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.
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)