INSIDE THE HEARTS
OF BIBLE WOMEN

3 ~ Beauty and the Beast
(Esther)

(based on the books of Esther and Daniel in the Old Testament)





Part 1 ~ Commoner
      Youthful Esther sang softly as she cleared the bowls and cups from the table.  It was now near nightfall.  Her much-older cousin whom
everyone kept getting confused as her uncle, lit a lamp and set it down beside a tattered scroll.  

         Esther knew he would soon be lost in his thoughts as he read the words now so familiar to them both.  

        "Daniel had a sense of destiny, I think," he commented to Esther as though continuing his thoughts aloud.  Then he submerged
them into silence again.  

         She finished putting everything away.  By then night was full.  She sat down next to Mordecai and leaned her head over on his
shoulder.  

        "Here they were ~ Daniel and his three closest friends torn from their homeland to come here to Babylon and live among their
captors.  They made the best of it."  

        Esther closed her eyes and snuggled up a little closer to him, a lot of the little girl still within her.  She knew his sudden declaration
was for her benefit.  She'd heard it a hundred times.  But it made her feel warm and secure to hear him once again explain that, although
in the third generation of living among their captors, God was still in control.  Sometimes she got discouraged and wanted to return to
Israel.  

         "Tell me about Daniel.  I like to hear about him."  

        And so the very predictable conversation continued as it had along those lines most of her life.  [1]

         "Daniel won the heart of his king, even though the king worshipped idols.  He was even made prime minister over all of Babylon.  
Yet in all that, his ultimate devotion was always to his God.  He learned the fine art of being devoted in one way to his king and in another
way to his God."  

        "Well, he surely didn't manage very well when that old beast of a king ended up throwing him in the lions' den," she teased, lifting up
her head and sticking it between him and the scroll he was holding.  

        He laughed.  "I guess you're right.  And since I can't see the scroll any more for your head, I guess I'd better pay a little better
attention to you."  

        "Tell me again all about that night with those terrible lions." She put her head back on his shoulder.  

        "Well, you know how the king's friends tricked him in to passing an edict not allowing anyone to ask anything of anyone but the
king.  The king forgot that meant praying to anyone too, and that his friend Daniel prayed.  That didn't stop Daniel.  No, ma'am."  

        "Yeah.  He wasn't even thinking of Daniel when he did that.  But those tricky people who were jealous of Daniel remembered."  

      "Well, Daniel had a big position and was a Jew at that.  His enemies decided this would be a good way to get rid of their competition."  

        "But the king was sad when he realized what he had done, wasn't he?  He wasn't really a beast.  He didn't want to hurt Daniel."  

        "Yes, many of the kings of this land have been basically good men.  And this king respected Daniel and his devotion to his God.  So
when he realized what that edict would do to Daniel, he reassured him his devotion to his God would protect him."  

        "I wonder what it was like with those lions all night.  I wonder if Daniel petted them or anything."  She giggled.  

        Mordecai laughed.  "Could be.  Could be."  

        "Well, the people surely learned a lesson.  Daniel didn't let an opportunity to defend his faith in God go by.  He could have kept
quiet, but he didn't.  Isn't that right, Mordecai?"  

        "Yes, he could have kept quiet.  Daniel was undoubtedly planted in this land for such a time as that.  For right afterward, the king
declared that all the people of the land were to show respect to the God of Daniel."  

        "For such a time as that...."  [2]

        The next morning as Esther was sweeping the floor, Mordecai poked his head in the doorway of the room.  

        "Esther, I will be back when the sun is high.  I have business to take care of at the king's gate.  Then I will return to rest while it is
hot.  At least I will try.  King Xerxes is giving a feast of such magnitude, he's got us all running around taking care of the details and
doubling up on our duties.  But I promise I will try."  

        "How I wish I could see those beautiful blue and white decorations you told me about.  And the purple wrapped around those marble
pillars."  

        She held her arms out to each side in imitation of a regal lady.  "And walk on the tiles of marble and mother-of-pearl, and lounge on
his couches of gold and silver, and drink from his golden goblet."  

        Then walking her cousin to the gate, "Oh, Mordecai, you are so lucky to see such things.  Will you tell me more about it when you
get home tonight?"  

        "I won't have anything to tell if I don't hurry now.  I'll be hung from the gallows if I'm late," he teased.  

        She gave him a hug and he left.  She sighed and retied the cord keeping her hair back.  Then she went to a large vat full of grain
and scooped out enough to grind in to flour for the day's bread.  She began humming her favorite songs once again, as she did every
day.  What a happy, contented young lady she was.  

        Midday came and Esther began making preparations for Mordecai's return.  She thought of the grand palace where he served.  She
thought of Vashti the beautiful queen, and of Xerxes, the great king who conquered powerful Babylon and absorbed it into his Persian
Empire.  He'd been king for only three years and was getting ready to force magnificent Greece into his enormous empire.  It seemed so
exciting to be living in the midst of all this in Shushan these days.  

         "Where is that old cousin of mine," she thought to herself in a teasing sort of way. ";You'd think he was a hundred years old he's so
slow today."  

        But Mordecai did not come home as he had thought he would.  

