A retelling of Esther, a brave Jewish girl who approaches her husband, the King of Persia. Though she may face death, Esther has faith in God. This story, though a retelling of Esther, was also written with the movie, One Night With The King, in mind.
“Uncle Mordecai!” Hadassah screamed as the stony guards dragged her down the streets of Susa. Resisting every step, Hadassah desperately tried to free herself from the guards, but their strong grip around her arms only tightened, cutting off circulation. “No!” she cried, her usually sparkling dark eyes clouded with fear. Her uncle rushed to the door of their small home, peering down the street in horror. His little Hadassah had been found out. In hopes of finding a new queen, King Xerxes had taken every young woman from her home and brought her to the palace, planning to treat each as royalty. Mordecai, however, had done everything in his power to keep Hadassah from such treatment. As she took one last glimpse at her uncle’s dear, sorrowful face, she prayed that God would be with her.
Queen Vashti had refused to come. As the fact rippled through Susa, villagers learned of Xerxes’ furiousness at Vashti’s disobedience when he called for her, leading him to decree that never again would she appear before him. The land no longer had a queen. King Xerxes had every young, unmarried woman gathered and brought to the palace, hoping to choose one as the new queen. In the dead of night, soldiers continued to prowl the streets in search of other young women in hiding – women with no desire to be torn away from their families and made queen. Hadassah had successfully avoided all the guards until that night. As they dragged her down the street, she heard the wailing of other young women and saw her weeping friends as they all headed in the same direction. Soon, they were assembled in a small hall, soft cries echoing throughout. Hadassah embraced her friend, Laila, as they filed into the dimly lit hall. Passing each torch beside the large granite columns, Hadassah greeted its’ light and warmth, praying God would give her the strength she needed to live here, even though the time may be short.
The next morning, Hadassah glanced around her decorative room, sighing. The beauty treatments would begin today. She had tossed and turned the night before, despite the smooth silks and comfortable pillows, hardly sleeping at all. As she finished dressing, Laila knocked on the wall beside the colorful curtain door. “Come in,” Hadassah replied softly.
“How are you doing?” Laila asked with a sympathetic smile.
“I was thinking…about my name.” She signed. “It’s Jewish. Mordecai has explained many times that the kingdom isn’t very friendly to Jews.”
“I don’t doubt it,” Laila replied, sighing heavily, “…will you change it?”
“I suppose I must.” Hadassah peered out the window. She cherished her name for her parents’ sake. She remembered her mother’s tender smile as she watched her daughter mix flour into the sticky bread dough. She remembered running into her father’s warm embrace after he returned from the market. He would lift her up off the ground, whispering “oh my little Hadassah,” and squeeze her tight.
Laila’s thoughtful expression suddenly burst, “Esther! How about that?” Laila’s cheery voice made Hadassah smile.
“That works,” she agreed, “but you can’t forget or I won’t respond to you!” she teased.
Laila chuckled and Hadassah smiled brightly.
All the young women quickly came to enjoy the rose petal baths, perfumed hair and skin, and relaxing afternoons. Even those who had dreaded this time became quite accustomed to palace life. However, not all remained. One afternoon, just as Esther laid down to rest, Laila peeked in, “I supposed the King didn’t like me very well,” she smirked. “I’m going home, Esther!” Laila’s voice portrayed excitement and regret at her departure. “I don’t want to leave you, but…”
“I’m so happy for you, even if I’ll miss you,” Esther hugged Laila tightly.
“Is there anything I can say to Mordecai for you?”
“Only that I miss him,” Esther smiled, her eyes beginning to tear. She embraced Laila quickly and let her go to gather her things. Young women continued to leave the palace, but Esther found herself among those who stayed. The king was attracted to Esther, and she to him. Walking back to her room one evening after reading the royal diaries to King Xerxes, Esther hoped she would be chosen. Eventually King Xerxes announced his bride and Susa’s new queen – Esther.
Though the kingdom rejoiced, not all was well within. Just as the wind sweeps through courtyards and gardens, so did the rumors of treacherous plans. One spring morning as the sun peeked over the hills and the palace gardens perfumed the air, Haman, an honored member of the court, entered the King’s courtroom. Bowing a knee and standing back up promptly, Haman began his well-planned speech. “Your highness, I have news that may interest you. Today, as I made my way to the palace, a man in the crowd would not bow down,” Haman explained, beginning to pace the room. “I inquired as to his reasons for disobeying these simple standards, and he replied that he only bows to his God, and…”
Xerxes, peering up from his battle plans, interrupted, “Haman, I don’t see how this affects the kingdom.”
