13 On that day the book of Moses was read aloud in the hearing 1 of the people. They found 2 written in it that no Ammonite or Moabite may ever enter the assembly of God, 2 for they had not met the Israelites with food 3 and water, but instead had hired Balaam to curse them. (Our God, however, turned the curse into blessing.) 3 When they heard the law, they removed from Israel all who were of mixed ancestry.
4 But prior to this time, Eliashib the priest, a relative of Tobiah, had been appointed over the storerooms 4 of the temple of our God. 5 He made for himself a large storeroom where previously they had been keeping 5 the grain offering, the incense, and the vessels, along with the tithes of the grain, the new wine, and the olive oil as commanded for the Levites, the singers, the gate keepers, and the offering for the priests.
6 During all this time I was not in Jerusalem, 6 for in the thirty-second year of King Artaxerxes of Babylon, I had gone back to the king. After some time 7 I had requested leave of the king, 7 and I returned to Jerusalem. Then I discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah by supplying him with a storeroom in the courts of the temple of God. 8 I was very upset, and I threw all of Tobiah’s household possessions out of the storeroom. 9 Then I gave instructions that the storerooms should be purified, and I brought back the equipment 8 of the temple of God, along with the grain offering and the incense.
10 I also discovered that the grain offerings for the Levites had not been provided, and that as a result the Levites and the singers who performed this work had all gone off to their fields. 11 So I registered a complaint with the leaders, asking “Why is the temple of God neglected?” Then I gathered them and reassigned them to their positions. 9
12 Then all of Judah brought the tithe of the grain, the new wine, and the olive oil to the storerooms. 13 I gave instructions 10 that Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and a certain Levite named Pedaiah be put in charge of 11 the storerooms, and that Hanan son of Zaccur, the son of Mattaniah, be their assistant, 12 for they were regarded as trustworthy. It was then their responsibility to oversee the distribution to their colleagues. 13
14 Please remember me for this, O my God, and do not wipe out the kindness that I have done for the temple of my God and for its services!
15 In those days I saw people in Judah treading winepresses on the Sabbath, bringing in heaps of grain and loading them onto donkeys, along with wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, and bringing them to Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. So I warned them on the day that they sold these provisions. 16 The people from Tyre 14 who lived there were bringing fish and all kinds of merchandise and were selling it on the Sabbath to the people of Judah – and in Jerusalem, of all places! 15 17 So I registered a complaint with the nobles of Judah, saying to them, “What is this evil thing that you are doing, profaning the Sabbath day? 18 Isn’t this the way your ancestors 16 acted, causing our God to bring on them and on this city all this misfortune? And now you are causing even more wrath on Israel, profaning the Sabbath like this!”
19 When the evening shadows 17 began to fall on the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I ordered 18 the doors to be closed. I further directed that they were not to be opened until after the Sabbath. I positioned 19 some of my young men at the gates so that no load could enter on the Sabbath day. 20 The traders and sellers of all kinds of merchandise spent the night outside Jerusalem once or twice. 21 But I warned them and said, 20 “Why do you spend the night by the wall? If you repeat this, I will forcibly remove you!” 21 From that time on they did not show up on the Sabbath. 22 22 Then I directed the Levites to purify themselves and come and guard the gates in order to keep the Sabbath day holy.
For this please remember me, O my God, and have pity on me in keeping with your great love.
23 Also in those days I saw the men of Judah who had married women from Ashdod, Ammon, and Moab. 24 Half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod (or the language of one of the other peoples mentioned 23 ) and were unable to speak the language of Judah. 25 So I entered a complaint with them. I called down a curse on them, and I struck some of the men and pulled out their hair. I had them swear by God saying, “You will not marry off 24 your daughters to their sons, and you will not take any of their daughters as wives for your sons or for yourselves! 26 Was it not because of things like these that King Solomon of Israel sinned? Among the many nations there was no king like him. He was loved by his God, and God made 25 him king over all Israel. But the foreign wives made even him sin! 27 Should we then in your case hear that you do all this great evil, thereby being unfaithful to our God by marrying 26 foreign wives?”
