Later, when King Xerxes' anger had cooled and he was having second thoughts about what Vashti had done and what he had ordered against her,
the king's young attendants stepped in and got the ball rolling: "Let's begin a search for beautiful young virgins for the king.
Let the king appoint officials in every province of his kingdom to bring every beautiful young virgin to the palace complex of Susa and to the harem run by Hegai, the king's eunuch who oversees the women; he will put them through their beauty treatments.
Then let the girl who best pleases the king be made queen in place of Vashti." The king liked this advice and took it.
Now there was a Jew who lived in the palace complex in Susa. His name was Mordecai the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish - a Benjaminite.
His ancestors had been taken from Jerusalem with the exiles and carried off with King Jehoiachin of Judah by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon into exile.
Mordecai had reared his cousin Hadassah, otherwise known as Esther, since she had no father or mother. The girl had a good figure and a beautiful face. After her parents died, Mordecai had adopted her.
When the king's order had been publicly posted, many young girls were brought to the palace complex of Susa and given over to Hegai who was overseer of the women. Esther was among them.
Hegai liked Esther and took a special interest in her. Right off he started her beauty treatments, ordered special food, assigned her seven personal maids from the palace, and put her and her maids in the best rooms in the harem.
Esther didn't say anything about her family and racial background because Mordecai had told her not to.
Every day Mordecai strolled beside the court of the harem to find out how Esther was and get news of what she was doing.
Each girl's turn came to go in to King Xerxes after she had completed the twelve months of prescribed beauty treatments - six months' treatment with oil of myrrh followed by six months with perfumes and various cosmetics.
When it was time for the girl to go to the king, she was given whatever she wanted to take with her when she left the harem for the king's quarters.
She would go there in the evening; in the morning she would return to a second harem overseen by Shaashgaz, the king's eunuch in charge of the concubines. She never again went back to the king unless the king took a special liking to her and asked for her by name.
When it was Esther's turn to go to the king (Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had adopted her as his daughter), she asked for nothing other than what Hegai, the king's eunuch in charge of the harem, had recommended. Esther, just as she was, won the admiration of everyone who saw her.
She was taken to King Xerxes in the royal palace in the tenth month, the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of the king's reign.
The king fell in love with Esther far more than with any of his other women or any of the other virgins - he was totally smitten by her. He placed a royal crown on her head and made her queen in place of Vashti.
Then the king gave a great banquet for all his nobles and officials - "Esther's Banquet." He proclaimed a holiday for all the provinces and handed out gifts with royal generosity.
On one of the occasions when the virgins were being gathered together, Mordecai was sitting at the King's Gate.
All this time, Esther had kept her family background and race a secret as Mordecai had ordered; Esther still did what Mordecai told her, just as when she was being raised by him.
On this day, with Mordecai sitting at the King's Gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's eunuchs who guarded the entrance, had it in for the king and were making plans to kill King Xerxes.
But Mordecai learned of the plot and told Queen Esther, who then told King Xerxes, giving credit to Mordecai. When the thing was investigated and confirmed as true, the two men were hanged on a gallows. This was all written down in a logbook kept for the king's use.
Published by permission. Originally published by NavPress in English as THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language copyright 2002 by Eugene Peterson. All rights reserved. (The Message Bible Online)