Biblical and Historical Accounts Esther and the Feast of Purim
Queen of Persia and wife of Assuerus, who is identified with Xerxes (485-465 B.C.), Esther was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, daughter of Abihail, and bore before her accession to the throne the name of Edissa (Hadassah, myrtle). Her family had been deported from Jerusalem to Babylon in the time of Jechonias (599 B.C.). On the death of her parents she was adopted by her father's brother, Mordechai, who then dwelt in Susan, the capital of Persia. King Assuerus being angered at the refusal of his wife Vasthi to respond to his invitation to attend a banquet that he gave in the third year of his reign divorced her and ordered the most attractive maidens of the kingdom brought before him that he might select her successor from among them. Among these was Esther, whose rare beauty captivated the king and moved him to place her on the throne. Her uncle Mordechai remained constantly near the palace so that he might advise and counsel her. While at the gate of the palace he discovered a plot of two of the king's eunuchs to kill their royal master. This plot he revealed to Esther, who in turn informed the king. The plotters were executed, and a record of the services of Mordechai was entered in the chronicles of the kingdom. Not long thereafter, Aman, a royal favourite before whom the king had ordered all to bow, having frequently observed Mordechai at the gate of the palace and noticed that he refused to prostrate himself before him, cunningly obtained the king's consent for a general massacre in one day of all the Jews in the kingdom. Following a Persian custom, Aman determined by lot (pur, pl. purim), that the massacre should take place a twelvemonth hence. A royal decree was thereupon sent throughout the Kingdom of Persia. Mordechai informed Esther of this and begged her to use her influence with the king and thus avert the threatening danger. At first she feared to enter the presence of the king un-summoned, for to do so was a capital offence. But, on the earnest entreaty of her uncle, she consented to approach after three days, which with her maids she would pass in fasting and prayer, and during which she requested her uncle to have all the Jews in the city fast and pray.
On the third day Esther appeared before the king, who received her graciously and promised to grant her request whatever it might be. She then asked him and Aman to dine with her. At the banquet they accepted her invitation to dine with her again on the following day. Aman, carried away by the joy that this honour gave him, issued orders for the erection of a gallows on which he purposed to hang the hated Mordechai. But that night the king, being sleepless, ordered the chronicles of the nation to be read to him. Learning that Mordechai had never been rewarded for his service in revealing the plot of the eunuchs, he asked Aman, the next day, to suggest a suitable reward for one "whom the king desired to honour". Thinking it was himself that the king had in mind, Aman suggested the use of the king's apparel and insignia. These, the king ordered to be bestowed on Mordechai. At the second banquet, when the king repeated to Esther his offer to grant her whatever she might ask, she informed him of the plot of Aman which involved the destruction of the whole Jewish people to which she belonged, and pleaded that they should be spared. The king ordered that Aman should be hanged on the gibbet prepared for Mordechai, and, confiscating his property, bestowed it upon the intended victim. He charged Mordechai to address to all the governors of Persia letters authorizing the Jews to defend themselves and to kill all those who, by virtue of the previous decree, should attack them. During two days the Jews took a bloody revenge on their enemies in Susan and other cities. Mordechai then instituted the feast of Purim (lots) which he exhorted the Jews to celebrate in memory of the day which Aman had determined for their destruction, but which had been turned by Esther into a day of triumph. The foregoing story of Esther is taken from the Book of Esther as found in the Vulgate. Jewish traditions place the tomb of Esther at Hamadan (Ecbatana). The Fathers of the Church considered Esther as a type of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
(See also HERODOTUS, History, VII, 8, 24, 35, 37-39; IX, 108)
The Tomb of Esther and Mardochai in Hamadan
||A well known site in Hamadan, the present building of the mausoleum, which is visited by Jewish pilgrims from all over the world, is a simple building from the architectural point of view. Under its simple brick dome there are two graves with some Hebrew inscription up on the plaster work of the wall. Two exquisite wooden tomb-boxes are also to be seen, one of which is of an earlier date and bears an inscription in Hebrew.
The original structure dates to the 7th Century A. H. [13th Century A.D.] and it might have been erected over other and more ancient tombs. The exterior form of this mausoleum, built of brick and stone, resembles Islamic constructions, and the monument consists of an entrance, a vestibule, a sanctuary and a Shah-ni-shin (King's sitting place). Some believe that the mausoleum is the resting-place of Esther, the Achaemenian Queen and wife of Xerxes (Khashayarshah) and the second tomb belongs to her uncle, Mordechai.