The news of this terrible law came to Mordecai, as it came to all the Jews in Shushan. Mordecai tore his clothes, as was the manner of those in deep grief; he put on garments of sackcloth; he covered his head with ashes, and he went forth in front of the palace, crying a loud and bitter cry. Queen Esther saw him and heard his voice. She sent one of her servants, named Hatach, to Mordecai, to find why he was in such deep trouble. Hatach came to Mordecai, and Mordecai told him of the law for killing the Jews on a certain day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, and gave him a copy of it to show to Queen Esther; and he told Hatach to ask the queen, in his name, to go in to King Ahasuerus and beg him to spare the lives of her people. Queen Esther heard Hatach's words, and sent this message to Mordecai:
"It is the rule of the palace that if any man or woman shall go in to the king in his own room, without being sent for by the king, he shall be slain unless the king holds out to him the golden scepter. But I have not been called to meet the king for thirty days."
When Mordecai heard this message he sent word again by Hatach to Queen Esther:
"Do not think that in the king's palace you are safe, and shall escape the fate of your people. If you keep still, and do nothing to save your people, God will surely save them in some other way; and you and your father's family shall be destroyed. Who can tell whether God has not raised you up and given you your royal place for such a time as this?"
Then Esther sent this answer to Mordecai, "Go, and bring together all the Jews in Shushan, and let them all pray for me, eating and drinking nothing, for three days. I and my maids in the palace will pray and fast also at the same time. And then I will go in to the king, even though it is against the law; and if it be God's will that I should die in trying to save my people, then I will die."
When Mordecai heard these words he was glad, for he felt sure that God would save his people through Queen Esther. For three days all the Jews in Shushan met together, praying; and in the palace Esther and her servants were praying at the same time.
The third day came, and Esther dressed herself in all her robes as queen. She went out of her own rooms, and across the open court, and entered the door in front of the throne where the king was sitting. The king saw her standing before him, in all her beauty, and his heart was touched with love for her. He held out toward her the golden rod or scepter that was in his hand. Esther came near, and touched the top of the scepter. The king said to her:
"What do you wish, Queen Esther? It shall be given to you, even to the half of my kingdom."
But Esther did not at once ask for all that was in her heart. She was very wise, and she said, "If it pleases the king, I have come to ask that the king and Haman, the prince, shall come this day to a dinner that I have made ready for them."
The king said, "Send word to Haman that he haste, and come to dine with the king and queen."
So that day King Ahasuerus and Haman sat at the table with the queen. She was covered with a veil, for even Haman was not allowed to look upon her face. While they were sitting together, the king said, "Queen Esther, is there anything that you wish? It shall be be given to you, whatever it is, even to half of the kingdom."
"My wish," answered the queen, "is that the king and Haman shall come again to a dinner with me to-morrow."
Haman walked out of the palace that day happy at the honor that had come to him, but when he saw Mordecai sitting by the gate, and not rising up to bow before him, all his gladness passed away, and he was angry in his heart. When he came to his own house he told his wife Zeresh, and his friends, how the king and the queen had honored him, and then he said, "But all this is as nothing to me when I see that man, Mordecai the Jew, sitting at the king's gate."
Mordecai does not kneel before Haman
But his wife said to him, "That is nothing. Before you go to the feast to-morrow, have a gallows made, and then ask the king to command that Mordecai be hanged upon it. The king will do whatever you wish, and then, when you have sent Mordecai to death, you can be happy at your feast with the king and the queen."
This was very pleasing to Haman; and on that very day he caused the gallows to be set up, ready for hanging Mordecai on the next day.
It so happened that on that night the king could not sleep. He told them to read in the book of records of the kingdom, hoping that the reading might put him to sleep. They read in the book how Mordecai had told of the two men who had sought to murder the king. The king stopped the reading, and said, "What reward has been given to Mordecai for saving the life of the king from these men?"
"O king," they answered, "nothing has been done for Mordecai."
Then said the king, "Is any one of the princes standing outside in the court?"
"Yes, O king," was answered; "the noble Haman is in the court."
Haman had come in at that very moment to ask the king that Mordecai might be put to death. The king sent word to Haman to come in, and as soon as he entered said to him, "What shall be done to any man whom the king wishes especially to honor?"
Now Haman thought within himself, "There is no man whom
the king will wish to honor more than myself." Then he
said, "The man whom the king wishes especially to
honor, let him be dressed in the garments of the king,
and let him sit on the horse that the king rides upon,
and let the royal crown be set upon his head; let him
ride through the main street of the city, and let one of
the nobles call out before him, 'This is the man whom
the king delights to
Then the king said to Haman, "Make haste, and do all this that you have said to Mordecai the Jew, who sits in the king's gate. See that nothing is left out of what you have spoken."
Haman was astonished, and was cut to the heart, but he did not dare speak as he felt. He obeyed the king's command, sent for the king's horse, his robes, and his crown; dressed Mordecai like a king, mounted him on the horse, and went before him through the street of Shushan, calling aloud, "This is the man whom the king delights to honor!" And after that Haman hid his anger and his sorrow of heart, and sat down to the feast in the queen's palace. He had not said a word to the king of having Mordecai hanged upon the gallows which he had set up the day before.
King Ahasuerus knew very well that his queen had still some favor to ask; and at the feast he said to her, "What do you wish, Queen Esther? Tell me, and I will give it to you, even though it be half of my kingdom."
Then Esther saw that her time had come. She said to the king:
"If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please you, let my life be given me, and the lives of my people. For we have been sold, I and all my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. If only we had been sold as slaves, I would have said nothing; but we are to be slain, in order to please our enemy."
Then said the king, "Who is the man, and where is he, that has dared to do this thing?"
"The enemy," said Queen Esther, "is this wicked Haman!"
Esther points to Haman as her enemy
As the king heard this he was so angry that he rose up from the table, and walked out into the garden. In a moment he came back and saw Haman fallen down upon his face, begging the queen to spare his life. The king looked at him in anger, and the servants at once covered Haman's face, as of one doomed to death. One of the officers standing near said, "There stands the gallows, seventy-five feet high, which Haman set up yesterday for Mordecai to be hanged upon it."
Haman begs for his life from Esther
"Hang Haman himself on it," commanded the king. So Haman died upon the very gallows that he had made for Mordecai.
And on that day the king gave Haman's place to Mordecai, and set him over the princes. He gave to Mordecai his own ring, with its seal. And all the family of Haman, his sons, were put to death for their father's evil-doing, according to the cruel usage of those times.
The law for killing the Jews on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month had been made and sent abroad; and no law of the Persians could be changed. But though this law could not be taken back, another law was made that the Jews could defend themselves against any who might try to do them harm. When the day came most of their enemies feared to harm the Jews, for now they were under the care of the king, and Mordecai, a Jew, stood next to the king; and such of their enemies as tried to kill them on that day were soon destroyed.
So everywhere, instead of sorrow and death, on the thirteenth day of the twelth month, the Jews had joy and gladness. And on the day following, the fourteenth day of the twelfth month, the Jews kept a feast of thanksgiving to God for his mercy in saving them from their enemies. The same feast was kept on that day, every year afterward, and it is still kept among the Jews in all lands, and is called the feast of Purim. On that feast the story of Esther, the beautiful queen, is read by all the Jewish people.