[1:22] 44 sn For purposes of diplomacy and governmental communication throughout the far-flung regions of the Persian empire the Aramaic language was normally used. Educated people throughout the kingdom could be expected to have competence in this language. But in the situation described in v. 22 a variety of local languages are to be used, and not just Aramaic, so as to make the king’s edict understandable to the largest possible number of people.
[1:22] 46 tc The final prepositional phrase is not included in the LXX, and this shorter reading is followed by a number of English versions (e.g., NAB, NRSV, NLT). Some scholars suggest the phrase may be the result of dittography from the earlier phrase “to each people according to its language,” but this is not a necessary conclusion. The edict was apparently intended to reassert male prerogative with regard to two things (and not just one): sovereign and unquestioned leadership within the family unit, and the right of deciding which language was to be used in the home when a bilingual situation existed.
[2:1] 48 sn There may be a tinge of regret expressed in the king’s remembrance of Vashti. There is perhaps a hint that he wished for her presence once again, although that was not feasible from a practical standpoint. The suggestions by the king’s attendants concerning a replacement seem to be an effort to overcome this nostalgia. Certainly it was to their advantage to seek the betterment of the king’s outlook. Those around him the most were probably the most likely to suffer the effects of his ire.
[2:5] 55 sn Mordecai is a pagan name that reflects the name of the Babylonian deity Marduk. Probably many Jews of the period had two names, one for secular use and the other for use especially within the Jewish community. Mordecai’s Jewish name is not recorded in the biblical text.
[2:7] 58 tn According to HALOT 64 s.v. II אמן the term אֹמֵן (’omen) means: (1) “attendant” of children (Num 11:12; Isa 49:23); (2) “guardian” (2 Kgs 10:1, 5; Esth 2:7); (3) “nurse-maid” (2 Sam 4:4; Ruth 4:16); and (4) “to look after” (Isa 60:4; Lam 4:5). Older lexicons did not distinguish this root from the homonym I אָמַן (’aman, “to support; to confirm”; cf. BDB 52 s.v. אָמַן). This is reflected in a number of translations by use of a phrase like “brought up” (KJV, ASV, RSV, NIV) or “bringing up” (NASB).
[2:7] 59 sn Hadassah is a Jewish name that probably means “myrtle”; the name Esther probably derives from the Persian word for “star,” although some scholars derive it from the name of the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. Esther is not the only biblical character for whom two different names were used. Daniel (renamed Belteshazzar) and his three friends Hananiah (renamed Shadrach), Mishael (renamed Meshach), and Azariah (renamed Abednego) were also given different names by their captors.
[2:7] 61 tn Heb “beautiful of form.” The Hebrew noun תֹּאַר (to’ar, “form; shape”) is used elsewhere to describe the physical bodily shape of a beautiful woman (Gen 29:17; Deut 21:11; 1 Sam 25:3); see BDB 1061 s.v. Cf. TEV “had a good figure.”
[2:7] 62 tn Heb “had taken her to him.” The Hebrew verb לָקַח (laqakh, “to take”) describes Mordecai adopting Esther and treating her like his own daughter: “to take as one’s own property” as a daughter (HALOT 534 s.v. I לקח 6).
[2:12] tn Heb “to be to her according to the law of the women”; NASB “under the regulations for the women.”
[2:14] 72 tn Heb “second.” The numerical adjective שֵׁנִי (sheniy, “second”) is difficult here. As a modifier for “house” in v. 14 the word would presumably refer to a second part of the harem, one which was under the supervision of a separate official. But in this case the definite article would be expected before “second” (cf. LXX τὸν δεύτερον, ton deuteron). Some scholars emend the text to שֵׁנִית (shenit, “a second time”), but this does not completely resolve the difficulty since the meaning remains unclear. The translation adopted above follows the LXX and understands the word to refer to a separate group of women in the king’s harem, a group housed apparently in a distinct part of the residence complex.
[2:19] 81 tc The LXX does not include the words “Now when the young women were being gathered again.” The Hebrew word שֵׁנִית (shenit, “a second time”) is difficult in v. 19, but apparently it refers to a subsequent regathering of the women to the harem.
[2:19] 82 sn That Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate apparently means that he was a high-ranking government official. It was at the city gate where important business was transacted. Being in this position afforded Mordecai an opportunity to become aware of the plot against the king’s life, although the author does not include the particular details of how this information first came to Mordecai’s attention.
