Click to enlargeQueen Esther

Esther's story begins in Persia at the palace of King Ahasuerus, ruler of the most powerful empire of his time, about 24 centuries ago. His proud queen, Vashti, refuses to attend a feast at his command and is cast aside. The king selects Esther, a ravishing Jewish beauty, from a throng of beautiful virgins vying to be his new queen. Her uncle and adoptive father, Mordecai, warns her not to reveal her race to anyone.

The king's Prime Minister, Haman, hates Mordecai because he refuses to bow down to him. Haman persuades the king to pass an edict authorizing the wholesale massacre of the Jews and the confiscation of their property. Mordecai sends an urgent message to Esther asking her to intervene on their behalf. Esther is afraid. She is forbidden to approach the king uninvited, on pain of death. However, she makes a brave decision that changes history.

"I will go into the king, and if I perish, I perish."

Welcomed by her husband, she requests only that he and Haman dine with her that evening. At dinner she invites them for another meal next day when she will make a request. Emboldened by these favors, Haman has a gallows built to hang Mordecai. However, when he sees the king next morning, Ahasuerus asks him how he should honor a loyal servant. Unknown to Haman, the king has spent a sleepless night going through records where he has discovered that Mordecai once saved his life, but was never rewarded.

Thinking the king means to honor him, Haman suggests that the man be dressed in royal robes and paraded through the city. He is devastated when he is ordered to honor Mordecai instead. But worse is to come At Esther's second dinner, she accuses Haman of orchestrating her murder, and the murder of her people, the Jews. Ahasuerus is outraged.

Haman is hung from the gallows he built for Mordecai. The Jews are given permission to defend themselves and triumph handily over their enemies. Mordecai becomes the king's new minister, and serves him faithfully and well. Esther lives, a beloved queen who is regarded as the savior of her people. Every year, the Jews celebrate the Festival of Purim remembering Esther and their delivery from certain death. (Blank inside.Story and Biblical references on back.)

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