Esther’s Timeline

Edwin Long [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Queen Esther, by Edwin Long [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

My Incorporeum stories are categorized as Biblical Speculative Fiction, or Weird Fic (as is Garden Gnome Pub‘s specialty.) Each story has a tie-in with a story or setting in the bible. The Genesis of the Incorporeum began in the Garden of Eden. The Remorse of the Incorporeum went to Sodom and Gomorrah. The Immersion of the Incorporeum partially takes place in the days leading up to the Great Flood. The Prison of the Incorporeum is set in the Land of Nod.

For the next incorporeum story, I’m developing a novel-length work. For my biblical tie-in, I chose Esther the Queen. This is an important story about events that are still celebrated today. I watched a 2013 movie about Esther, and although it seemed to be an honest attempt to present the story, it was definitely sanitized for modern sensibilities.

I want my story to be as true to the biblical record as possible. Now, the incorporeum are time travelers, and there will be several other settings in the novel. The eras that are close to present day, or in the future, are easy to completely fictionalize. But as I’m writing the parts that take place in Xerxes’ court in ancient Persia, I want to ensure that I’m paying proper homage to what we know of that time and place.

It’s not easy. Last night, I read through the book of Esther on Bible Gateway and made an outline of events. There are many details that are absent from my memory, as I learned the story not only in Sunday School as a child but touched on it many times in my adult life as well. There are four years between Vashti being deposed as queen and Esther being chosen. Esther spent a year in the harem getting ready to see the king, as did all the other virgins. The bible doesn’t give us any details about why Xerxes chose Esther. After she becomes Queen, it’s unclear exactly what that means. She’s not by his side; she can’t see him or talk to him unless he calls for her. Xerxes doesn’t stop taste-testing virgins after he makes Esther his queen; the bible specifically mentions Xerxes gathering the virgins ‘a second time.’

When Esther risks her life and goes to see the king, it’s obvious that he does at least like her a lot, if not love. It’s odd that, when she has the king’s ear at the banquet she prepares for him and Haman, she does not ask him for what she wants. Instead, she asks them to come again the next night. The reasons are unclear. Scholars have postulated and debated, but we’ll never really know. This is a detail I can fictionalize.

I was slightly befuddled by the fact that Xerxes won’t just rescind the order to kill the Jews. Apparently, it’s something about not being able to reverse a decree that’s been stamped with his signet ring. The solution these ancient people come up with is to decree that the Jews are allowed to fight back. Yes, it’s violent. Thousands of people die. But it’s a huge turning point in the history of a people who have been living in exile, often in slavery, for generations. In fact, many people convert to Judaism because of this. The bible says ‘out of fear’ which, today, is a bad reason to do something. I’m not sure the ancient people saw it that way.

Esther isn’t as sweet and gentle as the movie made her seem. After Haman and his sons have been killed (Haman was impaled on a giant pole, his sons were killed during the violence following the decrees) Esther asks to have the sons impaled as well.

I enjoy this kind of research. Next, I get to look into the story of Scheherazade. She’s fictional, but likely inspired by a real woman.

Then I need to pry myself away from my research and actually write the darn thing.