        "Must be all the excitement of the feasting," she mused to one of the maids.  I wonder what it is like in there.  I wonder what the
emperor and emperess are really like in person.  I wonder what it is like to live so grand.  Oh, how silly I'm being.  I'll never even get close
to the gate where Mordecai serves, let alone inside the palace of the world's greatest emperor...."  [3]

        "Esther!  I'm home!  At last, I'm home!"  It was near sundown before she heard him come through the door.  

         "What is happening, Mordecai?"  

        They gave each other a quick hug, and then the older cousin continued.  "The whole palace is in an uproar.  Last night was the last
day of the king's feast.  You know it had been very important to him.  He had all the promimant officials from his 127 world-wide provinces
there, planning his siege of Greece and trying to demonstrate his vast wealth and power.  Everything had to be just right.  And it was until
Queen Vashti."  

        "Vashti?  I've heard she is so beautiful.  Is it true, Mordecai?  Is she that beautiful?  What could she have done to ruin his banquet?  
Did she not dress eloquently enough?"  

        "She refused to come to his feast at all.  She refused to allow him to show her off to all the princes."  

        "Oh, my.  What is going to happen to her?  I hope the king isn't too angry with her."  

        "Angry is not the word.  Burning rage is closer to it.  He became a laughing stock for not having more control over his wife.  The
whole palace has had to step lightly all day long and go out of its way to not incur his wrath.  He's been like that beast you were talking
about last night.  Late today, he went in to confer with his seven advisors.  We haven't heard the result of the meeting.  But I fear for our
queen."  

        "Well, I've got something hot for you to eat, along with some good bread to dip in it.  This doesn't rally concern us, so you should
eat.  You must be starved."  

        They did eat, and they continued their evening in the usual fashion.  But in both their minds they continued to wonder what the king
would do, and whether the people as a whole would suffer for what had happened.  Mostly Esther was just confused by the whole thing,
not being very sophisticated in royal matters of state.  

        The next evening Mordecai returned home with the answer.  

        "Esther," he said almost in a whisper after they had begun eating.  "It could have been worse.  He could have had her executed.  
Perhaps he really did love her, but had to save face.  The queen has been deposed and banished.  Vashti will no longer be his wife or his
queen.  She has been forbidden to ever see him again as long as she lives."  

        "What a terrible thing to do to her.  Where will she go?  What will she do?"  

        "I don't know.  But I have a feeling he will live to regret this decision."  

         "That beast!"  [4]

        Mordecai was so right.  At first King Xerxes strutted around the palace as though to tell the world, "No one tells me what to do, not
even my wife."  

        A month went by and gradually the king began to ease off a little.  Eventually he was literally moping around and becoming
increasingly depressed.  Vashti was the love of his youth.  He had dreamed of her and put her on the pedestal of his heart.  She had
been the desire of his life.  But she could no longer come to him. He was heard during the midnight hours calling out her name from his
room, not knowing the servants could hear.  

        After a little time of this, the seven advisors began to worry.  "What if he turns on us for talking him into banishing her, and we end
up paying with our lives?  We must think of something.  The sooner, the better."  

        They did think of something.  It was a full-proof plan.  

        "Oh King," one of them said to Xerxes one morning when he seemed to be particularly moody and brooding.  "We have something
perfectly delightful to share with you, something that will lighten your heart and make you feel bright as the sun."  

        "I have had enough of your bright ideas.  Just get on with the business of the day."  [5]

        Not wanting to pass up his opportunity, he pretended not to hear the king and went on.  "We will hold a beauty contest, such as has
never been held in all the world!"  

         The king looked up hesitatingly curious.  

         Encouraged by the king's lack of objections, he hurried on.  "Let a search be made for beautiful never-married young ladies.  Fair
virgins from every province of the empire.  Only the most beautiful will be chosen by each governor.  And they in turn will be sent here to
Shushan and given further beauty treatments for a year.  One by one you shall meet them, and one of them shall surely please you
enough to become your wife and queen."  

        Xerxes had been sitting quietly listening with his hand under his chin.  He got up, walked to the window, stared out awhile, turned,
stared at the small group of advisors.  What would the verdict be?  Execution or celebration?  

        "A great idea!  Marvelous!  Genius!  Pure genius.  We shall begin immediately.  Have the decree drawn up and I shall sign it and
send it to all my provinces.  Yes, indeed"  

        The advisers were shocked but delighted.  

        He began to walk briskly around the room.  He was suddenly a new man.  "And she shall be more beautiful and more loyal than
Vashti or any other queen anywhere in the world.  I shall have my empress!"  

        The beauty contests began.  Some young ladies were approached by the officials and went willingly.  Others, frightened, hung back
and begged to be left at home.  All were beautiful in their own way, and all responded to being one of the chosen in their own way.  [6]  

         Then one day one of the king's officials happened to be passing the well used by Esther and spotted her there.  He was taken by
her beauty in a way that he had never been by anyone else.  When he returned to the palace, he told some of the other officials.  

        "There's one in our own city that we have missed.  Who is she?"  

         A week later Mordecai returned home, but Esther was not there.  He searched among relatives and friends but could not find her.  
At last the realization came to him.  The next morning he went to the palace as usual, and walked to the court of the women's house.  
Subtly he inquired who the latest women were to have arrived.  Yes, one had been brought in just yesterday from this very city.  So
strikingly beautiful.  Her name was Esther.  

