Esther 6; Esther 7; Esther 8; Acts 6

1 That same night the king could not get to sleep, so he had the official records of the empire brought and read to him. 2 The part they read included the account of how Mordecai had uncovered a plot to assassinate the king - the plot made by Bigthana and Teresh, the two palace eunuchs who had guarded the king's rooms. 3 The king asked, "How have we honored and rewarded Mordecai for this?" His servants answered, "Nothing has been done for him." 4 "Are any of my officials in the palace?" the king asked. Now Haman had just entered the courtyard; he had come to ask the king to have Mordecai hanged on the gallows that was now ready. 5 So the servants answered, "Haman is here, waiting to see you." "Show him in," said the king. 6 So Haman came in, and the king said to him, "There is someone I wish very much to honor. What should I do for this man?" Haman thought to himself, "Now who could the king want to honor so much? Me, of course." 7 So he answered the king, "Have royal robes brought for this man - robes that you yourself wear. Have a royal ornament put on your own horse. 9 Then have one of your highest noblemen dress the man in these robes and lead him, mounted on the horse, through the city square. Have the nobleman announce as they go: "See how the king rewards someone he wishes to honor!' " 10 Then the king said to Haman, "Hurry and get the robes and the horse, and provide these honors for Mordecai the Jew. Do everything for him that you have suggested. You will find him sitting at the entrance of the palace." 11 So Haman got the robes and the horse, and he put the robes on Mordecai. Mordecai got on the horse, and Haman led him through the city square, announcing to the people as they went: "See how the king rewards a man he wishes to honor!" 12 Mordecai then went back to the palace entrance while Haman hurried home, covering his face in embarrassment. 13 He told his wife and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then she and those wise friends of his told him, "You are beginning to lose power to Mordecai. He is a Jew, and you cannot overcome him. He will certainly defeat you." 14 While they were still talking, the palace eunuchs arrived in a hurry to take Haman to Esther's banquet.
1 And so the king and Haman went to eat with Esther 2 for a second time. Over the wine the king asked her again, "Now, Queen Esther, what do you want? Tell me and you shall have it. I'll even give you half the empire." 3 Queen Esther answered, "If it please Your Majesty to grant my humble request, my wish is that I may live and that my people may live. 4 My people and I have been sold for slaughter. If it were nothing more serious than being sold into slavery, I would have kept quiet and not bothered you about it; but we are about to be destroyed - exterminated!" 5 Then King Xerxes asked Queen Esther, "Who dares to do such a thing? Where is this man?" 6 Esther answered, "Our enemy, our persecutor, is this evil man Haman!" Haman faced the king and queen with terror. 7 The king got up in a fury, left the room, and went outside to the palace gardens. Haman could see that the king was determined to punish him for this, so he stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life. 8 He had just thrown himself down on Esther's couch to beg for mercy, when the king came back into the room from the gardens. Seeing this, the king cried out, "Is this man going to rape the queen right here in front of me, in my own palace?" The king had no sooner said this than the eunuchs covered Haman's head. 9 Then one of them, who was named Harbonah, said, "Haman even went so far as to build a gallows at his house so that he could hang Mordecai, who saved Your Majesty's life. And it's seventy-five feet tall!" "Hang Haman on it!" the king commanded. 10 So Haman was hanged on the gallows that he had built for Mordecai. Then the king's anger cooled down.
1 That same day King Xerxes gave Queen Esther all the property of Haman, the enemy of the Jews. Esther told the king that Mordecai was related to her, and from then on Mordecai was allowed to enter the king's presence. 2 The king took off his ring with his seal on it (which he had taken back from Haman) and gave it to Mordecai. Esther put Mordecai in charge of Haman's property. 3 Then Esther spoke to the king again, throwing herself at his feet and crying. She begged him to do something to stop the evil plot that Haman, the descendant of Agag, had made against the Jews. 4 The king held out the gold scepter to her, so she stood up and said, 5 "If it please Your Majesty, and if you care about me and if it seems right to you, please issue a proclamation to keep Haman's orders from being carried out - those orders that the son of Hammedatha the descendant of Agag gave for the destruction of all the Jews in the empire. 6 How can I endure it if this disaster comes on my people, and my own relatives are killed?" 7 King Xerxes then said to Queen Esther and Mordecai, the Jew, "Look, I have hanged Haman for his plot against the Jews, and I have given Esther his property. 8 But a proclamation issued in the king's name and stamped with the royal seal cannot be revoked. You may, however, write to the Jews whatever you like; and you may write it in my name and stamp it with the royal seal." 9 This happened on the twenty-third day of the third month, the month of Sivan. Mordecai called the king's secretaries and dictated letters to the Jews and to the governors, administrators, and officials of all the 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia. The letters were written to each province in its own language and system of writing and to the Jews in their language and system of writing. 10 Mordecai had the letters written in the name of King Xerxes, and he stamped them with the royal seal. They were delivered by riders mounted on fast horses from the royal stables. 11 These letters explained that the king would allow the Jews in every city to organize for self-defense. If armed men of any nationality in any province attacked the Jewish men, their children, or their women, the Jews could fight back and destroy the attackers; they could slaughter them to the last man and take their possessions. 12 This decree was to take effect throughout the Persian Empire on the day set for the slaughter of the Jews, the thirteenth of Adar, the twelfth month. 13 It was to be proclaimed as law and made known to everyone in every province, so that the Jews would be ready to take revenge on their enemies when that day came. 14 At the king's command the riders mounted royal horses and rode off at top speed. The decree was also made public in Susa, the capital city. 15 Mordecai left the palace, wearing royal robes of blue and white, a cloak of fine purple linen, and a magnificent gold crown. Then the streets of Susa rang with cheers and joyful shouts. 16 For the Jews there was joy and relief, happiness and a sense of victory. 17 In every city and province, wherever the king's proclamation was read, the Jews held a joyful holiday with feasting and happiness. In fact, many other people became Jews, because they were afraid of them now.
1 Some time later, as the number of disciples kept growing, there was a quarrel between the Greek-speaking Jews and the native Jews. The Greek-speaking Jews claimed that their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of funds. 2 So the twelve apostles called the whole group of believers together and said, "It is not right for us to neglect the preaching of God's word in order to handle finances. 3 So then, friends, choose seven men among you who are known to be full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, and we will put them in charge of this matter. 4 We ourselves, then, will give our full time to prayer and the work of preaching." 5 The whole group was pleased with the apostles' proposal, so they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a Gentile from Antioch who had earlier been converted to Judaism. 6 The group presented them to the apostles, who prayed and placed their hands on them. 7 And so the word of God continued to spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem grew larger and larger, and a great number of priests accepted the faith. 8 Stephen, a man richly blessed by God and full of power, performed great miracles and wonders among the people. 9 But he was opposed by some men who were members of the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), which had Jews from Cyrene and Alexandria. They and other Jews from the provinces of Cilicia and Asia started arguing with Stephen. 10 But the Spirit gave Stephen such wisdom that when he spoke, they could not refute him. 11 So they bribed some men to say, "We heard him speaking against Moses and against God!" 12 In this way they stirred up the people, the elders, and the teachers of the Law. They seized Stephen and took him before the Council. 13 Then they brought in some men to tell lies about him. "This man," they said, "is always talking against our sacred Temple and the Law of Moses. 14 We heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will tear down the Temple and change all the customs which have come down to us from Moses!" 15 All those sitting in the Council fixed their eyes on Stephen and saw that his face looked like the face of an angel.
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