Women In The Bible - Queen Esther Poster
King Ahasuerus held a 180-day feast in Susa (Shoushan). He ordered his queen, Vashti, to appear before him and his guests wearing no veil, which was dishonourable, to display her beauty by only wearing her crown. But when the attendants delivered the king's command to Queen Vashti, she refused to come. Furious at her refusal to obey, the king asked his wise men what should be done. One of them said that all the women in the empire would hear that "The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not." Then the women of the empire would despise their husbands. And this would cause many problems in the kingdom. Therefore it would be good to depose her. The king made a decree that Vashti was to be banished. To find a new queen suitable to King Ahasuerus, it was decreed that beautiful young virgins be gathered to the palace from every province of his kingdom. Each woman underwent twelve months of beautification in his harem, after which she would go to the king. For his wife and queen, King Ahasuerus chose Esther, an orphan raised by her cousin Mordecai, to replace the recalcitrant queen Vashti. Esther was originally named Hadassah, meaning myrtle, and received her name of Esther a form of the Persian name Satarah, meaning starwhen she entered the royal harem. Mordecai was sitting at the king's gates and overheard two of the king's officers guarding the gates plotting to assassinate the king. Mordecai let Esther know, and she warned the king about it, and Mordecai was given credit. The two conspirators were hanged on a gallows. Soon after this, the king granted Haman the Agagite, one of the most prominent princes of the realm, special honours. All the people were to bow down to Haman when he rode his horse through the streets. All complied except for Mordecai, a Jew, who would bow to no one but his God. This enraged Haman, who, with his wife and advisers, plotted against the Jews, making a plan to kill and extirpate all Jews throughout the Persian empire. Haman gained the king's approval to write a decree for their destruction. In the crisis that was about to engulf him, Mordecai turned to Esther. To approach her husband without being first commanded by him was breaking the law, and she would be punished by immediate death. She was aware of this of course, but her reaction was fatalistic: 'If I perish, I perish'. Esther said in reply to Mordecai 'Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the King, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish'. Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him. Ahasuerus seemed charmed by her unexpected appearance. Taking advantage of his good humour, she asked him if he and Haman would come to a banquet she meant to hold. He agreed, but during the night, Ahasuerus could not sleep. He told his servants to read from the records of his reign. As they read, he was reminded of the good deed of Mordecai. He realised he had never rewarded him, and decided to remedy this. Haman was there, and the king asked him how he could reward someone who had been a remarkable servant. Haman, thinking the King was referring to himself, recommended extravagant rewards. The King agreed, but then astonished Haman by telling him that it was Mordecai he wanted to reward. Esther's banquet had been prepared. Ahasuerus was so pleased by it that he promised Esther anything she wanted. In response, Esther asked that her life be spared and her people saved. From whom? asked the King. From Haman, replied Esther. When the King returned from the palace garden to the banquet hall, Haman had thrown himself on the couch where Esther was reclining; and the King said 'Will he even assault the Queen in my presence, in my own house?' He was taken out by the king’s servants and hanged from the gallows he had built for Mordecai. From that day on, the Jewish people kept the day as a special festival called Purim. It was a day when gifts were exchanged among members of each family, and presents given to the poor. It commemorated the day the Jewish people were saved by Esther. The image is from the book Women in Sacred History by Harriet Beecher Stowe, copyright 1873. Of the illustrations in the book, the publisher writes: "... In every case an accurate copy in oils was painted by a skilful artist, and this, together with photographs from the original pictures, the best impressions from the best engravings, etc., formed the basis on which Jehenne, the artist-lithographer, founded his conscientious work."