Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Esther the Queen

The Jewish heroine who became Queen of Persia and saved her people.
One of the most famous women, and perhaps the most famous queen, in Jewish history is Queen Esther, consort to a King of Persia and a great heroine to her people. Her story is, or at least should be, well known to all Jews and Christians (if they read their Old Testament). As with almost anyone from Biblical times, there are a great many details about Queen Esther than remain a mystery, however, the important points are clearly recorded. She was born with the name Hadassah, we know not when or where. Her story begins with that of the man who would be her husband, there being some debate as to his identity. The Bible identifies him as Assuerus, “who reigned from India to Ethiopia over a hundred twenty-seven provinces” with the city of Susan as his capital. So, a big shot in Persian history without question. Traditionally it was thought this referred to King Xerxes I of the Achaemenid empire but more recent scholars have theorized it to have been a king of the later Sassanid empire.

In an effort to show off his greatness, King Assuerus held the party to top all parties, inviting all his regional governors and all the great men of Persia to party hardy for nearly 200 days. Of course, no such display could be complete without showing off your smoking hot trophy wife so King Assuerus, after getting gloriously drunk, called for his queen, Vashti, but she refused to come. Somewhat astounded, the King was warned by his advisers that such defiance might provoke a wave of feminism which would leave all the great men of Persia frustrated and sleeping on their sofas. So, Queen Vasthi is given the boot and King Assuerus starts the hunt for a new royal consort. Every province was to send their most beautiful virgins for his inspection, with each undergoing a full year of preparation to make them suitable choices for the ruler of most of the known world at the time. After making his inspection, King Assuerus chose a famously beautiful Jewish girl named Esther, previously known as Hadassah. It is said that she was an orphan who had been raised by her cousin, a man named Mordecai. Hailing from the tribe of Benjamin she had stayed with her cousin, who was more like her father for all intents and purposes, even after Cyrus had allowed the Jews to return home to Jerusalem. (Read entire post.)

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