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THE STORY OF ESTHER

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\OW it came to pass in the third year of the reign of Ahasuerus, when the king sat on the throne which is in Shushan the palace, he made a feast unto all his princes and servants, and showed the riches of his glorious kingdom for many days. And when these days were expired, the king made a feast in Shushan the palace, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king's palace.

The silken hangings were white, green, and blue, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings and pillars of marble; and the couches were of gold and silver, upon a pavement of red, and blue, and white, and black marble.

On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry, he commanded the chamberlains that served in his presence to bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to show the people and the princes her beauty; for she was fair to look on.

But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king's commandment by his chamberlains; therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.

Then the king said to the wise men, "What shall I do unto Queen Vashti because she has not performed the commandment of the King?"

And they answered before the king, "Vashti the queen hath done wrong not to the king only, but also to the princes and to all the people in all the provinces of the king's dominions. Therefore, if it please the king, let there go a royal commandment from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, which may not be altered, 'Vashti shall come no more before King Ahasuerus;' and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she."

And the saying pleased the king and the princes, and the king did according to the word of the wise men.

II

i^FTER these things, when the wrath of King Ahasuerus was appeased, the servants that ministered unto the king said, "Let there be fair young virgins sought for the king. And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace, to the house of the women, unto the custody of Hege the king's chamberlain, and let the maiden which pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti."

And the thing pleased the king; and he did so. Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, who had been carried from Jerusalem into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, and who brought up Esther, his uncle's daughter. She had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai took for his own daughter. So it came to pass, when the king's commandment and his decree were heard, and when many maidens were gathered together unto Shushan the palace, that Esther was brought also unto the king's house, to the custody of Hege.

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The maiden pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him, and he preferred her and her maids unto the best in the house of the women. And Mordecai walked every day before the court of the women's house, to know how Esther did, and what should become of her.

So Esther was taken unto King Ahasuerus, and the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.

Then the king made a great feast unto all his princes and his servants, even Esther's feast.

And when the virgins were gathered together the second time, then Mordecai sat in the king's gate.

Esther had not yet told her kindred nor her people, as Mordecai had charged her; for Esther did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was brought up by him.

In those days, while Mordecai sat in the king's gate, two of the king's chamberlains, who kept the door, were wroth, and sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus.

And the thing was known to Mordecai, who told it unto Esther the queen; and Esther told the king thereof in Mordecai's name.

And when inquisition was made of the matter, it was found true; therefore they were both hanged on a tree.

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Ill

FTER these things did King Ahasuerus promote Haman the son of Hammedatha, and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him.

And all the king's servants, that were in the king's gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman; for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence.

Then the king's servants, that were in the king's gate, said unto Mordecai, "Why transgressest thou the king's commandment?"

Now it came to pass, when they spake daily unto him, and he hearkened not unto them, that they told Haman, for Mordecai had told them that he was a Jew.

And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath.

And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even all the people of Mordecai.

And Haman said unto King Ahasuerus, "There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people, neither keep they the king's laws; therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them.

"If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver to the hands of those that have the charge of the business, to bring it into the king's treasuries."

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And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Hainan, the son of Hammedatha, the Jews' enemy, and said:

"The people are given to thee to do with them as it seemeth good to thee."

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