28 Now one of the sons of Joiada son of Eliashib the high priest was a son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite. So I banished him from my sight.
29 Please remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the priesthood, the covenant of the priesthood, 27 and the Levites.
30 So I purified them of everything foreign, and I assigned specific 28 duties to the priests and the Levites. 31 I also provided for 29 the wood offering at the appointed times and also for the first fruits.
Please remember me for good, O my God.
1 The following events happened 2 in the days of Ahasuerus. 3 (I am referring to 4 that Ahasuerus who used to rule over a hundred and twenty-seven provinces 5 extending all the way from India to Ethiopia. 6 ) 2 In those days, as King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in Susa 7 the citadel, 8 3 in the third 9 year of his reign he provided a banquet for all his officials and his servants. The army 10 of Persia and Media 11 was present, 12 as well as the nobles and the officials of the provinces.
4 He displayed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor of his majestic greatness for a lengthy period of time 13 – a hundred and eighty days, to be exact! 14 5 When those days 15 were completed, the king then provided a seven-day 16 banquet for all the people who were present 17 in Susa the citadel, for those of highest standing to the most lowly. 18 It was held in the court located in the garden of the royal palace. 6 The furnishings included linen and purple curtains hung by cords of the finest linen 19 and purple wool on silver rings, alabaster columns, gold and silver couches 20 displayed on a floor made of valuable stones of alabaster, mother-of-pearl, and mineral stone. 7 Drinks 21 were served in golden containers, all of which differed from one another. Royal wine was available in abundance at the king’s expense. 8 There were no restrictions on the drinking, 22 for the king had instructed all of his supervisors 23 that they should do as everyone so desired. 24 9 Queen Vashti 25 also gave a banquet for the women in King Ahasuerus’ royal palace.
10 On the seventh day, as King Ahasuerus was feeling the effects of the wine, 26 he ordered Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven eunuchs who attended him, 27 11 to bring Queen Vashti into the king’s presence wearing her royal high turban. He wanted to show the people and the officials her beauty, for she was very attractive. 28 12 But Queen Vashti refused 29 to come at the king’s bidding 30 conveyed through the eunuchs. Then the king became extremely angry, and his rage consumed 31 him.
13 The king then inquired of the wise men who were discerners of the times – for it was the royal custom to confer with all those who were proficient in laws and legalities. 32 14 Those who were closest to him were Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan. These men were the seven officials of Persia and Media who saw the king on a regular basis 33 and had the most prominent offices 34 in the kingdom. 15 The king asked, 35 “By law, 36 what should be done to Queen Vashti in light of the fact that she has not obeyed the instructions of King Ahasuerus conveyed through the eunuchs?”
16 Memucan then replied to the king and the officials, “The wrong of Queen Vashti is not against the king alone, but against all the officials and all the people who are throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. 17 For the matter concerning the queen will spread to all the women, leading them to treat their husbands with contempt, saying, ‘When King Ahasuerus gave orders to bring Queen Vashti into his presence, she would not come.’ 18 And this very day the noble ladies of Persia and Media who have heard the matter concerning the queen will respond in the same way to all the royal officials, and there will be more than enough contempt and anger! 19 If the king is so inclined, 37 let a royal edict go forth from him, and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media that cannot be repealed, 38 that Vashti 39 may not come into the presence of King Ahasuerus, and let the king convey her royalty to another 40 who is more deserving than she. 41 20 And let the king’s decision which he will enact be disseminated 42 throughout all his kingdom, vast though it is. 43 Then all the women will give honor to their husbands, from the most prominent to the lowly.”
