A Persian Queen Of Jewish Descent Esther, wife of Ahasuerus, and also the title of the Biblical book that contains her history, and the narrative of the delivery of the Jews by her from a general massacre throughout the Persian empire. Her original Hebrew name was Hadassah. The book is one of the smallest historical works of the Hebrew Scriptures, and one of the five so-called Magilloth, and belongs to the Hagio-grapha. It is written in correct but somewhat modern Hebrew, and distinguished by some new words, and the total absence of any reference to God, notwithstanding the providential character of the events related. This has led to the conclusion of some critics, that the book is a translation of or extract from a Persian chronicle, though its authorship has also been attributed to Ezra, Mordecai, and other distinguished Jews. The book narrates how the king, incited by his minister Haman, who was incensed by the independent spirit of the Jew Mordecai, resolved upon the massacre of all the Jews in his dominions, but was turned from his purpose by Esther, who, inspired by Mordecai, saved her nation at the risk of her own life.
To commemorate the salvation of their people and the destruction of their enemies, Mordecai and Esther introduced the fast of the 13th of Adar, the day of danger, and the festival of Purim or lots, still celebrated by the Jews on the 14th and 15th of the same month, as days of entertainment and joy, and for sending presents to each other and alms to the poor. On the former of these days the Megil-lah is read in the synagogues. The Persian name of the queen has been differently translated; and that of Ahasuerus is a source of contradictory hypotheses among critics. From the last king of Media down to the last king of Persia, each monarch of that united empire has had his advocate. The claims of Xerxes are best supported by his character; those of Ar-taxerxes Longimanus, by the authority of the Septuagint and Josephus. The apocryphal additions to the book caused it to be violently attacked by Luther. Among the recent works relating to the book of Esther are: Baumgar-ten, De Fide Estheroe (Halle, 1839); Davidson, "Lectures on Esther" (Edinburgh, 1850); and Oppert, Commentaire . . . d'apres la lecture des inscriptions perses (Paris, 1864). - By a singular coincidence, another Jewess Esther also attracted the love of a gentile king, Casi-mir the Great of Poland (1333-'70), became his mistress, and was able to protect her people in a time of persecution.
She is the heroine of historical novels by Bernatowicz, Bulgarin, Bronikowski, Josika, and others; and her memory is preserved by the tomb at Lobzow, near Cracow, once her residence.