        Mordecai saw one of the maids coming out of the women's house and hurried over to her.  He had known her for years, and she too
was of Jewish heritage.  

       ";Esther.  Is she in there?"   

       "Mordecai, I'm glad you've come.  Yes, she is.  And she is frightened.  I told her, once I realized who she was, that you would get in
touch with her soon and tell her what to do."  [7]

        "My friend, you must tell her to not reveal her nationality or the names of any of her relatives for now.  It will be better for her in the
palace if she waits.  I've heard murmurings about our people from some sectors that is not good."  

        "Anything else?"  
        "Yes.  Tell Esther that I love her and will never be very far from her.  If she ever believed in Jehovah, she must believe in him now.  
She must accept what has happened, and make the best of the situation, and...."  

        He paused, then added, "Tell her, tell Esther just to remember Daniel.  Remember Daniel.  She will know what I mean."  

         "Yes, Sir.  Remember Daniel.  I will tell her."  

        "Oh, uh, and tell her I will come by here every day to see how she is doing.  She will always have me near her; she will never be
alone."  

        Of course Esther was relieved to hear from her elder cousin.  She had not known if she would ever see him again.  She did not
know what was happening, really.  All was so confusing.  Suddenly she had been swept in to a fairy tale world, and it was bittersweet.  

         True, there was a vague possibility that the king would choose her as his wife and queen.  But here she was among strangers.  
Strange customs.  Strange expectations. [8]
                                                       Part 2 ~ Queen  

        "I am going to be the one the king chooses," Esther heard one of the other girls announce to her peers.  "You just wait and see,"
she went on.  "I am the only one with blonde hair.  And I am taller and more shapely than anyone else here.  He is bound to pick me."  

        Another young lady sat in front of a mirror not paying any attention to that pompous girl.  She licked her finger and pushed her
eyebrows up into an arch.  She brought a whisp of hair down over one eye.  She smiled and whispered playfully to herself, "You beautiful
thing you.  The king's heart will melt when he sees you.  You've got them all beat."  

        Someone heard her.  "Well, I don't care what any of the rest of you say; he will never see you, for he is sending for me next.  After
he sees me, he will lose interest in all others.  You'll never get a chance at him.  Poor dears.  So sorry."  She smirked and looked back at
them over her shoulder as she went over to her bed and picked up the dress she'd chosen to wear.  

        "Hey, have you selected what you're going to take with you?" a newer resident of the women's house asked another.  

        "I'm just about through.  I've had all kinds of jewelry brought to me so I could choose what flatters my eyes the most.  I've looked at
all the silk weaves and patterns and have just about narrowed down what I want."  

        Esther was bewildered by all this.  Why were they spending so much time in front of the mirrors?  And why were they making snide
remarks to each other all the time?  Didn't they know that whatever the Lord wills will happen, regardless of what they did?  Well, of
course they didn't know the Lord.  But still, they must have faith in some god of some kind to lead them.  [9]

        Despite her confusion over all the to-do about their beauty, Esther was given the regular beauty treatments along with everyone
else.  

        First of all she was put on a special diet.  She ate fruits and nuts and cheese and goat's milk and juices.  She was allowed a little
bread and a little meat, but not much.  Her body was gradually purged of all impurities, and she looked and felt even more radiant than
ever.  

      For six months her routine involved bathing several times a day in water richly profuse with oil of myrrh.  She soaked in it for about an
hour each session.  Gradually her skin, which had been subject to the drying desert air and winds, became softer and smoother.  The oil
with its sweet fragrance mixed with her own natural body oils until each cell in her skin was saturated with the soft sweetness.  

        Next the emphasis turned to the fragrances which were mixed with lotions and oils and massaged into her skin until these chemicals
gradually fused with her own body's chemicals.  After six months of those treatments, wherever she walked it was as though she'd brought
with her a bouquet of lilies.  

        Also during this year, the young ladies were instructed in the ways of the king.  How they were to bow to him.  When they were
allowed to speak to him.  What they were supposed to say.  They spent long hours practicing with each other.  They were taught the
history of the kingdom, and the background of the king so that in private he could carry on a civil conversation with them if he so desired.  
They were taught his personal likes and dislikes.  They were also warned that they were to never ever ever go see the king without his
prior permission.  Break this rule and they would pay with their life.  

      Their days were full and exciting.  [10]

    As the months passed, Esther made friends with the other women.  And she made friends with the maids, a few of whom were Jewish.  
She suspected they were but never brought it up because of Mordecai's instructions.  

        Gradually she also won the favor of Hegai, the king's eunuch in charge of the women's house.  One day at the end of her year in
the house, Hegai approached Esther.  "You will go to the king next.  The day for which you have been preparing is soon here."  

        "Me?"  For a few moments that is all she could say.  Hegai stood there with a patient smile.  She became flustered.  "What should I
take with me?  I don't know what I'll need."  

        He spent extra time with her that day, having jewelry and silks and linens brought to her.  "They are all pretty to me.  What do you
think I should select?"  

