When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes in anguish. Then he dressed in sackcloth, covered his head with ashes, and ran through the city crying loudly, "An innocent nation is being destroyed!"
When he came to the entrance of the palace, he stopped. He did not go in because no one in sackcloth and ashes was allowed inside.
Throughout all the provinces, wherever the king's proclamation was made known, there was loud mourning among the Jews. They wept, wailed, and put on sackcloth and ashes.
When Esther's servant women and eunuchs told her what Mordecai was doing, she was deeply disturbed. She sent Mordecai some clothes to put on instead of the sackcloth, but he would not accept them.
Then she called Hathach, one of the palace eunuchs appointed as her servant, and told him to go to Mordecai and get the details of what was happening.
Mordecai told him everything that had happened and how Haman had promised to put 375 tons of silver into the royal treasury if all the Jews were killed.
He gave Hathach a copy of the proclamation that had been issued in Susa, ordering the destruction of the Jews. Mordecai asked him to take it to Esther so that she might go and plead with the king and beg him to have mercy on her people. "Tell her," he said, "to remember the days when she was just an ordinary person being brought up under my care. Now, since Haman, the king's prime minister, has spoken against us and demands our death, she must pray to the Lord and then speak to the king about us. She must save us from death."
So Hathach did this,
and Esther gave him this message to take back to Mordecai:
"If anyone, man or woman, goes to the inner courtyard and sees the king without being summoned, that person will be sentenced to death. Everyone in the empire knows that. Only if the king holds out his gold scepter to him can his life be spared. But it has been a month now since the king has sent for me."
When Mordecai received Esther's message,
he sent her this warning: "Esther, don't imagine that you are safer than any of the other Jews in the empire.
If you keep quiet at a time like this, help will come to the Jews in some other way and they will be saved, but you will die and your father's family will come to an end. Yet, who knows? Maybe it was for a time like this that you were made queen!"
Esther sent Mordecai this reply:
"Go and gather all the Jews in Susa together; hold a fast and pray for me. Don't eat or drink anything for three days and nights. My servant women and I will be doing the same. After that, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. If I must die for doing it, I will die."
Mordecai then left and did everything that Esther had told him to do.
Mordecai prayed to the Lord, calling to mind what the Lord had done in the past:
"O Lord, you are the Lord and King of all creation, and everything obeys your commands. If you wish to save Israel, no one can stop you.
You made heaven and earth and all the wonderful things on earth.
You are the Lord of all, and there is no one who can stand against you.
You know all things. You know, Lord, that when I refused to bow to that arrogant Haman, it was not because I was arrogant or trying to impress people.
I simply did not want to honor any human being more than I honor God. I refuse to bow to anyone but you, my Lord; and this is not because of pride. If it would help to save Israel, I would be willing even to kiss the soles of his feet.
"And now, O Lord, God and King, God of Abraham, spare your people; save us from our enemies. They are determined to destroy us; they are looking for a chance. Long ago you chose us to be your people and rescued us from the land of Egypt. Do not abandon us now. 1
We are your chosen people, so listen to my prayer and be gracious to us. Turn our misfortune into joy so that we may live to sing your praises. Save us from death so that we can keep on praising you."
And all the people of Israel prayed loudly and earnestly because they were sure that they were going to die.
Queen Esther, in deep agony, turned to the Lord.
She took off her splendid robes and put on garments of mourning and grief. Instead of her rich perfumes, she put ashes and dung on her head. She did all she could to destroy any dignity in her appearance. She let her tangled and uncombed hair hang down over her body that she had always taken such care to beautify.
She prayed to the Lord God of Israel, "My Lord and King, only you are God. I am all alone, and I have no one to turn to but you. Help me!
I am about to risk my life.
O Lord, as long as I can remember, my family has told me how you chose Israel from all the nations and how in ancient times you singled out our ancestors to be your people forever. You have kept all your promises to them.
"But we sinned against you. You handed us over to our enemies because we worshiped their gods.
We deserved your punishment, O Lord.
But our enemies are no longer satisfied just to see us in slavery. They have made a solemn promise to their idols
not only to destroy the people who praise you, but to do away with your Law and to remove forever the glory of your house and altar.
They want the whole world to praise worthless idols and stand in awe of mortal kings forever.
"Lord, these gods are nothing; do not surrender your power to them or give our enemies the chance to laugh at our downfall. Instead, turn their evil plans against them, and make an example of that man who first planned our destruction.
"Remember us, O Lord. Come to us in this time of trouble. Give me courage, King of all gods and Ruler over all earthly powers.
Give me the right words to say when I go in to face Xerxes, that savage lion. Change his heart so that he will turn against Haman, our enemy, and destroy him and his gang. 2
Come to our rescue, O Lord. Help me; I am all alone, and I have no one to turn to but you.
"You know everything, Lord. You know that I hate the honor I receive from these Gentiles. I detest the thought of having sex with any of these uncircumcised heathen.
But you know that I have no choice. I hate the crown I have to wear as queen on official occasions. I never wear it unless I have to; it's as disgusting as last month's rag.
I refuse to eat at Haman's table or honor the king by attending his parties, and I have never drunk any of the wine dedicated to his gods. 3
Since I came here, the only thing that has brought me joy is my worship of you, Lord God of Abraham.
"Almighty God, listen to the prayer of your people. Rescue us from these evildoers, and take away my fear."
Queen Esther prayed for three days. Then she took off the clothes she had been wearing and put on her splendid robes again.
In all her royal splendor, she prayed again to her God and savior, who sees everything. Walking like a queen, she left her room accompanied by two servant women, one of them escorting her by the arm and
the other holding up the train of her robe.
Queen Esther's face was radiantly beautiful. She looked as cheerful as she was lovely, but in her heart she was terror-stricken.
She passed through all the doors and entered the throne room, where she stood before the king. He was seated on his royal throne, dressed in his glorious robes, which were covered with gold and precious jewels. It was an awe-inspiring sight.
His face glowed with splendor, but when he saw Esther, he stared at her with fierce anger. She grew weak and turned pale; she almost fainted and had to lean her head on her attendant's shoulder.
But God changed the king's anger into tender concern. He quickly rose from his throne and took her in his arms until she was able to stand. He calmed her with comforting words.
"What is it, Esther?" he said to her. "I am your husband. There's no need to be afraid.
Our law applies only to ordinary people; you will not die.
Come here to me."
He lifted his gold scepter and touched her on the neck with it. Then he kissed her and said, "Tell me what you want."
"When I looked at you, my lord, I thought I was seeing an angel of God," the queen answered, "and I was overcome by your awesome majesty.
You are so marvelous and your face is so full of kindness."
But while she was speaking, she fainted again.
The king was concerned about her, and all his attendants tried to revive her.