Nehemiah's Final Reforms
13 On that day rthey read from the Book of Moses in the hearing of the people. And in it was found written sthat no Ammonite or Moabite should ever enter the assembly of God, 2 for they did not meet the people of Israel with bread and water, but hired Balaam against them to curse them—yet our God turned the curse into a blessing. 3 As soon as the people heard the law, tthey separated from Israel all uthose of foreign descent.
4 Now before this, vEliashib the priest, who wwas appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, and who was related to xTobiah, 5 prepared for Tobiah a large chamber where they had previously put the grain offering, the frankincense, the vessels, and the tithes of grain, wine, and oil, ywhich were given by commandment to the Levites, singers, and gatekeepers, and the contributions for the priests. 6 While this was taking place, I was not in Jerusalem, for zin the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes aking of Babylon I went to the king. And after some time I asked leave of the king 7 and came to Jerusalem, and I then discovered the evil that Eliashib had done for Tobiah, bpreparing for him a chamber in the courts of the house of God. 8 And I was very angry, and I threw all the household furniture of Tobiah out of the chamber. 9 Then I gave orders, and they ccleansed the chambers, and I brought back there the vessels of the house of God, with the grain offering and the frankincense.
10 I also found out that dthe portions of the Levites had not been given to them, so that the Levites and the singers, who did the work, had fled each eto his field. 11 fSo I confronted the officials and said, g“Why is the house of God forsaken?” And I gathered them together and set them in their stations. 12 Then all Judah brought hthe tithe of the grain, wine, and oil into the storehouses. 13 And iI appointed as treasurers over the storehouses Shelemiah the priest, Zadok the scribe, and Pedaiah of the Levites, and as their assistant Hanan the son of Zaccur, son of Mattaniah, jfor they were considered reliable, and their duty was to distribute to their brothers. 14 kRemember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God and for his service.
15 In those days I saw in Judah people treading winepresses lon the Sabbath, and bringing in heaps of grain and loading them on donkeys, and also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of loads, mwhich they brought into Jerusalem on the Sabbath day. And nI warned them on the day when they sold food. 16 Tyrians also, who lived in the city, brought in fish and all kinds of goods and sold them on the Sabbath to the people of Judah, in Jerusalem itself! 17 oThen I confronted the nobles of Judah and said to them, “What is this evil thing that you are doing, pprofaning the Sabbath day? 18 qDid not your fathers act in this way, and did not our God bring all this disaster1 on us and on this city? Now you are bringing more wrath on Israel by profaning the Sabbath.”
19 As soon as it rbegan to grow dark at the gates of Jerusalem before the Sabbath, I commanded that the doors should be shut and gave orders that they should not be opened until after the Sabbath. And I stationed some of my servants at the gates, that no load might be brought in on the Sabbath day. 20 Then the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares lodged outside Jerusalem once or twice. 21 sBut I warned them and said to them, “Why do you lodge outside the wall? If you do so again, I will lay hands on you.” From that time on they did not come on the Sabbath. 22 Then I commanded the Levites tthat they should purify themselves and come and guard the gates, to keep the Sabbath day holy. uRemember this also in my favor, O my God, and spare me according to the greatness of your steadfast love.
23 In those days also I saw the Jews vwho had married women wof Ashdod, xAmmon, and xMoab. 24 And half of their children spoke the language of Ashdod, and they could not speak the language of Judah, but only the language of each people. 25 oAnd I confronted them and cursed them and beat some of them and pulled out their hair. yAnd I made them take an oath in the name of God, saying, “You shall not give your daughters to their sons, or take their daughters for your sons or for yourselves. 26 zDid not Solomon king of Israel sin on account of such women? aAmong the many nations there was no king like him, and he was bbeloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel. Nevertheless, foreign women made even him to sin. 27 Shall we then listen to you and do all this great evil and cact treacherously against our God by marrying foreign women?”
28 And one of the sons of dJehoiada, the son of eEliashib the high priest, was the son-in-law of fSanballat the Horonite. Therefore I chased him from me. 29 gRemember them, O my God, because they have desecrated the priesthood hand the covenant of the priesthood and the Levites.
30 iThus I cleansed them from everything foreign, and I established the duties of the priests and Levites, each in his work; 31 and I provided jfor the wood offering kat appointed times, and for the firstfruits.
lRemember me, O my God, for good.