         Hegai had watched women dressed many ways through the last three years.  He knew what looked best on them.  He also had
heard enough of the king's comments to know what appealed to the king most.  With this combined knowledge, he selected for Esther
what she should wear and take with her.  Apparently Hegai knew what he was talking about.  [11]

    She would take with her a robe made from material she had woven herself into a beautiful pattern.  This would show the king that she
was artistic.  She would take with her some bread she had baked herself, and this would show him she was industrious and cared for his
welfare.  She would take with her a book of Persian proverbs, and this would show him she was educated and interested in wise things,
not frivolous things usually associated with such a young lady.  She would wear a necklace with gemstones that were known to be the
king's favorites.  She would also take with her a piece of linen embroidered carefully with the king's name and the phrase, "May the king
live long."    

        Then she was presented to King Xerxes.  

        Although this indeed did much in the beginning to attract his highness to Esther, there was more that was just her.  She wore only a
slight touch of makeup around her eyes, and a pale pink gloss on her lips.  That was all.  Instead of a tiara, she wore a garland of flowers
in her hair.  Instead of hands full of rings, she wore just one simple ring ~ a gold band.  The king saw that she was contented easily, and
could make simplicity elegant.  He'd never thought of it that way, and was charmed.  

      Still that was not all.  Esther spoke softly, yet distinctly, and with a sparkle in her eyes.  She answered his questions readily.  At one
point she dared ask him if he'd like to hear a song.  The innocence of actually daring to ask the king for anything delighted him, and he
consented.  Happy, she indeed was happy, and was helping the king for the moment grow oblivious to the heavy concerns of his empire.  

        Soon there was a wedding.  Esther, the little Jewish captive, was made Queen of the greatest kingdom on earth ~ the Persian
Empire.   [12]

        Esther adapted easily and well to her new role.  She had been raised by her elder cousin who was daily at the gate of the palace
and had all her life come home and told her the way things were going.  She felt as though she already knew most of the people around
the palace.  

         Then, too, Mordecai continued to sit at the gate and hear what the people were saying.  Since he had always been seen there,
none thought it unusual to see him going to her presence for various matters.  He was able to give her insight into things she would not
have normally known of, and thus be a helper to her husband, the king.  

        One such incident occurred when Mordecai overheard two of the king's chamberlains plotting to kill him.  Right away he told Esther,
and Esther told the king in Mordecai's name to make sure he got the credit for saving his royal life.  The two would-be assassins were
executed, and the king had it written in his chronicles along with the fact that a man named Mordecai had been responsible for saving
him.  

        Four years passed.  At this time King Xerxes promoted a new man to the position of prime minister.  His name was Haman.  As
always, it was commanded that whenever Haman passed by anyone other than royalty, they were to bow before him.  But Mordecai could
not bring himself to do so.  

        "Mordecai, do you not know the commandment?" the servants asked him day after day.  

         "Yes, I know.  But Haman does not deserve such reverence.  He is self-serving and will not be good for the kingdom.  He is not like
that great prime minister Daniel."  

        "Who was Daniel?"  

        "Have you forgotten so easily?  He was prime minster of Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar right after he brought the Jews captive to
this land."  

        "Never heard of him."  

        "He was one of the captives.  Yet he was so wise, the king made him prime minister.  He knew Daniel's heart was with Jehovah, and
wanted nothing but the best for the king and the kingdom."  

        "Oh, that Daniel.  And that Jehovah.  He's a God of the Jews.  Then you must be a Jew also, I take it."  

        "Yes, I am.  You have known that for years.  I love the kingdom as much as you do. I love it as much as Daniel did.  And I love it as
much as Joseph did when he went from slavery to prime minister of Egypt."  

        "Egypt?  Joseph?  Another captive?  [13]

        Haman became more and more disturbed each day that he went through the king's gate.  Every day that man Mordecai mockingly
refused to bow to him in respect.  He demanded finally to know who he was.  The servants gave him the name, and also told him his
nationality.  

        "A Jew, you say?  Well, we shall do something about that, gentlemen."  

         Haman told Xerxes that all Jews hated his kingdom and did not obey his laws.  As far as Haman was concerned, all Jews ought to be
exterminated - for the sake of the kingdom.  And, as a side note, Haman was prepared to donate to the king's treasury twenty million
dollars in silver to finance the campaign to save the kingdom from these people.  

        This was quite tempting to Xerxes.  More than he could turn down.  His thinking became clouded by it.  He did not investigate to see
whether Haman was right.  He sealed the mandate with his official ring.  

        Mordecai was the first of the Jews to receive the news about his people's impending extermination.  Haman knew he would be.  That
was good.  He wanted Mordecai to suffer the anguish longest.    

      Immediately Mordecai put on mourning clothes and went out into the streets of the city crying loudly with a most bitter cry and warning
his people.  Eventually he ended up back at the king's gate.  But of course he could not be allowed back in looking like that.  

        The servants passed word among each other about Mordecai, and eventually Esther was notified. She was alarmed about her
cousin's mourning clothes, but none dared be the one to tell her the reason.  Sometimes she felt as though she was the last one around
the palace to hear anything.  She sent clothing to Mordecai at the gate so he could enter the palace and she could find out what was
going on.  

        Her cousin refused to take off his mourning clothes.  Instead he sent word back of the mandate, along with a written copy of it, and
informed her the size of Haman's bribe.  He begged her to go before the king to save her people.  

        Her people?  

