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Esther 3; Esther 4; Esther 5; Acts 5:22-42

1 Sometime later, King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, Hammedatha the Agagite's son, by promoting him above all the officials who worked with him. 2 All the royal workers at the King's Gate would kneel and bow facedown to Haman because the king had so ordered. But Mordecai didn't kneel or bow down. 3 So the royal workers at the King's Gate said to Mordecai, "Why don't you obey the king's order?" 4 Day after day they questioned him, but he paid no attention to them. So they let Haman know about it just to see whether or not Mordecai's words would hold true. (He had told them that he was a Jew.) 5 When Haman himself saw that Mordecai didn't kneel or bow down to him, he became very angry. 6 But he decided not to kill only Mordecai, for people had told him Mordecai's race. Instead, he planned to wipe out all the Jews, Mordecai's people, throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus. 7 In the first month (that is, the month of Nisan) in the twelfth year of the rule of King Ahasuerus, servants threw pur, namely, dice, in front of Haman to find the best day for his plan. They tried every day and every month, and the dice chose the thirteenth day of the twelfth month (that is, the month of Adar). 8 Then Haman said to King Ahasuerus, "A certain group of people exist in pockets among the other peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of everyone else, and they refuse to obey the king's laws. There's no good reason for the king to put up with them any longer. 9 If the king wishes, let a written order be sent out to destroy them, and I will hand over ten thousand kikkars of silver to those in charge of the king's business. The silver can go into the king's treasuries." 10 The king removed his royal ring from his finger and handed it to Haman, Hammedatha the Agagite's son, enemy of the Jews. 11 The king said to Haman, "Both the money and the people are under your power. Do as you like with them." 12 So in the first month, on the thirteenth day, royal scribes were summoned to write down everything that Haman ordered. The orders were for the king's rulers and the governors in charge of each province, as well as for the officials of each people. They wrote in the alphabet of each province and in the language of each people. They wrote in the name of King Ahasuerus and sealed the order with the king's royal ring. 13 Fast runners were to take the order to all the provinces of the king. The order commanded people to wipe out, kill, and destroy all the Jews, both young and old, even women and little children. This was to happen on a single day—the thirteenth day of the twelfth month (that is, the month of Adar). They were also to seize their property. 14 A copy of the order was to become law in each province and to be posted in public for all peoples to read. The people were to be ready for this day to do as the order commanded. 15 Driven by the king's order, the runners left Susa just as the law became public in the fortified part of Susa. While the king and Haman sat down to have a drink, the city of Susa was in total shock.
1 When Mordecai learned what had been done, he tore his clothes, dressed in mourning clothes, and put ashes on his head. Then he went out into the heart of the city and cried out loudly and bitterly. 2 He went only as far as the King's Gate because it was against the law for anyone to pass through it wearing mourning clothes. 3 At the same time, in every province and place where the king's order and his new law arrived, a very great sadness came over the Jews. They gave up eating and spent whole days weeping and crying out loudly in pain. Many Jews lay on the ground in mourning clothes and ashes. 4 When Esther's female servants and eunuchs came and told her about Mordecai, the queen's whole body showed how upset she was. She sent everyday clothes for Mordecai to wear instead of mourning clothes, but he rejected them. 5 Esther then sent for Hathach, one of the royal eunuchs whose job it was to wait on her. She ordered him to go to Mordecai and find out what was going on and why he was acting this way. 6 Hathach went out to Mordecai, to the city square in front of the King's Gate. 7 Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him. He spelled out the exact amount of silver that Haman promised to pay into the royal treasury. It was in exchange for the destruction of the Jews. 8 He also gave Hathach a copy of the law made public in Susa concerning the Jews' destruction so that Hathach could show it to Esther and report it to her. Through him Mordecai ordered her to go to the king to seek his kindness and his help for her people. 9 Hathach came back and told Esther what Mordecai had said. 10 In reply Esther ordered Hathach to tell Mordecai: 11 "All the king's officials and the people in his provinces know that there's a single law in a case like this. Any man or woman who comes to the king in the inner courtyard without being called is to be put to death. Only the person to whom the king holds out the gold scepter may live. In my case, I haven't been called to come to the king for the past thirty days." 12 When they told Mordecai Esther's words, 13 he had them respond to Esther: "Don't think for one minute that, unlike all the other Jews, you'll come out of this alive simply because you are in the palace. 14 In fact, if you don't speak up at this very important time, relief and rescue will appear for the Jews from another place, but you and your family will die. But who knows? Maybe it was for a moment like this that you came to be part of the royal family." 15 Esther sent back this word to Mordecai: 16 "Go, gather all the Jews who are in Susa and tell them to give up eating to help me be brave. They aren't to eat or drink anything for three whole days, and I myself will do the same, along with my female servants. Then, even though it's against the law, I will go to the king; and if I am to die, then die I will." 17 So Mordecai left where he was and did exactly what Esther had ordered him.
