by Joseph Hunting

Jew-hate is like a vicious virus that surfaces from time to time taking a terrible toll of its victims. Of all social evils none have been the outlet for all that is bestial and degrading in the human race as has anti-Semitism. This virus strikes in various forms and is found in most levels of society, religious and secular. It strikes at individual Jewish people as well as at the Jewish race.

In Israel's 4,000 year history there have been two assaults upon the nation of Israel that were designed to totally exterminate the race. The first was a programme of genocide introduced by the Pharaoh of Egypt. His plan backfired. The slain firstborn of man and beast in Egypt was the frightful price exacted for his folly. Israel emerged as a nation and commemorates the event to this day with the joyous feast of deliverance, the Passover. The second attempt at genocide was perpetrated by the Nazis, and again an awful price was exacted on the perpetrators. The terrible destruction by the Allied airforces on German cities, the suicide in a bunker by the arch-fiend who plunged the Jews of Europe into the Holocaust and the price paid at Nuremburg by his henchmen are grim reminders of the Divine curse upon anti-Semites of all ages: "I WILL CURSE HIM THAT CURSETH THEE." (Genesis 12:3) And an interesting parallel linking the genocide masterminded by Pharaoh with that of Hitler, although 3,500 years separate the events, is that in both instances the people emerged into nationhood in spite of impossible odds.


Israel 's history is highlighted by the heroism of those who will not bow down to the oppressor, from Moses to the liberators of the hostages at Entebbe. The names of some have been immortalized in Jewish history, others have been forgotten. Among the names on Israel's roll of honour is that of a girl who was destined to save her people from needless slaughter. Her Hebrew name was Hadassah, meaning myrtle, and she was also called Esther after the Babylonian god Ishtar. She was orphaned at any early age and was brought up by her cousin, Mordecai. She is described in Scripture as being "fair and beautiful" , and as she blossomed into beautiful womanhood little did she know that she was destined to become one of the great heroines of all time.

The drama began with a festival given by the Persian king Xerxes I about the year 468 B.C. "In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces being before him: when he showed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and four-score days." This "glorious kingdom" was the greatest empire in the world at that time and consisted of one hundred and twenty-seven provinces extending from Ethiopia to India.

During the feast, Xerxes, also called Ahasuerus, wished to display the beauty of his queen, Vashti, who refused to have her beauty exhibited at this drunken orgy.

Subsequently Vashti was deposed and the king sent an edict through the land summoning "all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace ... So it came to pass when the king's commandment and his decree was heard, and when many maidens were gathered together unto Shushan the palace ... that Esther was brought also unto the king's house ... And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti."

In the meantime Mordecai became aware of a plot by two of the king's chamberlains against the life of the king. The news of the conspiracy was passed on to Xerxes through Esther and they were executed. Strangely enough no recognition was made to Mordecai at the time except that the event was noted in the court diary. This oversight was to have a profound effect upon the destiny of the Jews in Persia.


Some nine years later Xerxes appointed Haman, a descendant of the Amalekites, to be ruler in Persia, "and set his seat above all the princes that were with him. And all the king's servants that were in the king's gate bowed and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence."

The reason for Mordecai's refusal is not given. Perhaps he could not bring himself to bow before an Amalekite, a traditional enemy of the Jews. In any case Haman's wrath was kindled. When he learned of Mordecai's nationality his hatred was such that he sought "to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus."

Haman's plan was as simple as it was diabolical. With lying accusation, "Haman said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the people in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all the people; neither keep they the king's laws: therefore it is not for the king's profit to suffer them. If it please the king, let it be written that they be destroyed... And the letters were sent by posts into all the king's provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar."

When Mordecai learned of Haman's plans he "rent his clothes and put on sack cloth and ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and bitter cry." When Mordecai's grief was made known to Esther she enquired "what it was and why it was". Then followed a most touching drama as Esther and Mordecai considered what action could be taken. It was suggested that Esther seek an audience with the king to plead the cause of her people. Esther replied that no one was permitted to enter into the king's presence unless bidden. "All the king's servants, and all the people of the king's provinces do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre." And Esther reminded Mordecai that she hadn't been called into the king's presence for the past thirty days.

Mordecai's reply to Esther has rung down the centuries as a desperate challenge in a truly life and death situation. "If thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this." The die was cast, and Esther's reply revealed her total abandonment in the desperate decision to go before the king. " ... and so will I go unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish."

The outcome of Esther's decision is well known. The king received her and granted her petition that he attend a feast together with Haman as her guests. Haman was elated with the invitation until he saw Mordecai who "stood not up or moved for him". That night Haman decided that Mordecai should die on gallows especially built for the occasion and seventy-five feet high.


Whilst Haman was plotting the death of Mordecai the king was suffering from insomnia. Possibly thinking that sheer boredom might induce sleep he asked that the record of the court diaries be read to him. "And it was found written that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king's chamberlains, who had sought to lay hands on king Ahasuerus. And the king said, what honour and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this?" At that precise moment Haman approached the king to request the execution of Mordecai.

Truth is certainly stranger than fiction, and the events that follow have all the marks of a classic thriller. "So Haman came in. And the king said unto him, what shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour? Now, Haman thought in his heart, to whom would the king delight to do honour more than myself?" So he requested that royal apparel be brought together with the horse that the king himself rode upon. Oh yes, and why not go all the way and ask for the royal crown to be set upon his head? And now, just one more remaining honour so that all the kingdom would recognize him and do obeisance to him. "And let this apparel and horse be delivered into the hand of one of the king's most noble princes, that they might array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honour, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honour."

What follows reveals the bitter irony and fate of those who disregard the warning, "I will curse him that curseth thee".

"Then the king said to Haman, make haste and take the apparel and the horse, and as thou hast said do even so to Mordecai the Jew, let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken."


A rapid series of disasters then overtook Haman. Both he and the king attended the feast prepared by Esther. When asked the reason for the invitation to her feast, Esther replied to the king, "We are sold, I and my people to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish", and Haman was denounced as the perpetrator of the plot. Before the sun set that day Haman was hung on the very gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.

Because the law of the Medes and the Persians could not be reversed the original edict that the Jews be slain could not be repealed. In its place Xerxes issued another decree authorizing the Jews to slay "all the power of the people and the province that would assault them... Thus the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, and slaughter and destruction, and did what they would unto those that hated them."


Finally on the fourteenth and fifteenth day of the month Adar "there was feasting and gladness ... And Mordecai wrote these things and sent letters unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, both nigh and far, to establish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same.

And so, on the 4th and 5th of March Jewish people all round the world will commemorate the courage and devotion of a Jewish girl of whom it was said, "Who knows whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this."