The King's Banquets
1 Now in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned afrom India to Ethiopia over b127 provinces, 2 in those days when King Ahasuerus csat on his royal throne in dSusa, the citadel, 3 in the third year of his reign ehe gave a feast for all his officials and servants. The army of Persia and Media and the nobles and governors of the provinces were before him, 4 while he showed the riches of his royal glory and the splendor and pomp of his greatness for many days, 180 days. 5 And when these days were completed, the king gave for all the people present in Susa the citadel, both great and small, a feast lasting for seven days in the court of fthe garden of the king's palace. 6 There were white cotton curtains and violet hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rods1 and marble pillars, and also gcouches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and precious stones. 7 Drinks were served in golden vessels, vessels of different kinds, and the royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the king. 8 And drinking was according to this edict: “There is no compulsion.” For the king had given orders to all the staff of his palace to do as each man desired. 9 Queen Vashti also gave a feast for the women in the palace that belonged to King Ahasuerus.
Queen Vashti's Refusal
10 On the seventh day, hwhen the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, iHarbona, jBigtha and Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, 11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king with kher royal crown,2 in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at. 12 But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command delivered by the eunuchs. At this the king became enraged, and his anger burned within him.
13 Then the king said to lthe wise men mwho knew the times (for this was the king's procedure toward all who were versed in law and judgment, 14 the men next to him being Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and nMemucan, othe seven princes of Persia and Media, pwho saw the king's face, and sat first in the kingdom): 15 “According to the law, what is to be done to Queen Vashti, because she has not performed the command of King Ahasuerus delivered by the eunuchs?” 16 Then Memucan said in the presence of the king and the officials, “Not only against the king has Queen Vashti done wrong, but also against all the officials and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. 17 For the queen's behavior will be made known to all women, causing them to look at their husbands with contempt,3 since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.’ 18 This very day the noble women of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen's behavior will say the same to all the king's officials, and there will be contempt and wrath in plenty. 19 If it please the king, let a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so qthat it may not be repealed, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus. And let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. 20 So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, for it is vast, rall women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.” 21 This advice pleased the king and the princes, and the king did as Memucan proposed. 22 He sent letters to all the royal provinces, sto every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, that every man be master in his own household and speak according to the language of his people.
Esther Chosen Queen
2 After these things, twhen the anger of King Ahasuerus had abated, he remembered Vashti uand what she had done and what had been decreed against her. 2 Then the king's young men who attended him said, “Let beautiful young virgins be sought out for the king. 3 And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in Susa the citadel, under custody of vHegai, the king's eunuch, who is in charge of the women. wLet their cosmetics be given them. 4 And let the young woman who pleases the king1 be queen instead of Vashti.” This pleased the king, and he did so.
5 Now there was a Jew in Susa the citadel whose name was xMordecai, the son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite, 6 ywho had been carried away from Jerusalem among the captives carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away. 7 He was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, zthe daughter of his uncle, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure and was lovely to look at, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter. 8 So when the king's order and his edict were proclaimed, and awhen many young women were gathered in Susa the citadel in custody of bHegai, Esther also was taken into the king's palace and put in custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women. 9 And the young woman pleased him and won his favor. And he quickly provided her cwith her cosmetics and her portion of food, and with seven chosen young women from the king's palace, and advanced her and her young women to the best place in the harem. 10 dEsther had not made known her people or kindred, for Mordecai had commanded her not to make it known. 11 And every day Mordecai walked in front of the court of the harem to learn how Esther was and what was happening to her.
12 Now when the turn came for each young woman to go in to King Ahasuerus, after being twelve months under the regulations for the women, since this was the regular period of their beautifying, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for women— 13 when the young woman went in to the king in this way, she was given whatever she desired to take with her from the harem to the king's palace. 14 In the evening she would go in, and in the morning she would return to the second harem in custody of Shaashgaz, the king's eunuch, who was in charge of the concubines. She would not go in to the king again, unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name.
15 When the turn came for Esther ethe daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his own daughter, to go in to the king, she asked for nothing except what fHegai the king's eunuch, who had charge of the women, advised. Now Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her. 16 And when Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus, into his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign, 17 the king loved Esther more than all the women, and she won grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins, so that he set gthe royal crown2 on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti. 18 Then the king hgave a great feast for all his officials and servants; it was Esther's feast. He also granted a remission of taxes to the provinces and gave gifts with royal generosity.