        When Esther received word what was going on, she was shocked and perplexed.  Her people were about to die.  But what could she
do?  If she appeared before the king to tell him anything, and if he didn't like what she had to say, he could have her executed.  She
already knew what he had done with Vashti for much less.  She just couldn't take such chances.  [14]

        Mordecai received her message, and hurriedly wrote one back to her.  She sat down and read the message.  Then she read them
again.  And again.  Over and over she read the words:  

         Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape.  For if you remain silent at this time,
relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish.  And who knows but that you
have come to royal position for such a time as this?  

        "Such a time as this.  Who knows but that you have come for such a time as this?"  

        The words kept repeating themselves in her mind.  "For such a time as this.  For such a time as this."  Is this the critical time for
which God set me in the kingdom?  Was I set here to save his people from annihilation?  

        She continued to struggle.  She thought of all Mordecai's teachings while still a child.  Joseph was made prime minister of Egypt and
saved God's people from the famine.  Daniel was made prime minister of Babylon, and the king ordered all its citizens to respect Jehovah
as God of the universe.    

        For such a time as this....  

         What would Joseph have done in this situation?  What would Daniel have done?  Daniel was willing to die, torn in shreds by the
beasts in order to stand up for his God.    

         The beasts.  She recalled how she used to call bad kings beasts.  That was so long ago.  And now she, like Daniel, must decide
whether to throw herself to the mercy of a beast.  

        Esther prayed.  Long.  Earnestly.  With tears.  With agonies.  "What am I willing to do in order to stand up for the people of God?  
Oh, God, help me know."  Yet deep down, she really knew all along.  

         Several hours later she came out of her room, called for a messenger, and gave him this reply for Mordecai:  

         Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Shushan, and fast for me.  Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day.  I and my
maids will fast as you do.  When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law.  AND IF I PERISH, I PERISH.  
[15]

         Immediately after the messenger left, she sent for the scroll of Daniel, which was part of the official state archives.  Then she retired
to her room and sent for her closest maid, whom she knew to be Jewish.  She revealed her nationality to her, then told her to go to the
other palace maids who were Jewish and bring them to her room as quickly as possible.  They would be safe, for no one questioned the
queen's activities except the king.  

        Quietly the word spread throughout the palace, subtly but efficiently so that no one was left out who needed to know.  They all
subtly and quietly, one at a time, went to Esther's quarters.  

         There she explained everything and they agreed to fast with her.  The rest of that day and the next she alternately read aloud from
Daniel's writings, allowed various women to quote from the books of Moses as they remembered, and prayed.  Sometimes they prayed
together.  Sometimes in twos or threes.  Often alone.  

         "We afflict ourselves before you, oh Jehovah God.  We are sacrificing what keeps our bodies alive in order to show how deeply we
beg for your help.  Please save us from destruction.  Oh Lord, we are so frightened.  What can stop them?  Only you can stop them.  
Please let us live.  Let us live.  Oh God, we want to live."  

         When food was brought to Esther, she sent it back untouched.  However, she did make sure there was plenty of water to drink for
her and the others.  When they missed their first meal, they felt the loss - the hunger pains; but eventually that left.  Then, as their
energies left off concentrating on providing strength to the body, their energies were able to concentrate on providing strength to the
mind.  With that they were able to pray with more depth and understanding.  Sometimes someone would quote a psalm of their people's
beloved king David.    

        Oh God, whom I praise, do not remain silent, for wicked and deceitful men have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken
against me with lying tongues....I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me.  I fade away like an evening shadow; I am
shaken off like a locust.  My knees give way from fasting; my body is thin and gaunt.  

         Gradually a plan formulated in Esther's mind.  And gradually her faith that it would work grew.  

        More prayers, more meditations, more moments of silence, more of the comforting psalms:  "As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.  When can I go and meet with God?  My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me
all day long, 'Where is your God?'"  

      At the end of the three days of fasting and prayer, Esther spoke to them all before sending them away.  She explained her plan.  
Then she told them to go back to their rooms and drink some juice and eat a little bread.  By morning their bodies would be starting to get
used to food again.  They prayed one last time together, and left.  [16]
                                                    Part 3 ~ Heroine  

        The next morning Esther became quite busy, as though nothing had happened.  She called her cooks and ordered that a banquet
be prepared with the king's favorite foods.  And the banquet room was to be decorated in his favorite colors - blue and white.  

        When all was carried out and ready, she put on her royal robes and went to the king's throne room.  She said a silent prayer for
safety.  The king was sitting on his throne facing the entrance, and soon saw her standing there quietly.    

        What would he do?  Would she die for coming to him unsummoned?  Her heart beat faster.    

        Xerxes smiled and immediately held out to her his golden scepter in approval.  She breathed relief, and slowly approached him and
touched the tip of the scepter.  

        "What is it, Queen Esther?  What is your request?  For you I will give anything your heart desires, even up to half my kingdom."  

        Carefully she worded it, for he could always change his mind and send her to the gallows.  "If it pleases the king, let your majesty,
along with Prime Minister Haman, come to a banquet I have prepared especially for you."  

        The king grinned widely.  Then he called out.  "Bring Haman at once, so we may do what Esther asks!  Everyone else wanting to
see me will have to come back tomorrow."  

        Word was sent to Haman who quickly donned his royal robes and joined the king at the special banquet.  How thrilled he was to be
the honored guest of both the king and his beautiful queen.  

