The decree had gone out into all the land: the Jews in the kingdom would be destroyed on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month. There was such great mourning and wailing all around me, yet, although I witnessed the grief of my people, I was set apart; for you see, I am Esther, Queen of Persia, wife of King Xerxes.
I cried for my people, especially my cousin Mordecai who had raised me. When this edict was carried out, I would be cut off from my people forever. I would never see them again. And then there was the question if even I would survive. I had not told anyone of my nationality, but there was always the chance that my family background would become common knowledge. I was the wife of King Xerxes, but even so, I wondered if I was truly safe.
One day, some of my maids ran into my chamber, rambling about my cousin Mordecai. They said he had been sitting out at the gate for some time, dressed in sackcloth and ashes. Instantly, I knew something was very wrong; perhaps someone from among our people had died, or was this in response to the king’s edict?
“Here,” I said, instructing my maids. “Take these to him.” I held out a bundle of clothes and told them to offer the garments for him to wear in order that he might banish the sackcloth.
But moments later, my maids returned to me with an unexpected response: “He will not accept the clothes, Queen Esther.”
“But why?” I exclaimed. “What is it that troubles him so?”
I couldn’t shake the thought that something was dreadfully wrong, so I sent for Hathach, one of the king’s eunuchs, to see if he could learn more.
I waited for what seemed like an eternity before Hathach returned to me. His eyes reflected great turmoil as he sat to deliver Mordecai’s message. He told me of Haman’s plan to destroy the Jews and the amount of money that he had promised to pay into the treasury to make this act a reality. It was then that Hathach read me the edict and explained it to me thoroughly until I grasped its meaning. Indeed, the circumstances were very dire and I could understand Mordecai’s urgency.
“He has asked a great thing of you, Queen Esther,” Hathach recounted. “He instructed me to make it clear that you must come to the aid of your people. Go before the king— beg for mercy, plead for the lives of your people.”
“But I cannot do this!” I protested, my heart racing and my hands trembling with fear. “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death. The only exception to this is for the king to extend the gold scepter to him and spare his life. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”
My mind raced. How could I go before the king in this way when I did not have a firm understanding of our relationship? It was true; the king had not called me to his chamber in the span of a month. If I came before him uninvited, I would be risking my very life! I understood the gravity of the situation, but Mordecai must know the sacrifice I would be making in order to do this.
Hathach went out to the gate and reported my words to Mordecai. It wasn’t long before the eunuch returned with a reply from Mordecai: “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 royal position for such a time as this?”
His words carried a great deal of truth, and even though I was trembling in fear, I knew what I must do. I turned to Hathach and delivered my response: “Go, 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 maids 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.”
I could not say what would be in store for me or my people at that time. I only knew that I must pray like I never had before. I was comforted by the knowledge that my maids, Mordecai, and my people would be fasting and praying as well. Although great uncertainty awaited me on the horizon, I had faith that God would deliver me and my people. Perhaps I would play a greater role in this deliverance by giving my life on behalf of my people, but there was no doubt that I had been placed in this position for such a time as this. I would go forth in confidence, knowing I had God’s favor above all else.