1 Three days later, Esther put on royal clothes and stood in the inner courtyard of the palace, facing the palace itself. At that moment the king was inside sitting on his royal throne and facing the palace doorway. 2 When the king noticed Queen Esther standing in the entry court, he was pleased. The king held out to Esther the gold scepter in his hand, and she came forward and touched the scepter's tip. 3 Then the king said to her, "What is it, Queen Esther? What do you want? I'll give you anything—even half the kingdom." 4 Esther answered, "If the king wishes, please come today with Haman for the feast that I have prepared for him." 5 "Hurry, get Haman," the king ordered, "so we can do what Esther says." So the king and Haman came to the feast that Esther had prepared. 6 As they sipped wine, the king asked, "Now what is it you wish? I'll give it to you. What do you want? I'll do anything—even give you half the kingdom." 7 Esther answered, "This is my wish and this is what I want: 8 If I please the king, and if the king wishes to grant my wish and my desire, I'd like the king and Haman to come to another feast that I will prepare for them. Tomorrow I will answer the king's questions." 9 That day Haman left Esther's place happy, his spirits high, but then he saw Mordecai in the King's Gate. Mordecai neither stood up nor seemed the least bit nervous around him, so Haman suddenly felt great rage toward Mordecai. 10 But Haman held himself back and went on home. He sent word that his friends and his wife Zeresh should join him there. 11 Haman boasted to them about his great wealth and his many sons. He told all about how the king had honored him by promoting him over the officials and high royal workers. 12 "Best of all," Haman said, "Queen Esther has invited no one else but me to join the king for food and drinks that she has prepared. In fact, I've been called to join the king at her place tomorrow! 13 But all this loses its meaning every time I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the King's Gate." 14 So his wife Zeresh and all his friends told him: "Have people prepare a pointed pole seventy-five feet high. In the morning, tell the king to have Mordecai impaled on it. Then you can go with the king to the feast in a happy mood." Haman liked the idea and had the pole prepared.
22 However, the guards didn't find them in the prison. They returned and reported, 23 "We found the prison locked and well-secured, with guards standing at the doors, but when we opened the doors we found no one inside!" 24 When they received this news, the captain of the temple guard and the chief priests were baffled and wondered what might be happening. 25 Just then, someone arrived and announced, "Look! The people you put in prison are standing in the temple and teaching the people!" 26 Then the captain left with his guards and brought the apostles back. They didn't use force because they were afraid the people would stone them. 27 The apostles were brought before the council where the high priest confronted them: 28 "In no uncertain terms, we demanded that you not teach in this name. And look at you! You have filled Jerusalem with your teaching. And you are determined to hold us responsible for this man's death." 29 Peter and the apostles replied, "We must obey God rather than humans! 30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God has exalted Jesus to his right side as leader and savior so that he could enable Israel to change its heart and life and to find forgiveness for sins. 32 We are witnesses of such things, as is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him." 33 When the council members heard this, they became furious and wanted to kill the apostles. 34 One council member, a Pharisee and teacher of the Law named Gamaliel, well-respected by all the people, stood up and ordered that the men be taken outside for a few moments. 35 He said, "Fellow Israelites, consider carefully what you intend to do to these people. 36 Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be somebody, and some four hundred men joined him. After he was killed, all of his followers scattered, and nothing came of that. 37 Afterward, at the time of the census, Judas the Galilean appeared and got some people to follow him in a revolt. He was killed too, and all his followers scattered far and wide. 38 Here's my recommendation in this case: Distance yourselves from these men. Let them go! If their plan or activity is of human origin, it will end in ruin. 39 If it originates with God, you won't be able to stop them. Instead, you would actually find yourselves fighting God!" The council was convinced by his reasoning. 40 After calling the apostles back, they had them beaten. They ordered them not to speak in the name of Jesus, then let them go. 41 The apostles left the council rejoicing because they had been regarded as worthy to suffer disgrace for the sake of the name. 42 Every day they continued to teach and proclaim the good news that Jesus is the Christ, both in the temple and in houses.
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