The Story of Esther
The King of Persia was lonely, and his men searched far and wide to find a perfect woman to be his bride. They looked for women who were kind and lovely, so the King could choose from among them the woman who would be best to be his queen. This sounds like the beginning of a good story. It could be the beginning of a sweet and wonderful tale of love and romance. And, it's the perfect reason to hold what might be the world's first beauty pageant.
However, this tale of romance did not start with love. It started with anger. Queen Vashti had disobeyed her husband. King Ahasuerus was furious. How dare a woman disobey her husband, especially when her husband is the King?
King Ahasuerus was king over one hundred twenty seven provinces that extended from Ethiopia in what we now call Africa, clear over to India. He had been the ruler for three years, and he threw a party. The king had invited princes and leaders from all 127 provinces. The party had lasted for an entire week! Day after day, the guests ate and drank. In fact, they drank too much - WAY TOO MUCH. After drinking, the King began to brag. He showed everyone his gold and his riches. He showed them his palace and his treasures. Then, he decided to show them his wife and brag about how beautiful she was.
Queen Vashti was having her own party for the women from all these other places and refused to come before the King. "I will NOT be put on display in front of a bunch of drunken men!" she said.
"What will I do?" the King asked his advisors. "If the other men hear that my wife refused to obey me, they will laugh at me. Then, their wives will disobey them, and they will be laughed at also. What will I do?"
The advisors told the King to get rid of his wife. So he passed a law that she could never come before him again. She had to leave the palace. Beyond that, we don't know what happened to Vashti.
But, we do know that the King was lonely without her. He couldn't even ask her back, because in Persia, once the King had passed a law, he couldn't take it back. So, even though he missed his queen, he could not allow her to come home to the palace.
"I know what to do," suggested one of his advisors. "Why not have a beauty contest? We can bring the most beautiful girls from across the lands to the palace for you to look at. Certainly one of them will make you happy as your new wife."
So it was that word went out for what most likely was the first beauty pageant in the world.
There in the kingdom, there lived a very wise Jewish man, named Mordecai. Mordecai was a true man of God and followed God's word faithfully. Mordecai worked at the palace and heard people talking about the search for a wife for the King. Not only was she to be beautiful, but the King wanted someone who would be kind and sweet.
This made Mordecai immediately thought about his cousin. Her name was Esther. Esther was kind and sweet and lovely to look at as well. In addition, she was faithful to God. Mordecai had taken her into his own home when she was just a young girl. She was an orphan, having lost both parents. Mordecai fed her and clothed her. He taught her God's ways. When she was nearly grown into womanhood, he changed her childhood name to Esther, which meant "star." She liked the new name and always tried to shine like a star by the way she acted. To Mordecai, she sounded like the perfect wife for any man, and he arranged for her to meet the King.
This was how Esther came to the palace to be presented to the King. Just like in today's beauty contests, the women were all fixed up to look their best. They bathed, and then they placed oils on their skin to make it look smooth. They dressed in fine gowns. Then, one by one - they were led before the King.
All of the women led before the King were beautiful ? just like in a beauty pageant. But, when the King saw Esther, the "shining star," the pageant was over, and the winner had been selected. Esther's beautiful face and soft pleasant manner pleased the King. With his own hands, the king placed a crown upon Esther's head - a golden crown with pearls.
Queen Esther went to live in the Queen's house which sat among the gardens in side the palace walls. Before leaving Mordecai's home to live at the palace, Mordecai told her, "Tell no one of me or of your family. Tell no one you are a Jew, for there are those who live in and work at the palace who do not love the Hebrew people." As Mordecai was like her adopted father, she listened to and followed his words.
At the palace, the servants went over the rules with Esther. They liked her and told her what had happened to the previous queen. Never disobey the King, they told her, or you could be sent away forever. Also, they told her, there is a special rule. No One may go before the King unless they are invited. No One! If anyone went before the King without being called, they would be put to death - unless - the King held out his golden scepter to the person.
Esther was glad that from her window, she could see her Cousin Mordecai where he worked near the King?s gate. It made her feel less lonely on days when she did not see her husband, the King. It was a good thing that she remained close to Mordecai. One day, while in the palace, he overheard two servants plotting to kill the King. Mordecai told Esther. Esther told the King. The King stopped the plot, and let's just say that what happened to the two men was not very nice. And Cousin Mordecai? His name was written down in the King's records to some day receive a reward for his good deed.
The story could end here, except that it doesn't! There is more!