Mordecai Discovers a Plot
19 Now when the virgins were gathered together ithe second time, Mordecai was sitting jat the king's gate. 20 kEsther had not made known her kindred or her people, as Mordecai had commanded her, for Esther obeyed Mordecai just las when she was brought up by him. 21 In those days, as Mordecai was sitting at the king's gate, mBigthan and nTeresh, two of the king's eunuchs, who guarded the threshold, became angry and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus. 22 And this came to the knowledge of Mordecai, oand he told it to Queen Esther, and Esther told the king in the name of Mordecai. 23 When the affair was investigated and found to be so, the men were both hanged on the gallows.3 And it was recorded in pthe book of the chronicles in the presence of the king.
Haman Plots Against the Jews
3 After these things King Ahasuerus qpromoted Haman rthe Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, sand advanced him and set his throne above all the officials who were with him. 2 And all the king's servants who were at the king's gate bowed down and paid homage to Haman, for the king had so commanded concerning him. tBut Mordecai did not bow down or pay homage. 3 Then the king's servants who were uat the king's gate said to Mordecai, “Why do you transgress vthe king's command?” 4 And when they spoke to him day after day and he would not listen to them, they told Haman, in order to see whether Mordecai's words would stand, for he had told them that he was a Jew. 5 And when Haman saw that tMordecai did not bow down or pay homage to him, Haman was wfilled with fury. 6 But he disdained1 to lay hands on Mordecai alone. So, as they had made known to him the people of Mordecai, Haman sought to destroy2 all the Jews, the people of Mordecai, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus.
7 In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, xthey cast Pur (that is, they cast lots) before Haman day after day; and they cast it month after month till the twelfth month, which is ythe month of Adar. 8 Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. zTheir laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the king's laws, so that it is not to the king's profit to tolerate them. 9 If it please the king, let it be decreed that they be destroyed, and I will pay 10,000 talents3 of silver into the hands of those who have charge of the king's business, that they may put it into the king's treasuries.” 10 aSo the king took his signet ring from his hand and gave it to Haman bthe Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, cthe enemy of the Jews. 11 And the king said to Haman, “The money is given to you, the people also, to do with them as it seems good to you.”
12 dThen the king's scribes were summoned on the thirteenth day of the first month, and an edict, according to all that Haman commanded, was written to the king's esatraps and to the governors over all the provinces and to the officials of all the peoples, fto every province in its own script and every people in its own language. It was written gin the name of King Ahasuerus hand sealed with the king's signet ring. 13 Letters were sent iby couriers to all the king's provinces with instruction jto destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, kin one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, land to plunder their goods. 14 mA copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province by proclamation to all the peoples to be ready for that day. 15 iThe couriers went out hurriedly by order of the king, and the decree was issued in Susa the citadel. And the king and Haman sat down to drink, nbut the city of Susa was thrown into confusion.
Esther Agrees to Help the Jews
4 When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes oand put on sackcloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and he cried out with a loud and bitter cry. 2 He went up to the entrance of the king's gate, for no one was allowed to enter the king's gate clothed in sackcloth. 3 And in every province, wherever the king's command and his decree reached, there was great mourning among the Jews, pwith fasting and weeping and lamenting, and many of them qlay in sackcloth and ashes.
4 When Esther's young women and her eunuchs came and told her, the queen was deeply distressed. She sent garments to clothe Mordecai, so that he might take off his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. 5 Then Esther called for Hathach, one of the king's eunuchs, who had been appointed to attend her, and ordered him to go to Mordecai to learn what this was and why it was. 6 Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king's gate, 7 and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, rand the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king's treasuries for the destruction of the Jews. 8 Mordecai also gave him sa copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction,1 that he might show it to Esther and explain it to her and command her to go to the king to beg his favor and plead with him2 on behalf of her people. 9 And Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 Then Esther spoke to Hathach and commanded him to go to Mordecai and say, 11 “All the king's servants and the people of the king's provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside tthe inner court without being called, uthere is but one law—to be put to death, except the one vto whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live. But as for me, I have not been called to come in to the king these thirty days.”
12 And they told Mordecai what Esther had said. 13 Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” 15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for wthree days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, xand if I perish, I perish.”3 17 Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.