By Mary Jane Chaignot

Categories: Women in the Old Testament

  • The events in the Book of Esther were purported to take place during the reign of the Persian monarch, Xerxes who reigned from 486-465BCE.
  • Esther's ancestors had been among those taken into exile in 587BCE.
  • Her lineage went back to the tribe of Benjamin.
  • Esther had a Hebrew name, Hadassah, which meant "myrtle."
  • "Esther" is a Persian name, meaning "Star."
  • Her Persian name sounds suspiciously like the goddess, Ishtar. (That would describe Esther as both a grand goddess and a humble "flower.")
  • Esther was an orphan, raised by her cousin, Mordecai.
  • Mordecai told Esther to keep her Jewish identity secret. (Generally, Jews did not marry Gentiles. In this case, it was attributed to the providence of God at work.)
  • Esther found favor in the King's eunuch who took special interest in preparing her for her audience with the King.
  • She did not request any unusual ornamentation for her presentation to the King, but relied upon her natural beauty.
  • The King immediately loved Esther, and the search for a new Queen ended that night.
  • A great wedding feast ensued for all the nobles and officials.
  • Esther passed along information from Mordecai that averted an assassination attempt against the King.
  • When Esther was told that Mordecai was in mourning (wearing sackcloth), she sent new clothes for him to wear.
  • When he refused, she sent one of the King's eunuchs to find out what was wrong.
  • Mordecai gave Esther a copy of the decree that was circulating in Susa.
  • Esther hadn't been called to see the King for a month. She might have thought the King had tired of her.
  • If someone approached the King uninvited, they were likely to be killed - unless the King pardoned them by extending his scepter.
  • Esther did not know if the King would pardon her, or have her killed.
  • In preparation for her going to the King, Esther asked Mordecai to have all the Jews fast for three days. She and her maids would also fast. (Notice the absence of any mention of prayer.)
  • She was willing to risk her life to save her people. (Scholars think Esther could have made an appointment to see the King, but perhaps going through channels would have taken too long.)
  • On the third day, Esther put on her royal robes and stood before the King.
  • He was happy to see her, and held out the royal scepter to her (thereby pardoning her).
  • She invited the King and Haman to a banquet later that day.
  • The King asked Esther several times what she wanted from him. He offered up to half his kingdom, though this might not have been meant literally.
  • Rather than respond to his question, Esther invited them to another banquet the following day.
  • During the second banquet, the King asked Esther again what she wanted. This time she did not hold back.
  • She asked that the King spare her life and the lives of her people - thereby revealing her true identity.
  • She accused Haman of being an adversary and an enemy.
  • She told the King she would never have bothered him if it had been a trivial matter.
  • The King stormed out of the room, and Haman immediately started "falling on Esther's couch to beg for mercy."
  • Unfortunately, just then the King reappeared and accused Haman of attempting to molest the Queen.
  • The King's angry words were a virtual death sentence for Haman, and he was hanged.
  • Upon Haman's death, the King gave his estate to Esther.
  • Only then did Esther reveal her relationship to Mordecai. The King also honored him, so Esther appointed Mordecai over Haman's estate.
  • Because the decree remained in force, Esther once again pleaded with the King. She asked him to "overturn" the order, placing the blame squarely on Haman's evil intentions and not on the King.
  • The King gave her and Mordecai permission to write a new order, which they did. The new order gave the Jews permission to "defend themselves." It was almost a word-for-word rendition of Haman's decree - with a different focus.
  • After the initial slaughter, the King asked Esther if she wanted anything else. He reported to her the success of the mission in Susa.
  • Esther asked for a one-day extension in Susa, and that Haman's 10 dead sons would be hanged on his 75-foot gallows. (The King seemed to have little regard for the fact that a minority people were killing his subjects; he only wanted to please his Queen.)
  • Esther and Mordecai wrote an order authorizing Jews to celebrate these two days as the Feast of Purim in commemoration of the day when Jews got relief from their enemies, when their sorrow was turned to joy, and when their mourning turned into celebrating.


Allen, L, and T. Laniak, "Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther." New International Biblical Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Press. 2003.

Alter, Robert and Frank Kermode. The Literary Guide to the Bible. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press. 1987.

Bechtel, Carol. "Esther." Interpretation. Atlanta: John Knox Press,1989.

Holmgren, Fredrick Carlson. "Israel Alive Again." International Theological Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm B Eerdmans. 1987.

Huey, F.B. "Esther". The Expositor's Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing, 1988. Frank E. Gaebelein, General Editor.

Mills, Watson and Richard Wilson. Mercer Commentary on the Bible. Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 1995.

McConville, J.G. "Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther." The Daily Study Bible Series. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1985.

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