The King's chief minister was a man named Haman. He was a proud man and thought very highly of himself. After the King, he was one of the most powerful men around. He gave orders to princes and other leaders. Everybody bowed down to Haman. Well, ALMOST EVERYONE.
Mordecai was a religious man. He believed that he should only bow down to God and refused to bow down to Haman. Of course, this made Haman angry. He thought up a way to get rid of Mordecai. Haman found out that Mordecai was a Jew, and Haman decided to get rid of ALL of the Jews in addition to Mordecai.
"Your Majesty," Haman told the King. "There are CERTAIN people in your kingdom who refuse to follow your laws. You should order that they all be executed."
"If they won't obey the law," agreed the King, "Of course, they ought to be punished."
This allowed Haman to send letters all across the country ordering that on a certain day, all Jews were to be executed. This included Mordecai, who Haman hated so much.
Just like he heard about the plot, Mordecai heard about the new law that would cause himself and all his people to be killed. It was a good thing that Queen Esther was near by. Mordecai came to her and said, "You must go before the King and tell him what is happening. If you don?t. all of our people will be killed."
Esther remembered the law that said No One could go before the King unless they were called, or they would be killed. She remembered how the King got rid of the other queen before her. "No, I cannot go before the King," she said at first.
Then Mordecai sent her a message that said, "Maybe this is why God let you become queen. God will protect you."
Queen Esther asked that Mordecai have all the Jewish people pray for three days, Then she went before the King.
She dressed like she was going to a beauty pageant. She put on her prettiest royal robes. She wore her sweetest perfume. She had to win this contest where she was the only contestant. If she lost, she would die.
The King could hear footsteps coming down the long hallway and knew he had not called for anyone to come before him. "Take this person away," he started to say. Then, he saw how lovely she looked, just like a beauty queen. He smiled and held out his golden scepter for her to touch, sparing her life. "What is thy request, Queen Esther?" asked the King. It shall be given to you, even if it means giving you half of my kingdom.
"All I want," she said is to invite you to a special dinner at the home you have given to me. I wish for you and Haman to come to dinner. Esther provided a wonderful feast for the King and Haman.
Again, the King said, "Tell me your wishes, even up to half of my kingdom and it will be yours."
"My only wish is that you and Haman come again to dinner tomorrow night." This made Haman very happy until he walked by Mordecai, who stood at the gate. Again, Mordecai did NOT bow down to Haman. "When I get rid of Mordecai and the Jews," he thought, "then I will really be happy." He ordered that gallows be built, so he could hang Mordecai.
But as Haman planned to get rid of Mordecai, God caused the King to be restless. The King could not sleep that night and ordered the record books to be brought to him. "What happened to the man named Mordecai?" asked the King. "How did we reward him?" the King asked his servants.
"We didn't," said the servants. The King was quiet in thought until Haman arrived.
"How would you reward someone who was loyal the King?" asked the King to Haman. Haman thought the King meant himself.
I would dress him in fine clothing and put him on the King's horse and have him led around the palace saying, "This is what happens to the man who the King wishes to reward above others." Haman could picture himself sitting proudly on the King's horse getting attention from everyone. Imagine his surprise when the King ordered Haman to give fine clothes to his enemy Mordecai and lead Mordecai around town on the King's horse. Haman hated Mordecai more than ever!
Even though he was embarrassed, Haman still attended dinner again with the King at Queen Esther's house. The King loved Esther so much that for the third time he told her, "Tell me your wishes. Anything you want - even up to half of my kingdom - and it shall be yours.
"All I could wish is that you spare my life and the lives of all of my people," said Esther. "For it has been ordered that I am to be killed with all of my people."
"Who has done this? Who has dared to give such an order?" demanded the King.
"An order was given to kill every Jew, and I am a Jewess. So that means me also. The order was given by the man who sits at dinner with you, Haman," said Esther.
Then a servant spoke up. "Haman built a gallows outside to hang Mordecai, the man who saved your life."
Well, you can guess who the gallows were used for, and it was not used for Mordecai. Mordecai became the King's chief advisor. The Jews were spared. The King remained in love with his beauty queen. And Esther was the only beauty queen that did not have to give up her crown. For, with God's help, she remained queen until the end of her days.
Dr. Mike Lockett is an educator, storyteller and children's author from Normal, IL. Dr. Lockett has given more than 4000 programs across the USA and as far away as eastern Asia. Contact Mike by writing to Mike@mikelockett.com in order to book him for a storytelling program or young authors program or to inquire about purchasing his books and CDs. More stories and information about storytelling can be found at www.mikelockett.com