“Sire, this man replied that he only bows to his God – no other man. You see, your highness, this man is a Jew, and these Jews speak of a coming king that will be the ruler of all men. They clearly betray the king, my lord.”
“Then you have my permission to deal with this man as you wish.”
“Your highness, in all due respect, I believe the entire nation of Jews must be destroyed. Could it be that this prophecy is underway? Killing one man will not stop them. They will only become more traitorous. Men, woman, and children must all be killed – to protect the kingdom, your highness.” King Xerxes, ceasing his work, listened intently to Haman’s plan. Before long, this terrible decree was issued. Soldiers were informed, scribes recorded the order, and Esther listened in disbelief. Suddenly fatigued, she retired to her room. Sitting motionless on her bed, Esther stared at the wall, terrified. Hearing a deep cry, she peered out her window. Mordecai! She had not seen him since her wedding several months ago and now there he was, sitting at the gate, gathering dust and dirt in his hands and rubbing it through his hair, tearing his clothes, and crying out in distress. “Nesrine!” Esther called for her maid.
“Yes your highness?”
“That man at the gate, send a servant down to him to inquire if he has a message for me.”
Furrowing her brow and tilting her head in question, Nesrine obeyed, “Of course.”
After receiving Mordecai’s message, Esther took a deep breathe. This can’t be my calling… But she remembered Mordecai’s words – “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? (Esther 4:13-14)” Pulling out a sheet of paper and feather pen, Esther wrote a note to her uncle – Gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish (Esther 4:16). Folding the paper and sealing it with red wax, Esther had it delivered to Mordecai. Though the penalty for appearing before the king without being summoned was death, Esther knew it must be done for God and her people.
That evening, Esther stood before the unopened court doors. Lord God, give me strength. Pushing the doors open, Esther stepped into the large courtroom. All heads turned to her and the court suddenly went silent. Whispers of disapproval turned into condemning shouts as Esther walked down the court. With each step Esther’s heart beat a hundred times. As her eyes met those of the king, she searched his face for a trace of his next action. Then, Xerxes held out the gold scepter to her. Esther sighed and thanked God fervently. “My King…I…would like to…” Esther had lost the words she planned. Daring glances from courtiers and shocked expressions from members of the court stared at her. The king’s loving face portrayed question and worry “If you, and Haman, will attend my feast tonight, I will ask you then.”
“Very well,” he replied.
Slightly bowing before King Xerxes and Haman, Esther left the court. Though her heart continued to race, her mind was at peace.
Smiling deviously to himself, Haman strolled into the small courtyard where the queen’s feast was taking place. This was her third attempt to explain what she desired of the king. He certainly had no problem with her delays. After each feast, he and the King were invited back. Did this not prove what an important figure he was in the palace – that it was not completely necessary for him to attend? However, this time felt different. As Haman approached the tent-like dining area, he noticed that the King had arrived early. What were the King and Queen discussing behind that sheer curtain wall? Quietly approaching the veil curtain, Haman listened to the Queen’s choked words. “…grant me my life…and spare my people—this is my request (Esther 7:3).” The King embraced Esther and Haman could not make what she said next. However, the King’s deep voice cut in, asking her who had dared do such a thing. Haman swallowed. The queen cannot possibly be a Jew herself, can she? Esther is a Babylonian name…yet, what else could she speak of? “…Haman.” the queen cried. Slowly backing from the curtain, Haman’s mind was spinning. Dazed, he stood motionless until the king spotted him and called guards to arrest him. His meager attempt to escape failed and he cried out pathetically to the queen, depending on her goodness to save him. The King’s anger showed visibly and he would not allow Haman to speak. When Xerxes discovered the pole, meant to hang Esther’s uncle, Mordecai, beside Haman’s home, he ordered that Haman hang there instead.
As Esther returned to her chambers, she fell onto her bed, relieved and thankful. Closing her eyes, a tear left a damp path across cheek. Sighing, Esther sat up. Once again she pulled out a sheet of paper and, dipping the feather pen in the little jar of ink, wrote a short note to Mordecai. All is well.