Esther is the only book of the bible that never mentions God.
We’re not sure which Persian king Ahasuerus is. He’s been identified with Xerxes, Artaxerxes, and Artaxerxes II.
Most scholars take the book of Esther to be a mix of fiction and history (the author was more concerned with relaying a good story than relaying 100% historical fact) with opinions varying from strictly history to strictly myth.
In the days of the Persian King Ahasuerus, he reigned from Susa and he held a banquet for all of his princes and attendants, his military officers, nobles, and royalty from all of the provinces he reigned over. It’s a giant festival that lasts for six months.
At the end of the festival, the king holds a banquet that lasts for seven days for all of the people of Susa. He goes all out in a display of opulence and wealth as befitting a king of kings.
Likewise, his queen Vashti holds her own banquet for the wives and notable women of the empire.
On the last day of the banquet, when the king is just hammered, he calls over the eunuchs in charge of his harem, and tells them to bring Queen Vashti with her royal crown out to the banquet to display her beauty in front of his guests.
There’s something inappropriate about the request, because the queen refuses his order, and I think drunk Ahasuerus might have meant for Queen Vashti to appear before his guests wearing her crown and nothing but her royal crown.
But she tells her husband, “No” and that sets Ahasuerus off. So he consults with his legal team.
King: Man, my stoopid wife… wouldn’t… wouldn’t even git naked fer me and my guests… what…what should I do?
Lawyers: Yeah, man, this is bad. If word of this gets out, pretty soon all of the women in the empire might start thinking that they’re people and have bodily autonomy and that would suck for us men. So you should issue a royal decree that Vashti will no longer come into your royal presence and her place of honor will be given to another, so when all of the broads hear of it, they’ll realize that their place is to be the obedient subservient wife even if their husband is a drunken ass who wants them to show off their naked bits to the company. And then we can keep grabbing them by the p-
King: Alright…that… shounds… good… let’ssss do it… I’m… I’m alright…BLEACH…
So Queen Vashti gets deposed and goes down in history as one of the first feminists.
But when the king sobers up and gets over his hangover, he starts to remember his hot wife and feels a bit bad and lonely and horny and regrets banishing her from his presence.
Servants: Well, you’re the king, so order all of the young, hot teens in Susa to come to the palace and parade around before you, and whichever one, ahem… pleases, you the most gets to be the new queen.
King: So you want me to sit around all day while hundreds or thousands of young, hot teens parade around in front of me? I should give you guys a raise!
And it so happens that there is a Jew in Susa named Mordecai, who has a cousin named Esther whom he has raised because her parents died. And she just happens to be a young, hot teen, so she gets whisked off the king’s palace and placed in the care of the eunuch Hegai. And Hegai takes a liking to Esther, so he provides her with extra benefits, giving her good food, makeup, and some attendants of her own.
Now perhaps Esther has peeked ahead in his history book, because she keeps her Jewish lineage a secret from everyone. And Mordecai starts hanging around the palace trying to get word on how his adopted daughter is doing.
So the girls were in the royal palace for a year before they would see the king, and when the king sees Esther, he is very ‘pleased’ and decides she will be his new queen.
“Consent?” everyone laughs, “What does that word mean? Hahahaha…”
So Esther the teenager is forced to marry the drunk, pervy (probably much older) king. Ah, biblical love stories. So sweet.
Ah, it was Mordecai who told her not to say she was a Jew. Maybe he’s been around longer and realizes how much the Jews are going to face persecution.
But because Mordecai is sitting around the palace gate so much, he hears of a plot against Ahasuerus by two of his guards, and he informs the king via Esther. The king discovers the plot and hangs the two guards and has the matter recorded in his own book of Chronicles.
We meet our villain of the story, Haman. Haman is an official in the king’s court who gets promoted and the king commands that all of the servants at the gate are to bow to him. But Mordecai who is hanging out by the gate a lot, I guess, doesn’t bow and that cheese Haman off enough that he wants to kill ALL of the Jews instead of just Mordecai.
So Haman goes to see the king…
Haman: Hey, King, there’s a group of people in your kingdom with different laws and customs and traditions. They’re not obeying your commands, so we should probably kill them all. Give me money, I’ll hire some assassins, we’ll kill them and take all their stuff.
King: Eh, okay, man, take my money and do whatever you want.
King Ahasuerus is not a man for contemplative reflection, skepticism, or investigation, I guess.
So Haman and the king draft up some letters saying, “Let’s kill all the Jews on this day” and send them out throughout the Persian Empire. And while he and Haman start boozing it up, the city of Susa is thrown into confusion, as you would expect from being handed a notice that you were required to go out and butcher your neighbors for the king.