When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Mordecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes, and went through the city, wailing with a loud and bitter cry;
he went up to the entrance of the king's gate, for no one might enter the king's gate clothed with sackcloth.
In every province, wherever the king's command and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting, and most of them lay in sackcloth and ashes.
When Esther's maids 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.
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 was happening and why.
Hathach went out to Mordecai in the open square of the city in front of the king's gate,
and Mordecai told him all that had happened to him, and the exact sum of money that Haman had promised to pay into the king's treasuries for the destruction of the Jews.
Mordecai also gave him a copy of the written decree issued in Susa for their destruction, that he might show it to Esther, explain it to her, and charge her to go to the king to make supplication to him and entreat him for her people.
Hathach went and told Esther what Mordecai had said.
Then Esther spoke to Hathach and gave him a message for Mordecai, saying,
"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 the inner court without being called, there is but one law—all alike are to be put to death. Only if the king holds out the golden scepter to someone, may that person live. I myself have not been called to come in to the king for thirty days."
When they told Mordecai what Esther had said,
Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, "Do not think that in the king's palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews.
For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father's family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this."
Then Esther said in reply to Mordecai,
"Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will also fast as you do. After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law; and if I perish, I perish."
Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.
18a Then Mordecai b prayed to the Lord, calling to remembrance all the works of the Lord.
e said, "O Lord, Lord, you rule as King over all things, for the universe is in your power and there is no one who can oppose you when it is your will to save Israel,
for you have made heaven and earth and every wonderful thing under heaven.
You are Lord of all, and there is no one who can resist you, the Lord.
You know all things; you know, O Lord, that it was not in insolence or pride or for any love of glory that I did this, and refused to bow down to this proud Haman;
for I would have been willing to kiss the soles of his feet to save Israel!
But I did this so that I might not set human glory above the glory of God, and I will not bow down to anyone but you, who are my Lord; and I will not do these things in pride.
And now, O Lord God and King, God of Abraham, spare your people; for the eyes of our foes are upon us c to annihilate us, and they desire to destroy the inheritance that has been yours from the beginning.
Do not neglect your portion, which you redeemed for yourself out of the land of Egypt.
Hear my prayer, and have mercy upon your inheritance; turn our mourning into feasting that we may live and sing praise to your name, O Lord; do not destroy the lips d of those who praise you."
And all Israel cried out mightily, for their death was before their eyes.
Then Queen Esther, seized with deadly anxiety, fled to the Lord.
She took off her splendid apparel and put on the garments of distress and mourning, and instead of costly perfumes she covered her head with ashes and dung, and she utterly humbled her body; every part that she loved to adorn she covered with her tangled hair.
She prayed to the Lord God of Israel, and said: "O my Lord, you only are our king; help me, who am alone and have no helper but you,
for my danger is in my hand.
Ever since I was born I have heard in the tribe of my family that you, O Lord, took Israel out of all the nations, and our ancestors from among all their forebears, for an everlasting inheritance, and that you did for them all that you promised.
And now we have sinned before you, and you have handed us over to our enemies
because we glorified their gods. You are righteous, O Lord!
And now they are not satisfied that we are in bitter slavery, but they have covenanted with their idols
to abolish what your mouth has ordained, and to destroy your inheritance, to stop the mouths of those who praise you and to quench your altar and the glory of your house,
to open the mouths of the nations for the praise of vain idols, and to magnify forever a mortal king.
"O Lord, do not surrender your scepter to what has no being; and do not let them laugh at our downfall; but turn their plan against them, and make an example of him who began this against us.
Remember, O Lord; make yourself known in this time of our affliction, and give me courage, O King of the gods and Master of all dominion!
Put eloquent speech in my mouth before the lion, and turn his heart to hate the man who is fighting against us, so that there may be an end of him and those who agree with him.
But save us by your hand, and help me, who am alone and have no helper but you, O Lord.
You have knowledge of all things, and you know that I hate the splendor of the wicked and abhor the bed of the uncircumcised and of any alien.
You know my necessity—that I abhor the sign of my proud position, which is upon my head on days when I appear in public. I abhor it like a filthy rag, and I do not wear it on the days when I am at leisure.
And your servant has not eaten at Haman's table, and I have not honored the king's feast or drunk the wine of libations.
Your servant has had no joy since the day that I was brought here until now, except in you, O Lord God of Abraham.
O God, whose might is over all, hear the voice of the despairing, and save us from the hands of evildoers. And save me from my fear!"
On the third day, when she ended her prayer, she took off the garments in which she had worshiped, and arrayed herself in splendid attire.
Then, majestically adorned, after invoking the aid of the all-seeing God and Savior, she took two maids with her;
on one she leaned gently for support,
while the other followed, carrying her train.
She was radiant with perfect beauty, and she looked happy, as if beloved, but her heart was frozen with fear.
When she had gone through all the doors, she stood before the king. He was seated on his royal throne, clothed in the full array of his majesty, all covered with gold and precious stones. He was most terrifying.
Lifting his face, flushed with splendor, he looked at her in fierce anger. The queen faltered, and turned pale and faint, and collapsed on the head of the maid who went in front of her.
Then God changed the spirit of the king to gentleness, and in alarm he sprang from his throne and took her in his arms until she came to herself. He comforted her with soothing words, and said to her,
"What is it, Esther? I am your husband. e Take courage;
You shall not die, for our law applies only to our subjects. f Come near."
Then he raised the golden scepter and touched her neck with it;
he embraced her, and said, "Speak to me."
She said to him, "I saw you, my lord, like an angel of God, and my heart was shaken with fear at your glory.
For you are wonderful, my lord, and your countenance is full of grace."
And while she was speaking, she fainted and fell.
Then the king was agitated, and all his servants tried to comfort her.
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (New Revised Standard w/ Apocrypha)