        Soon they were eating and drinking and enjoying the special attention.  When they were beginning to get filled, Esther's husband,
who knew she had some other excitement up her sleeve, said, "Now tell me the rest of your petition.  Remember, whatever you request,
even to half the kingdom, it is yours for the asking."  

        But the time was not quite right.  She knew what she would say.  "My petition and request is this:  If the king regards me with favor
and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to another banquet I will have
prepared for them.  Then I will answer the king's question."  

        Well now, that was some wife he had.  He kind of liked the way she played this little game with him and he was willing to go along.  
His curiosity was mounting, and he hadn't had so much fun in ages it seemed.  Haman wasn't adverse to the idea either.  A second time
as their royal guest - two days in a row!  [17]

        On Haman's way out of the palace to go home that night he was in high spirits, but couldn't help but be highly irritated by Mordecai's
persistent refusal to bow to him as he passed.  "His time will come," he thought to himself.  

        Once home, he told his wife how well things were going for him in government affairs.  "That's not all.  I'm the only person Queen
Esther invited to accompany the king to the banquet she gave.  AND, she has invited me along with the king to do it again tomorrow."  

        His family congratulated him on his successes and said things were really looking up for him at long last.  

        "But I'm haunted by one thing.  It throws a catch in to all my success.  That Mordecai still mocks me and refuses to bow down when I
pass.  I can't get that man out of my mind."  [18]

        "Have a gallows built then, and ask the king in the morning to have Mordecai hung on it.  Then go on to your dinner and be happy."  
Haman was so blinded by his hatred that the simplistic idea appealed to him and he thought he could actually carry it out.  Immediately he
ordered the gallows built in his own yard.  The workers would build on it all night so that it would be completed by morning.  
         Haman slept well that night, despite the hammering outside his window.  But it must have disturbed the king's sleep.  He finally
called for one of his servants.  

        "I just cannot sleep.  I keep thinking there's something I started once and need to take care of.  But for the life of me I cannot think
what it was.  Bring me the chronicles of my reign thus far."  

        The chronicles were brought.  "Start at the beginning.  I will know it when you come to it.  Then, maybe I can get some sleep ~ and if
that hammering out there stops."  

        Carefully each scroll was read.  When at last they came to the recording of Mordecai exposing the conspiracy to assassinate the
king, it stirred his memory.  "What honor did I give him for it?"  

         "None that is recorded here, your highness."  

        The king walked to the window.  Had they been reading that long?  It was morning.  He turned and decided he's get some advice,
since people were up and around now.  

        "Who is in the court?"  

        Just then Haman arrived, ready to ask permission to hang Mordecai.  Instead he was ushered in to the king and asked, "What
should be done for the man the king delights to honor?"  [19]

        Haman could hardly believe his ears.  Not only was he eating with the king, but now the king wanted to do something even more for
him.  What luck!  Little did Haman know.  

        "He should be given a royal robe and placed on the king's steed and led through the streets with proclamations of honor called out
to the people as they proceed."  

        "Then it shall be done.  Do this for Mordecai the Jew.  And do it immediately before I forget again."  

        Haman stood there stunned.  But the order had to be carried out.  

        Not only did Haman have to supply the robe and horse, but he had to personally make the declaration of honor before the people
as he personally led Mordecai's horse.  Full of humiliation, he retreated home afterwards.  His wife could only reply that Mordecai was a
Jew and the Jews had a way of prevailing in whatever they did.  Then Haman hurried off with the king's servants to Esther's banquet and
tried to disguise his hurt pride.  

        "Haman, why so dejected looking?"  

        "Oh, I tripped while leading Mordecai's horse, and I'm afraid my foot is hurting me.  It's my foot."  

        "Well, I hope it heals soon.  You look terrible."  [20]

        The banquet progressed and Haman's appetite began to return.  Finally, once again King Xerxes asked his queen, "What is your
petition?  Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted."  

        Queen Esther had prayed and fasted for three days.  Then she trusted in God.  And now she knew the time was right.  

        "If I have found favor with you...."  

        "Favor?  Of course favor!  You are my beautiful queen whom I love and adore!"  

        "....Oh King, if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life.  This is my petition."  

        "Your life?  I have not given any order that your life be taken.  I would never do such a thing.  You are too good to me.  I love you
too much.  Is there someone else threatening you?  Tell me who it is.  I'll have him executed."  

        "....And spare my people.  This is my request."  

        "Your people?"  

        Haman sat at the other end of the table listening in horror.  

        "I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation."  

        "Sold?  For gold and silver?"  

        "If we had merely been sold as slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king."  

        "Sold?  Who is he?  Where is the man who has dared do such a thing?"  

        "The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman.  I am Jewish."  

        "Jewish?  Jewish?"  His head reeled trying to make a connection.  "The mandate!  The killing of all Jews because Haman said they
did not obey my laws.  But have I not proof that they do love me?  Did not that Jew Mordecai save my life?  Is not my loyal queen Jewish?  
Haman has lied to me!"  

        At this the king rose and in his rage he went out into the palace garden to think and absorb all that had just been told him.  "He lied
to me!  He deceived me!  He betrayed my trust!  He must die!  He will die!"  [21]

        Knowing all too well what the king was planning and that his fate was sealed, Haman stayed behind with Esther, hoping that she
could plead his case before the king for mercy.  

