Esther and Purim - why do we celebrate Purim? What did Esther do? Who is Haman?
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

Purim and Esther

Esther and Purim story
Mordecai is leading Esther (on the horse) to talk to the Persian king
A fresco from the world's oldest preserved synagogue
at Dura-Europos in Syria (244 AD)

According to the Bible, Esther was a Jewish woman who lived in the Persian Empire, about 400 BC. There's no evidence that Esther (ESS-ter) really existed outside of the Bible. In the story, Esther's mother and father were dead, and she was living with her older cousin Mordecai, who was taking care of her. Mordecai (MORE-duh-ki) worked for the Persian king. Then King Ahasuerus (possibly the Persian king we call Artaxerxes II) held a beauty contest to find a wife, and he chose Esther and married her. He didn't know that Esther was Jewish, but he loved her very much.

King Ahasuerus' vizier, Haman, was very powerful (like Jafar in the Aladdin movie). When he rode down the street on his horse, everyone bowed down. But Mordecai would not bow down to Haman (HAY-man), because he would only bow down to God. Haman got angry and decided to kill all the Jews because of this. Mordecai was very upset, and he called for Esther. When Esther came to him, he told her that she was the only one who could save the Jews.

Esther was afraid to talk to the king, and she fasted and prayed for three days before she got the courage to talk to him. But finally she asked the king to have dinner with her and Haman the next night, and the king agreed.

Esther
Esther and the hanging of Haman
from the Danish church at Tirsted (1400 AD)

Meanwhile Haman had a huge gallows built outside the palace to hang Esther's uncle Mordecai and kill him. But during dinner, Esther told the king that she was Jewish, and asked King Ahasuerus to stop Haman's plan to kill the Jews. The king was very angry at Haman and he told his guards to hang Haman on his own gallows. Then King Ahasuerus made Mordecai his new vizier. So Jewish people kept on living in the Persian Empire for many more years, and some are still there today.

To buy an excellent Child's Bible, click on the picture (this is the one
I learned from, and the one I give my own kids):


Children's Bible

The Persians and the Jews
More about the Persian Empire
Alexander and the Maccabees
Main Judaism page
Main religion page


LIMITED TIME OFFER FOR TEACHERS: Using this article with your class? Show us your class page where you're using this article, and we'll send you a free subscription so all your students can use Quatr.us Study Guides with no distractions! (Not a teacher? Paid subscriptions are also available for just $16/year!)
Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Did you find what you needed? Ask your teacher to link to this page so other people can use it too! Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article

Does your class page honor diversity, celebrate feminism, and support people of color, LBGTQ people, and people with disabilities? Let us know, and we'll send you a Diversity Banner you can proudly display!
Looking for more?
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 25 April, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT