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most important service which had been rendered him, raised Mordecai high in the Persian court, and gave him many proofs of his royal favour.
But Mordecai had a bitter enemy in the king's palace, whose hatred towards him was so deep, that he had set his heart upon taking his life, and not only his life, but the lives of all his people. This person's name
was Haman; a very haughty and bad man, but one who had been raised by the king, who did not know his faults, to great honours in the kingdom, above all the princes of the land.
E. Had Mordecai done any thing to offend Haman ?
M. His chief offence, my son, was, that he would not join with the rest of the king's servants in bowing down before Haman, as he passed in and out of the king's gate. His reason for not doing this is supposed to have been, that Haman belonged to the nation of the Amalekites, a wicked heathen people, upon whom the Almighty had pronounced a curse in the time of Moses. This gave great offence to Haman, who hated him for this, and was also jealous of him because his young relation had been raised to the throne of Persia, by which means Mordecai himself had become a person of great importance in the country. And when Haman saw that Mordecai refused to bow to him and to do him reverence as he passed, he was full of wrath ; and determined from that moment not only to destroy him, but all the Jews that were throughout the kingdom with him : for they were the people of Mordecai, and on that account he hated them.
At first Haman could not tell how to bring upon the Jews the evil that he desired for them; but at length he went to the king, and told him, that there were a certain people scattered abroad, and dispersed among his subjects in all the provinces of his kingdom, whose laws were different from those of all other people, and who did not obey the laws of the king; and that by allowing persons to live among them who set so bad an example, he was doing an injury to his own person and authority.
All this Hainan managed to persuade the king, and at length he got him to consent to an order being sent all round his dominions for the Jews to be put to death.
E. What, all the Jews in the whole kingdom, mother? What a dreadful order!
M. Dreadful, indeed, Edward ! but Haman's hatred against Mordecai and all the Jews was bitter, and nothing but their blood would satisfy him. So eagerly did he desire this dreadful revenge, that he promised to pay into the king's treasury himself the very large sum of money
which was received into it every year as tribute from the Jews. Fancy, if
you can, my son, the terror and grief of the whole Jewish people, when letters, sealed with the king's seal, reached every part of the country, commanding to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon such a day as was there named by the king. The city of Shushan, from which this order was sent, was full of surprise and grief; and when Mordecai heard the dreadful news, he went into the midst of the city, covered with sackcloth and ashes, and cried with a loud and bitter cry, and came even before the king's gate. And in every province where the king's decree came there was deep mourning among the Jews, and fasting and weeping, and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.
But though Mordecai mourned so deeply when he first heard the cruel sentence that had gone out against his nation, he did not give himself up to despair. He was a good man, and had a great deal of faith, which enabled him to hope in God's mercy, and to trust, that even now, when the shades of death were gathering fast about them, he would find out some way of delivering his people. Mordecai remembered that God had often saved them before in times of great calamity, and he resolved to trust in him now. Yet he did not sit idly still, waiting to see what the Almighty would do for them; he determined to use every means in his power to save his unhappy countrymen, hoping that God might be pleased to bless his endeavours, and in this way to deliver them from death. And now how thankful and glad he was to think that his own beloved Esther was the wife of the king. To her his thoughts turned at once; and the delightful idea occurred to him, that the good providence of God had, perhaps, raised her to the throne for this very purpose, that she might save her people from a dreadful death. He hastened therefore to acquaint Esther with all that had passed, and to charge her to go in unto the king, and to make request before him for the people.
E. O, I am so glad of that! I did not think of it before. I suppose Queen Esther went directly, mother?
M. No, my son; she was greatly distressed when she received Mordecai's message, for she knew, what perhaps Mordecai had never heard of, that she could not go into the king's presence unless he sent for her ; because there was an ancient law among the Persians, which commanded, that any one who came into the king's presence without his leave should be put to death, unless, indeed, the king himself should wish to extend mercy to him; and should hold out to him the golden sceptre as a sign that he might come, and yet live.
Now thirty days had passed since Esther had been sent for by the king, and she was in great distress, for she thought the day which had been fixed for the destruction of the Jews might come before she should be called for, and have an opportunity of speaking for them to the king. But Mordecai entreated Esther not to suffer herself, from fear of her own death, to allow her people to perish.
He told her that God had, most probably, raised her to her high station, on purpose that she might be the friend of her country, and that it would be very wrong in her to shrink from serving them at a time when no one else seemed able to deliver them.
This was enough for Esther, for she was a good woman, of great courage, who really loved her people, and who was ready to show her zeal for them, even if it should cost her life. She therefore made
up her mind to go at once into the king's presence, without being sent for, only entreating that Mordecai, and all her people, would join her first of all in spending three days in fasting and prayer, to bring down the blessing of the Almighty upon her undertaking,
After this, Esther felt that she could make mind to do whatever seemed to be her duty, leaving the event calmly in the hands of God, saying, “ If I perish, I perish.”
E. O, mother, I am afraid to hear the rest. I should not like that good Esther to die ; make haste and tell me.
M. Esther laid aside her glorious apparel which she wore as queen of Persia, and put on the garments of mourning and anguish, and covered her head with ashes, and humbled herself greatly, and she prayed unto the Lord God of Israel for herself and her people.
The time of fasting and prayer passed by; the third day came, and Esther's courage did not fail her. No, she laid away her mourning garments and put on her apparel, and being gloriously adorned, and calling upon God, who is the beholder and Saviour of all things, she went into the presence of the king, who was sitting upon his royal throne in the royal house, clothed with all his robes of majesty, all glittering with gold and precious stones. The