        "Please, your majesty.  Save me!  Save me!"  He knelt at her feet and grasped her skirts.  

        "Like you were going to save my people?"  

        "Oh, I will do anything you ask.  I will adore you and honor you and love you.  Please."  He put his hands on her shoulders and
begged.  

        Just then King Xerxes returned to the room.  His anger exploded.  "Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the
house?"  

        "Your Majesty." One of his servants standing nearby saw his opportunity to see that justice was done.  "I heard early this morning
that Haman had gallows built outside his house to hang Mordecai on today."  

        The king looked at Haman.  "Hang him on it!"    

        Esther's plan had worked.  Haman was in the presence of the king when he learned of the betrayal and could not escape.  The
guards immediately seized Haman and dragged him out of the room and out of the palace as he continued to demand mercy.  [22]

        "Now send for Mordecai.  Have him come before me in my throne room."  

        When Mordecai arrived, he thought it was to his execution.  Instead, Xerxes made him prime minister of Persia in Haman's place.  
Then he proclaimed that Esther was to be given all of Haman's estate for her own.  

        Mordecai went to Esther and told her the news.  

        "But what about our ultimate fate?  The mandate created by Haman still must be carried out; the law cannot be changed."  The tears
were quick to return to her eyes.  

        "You are right.  What shall we do?"  

        She took a deep breath.  "I will return to the king."  

        Esther yet again went to the throne room and stood in the doorway as she had two days earlier.  Mordecai stood there with her in
silence.  Still she could not hold back her tears, and the normally regal queen rushed to the king and fell at his feet without a summons.  
Mordecai gasped.  But her husband loved her.  As a matter of formality, he held out the golden scepter to her and told her to stand.  She
remained where she was.  Mordecai joined her.  

        "If it pleases the king," she sobbed from behind her veil, "and if he regards me with favor...and thinks it is the right thing to do...and if
he is pleased with me...."  

        He did not want to lose Esther as he had Vashti.  They talked softly so that only those closest to them could hear.  "Yes, my wife.  I
know what your fears are.  Tell me what I can do.  The mandate to have the Jews exterminated has already been written and sent out.  It
cannot be rescinded."  

        She looked at him with new hope.  Breathing a prayer, she spoke carefully.  "Let an order be written overruling the dispatches that
Haman devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king's provinces.  For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people.  How can I
bear to see the destruction of my family?"  

        The king looked over at Mordecai.  "Esther is right.  I gave you the authority to write out any edict you so determine to supplement
the earlier mandate.  Then have it written in every language of the people and dispatched throughout the empire as quickly as possible."  

        Mordecai immediately summoned secretaries and ordered them to write a new mandate that on the day of the massacre, the Jews
be allowed to protect themselves and kill anyone who comes at them armed to take their property or their lives.  [23]

        Every Jew within every city of the empire celebrated as soon as they heard.  What a triumph!  The Jews were saved!  God had
heard their cries!  Oh praise Jehovah!  So great was the joy of the people that an annual celebration was established and kept for
centuries afterwards in memory of this day.  

        And now Esther and old Mordecai were reunited as a family.  Once again they were able to walk together, and talk together, and
read about old Daniel together.  But no longer was Daniel someone distant to them.  Esther and her cousin felt they had a great deal in
common with him.  Daniel had fulfilled his duties to God and his people while keeping the king happy whom he served.  Queen Esther,
Empress of the Persian Empire, Esther the Jew, felt the same way.  

        She'd been sent to the kingdom for such a time as this.  She saw it when the time came.  With unblemished beautiful faith she had
stood up in the face of the beast and fulfilled her destiny.
                                              THOUGHT QUESTIONS

                                                  Part 1 ~ Commoner

1.        Do you have a favorite Bible person whom you've loved hearing about all your life (1 Corinthians 10:11)?  Tell who it is and why.

2.        We have opportunities to share God's Word with people at all kinds of times.  Often we miss these opportunities because we are not alert to
them.  Jesus took advantage of them all the time (John 4:7,13,14).  Give examples of how an event in our everyday life can be an opener to make a
comment about God's concern for someone.

3.        Have you ever  wondered about anything exciting you'd like to see or do, never dreaming it would become a reality some day?  Share t.  Did
such scriptures as Psalm73:23,24 come to your mind afterwards?  In what way?

4.        Although it is doubtful they ever met, Esther had an example of an older woman who stood up against wrong no matter what the consequences.  
In this case, it could have cost Vashti her life.  Tell about an older woman who was an inspiration to you to stand up for right even when it was
unpopular.  What were the consequences?  How can Romans 8:31 help at such a time as this?

5.        When you were younger, did you ever listen to advice of a group of people and then later wish you hadn't (Exodus 23:2)?  What was your
relationship with these people like afterwards?

6.        Were you ever chosen for something pleasant you were not expecting?  Talk about the fine line between agreeing with the other people's praise
of you and praising yourself (Proverbs 27:2).

7.        Were you ever praised or honored by someone else and did not know what to do, how to handle it as a Christian?  If you were the poor person
referred to in James 2:2,3,and were treated like the rich person suddenly, how would you probably react?

