Dream of Mordecai. 1In the second year of the reign of Ahasuerus the great, on the first day of Nisan, Mordecai, son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, had a dream.* a 2* He was a Jew residing in the city of Susa, a prominent man who served at the king’s court, 3and one of the captives whom Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had taken from Jerusalem with Jeconiah, king of Judah.b
4c This was his dream.* There was noise and tumult, thunder and earthquake—confusion upon the earth. 5Two great dragons advanced, both poised for combat. They uttered a mighty cry, 6and at their cry every nation prepared for war, to fight against the nation of the just. 7It was a dark and gloomy day. Tribulation and distress, evil and great confusion, lay upon the earth. 8The whole nation of the just was shaken with fear at the evils to come upon them, and they expected to perish. 9d Then they cried out to God, and from their crying there arose, as though from a tiny spring, a mighty river, a flood of water. 10The light of the sun broke forth; the lowly were exalted and they devoured the boastful.
Mordecai Thwarts an Assassination.* 12e Mordecai lodged in the courtyard with Bigthan and Teresh, two eunuchs of the king who guarded the courtyard. 13He overheard them plotting, investigated their plans, and discovered that they were preparing to assassinate King Ahasuerus. So he informed the king about them. 14The king had the two eunuchs questioned and, upon their confession, put to death. 15Then the king had these things recorded; Mordecai, too, put them into writing. 16The king also appointed Mordecai to serve at the court, and rewarded him for his actions.f
* [A:1] The genealogy of Mordecai is designed to reflect opposition to Israel’s enemy Haman, an Agagite (v. 17). In 1 Sm 15:1–9, Saul (whose father’s name was Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin) conquered Agag the Amalekite.
* [A:12–17] Retells the story in 2:21–23, but with several differences. Addition A has Mordecai inform the king directly, whereas in 2:22 Mordecai informs the king through Esther after she has become queen. A:16 has Mordecai rewarded immediately after his service, whereas the Hebrew text defers the reward of Mordecai to 6:3–13. In A:17, the failure of the eunuchs’ plot becomes Haman’s reason for seeking the destruction of Mordecai and his people, something which the Hebrew text attributes to Mordecai’s refusal to bow to Haman (see note on 3:2).
* [A:17] A Bougean: the origin of this term is unknown; it may represent a garbled attempt to render the Hebrew “Agagite” (3:1). In the Greek additions Haman not only knows the plot to assassinate the king, but is apparently a co-conspirator.
II. ESTHER BECOMES QUEEN
The Banquet of Ahasuerus. 1* During the reign of Ahasuerus—the same Ahasuerus who ruled over a hundred and twenty-seven provinces from India to Ethiopia— 2while he was occupying the royal throne in the royal precinct of Susa,* 3in the third year of his reign, he gave a feast for all his officials and ministers: the Persian and Median army officers, the nobles, and the governors of the provinces.a 4For as many as a hundred and eighty days, he displayed the glorious riches of his kingdom and the resplendent wealth of his royal estate.
5At the end of this time the king gave a feast of seven days in the garden court of the royal palace for all the people, great and small, who were in the royal precinct of Susa. 6There were white cotton draperies and violet hangings, held by cords of fine crimson linen from silver rings on marble pillars. Gold and silver couches were on a mosaic pavement, which was of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and colored stones. 7Drinks were served in a variety of golden cups, and the royal wine flowed freely, as befitted the king’s liberality. 8By ordinance of the king the drinking was unstinted, for he had instructed all the stewards of his household to comply with the good pleasure of everyone. 9Queen Vashti also gave a feast for the women in the royal palace of King Ahasuerus.
Refusal of Vashti. 10On the seventh day, when the king was merry with wine, he instructed Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who attended King Ahasuerus,b 11to bring Queen Vashti into his presence wearing the royal crown, that he might display her beauty to the populace and the officials, for she was lovely to behold. 12But Queen Vashti refused to come at the royal order issued through the eunuchs. At this the king’s wrath flared up, and he burned with fury. 13He conferred with the sages who understood the times, because the king’s business was conducted in general consultation with lawyers and jurists. 14He summoned Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven Persian and Median officials who were in the king’s personal service and held first rank in the realm,c 15and asked them, “What is to be done by law with Queen Vashti for disobeying the order of King Ahasuerus issued through the eunuchs?”
16In the presence of the king and of the officials, Memucan answered: “Queen Vashti has not wronged the king alone, but all the officials and the populace throughout the provinces of King Ahasuerus. 17For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and they will look with disdain upon their husbands when it is reported, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded that Queen Vashti be ushered into his presence, but she would not come.’ 18This very day the Persian and Median noblewomen who hear of the queen’s conduct will recount it to all the royal officials, and disdain and rancor will abound. 19If it please the king, let an irrevocable royal decree* be issued by him and inscribed among the laws of the Persians and Medes, forbidding Vashti to come into the presence of King Ahasuerus and authorizing the king to give her royal dignity to one more worthy than she.d 20Thus, when the decree that the king will issue is published throughout his realm, vast as it is, all wives will honor their husbands, from the greatest to the least.”
21This proposal pleased the king and the officials, and the king acted on the advice of Memucan. 22He sent letters to all the royal provinces, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, to the effect that every man should be lord in his own home.
* [1:1] The Hebrew text opens with a portrait of the power and luxury of the Persian king Ahasuerus (Xerxes I, whose empire consisted of only about thirty provinces).
* [1:2] Susa was the winter capital of the Persian empire. The “royal precinct” (sometimes translated “stronghold” or “citadel”) was a well-fortified section of the city that included the king’s residence. The Book of Esther depicts other citizens living in this section as well.
* [1:19] An irrevocable royal decree: the first of several in the book. In a satiric portrayal, even a minor domestic disagreement is resolved through a sweeping international edict. The irrevocable nature of the decree is intended to increase its force, but creates problems if the king needs to adapt to new information or conditions. See note on 8:8.