Esther Becomes Queen in Vashti’s Place

1 When these things had been accomplished1 and the rage of King Ahasuerus had diminished, he remembered2 Vashti and what she had done and what had been decided3 against her. 2 The king’s servants who attended him said, “Let a search be conducted in the king’s behalf for attractive young women.4 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 harem5 under the authority of Hegai, the king’s eunuch who oversees the women, and let him provide whatever cosmetics they desire.6 4 Let the young woman whom the king finds most attractive7 become queen in place of Vashti.” This seemed like a good idea to the king,8 so he acted accordingly.

5 Now there happened to be a Jewish man in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai.9 He was the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjaminite, 6 who had been taken into exile from Jerusalem10 with the captives who had been carried into exile with Jeconiah11 king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken into exile. 7 Now he was acting as the guardian12 of Hadassah13 (that is, Esther), the daughter of his uncle, for neither her father nor her mother was alive.14 This young woman was very attractive and had a beautiful figure.15 When her father and mother died, Mordecai had raised her16 as if she were his own daughter.

8 It so happened that when the king’s edict and his law became known17 many young women were taken to Susa the citadel to be placed under the authority of Hegai. Esther also was taken to the royal palace18 to be under the authority of Hegai, who was overseeing the women. 9 This young woman pleased him,19 and she found favor with him. He quickly provided her with her cosmetics and her rations; he also provided her with the seven specially chosen20 young women who were from the palace. He then transferred her and her young women to the best quarters in the harem.21

10 Now Esther had not disclosed her people or her lineage,22 for Mordecai had instructed her not to do so.23 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 doing24 and what might happen to her.

12 At the end of the twelve months that were required for the women,25 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 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. 14 In the evening she went, and in the morning she returned to a separate part26 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 her27 and she was requested by name.

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 daughter28) 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. 16 Then Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus at his royal residence in the tenth29 month (that is, the month of Tebeth) in the seventh30 year of his reign. 17 And the king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she met with his loving approval31 more than all the other young women.32 So he placed the royal high turban on her head and appointed her queen33 in place of Vashti. 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.34

Mordecai Learns of a Plot against the King

19 Now when the young women were being gathered again,35 Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate.36 20 Esther was still not divulging her lineage or her people,37 just as Mordecai had instructed her.38 Esther continued to do whatever Mordecai said, just as she had done when he was raising her.

21 In those days while Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthan39 and Teresh,40 two of the king’s eunuchs who protected the entrance,41 became angry and plotted to assassinate42 King Ahasuerus. 22 When Mordecai learned of the conspiracy,43 he informed Queen Esther,44 and Esther told the king in Mordecai’s behalf.45 23 The king then had the matter investigated and, finding it to be so, had the two conspirators46 hanged on a gallows.47 It was then recorded in the daily chronicles in the king’s presence.

12:1tn Heb “after these things” (so KJV, NASB, NRSV). The expression is very vague from a temporal standpoint, not indicating precisely just how much time might have elapsed. Cf. v. 21. 22:1sn 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. 32:1tn Or “decreed” (so NAB, NASB, NRSV); TEV “and about his proclamation against her.” 42:2tn Heb “young women, virgins, good of form.” The same phrase also occurs in v. 3. 52:3tn Heb “the house of the women” (so KJV, ASV). So also in vv. 9, 11, 13, and 14. 62:3tn Heb “their ointments”; cf. NIV, CEV, NLT “beauty treatments.” 72:4tn Heb “who is good in the eyes of the king.” 82:4tn Heb “the matter was good in the eyes of the king.” Cf. TEV “The king thought this was good advice.” 92:5sn 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. 102:6map For location see Map5-B1; Map6-F3; Map7-E2; Map8-F2; Map10-B3; JP1-F4; JP2-F4; JP3-F4; JP4-F4. 112:6sn Jeconiah is an alternative name for Jehoiachin. A number of modern English versions use the latter name to avoid confusion (e.g., NIV, NCV, TEV, NLT). 122:7tn 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). 132:7sn 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. 142:7tn Heb “for there was not to her father or mother.” This is universally understood to mean Esther’s father and mother were no longer alive. 152:7tn Heb “beautiful of form.” The Hebrew noun תֹּאַר (toar, “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.” 162:7tn 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). 172:8tn Heb “were heard” (so NASB); NRSV “were (had been NIV) proclaimed.” 182:8tn Heb “the house of the king.” So also in vv. 9, 13. Cf. NLT “the king’s harem.” 192:9tn Heb “was good in his eyes”; NLT “Hegai was very impressed with Esther.” 202:9tn Heb “being looked at (with favor).” 212:9tn Heb “of the house of the women” (so KJV, ASV). So also in vv. 11, 13, 14. 222:10tn Cf. v. 20, where the same phrase occurs but with the word order reversed. 232:10tn Heb “that she not tell” (NRSV similar); NASB “that she should not make them known.” 242:11tn Heb “to know the peace of Esther.” 252:12tc The LXX does not include the words “that were required for the women.”tn Heb “to be to her according to the law of the women”; NASB “under the regulations for the women.” 262:14tn 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. 272:14tc The LXX does not include the words “was pleased with her.” 282:15tn Heb “who had taken her to him as a daughter”; NRSV “who had adopted her as his own daughter.” 292:16tc The Greek MSS Codex Alexandrinus (A) and Codex Vaticanus (B) read “twelfth” here. 302:16tc The Syriac Peshitta reads “fourth” here. 312:17tn Heb “grace and loyal love.” The expression is probably a hendiadys. 322:17tc The LXX does not include the words “more than all the other young women.” 332:17tn Heb “caused her to rule.” 342:18tc The LXX does not include the words “and he provided for offerings at the king’s expense.” 352:19tc 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. 362:19sn 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. 372:20sn 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. 382:20tc The LXX adds the words “to fear God.” 392:21tn This individual is referred to as “Bigthana,” a variant spelling of the name, in Esth 6:2. 402:21tc The LXX does not include the names “Bigthan and Teresh” here. 412:21tn Heb “guarders of the threshold”; NIV “who guarded the doorway.” 422:21tn Heb “sought to send a hand against”; CEV “decided to kill.” 432:22sn 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. 442:22tc The LXX simply reads “Esther” and does not include “the queen.” 452:22tc The LXX adds here “the things concerning the plot.”tn Heb “in the name of Mordecai” (so NRSV); NIV “giving credit to Mordecai.” 462:23tn Heb “they both were hanged.” The referent (the two eunuchs who conspired against the king) has been specified in the translation for clarity. 472:23tn Or “on a pole”; KJV, ASV “on a tree.”