21 The matter seemed appropriate to the king and the officials. So the king acted on the advice of Memucan. 22 He sent letters throughout all the royal provinces, to each province according to its own script and to each people according to its own language, 44 that every man should be ruling his family 45 and should be speaking the language of his own people. 46
2 When these things had been accomplished 1 and the rage of King Ahasuerus had diminished, he remembered 2 Vashti and what she had done and what had been decided 3 against her. 2 The king’s servants who attended him said, “Let a search be conducted in the king’s behalf for attractive young women. 4 3 And let the king appoint officers throughout all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the attractive young women to Susa the citadel, to the harem 5 under the authority of Hegai, the king’s eunuch who oversees the women, and let him provide whatever cosmetics they desire. 6 4 Let the young woman whom the king finds most attractive 7 become queen in place of Vashti.” This seemed like a good idea to the king, 8 so he acted accordingly.
5 Now there happened to be a Jewish man in Susa the citadel whose name was Mordecai. 9 He was the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjaminite, 6 who had been taken into exile from Jerusalem 10 with the captives who had been carried into exile with Jeconiah 11 king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken into exile. 7 Now he was acting as the guardian 12 of Hadassah 13 (that is, Esther), the daughter of his uncle, for neither her father nor her mother was alive. 14 This young woman was very attractive and had a beautiful figure. 15 When her father and mother died, Mordecai had raised her 16 as if she were his own daughter.
8 It so happened that when the king’s edict and his law became known 17 many young women were taken to Susa the citadel to be placed under the authority of Hegai. Esther also was taken to the royal palace 18 to be under the authority of Hegai, who was overseeing the women. 9 This young woman pleased him, 19 and she found favor with him. He quickly provided her with her cosmetics and her rations; he also provided her with the seven specially chosen 20 young women who were from the palace. He then transferred her and her young women to the best quarters in the harem. 21
10 Now Esther had not disclosed her people or her lineage, 22 for Mordecai had instructed her not to do so. 23 11 And day after day Mordecai used to walk back and forth in front of the court of the harem in order to learn how Esther was doing 24 and what might happen to her.
12 At the end of the twelve months that were required for the women, 25 when the turn of each young woman arrived to go to King Ahasuerus – for in this way they had to fulfill their time of cosmetic treatment: six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with perfume and various ointments used by women – 13 the woman would go to the king in the following way: Whatever she asked for would be provided for her to take with her from the harem to the royal palace. 14 In the evening she went, and in the morning she returned to a separate part 26 of the harem, to the authority of Shaashgaz the king’s eunuch who was overseeing the concubines. She would not go back to the king unless the king was pleased with her 27 and she was requested by name.
15 When it became the turn of Esther daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai (who had raised her as if she were his own daughter 28 ) to go to the king, she did not request anything except what Hegai the king’s eunuch, who was overseer of the women, had recommended. Yet Esther met with the approval of all who saw her. 16 Then Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus at his royal residence in the tenth 29 month (that is, the month of Tebeth) in the seventh 30 year of his reign. 17 And the king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she met with his loving approval 31 more than all the other young women. 32 So he placed the royal high turban on her head and appointed her queen 33 in place of Vashti. 18 Then the king prepared a large banquet for all his officials and his servants – it was actually Esther’s banquet. He also set aside a holiday for the provinces, and he provided for offerings at the king’s expense. 34
19 Now when the young women were being gathered again, 35 Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate. 36 20 Esther was still not divulging her lineage or her people, 37 just as Mordecai had instructed her. 38 Esther continued to do whatever Mordecai said, just as she had done when he was raising her.
21 In those days while Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthan 39 and Teresh, 40 two of the king’s eunuchs who protected the entrance, 41 became angry and plotted to assassinate 42 King Ahasuerus. 22 When Mordecai learned of the conspiracy, 43 he informed Queen Esther, 44 and Esther told the king in Mordecai’s behalf. 45 23 The king then had the matter investigated and, finding it to be so, had the two conspirators 46 hanged on a gallows. 47 It was then recorded in the daily chronicles in the king’s presence.