Esther was a Jewess who lived in Persia and became queen to the Persian king Ahasuerus, also known as Xerxes I.
He reigned from 486 to 465 BC. The story of Esther is found in the book that is named after her. The book does not say who wrote it. Features of the book When an earlier Persian king gave the Jews permission to return to their homeland, many preferred not to go. Rather than face the hardships and risks involved in rebuilding Jerusalem and its temple, they made life more comfortable for themselves where they were. Their prosperity increased, but they showed little interest in re-establishing the Jewish religious order as a spiritual force among the Jewish people. This attitude is reflected in the book of Esther, whose story is built around Jews in Persia. The book does not mention God, apart perhaps from one reference to some unseen force that determines events (Esther 4:14).
The closest indication of any spiritual awareness in the people is in one reference to fasting, though even then there is no reference to any kind of prayer (Esther 4:16). But whether his people acknowledged him or not, God was still directing their affairs to ensure they were not destroyed.
Summary of the story
When the Persian king decided to replace his queen, the woman chosen was Esther, an orphan Jew who had been brought up by her cousin Mordecai. Mordecai worked around the palace where, on one occasion, he saved the king’s life by reporting an assassination plot (1:1-2:23).
Some time later a proud and ambitious man named Haman became chief minister in the Persian government. Haman hated the Jews, and when Mordecai refused to bow to him, he determined to destroy all Jews throughout the Empire (3:1-15). While Haman cast lots (purim) to find the right day for the Jews’ slaughter, Mordecai persuaded Esther to appeal to the king to have mercy on her people (4:1-5:14). Esther then revealed to the king that she was Jewish. When the king discovered that Haman wanted to wipe out a people that included his queen, and in particular that he wanted to kill the man who had saved the king’s life, he executed Haman (6:1-7:10). Mordecai then became chief minister instead of Haman. The day that had been chosen by the casting of lots (purim) for the slaughter of the Jews now became the day when the Jews took revenge on their enemies. The Jews’ celebration of their victory was the origin of an annual Jewish festival known as the Feast of Purim (8:1-9:32). Through Mordecai the Jews enjoyed increased freedom and prosperity (10:1- 3).