Esther’s Biblical Timeline

  1. Xerxes rules over 127 provinces from India to Cush, from the citadel of Susa
  2. 3rd year of reign, Queen Vashti Deposed
  3. According to the Encyclopedia of the bible (accessed via Biblegateway) Xerxes is arranging a disastrous expedition against Greece
  4. “Later” King Xerxes has his eunuch, Hegai, gather the women so he can choose
  5. Esther is one of them. She won Hegai’s favor, and gets special beauty treatments food, and female attendants
  6. No one knows she’s a Jewess, because Mordecai told her to keep it a secret
  7. Mordecai walks near the courtyard every evening to check up on Esther
  8. Maidens spend 6 months with oil of myrrh, 6 months with perfumes and cosmetics, then go to the king, then to Shaashgaz the eunuch who was in charge of the concubines.
  9. Esther’s turn, in the 7th year of Xerxes’ reign
    1. She only takes ‘what Hegai told her’
    2. She won the favor ‘of everyone who saw her’
    3. She was taken to the king in the tenth month (Tebeh)
    4. She won Xerxes’ favor ‘more than any of the other virgins’
    5. I wonder if she learned a thing or two from the newly-deflowered virgins?
  10. Xerxes set a crown on her head and ‘made her queen instead of Vashti’ then had a big party.
  11. Esther is Queen, still keeps her nationality a secret
  12. Why the heck is Xerxes gathering the virgins ‘a second time’?
  13. Bigthana and Teresh plot to kill Xerxes
    1. Mordecai found out, tells Esther
    2. Esther tells the king, crediting Mordecai
    3. The conspirators are impaled on poles
  14. Xerxes elevates Haman (son of Hammedatha, the Agagite), but the bible doesn’t say why
  15. Mordecai refuses to bow to Haman, day after day
  16. Mordecai has told the other officials that he’s a Jew, and they tell Haman
  17. Haman is pissed, and wants to destroy not just Mordecai, but all the Jews
  18. Xerxes gives Haman permission to destroy all the Jews
    1. To decide when, In the twelfth year of King Xerxes, in the first month, the month of Nisan, the pur (that is, the lot) was cast. It landed on:
    2. This will happen on the 13th day of 12th month (Adar)
    3. Those who kill the Jews have permission to plunder
    4. 3:15 ‘the city of Susa was bewildered’
  19. Obviously, the Jews aren’t happy about this. Sackcloth and ashes become fashionable. Mordecai can’t/won’t go past the king’s gate while wearing sackcloth.
  20. Esther’s eunuchs and female attendants tell her about Mordecai
  21. Esther sends her eunuch Hathak to talk to Mordecai
    1. Mordecai tells Hathak to ask Esther to plead with the king for the Jews
    2. Esther hesitates because she hasn’t been called to the king in 30 days, and anyone who goes to the king without being summoned risks being put to death.
    3. Mordecai points out that she will probably be killed on the appointed day, even though she’s the queen. Esther agrees, and asks for the Jews to fast for three days and nights. (She fasts too.)
  22. Esther goes to the king
    1. She stands in the inner court, in front of the king’s hall
    2. The king sees her and extends his gold scepter; she goes to him
    3. He says “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.”
    4. She asks him and Haman to come to a banquet she prepares
    5. They come to the banquet,
    6. The king asks “Now what is your petition? It will be given you. And what is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”
    7. She says “Come to another banquet tomorrow”
    8. OK…why? I guess I can make up a reason… but it later says he can’t sleep so he orders people to read his chronicles to him
  23. Haman’s all happy and full of himself
    1. Mordecai still won’t bow to him
    2. Although this pisses him off, he restrains himself
    3. Haman gathers his friends and brags about himself
    4. His wife (Zeresh) and friends tell him to ask the king to impale Mordecai
    5. Haman has the big giant pole (23 meters?) set up
  24. Xerxes can’t sleep, so he commands his servant to read the chronicles of his reign to him
    1. He realizes he never rewarded Mordecai for uncovering the plot to kill him
    2. He asks “Who’s in the court right now?” and Haman just happens to be there, ready to ask the king to impale Mordecai
    3. Wait… is this the middle of the night? Or is it morning already?
    4. Xerxes bring Haman in and asks his advice on honoring an awesomely cool dude
    5. Haman assumes that HE is the awesomely cool dude, and says “For the man the king delights to honor, 8 have them bring a royal robe the king has worn and a horse the king has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head. 9 Then let the robe and horse be entrusted to one of the king’s most noble princes. Let them robe the man the king delights to honor, and lead him on the horse through the city streets, proclaiming before him, ‘This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!’”
    6. The king says “OK! Go do that for Mordecai.”
    7. Haman obeys, and finds the whole experience humiliating
  25. Mordecai returns to hanging out at the gate
  26. Haman goes home and cries
    1. His wife and advisors tell him he’s screwed (6:12)
    2. The king’s eunuchs arrive hurry him away to the banquet
  27. The second banquet
    1. Xerxes asks Esther what she wants again (The bible always has him wording it exactly the same way)
    2. Esther begs for the lives of herself and all the Jews
    3. Esther emphasizes that slavery wouldn’t have been bad…she wouldn’t have bothered the king if the Jews were just to be enslaved, but killing them all is too much.
    4. Xerxes asks “Who has done this?”
    5. Esther says “An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!”
    6. Haman is terrified
    7. The King is pissed and goes out to the garden to calm down
    8. Haman begs Esther for his life
    9. Just as Xerxes is returning, Haman falls onto the couch where Esther is reclining
    10. The king thinks Haman is assaulting the queen
    11. Harbona (the king’s eunuch) says ‘Haman has one of those nifty impaling poles already set up, intended for Mordecai’
    12. The king orders them to impale Haman, and they do
  28. Xerxes gives Esther Haman’s estate
  29. NOW Esther tells him how she’s related to Mordecai
  30. Xerxes takes his signet ring (which he had given to Haman) and gives it to Mordecai
  31. Esther appoints Mordecai over Haman’s estate
  32. Esther begs the king to end the plan to destroy the Jews
    1. “If it pleases the king,” she said, “and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me, let an order be written overruling the dispatches that Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the king’s provinces. 6 For how can I bear to see disaster fall on my people? How can I bear to see the destruction of my family?”
    2. “Because Haman attacked the Jews,” he says “I have given his estate to Esther, and they have impaled him on the pole he set up. 8 Now write another decree in the king’s name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king’s signet ring—for no document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring can be revoked.”
    3. The secretaries were summoned (23rd day of the 3rd month…Sivan)
    4. Instead of revoking the previous order (apparently that’s a big no-no) the new edict gives the Jews to protect themselves
    5. The appointed day was the 13th day of the 12th month (Adar)
  33. The End
    1. Mordecai got some nifty blue & white clothes
    2. The Jews rejoice
    3. (It doesn’t say how much bloodshed there was…) Until the next chapter…
    4. Lots of people become Jews because ‘fear of the Jews had seized them’
  34. The 13th day of the 12th month
    1. There are still some people looking forward to slaughtering the Jews
    2. The Jews have the upper hand
    3. No one could stand against them, because the people were afraid of the Jews
    4. The nobles and officials help the Jews because they’re afraid of Mordecai
    5. Mordea was prominent in the palace, becoming more powerful
    6. The Jews struck down their enemies…500 in Susa alone (including Haman’s sons)
    7. The Jews do NOT lay their hands on plunder
    8. The king asks Esther what she wants
      1. She wants it to continue into the next day
      2. She wants Haman’s sons (er…who are already dead…) impaled
    9. The king agrees
    10. The Jews kill 300 more men the next day
    11. The other provinces kill 75k men
    12. The 14th day they all partied in the provinces
    13. The 15th day the Jews in Susa partied
  35. Purim Established

About AmyBeth Inverness

A writer by birth, a redhead by choice.
This entry was posted in Incorporeum, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Esther’s Timeline

  1. Pingback: What Did I Do This Week? | AmyBeth Inverness

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