Contains the Book of Esther - Wikimedia
The Book of Esther, commonly known as the Megillah (scroll), relates the efforts of Haman, the Prime Minister of King Xerxes of Persia, to destroy all Jews living in the Persian Empire. The day of the massacre was determined by lot. The triumph of the Jewish people over this decision is celebrated with a feast. It is commemorated by the annual observance of the feast of Purim (from the Jewish word Pur, meaning lot), since the lots which were cast for the destruction of the Jews were overturned with the aid of Queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai. Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of Adar, which is March in our Julian calendar
The events in the Book of Esther took place in 482 BC in Persia. Mordecai, a Jewish man living in Persia, was the foster father to a beautiful young girl named Hadassah, whose name he changed to Esther. Mordecai told Esther (Jen Tilley) never to reveal her nationality or family. One day while standing at the palace gates, he overheard two eunuchs of Xerxes plotting his death and informed him about it. When the traitors confessed, the King had them put to death. He then appointed Mordecai to serve in his court and rewarded him for his actions. A certain ambitious man in the court, named Haman (Thaoo Penghlis), bore a hatred toward Mordecai because he was a Jew and because he would not bow down before Haman when he saw him at the royal gate.
Jen Tilley (Esther) - Wikimedia
Queen Vashti is Removed
While attending a royal banquet, Mordecai was a witness to the fact that King Xerxes had commanded his attendant to bring his wife, Queen Vashti, to the banquet room to entertain his guests by dancing. The Queen refused to come, stating that even if Xerxes came to fetch her himself, she would not come. King Xerxes commanded that Queen Vashti be removed from the palace at once. “I declare that my marriage to her is null and void.”
The King’s advisors suggested that he bring all of the young virgins in the area to the palace so that he might choose a wife who would be pleasing to him. Among the ladies who came were Esther and the daughter of Haman, named Zara. Although this episode is not written in the Bible, it is an interesting sidelight of the film, and moves the plot in a forward direction.
Zara’s parents, Haman and Zaresh, were aware that their daughter Zara was no great beauty, but desired greatly that she be chosen by King Xerxes to be his bride. They decided to cover her face with a veil to give her an air of mystery to intrigue the king. King Xerxes was impressed with Esther and yet curious about Zara’s face under the veil. He asked the two ladies to wait in an outer chamber while he made his decision. When the eunuch asked King Xerxes why he did not interview each one individually to make his determination, he explained that he would be able to overhear their conversation with each other which would be far more revealing than what the young ladies would impart to him.
Thaao Penghlis (Haman) - Wikimedia
Esther and Zara Become Friends
The conversation was revealing, as Esther asked Zara why she wore the veil. Zara explained that her parents did not believe she was beautiful and devised this plan to get the attention of the King. Esther asked to see her face and exclaimed that she thought Zara was beautiful. Zara said that her father wanted her to be Queen in order to improve his own position at the court and have power over Xerxes. Zara was afraid that if she was not chosen that her parents would disown her and she would have no place to go. Esther assured her that if she became queen, Zara would be her lady-in-waiting and would live in the palace with her. When King Xerxes overheard this conversation, he made his decision. Esther would be his Queen.
A Decree to all the Provinces
Haman, to seek revenge on Mordecai, informed King Xerxes that there was a certain group of people living in his kingdom with laws different from every other people. They did not obey the laws of the land, so it was not proper for King Xerxes to tolerate them. Haman told him that a decree should be issued to destroy them. The King answered “Do with them whatever you please.” So Haman had letters sent by courier to every province stating that all Jews should be killed on the 14th day of Adar, and that all of their goods should be seized. Haman’s wife Zaresh and all his friends told him “Have a gibbet set up for Mordecai and ask Xerxes to have Mordecai hanged on it.” Haman had the gibbet erected.
When Mordecai heard the news, he clothed himself in sackcloth and ashes, and asked Esther to plead with the Court on behalf of their people. Esther sent word to Mordecai that he and all the Jews should fast for three days, and she and her maids would do the same. She knew that anyone who came into the King’s presence without being summoned could be put to death. “If I perish, I perish,” she said.
Meanwhile, Haman was made Prime Minister to Xerxes. The King said to Haman “What should be done for the man whom the king wishes to reward? Haman thought the King was referring to himself. He answered “The man should receive a royal robe and a horse.” Xerxes replied “Very well, take the robe and horse and give them to the Jew Mordecai who is sitting at the royal gate.”
The Book of Esther in Hebrew - Wikimedia
Esther Pleads for her People
Esther went to her husband and graciously asked if he and Haman would come to a banquet which she would prepare for them. He answered “Whatever you ask will be granted, even if it is half of my Kingdom.” At the banquet, Esther asked that her life be spared and the lives of her people. “The enemy oppressing us is the wicked Haman.” After hearing the arguments of both Haman and Mordecai, the King said “Haman, for the terrible advice you have given me, I hereby sentence you to death.” He said to the guards “Remove Haman’s royal robe and place it on Mordecai. Mordecai will now be my Prime Minister.” A eunuch told the King that Haman had prepared a gibbet for Mordecai, so they hanged Haman on the gibbet which he had made for Mordecai. And Esther asked also “Let the ten sons of Haman be hanged on gibbets.”
The King then said “Mordecai, command a banquet to be served to the crowd. I wish to be alone with my Queen.”
Although “The Book of Esther” as described here is a fictionalized version of what is the true biblical story, it is a fine introduction to a beautiful tale for those who are not familiar with Esther. I would also recommend it for Bible Study Groups for their discussion.