Esther – the story of Purim – Bible stories

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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)

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, in Iran, 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 and the hanging of Haman from the Danish church at Tirsted (1400 AD)

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

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.

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 in Iran today.

Daniel in the lion’s den
The Persians and the Jews
More about the Persian Empire

Bibliography and further reading about the history of Judaism:

  

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

By | 2017-10-09T17:19:32+00:00 August 23rd, 2017|History, Religion, West Asia|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Esther – the story of Purim – Bible stories. Quatr.us Study Guides, August 23, 2017. Web. November 24, 2017.

About the Author:

Karen Carr

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, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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