Queen of Persia
Esther...a very thoughtful story. …a Christian author, whose writings show a deep knowledge and respect for Jewish people. Baumgardner remains faithful to the plot points that are covered in the Megillah…” --Editor, San Diego Jewish World
Excerpt from Chapter 1
“A strange name. From what far-flung province do you come?”
“Not far, sir. My home is Susa.”
The eunuch looked up from the sheet of parchment on which he recorded names. “You mean—?” He stopped mid-sentence, his breath caught away by the most beautiful maiden he had ever gazed upon.
Hegai’s eyes darted to the soldier standing guard over this new group of girls. Although young, 14-18 years, these virgins were of child bearing age, and that made them worthy candidates to become Queen of Persia. Of course, being able to bear a son for King Ahasuerus was not the only qualification, but it certainly was one—a crucial one.
Squinting through dark, steady eyes Hegai addressed the soldier, and his tone of voice told of surprise and slight doubt. “This girl claims to be from Susa.”
“She is. All in this collection were taken from homes in Susa.”
Hegai glanced from one young woman to the next. The females, all beautiful of face and form had been brought to Shushan the palace; most against their will, for examination and consideration as the next Queen of the Persian Empire. Yet, the one named Hadassah stood out from the others, gorgeous beyond belief. To which harem girl could she be compared? Certainly after one year of applying beauty preparations to this girl’s face and body the answer would be none. Hegai’s thoughts were loftier than consigning this girl to the life of a common harem concubine. This young woman could be a goddess…a Persian goddess.
Hegai, the king’s custodian of women wrote her name on the parchment. “Hadassah, is it?”
“Polite, too. I like that.” Again he looked up.
His eyes moved up and down studying Hadassah, concluding it almost impossible to imagine one so lovely could come from Susa. Never had he seen a female in the king’s harem to compare with this young woman. He guessed her age at sixteen.
“What is your age, Hadassah?”
Hegai smiled at being right. Adding her age next to her name on the page he told himself that he was exceptionally adept at evaluating females. After all, being in charge of the harem for many years qualified him to know and understand women quite well.
“I know of no harem girl from Susa, so assumed no one of quality could be found in the city. You certainly appear to be an exception.
“Your residence is here in Susa, yet your name, Hadassah, is not one with which I am familiar. It must be a foreign name. King Ahasuerus reigns over a vast territory, from India to Ethiopia, 127 provinces, so in one of the many lands of Persia it must be known.
Hadassah nodded but said nothing. Being Jewish, she did not reveal her heritage on orders from her cousin, Mordecai. Hadassah, orphaned at an early age, had been raised by Mordecai and his wife, Aliza. She always obeyed them. Aliza had died when Hadassah was about ten and Mordecai kept his promise to raise Hadassah to maturity. When Mordecai journeyed to other cities, an older Jewish woman would care for Hadassah until he returned.
Mordecai did not tell her why she was to keep the secret of her heritage, but she assumed that the king would not want a Jew in his household. Jews did not worship the pagan gods.