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Portrait of a Persian lady, from Persepolis (Archaeological museum, Tehran)
The historicity of the story has been questioned with sound arguments. No queen with this name is known from other sources, for example, and the names of two of the protagonists, Esther and Mordecai, look suspiciously like the names of the Babylonian gods Ištar and Marduk. On the other hand, the story is dated to the third year of Xerxes (483/482 BCE), immediately after a serious crisis in Babylonia (the revolt of Bêl-šimânni and Šamaš-eriba), and many details betray knowledge of the Achaemenid royal palace in Susa.
The translation of the short
version is offered here in the Revised Standard Version.
that day King Ahasverus gave to Queen Esther the house of Haman, the enemy
of the Jews. And Mordecai came before the king, for Esther had told what
he was to her; and
the king took off his signet ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave
it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman. Then
Esther spoke again to the king; she fell at his feet and besought him with
tears to avert the evil design of Haman the Ag'agite and the plot which
he had devised against the Jews. And
the king held out the golden scepter to Esther, and
Esther rose and stood before the king. And she said, "If it please the
king, and if I have found favor in his sight, and if the thing seem right
before the king, and I be pleasing in his eyes, let an order be written
to revoke the letters devised by Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha,
which he wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the provinces of the
how can I endure to see the calamity that is coming to my people? Or how
can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?"
Then King Ahasverus said to Queen Esther and to Mordecai the Jew, "Behold, I have given Esther the house of Haman, and they have hanged him on the gallows, because he would lay hands on the Jews. And you may write as you please with regard to the Jews, in the name of the king, and seal it with the king's ring; for an edict written in the name of the king and sealed with the king's ring cannot be revoked."
The king's secretaries were summoned at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day; and an edict was written according to all that Mordecai commanded concerning the Jews to the satraps and the governors and the princes of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, a hundred and twenty-seven provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, and also to the Jews in their script and their language.
The writing was in the name of King Ahasverus and sealed with the king's ring, and letters were sent by mounted couriers riding on swift horses that were used in the king's service, bred from the royal stud. By these the king allowed the Jews who were in every city to gather and defend their lives, to destroy, to slay, and to annihilate any armed force of any people or province that might attack them, with their children and women, and to plunder their goods, upon one day throughout all the provinces of King Ahasverus, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar [8 March 473].
A copy of what was written was to be issued as a decree in every province, and by proclamation to all peoples, and the Jews were to be ready on that day to avenge themselves upon their enemies. So the couriers, mounted on their swift horses that were used in the king's service, rode out in haste, urged by the king's command; and the decree was issued in Susa the capital.
Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a mantle of fine linen and purple, while the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor. And in every province and in every city, wherever the king's command and his edict came, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many from the peoples of the country declared themselves Jews, for the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them.
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Latest revision: 29 October 2006