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(ESTHER IV.) Soon after Artaxerxes Longimanus had ascended the throne of Persia, he celebrated at Susa the general rejoicing, which usually attended the settlement of a new king on the throne. He prepared a public banquet, and, being heated with wine, he sent for the queen, Vashti, that all present might be witnesses of her great beauty. This mandate, however, was repugnant to the customs of women in the East, and the queen ventured to disobey; for which cause she was deposed, and, ultimately, a beautiful Jewish damsel, named Esther, was promoted to her place.

Esther was an orphan, and she had been brought up under the care of Mordecai, her cousin, who appears to have held some office at the Persian court. During her residence with him, she had paid him the obedience due to a parent, and her duty was continued even after her exaltation.

It was, doubtless, the wish of Esther to seek the advancement of Mordecai at the Persian court. This, however, was forbidden by the captive Hebrew. From some unknown motive, indeed, he even advised her to conceal the knowledge of her kindred from her consort. Notwithstanding, Mordecai, without seeking the honours of this world, received advancement. While holding office at the palace, he discovered and disclosed a plot, which had been formed against the life of Artaxerxes by two discontented courtiers, and this led the way to future preferment.

Shortly after these events, Haman, a descendant of the Amalekites, was raised to the high office of prime minister of Persia, and he so ingratiated himself with Artaxerxes that he both obtained the government of the empire, and an edict for all persons to do him homage. All obeyed the mandate except Mordecai, and he deigned not to bow his head to the proud courtier. Haman discovered this, and he immediately resolved to take revenge, and that of the most sanguinary nature. For a single offence, acting in the true spirit of the Amalekites, those ancient enemies of Israel, he sought the destruction of an entire people.

Having resolved upon this barbarous deed, Haman, after the manner of the sons of idolatry, caused lots to be cast from day to

day, and from month to month, in order to determine the month and the day most propitious for the undertaking, or most calamitous to the Jews. All this time his revenge slumbered not, and when at length he imagined he had discovered the auspicious season, he ventured to propose the measure to the king, and, having represented the Jews as enemies to the state, he obtained a decree to destroy them utterly.

When this fulminating decree became known, great consternation prevailed among the Jews. As for Mordecai, he expressed the anguish of his heart by every external sign of sorrow, and by his loud and bitter cries throughout the city. The report of his sorrows was carried to the queen, and she sent a messenger to him, and was told the cause of them.

Mordecai felt that Esther might become an instrument in the hands of the Almighty to effect the deliverance of her people, and he charged her to exert all her influence with Artaxerxes on their behalf. Esther was anxious to do so; but she represented to Mordecai that the Persian laws forbade her and every person, on pain of death, to approach the sovereign without his mandate. Mordecai replied, that she, as well as her nation, was involved in the ruin, and that, if she refused to mediate, deliverance for the Jews in general might arise from another quarter, while she and her kindred might perish. He also encouraged her to hope that her exaltation had been appointed by Heaven as the means of deliverance.

Thus urged to action, Esther, after having clothed herself in sackcloth, and fasted and prayed for success during three days, ventured, uncalled, into the presence of the king. proached, he extended towards her the sceptre of peace, and, thinking that something extraordinary must have been the occasion of her appearance, he offered her whatever she might ask, even to the half of his dominions. She requested that he and Haman would come to a banquet she had prepared for them; and while at this banquet she solicited their attendance at another on the morrow.

Haman was elated by this high honour. He hastened to his house, and collecting his friends together, boasted in loud terms of the peculiar favour. Amidst all this honour, however, one thing mortified him: “All this,” said he, “availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king's gate.”

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