8.        Did you ever go to a home much finer than yours, or to a dinner with people you'd always thought superior to you in wealth or fame?  Tell about
your awkwardness among them?  Did you find such things as which fork to use, when to bring up certain subjects, etc. a major task?  One man in the
Bible was suddenly thrust in to high society (1 Samuel 10:22-24).  How did he react?  How does it make you feel knowing others have had the same
fears?

GOOD WORK:  Write a note to a teenage girl telling her she has a wonderful; life ahead of her.  Encourage her to pry and trust in the Lord in all things.


                                                Part 2 ~ Queen

9.        God made beauty.  He likes it and approves of it.  Heaven will be full of it.  Yet beauty can be a real burden instead of blessing to a Christian
woman.  Why (Proverbs 31:30).  Give some examples.

10.        We should take care of ourselves.  Good nutrition, fresh cleanliness, and skin protected from the elements are all important.  Discuss how each
of the above influences our health and disposition.  Then read Romans 12:1 and tell how these affect the purpose of our bodies.

11.        When we lead a family, a discussion, an organization, etc. we tend to think if we ask advice, people will think we are not smart enough to led.  
What does the Bible say about it (Proverbs 12:15)?  Discuss examples of both.

12.        To be made queen in the hearts of our family and friends, we must follow what principle that does not make sense to most people (Matthew
20:25-28)?  Share some experiences where you were pleasantly surprised with such results.

13.        We never know who we are influencing.  Joseph undoubtedly influenced Daniel (Genesis 39:4,5,21,22; 41:38-40); and Daniel Mordecai (Daniel
1:9; 2:47,48); and Mordecai Esther.  Tell of someone you have long admired from a distance without them even being aware of it.  What does that tell us
we should do with our own lives?

14.        Did you ever stand up for right and it backfire on you?  You thought you'd be appreciated but instead things looked worse.  Moses experienced
rejection by his own people when he killed one of their taskmasters to protect them (Exodus 2:11-14).  How did you feel?  How can you overcome this
feeling (Romans 8:28)?  

15.        Is it possible to have a misguided sense of modesty and thereby let people down when you are needed?  Joseph stepped forward when he saw a
solution to a worldwide famine problem (Genesis 4:5).  How can you overcome being "too modest" when you are the only one who can do a particular
job?

16.        Jesus expected us to fast (Matthew 6:16). Isaiah 58:3-5 explains fasting is a symbol of afflicting our souls before God so that he will hear us.  
It teaches the faster humility and greater reliance on God
. Have you ever fasted?  What did it do for you.  If not, what concerns you about fasting and
what would encourage you to try it.  

GOOD WORK:  Send a note to someone you have long admired and who perhaps does not even realize it.  Thank them for their example and perhaps
tell of a time their example encouraged your response to a difficult situation.


                                                Part 3 ~ Heroine
       
17.        We humans can be easily distracted from a noble purpose even after fasting.  Esther could have accepted the king's offer for half the kingdom
considering the offer might never be made to her again.  After being baptized and God  announcing to the world that Jesus was actually his Son,  
Matthew 4:1-10 says that he went through a terrible series of temptations after that.  Satan was trying to get him off the track of living a perfect life and
then dying in our place on the cross.  Do you recall a time you almost got off the track of helping someone because of an offer by someone else.  How
did you feel about it?

18.        Do you think when we show extra attention to people who do not think well of you, they are likely to become more introspective about the kind
of person they really are?  John 13:34 says that, after Jesus had spent his life doing good to others, he expected his followers to good to each other and
to everyone.  Proverbs 25:21 & 11 says if our enemy is hungry, feed her; if she is thirsty, give her a drink; and thereby heap coals of fire on her head
and she'll feel guilty for the way she treated you.  

19.        Have you ever caught yourself just before you got into such difficulty?  How did you feel after you reevaluated your priorities?   Greed
eventually leaves us with nothing.  If we run over enough people, others will begin to take a second look even at former friends.  Proverbs 9:6; 18:7;
25:6,7 tells us to get away from fools and live.  A fool's mouth will destroy him.  Those who brag how great they are will be put down and made to look
ridiculous.

20.        If you were being falsely accused, what would be your best defense?  Esther and Mordecai emphasized serving.  Haman emphasized being
served.  She knew actions speak louder than words, and eventually it would be the queen's word against the prime minister's word.  She knew, too, the
outcome would mean death to one of them.  John 3:18 says our deeds tell the truth about what we are.  Have you ever experienced anything like this?

21.        Once a person lies about you and people find out they were deceived, how much are they likely to believe the deceiver in even innocent things
after that?   Remember Ecclesiastes 7:1a says a good name is more valuable than anything else we possess.

22.      Although the enemy was now gone, the problem yet remained and Esther had to appear before the king once again.  How many times could she
submit her life like this?  Does it become any easier?  Matthew 24:13 says those who endure to the end will be saved.  Have you ever known anyone to
give up just before the completion?  

23.      Is it self-conceit to think you as one person can make a difference?  The heroes of the Bible are lauded in Hebrews 11.  Read together verses
33-38.  Did they become heroes because things went easy or hard for them?  What if Jesus' ancestors in Esther's day had never been threatened with
annihilation?  Can one person make the difference?  2 Corinthians 6:1 says we are workers together with God!  Are you willing to be on the watch from
this day forward for the purpose for which you were born, small or great?  Yes or no?

GOOD WORK:  Send a petition to someone in congress fighting for a good cause and tell him or her you support it.