Vashti’s Successor Sought
1After these things, when the wrath of King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) had subsided, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her. 2 Then the king’s attendants, who served him, said, “Let beautiful young virgins be sought for the king. 3 Let the king appoint administrators in all the provinces of his kingdom, and have them gather all the beautiful young virgins to the citadel in Susa, into the harem, under the custody of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let their beauty preparations be given to them. 4 Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen in place of Vashti.” This pleased the king, and he did accordingly.
5 There was a certain Jew in the citadel of Susa whose name was Mordecai the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite, 6 who had been deported from Jerusalem with the captives who had been exiled with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had exiled. 7 He was the guardian of [a]Hadassah, that is Esther, his uncle’s daughter, for she had no father or mother. The young woman was beautiful of form and [b]face; and when her father and mother died, Mordecai took her in as his own daughter.
Esther Finds Favor
8 So it came about when the king’s command and his decree were proclaimed and when many young women were gathered together in the citadel of Susa into the custody of Hegai, that Esther was taken to the king’s palace [and placed] in the custody of Hegai, who was in charge of the women. 9 Now the young woman pleased Hegai and found favor with him. So he quickly provided her with beauty preparations and her [portion of] food, and he gave her seven choice maids from the king’s palace; then he transferred her and her maids to the best place in the harem. 10 Esther did not reveal [the Jewish background of] her people or her family, for Mordecai had instructed her not to do so. 11 Every day Mordecai [who was an [c]attendant in the king’s court] walked back and forth in front of the courtyard of the harem to learn how Esther was getting along and what was happening to her.
12 Now when it was each young woman’s turn to go before King Ahasuerus, after the end of her twelve months under the regulations for the women—for the days of their beautification were completed as follows: six months with oil of myrrh and six months with [sweet] spices and perfumes and the beauty preparations for women— 13 then the young woman would go before the king in this way: anything that she wanted was given her to take with her from the harem into the king’s palace. 14 In the evening she would go in and the next morning she would return to the [d]second harem, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the [e]concubines. She would not return to the king unless he delighted in her and she was summoned by name.
15 Now as for Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai who had taken her in as his [own] daughter, when her turn came to go in to the king, she requested nothing except what Hegai the king’s eunuch [and attendant] who was in charge of the women, advised. And Esther found favor in the sight of all who saw her. 16 So Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, to his royal palace in the tenth month, that is, the month of Tebeth (Dec-Jan), in the seventh year of his reign.
Esther Becomes Queen
17 Now the king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she found favor and kindness with him more than all the [other] virgins, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen in the place of Vashti. 18 Then the king held a great banquet, Esther’s banquet, for all his officials and his servants; and he made a [f]festival for the provinces and gave gifts in accordance with the resources of the king.
19 And when the virgins were gathered together the second time, Mordecai [g]was sitting at the king’s gate. 20 Esther had not revealed her family or her people [that is, her Jewish background], just as Mordecai had instructed her; for Esther did what Mordecai told her just as when she was under his care.
Mordecai Saves the King
21 In those days, while Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s eunuchs who guarded the door, became [h]angry and [i]conspired to attack King Ahasuerus. 22 But the plot became known to Mordecai, who informed Queen Esther, and Esther told the king in Mordecai’s name. 23 Now when the plot was investigated and found to be true, both men were [j]hanged on the gallows. And it was recorded in the Book of the Chronicles in the king’s presence.
- Esther 2:7 Hebrew meaning “myrtle.”
- Esther 2:7 Lit good of appearance.
- Esther 2:11 See note v 19.
- Esther 2:14 Evidently to keep track of all the women, the first harem was comprised only of those who had not yet had personal relations with the king, while those who had were transferred to a second harem.
- Esther 2:14 See note Gen 22:24.
- Esther 2:18 Or a release from taxes. The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain.
- Esther 2:19 The phrase sitting at the king’s gate implies that Mordecai was some sort of an official in the service of the king.
- Esther 2:21 The reasons for their anger is never explained. The ancient rabbis suggested that the king had replaced them with Mordecai, whom they considered a barbarian.
- Esther 2:21 Lit sought to lay hands on.
- Esther 2:23 Or impaled on a stake. It is uncertain which method was used.