Book summary

The book of Esther tells the story of a young Jewish woman who ends up becoming queen of Persia and helps to prevent the genocide of her people.

There are five main characters:

  • Xerxes I — king of Persia (also known as Ahasuerus)

  • Vashti — the queen that preceded Esther

  • Esther — a young Jewish woman that becomes queen

  • Mordecai — Esther’s cousin that adopts Esther as his daughter

  • Haman — King Xerxes’ highest ranking official

The story is set in Susa, the capital city of ancient Persia, and happens in between the 2nd and 3rd waves of the return to Zion (before the events in Nehemiah).

Chapters 1 to 2:18 — Esther becomes queen of Persia

Ch 1 — Queen Vashti deposed

  • [King Xerxes commanded his eunuchs] to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at. But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger. (Esther 1:11-12)

Ch 2:1-18 — Esther made queen

  • Then the king’s personal attendants proposed, “Let a search be made for beautiful young virgins for the king… Then let the young woman who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” (Esther 2:2,4)

  • This young woman, who was also known as Esther, had a lovely figure and was beautiful. Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died. (Esther 2:7)

Chapters 2:19 to 4:17 — Haman plots to destroy the Jews

Ch 2:19-23 — Mordecai uncovers a conspiracy

  • During the time Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai. (Esther 2:21-22)

Ch 3 — Haman plots to destroy the Jews

  • When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor, he was enraged. Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews, throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes. (Esther 3:5-6)

  • Then Haman said to King Xerxes, “There is a certain people dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom who keep themselves separate. Their customs are different from those of all other people, and they do not obey the king’s laws; it is not in the king’s best interest to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them, and I will give ten thousand talents of silver to the king’s administrators for the royal treasury.” (Esther 3:8-9)

Ch 4 — Mordecai persuades Esther to help

  • He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa, to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to instruct her to go into the king’s presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people. (Esther 4:8)

Chapters 5-7 — Esther’s banquets to petition the king

Ch 5-6 — Esther’s first banquet

  • “If it pleases the king,” replied Esther, “let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.” (Esther 5:4)

  • [At the banquet, the king asked Esther what her petition was and Esther replied:] “If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king’s question.” (Esther. 5:8)

Ch 7 — Esther’s second banquet and Haman’s death

  • [The king and Haman went to Esther’s second banquet where Esther presented her petition:] “If I have found favor with you, Your Majesty, and if it pleases you, grant me my life — this is my petition. And spare my people — this is my request. (Esther 7:3)

  • King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, “Who is he? Where is he — the man who has dared to do such a thing?” Esther said, “An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!” Then Haman was terrified before the king and queen. (Esther 7:5-6)

Chapters 8-10 — The Jews are saved

Ch 8:1 to 9:19 — The king’s decree on behalf of the Jews

  • The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies. (Esther 8:11)

Ch 9:20 to 10:3 — Mordecai honored

  • Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews. (Esther 10:3)