[2:20] 83 sn That Esther was able so effectively to conceal her Jewish heritage suggests that she was not consistently observing Jewish dietary and religious requirements. As C. A. Moore observes, “In order for Esther to have concealed her ethnic and religious identity…in the harem, she must have eaten…, dressed, and lived like a Persian rather than an observant Jewess” (Esther [AB], 28.) In this regard her public behavior stands in contrast to that of Daniel, for example.
[2:22] 89 sn The text of Esther does not disclose exactly how Mordecai learned about the plot against the king’s life. Ancient Jewish traditions state that Mordecai overheard conspiratorial conversation, or that an informant brought this information to him, or that it came to him as a result of divine prompting. These conjectures are all without adequate support from the biblical text. The author simply does not tell the source of Mordecai’s insight into this momentous event.
[2:22] tn Heb “in the name of Mordecai” (so NRSV); NIV “giving credit to Mordecai.”
[3:2] 98 sn Mordecai did not bow. The reason for Mordecai’s refusal to bow before Haman is not clearly stated here. Certainly the Jews did not refuse to bow as a matter of principle, as though such an action somehow violated the second command of the Decalogue. Many biblical texts bear witness to their practice of falling prostrate before people of power and influence (e.g., 1 Sam 24:8; 2 Sam 14:4; 1 Kgs 1:16). Perhaps the issue here was that Haman was a descendant of the Amalekites, a people who had attacked Israel in an earlier age (see Exod 17:8-16; 1 Sam 15:17-20; Deut 25:17-19).
[3:4] 99 sn Mordecai’s position in the service of the king brought him into regular contact with these royal officials. Because of this association the officials would have found ample opportunity to complain of Mordecai’s refusal to honor Haman by bowing down before him.
[3:5] 102 tn Heb “Haman.” The pronoun (“he”) was used in the translation for stylistic reasons. Repeating the proper name here is redundant according to contemporary English style, although the name is repeated in NASB and NRSV.
[3:6] 106 tc This parenthetical phrase is not included in the LXX. Some scholars emend the MT reading עַם (’am, “people”) to עִם (’im, “with”), arguing that the phrase is awkwardly placed and syntactically inappropriate. While there is some truth to their complaint, the MT makes sufficient sense to be acceptable here, and is followed by most English versions.
[3:7] 108 tn The term פּוּר (pur, “lot”) is an Akkadian loanword; the narrator therefore explains it for his Hebrew readers (“that is, the lot”). It is from the plural form of this word (i.e., Purim) that the festival celebrating the deliverance of the Jews takes its name (cf. 9:24, 26, 28, 31).
[3:7] tn Heb “from day to day and from month to month” (so KJV, NASB).
[3:7] 110 tn Since v. 7 seems to interrupt the flow of the narrative, many scholars have suggested that it is a late addition to the text. But there is not enough evidence to warrant such a conclusion. Even though its placement is somewhat awkward, the verse supplies to the reader an important piece of chronological information.
[3:9] 116 sn The enormity of the monetary sum referred to here can be grasped by comparing this amount (10,000 talents of silver) to the annual income of the empire, which according to Herodotus (Histories 3.95) was 14,500 Euboic talents. In other words Haman is offering the king a bribe equal to two-thirds of the royal income. Doubtless this huge sum of money was to come (in large measure) from the anticipated confiscation of Jewish property and assets once the Jews had been destroyed. That such a large sum of money is mentioned may indicate something of the economic standing of the Jewish population in the empire of King Ahasuerus.
[3:10] 117 sn Possessing the king’s signet ring would enable Haman to act with full royal authority. The king’s ring would be used to impress the royal seal on edicts, making them as binding as if the king himself had enacted them.
[3:11] 118 tn Heb “the silver is given to you”; NRSV “the money is given to you”; CEV “You can keep their money.” C. A. Moore (Esther [AB], 40) understands these words somewhat differently, taking them to imply acceptance of the money on Xerxes’ part. He translates, “Well, it’s your money.”
[3:15] 129 sn The city of Susa was in an uproar. This final statement of v. 15 is a sad commentary on the pathetic disregard of despots for the human misery and suffering that they sometimes inflict on those who are helpless to resist their power. Here, while common people braced for the reckless loss of life and property that was about to begin, the perpetrators went about their mundane activities as though nothing of importance was happening.