A fictional historical story of the Old Testament Book of Esther.
Description: The story of Esther describes the life in the Persian Empire. The King deposed his queen for refusing to obey his order. The King conducted a beauty contest and Esther was selected, thanks to a plan of her adopting father, Mordecai’s. As result Mordecai was promoted to be the Jewish leader in the King’s court. In order to protect the Queen from assassinations, Mordecai entrapped two disloyal guards.
In those days, while Mordecai sat in the king’s gate, two of the king’s chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, of those that kept the door, were wroth, and sought to lay hands on the king Ahasuerus. Esther 2:21
Gdaliahu, the Jewish leader of all the Jews in the Persian Empire, was getting old. He was in constant pain, couldn’t sit for long periods, and could hardly walk. He called a meeting to announce his retirement.
When the Jewish leaders from the provinces of the Persian Empire assembled. The men were glad to meet one another and discuss. Colors of gold, blue, white, and red were moving on the shiny marble floor.
Gdaliahu slowly entered the room. Silence fell and everyone moved to find a place, watching the elder leader.
Gdaliahu sat on his golden chair, wait a minute to catch his breath, pointed at Mortdecai and asked him to come forward and kneel before him.
Gdaliahu put both hands on Mordecai’s head and in a wizened voice, croaked, “May the Lord bless you and guard you.”
“Amen,” replied the attendants.
“May the Lord show favor and be gracious to you,” he continued.
“Amen,” responded the attendants.
“May the Lord show you kindness and grant you success.”
“Amen, amen, amen,” chanted the attendants.
Mordecai kissed the hands of his elder-leader. “Thank you for this great honor, my esteemed teacher,” he said to Gdaliahu.
Then he stood and turned to the others. He looked into each of their faces, giving the individual an opportunity to make eye contact before moving on to the next person.
“I look forward to serving you all. Together, with love and support to others, we will prosper and thrive. In celebration, my first decree is that every community leader and merchant contributes for the construction of a Jewish center in their town. Such centers shall provide all the Jewish needs from birth to death: finding brides, celebrate marriage and birth, help the sick and attend burial, provide care for the sick, court, school and business chambers. Use a one year annual fee owed to me to cover the expenses.”
Since the Information Bureau was a tremendous economic success, most leaders competed with other leaders to beautify their community, and added additional funds for the construction effort.
Mordecai was visiting Gdaliahu as often as he could. Out of respect, Mordecai always removed his official ribbons and jewelry in the presence of the older leader. Sometimes, Mordecai asked for advice. The two argued their positions with passion. Both knew, “the good thing about an advice is that you do not have to take it.” And the old leader never checked.
Some time after the celebrations ended, Mordecai met Yavin in the back room of the peddler shop. They locked the door, moved down to the basement, entered another room and locked the door of that room too.
“We healed the King’s pride. His Queen is the goddess Ishtar. Now we must protect her. She is my daughter. We promised to keep her safe. Those Babylonian generals and guards might want to kill her, show she is not the goddess Ishtar, and bring back Queen Vashti from her house arrest,” said Mordecai.
“I will investigate her guards,” said Yavin.
“We must also protect the King, in order to protect Esther. He is a good King. The Jews love him because he allows us to finish the new Temple in Jerusalem” said Mordecai.
“I will watch for a plot,” said Yavin.
“Good luck,” said Mordecai.
“I can look around and join an assassination attempt against the King,” said Yavin.
“Better, but still impossible. Who will let you in?” asked Mordecai. “Yet, it is a good idea. This is the best gift one can give a King. If we save the life of the King, he will owe us.”
“We could irritate his guards. Some of them, lately, are neglecting their appearance. Really insulting our King. Strict grooming would anger some of the enslaved Babylon guards. Harvona can order it.”
“Excellent idea! This will remove bad guards and frighten the others. There are plenty of guards who trust me,” said Mordecai. “It should be easy enough to entrap them. Don’t explain the order to Harvona. It’ll be a good exercise for him as well.”
“But what if they report you? You could be killed!”
Mordecai flipped his hand in a dismissive gesture, “We have plenty of time. If things go wrong, Harvona will understand. We will still be rewarded.”
Harvona ordered the King’s guards to have their beards look identical, and their uniforms and weapons must shine. The King, recognizing the effort, promoted him to first ranked bodyguard. Soon after, Mordecai was told that Bigthan, a low-level eunuch door guard, showed signs of irritation. Bigthan was from one of the most prominent families of Babylon. He would have become a high-ranking minister or general, if he hadn’t been enslaved when Babylon was conquered.
Mordecai was watching Bigthan, and saw him meeting Teresh, another door guard, near the royal palace in a secluded area.
I have to move fast before someone else takes Bigthan under his wing and will really kill the King and Esther, thought Mordecai. Bigthan was walking in the main street with a sour face.
“God’s blessing on you, Bigthan,” Mordecai greeted him.
Bigthan stopped and looked at his feet, avoiding Mordecai’s eyes. “The gods are not with me, your honor. They closed their eyes when I was turned into a guard. I am just worthless dust of the ground. I wanted to be a gen… I want to be promoted out of my misery.” Mordecai’s face softened. “Things are that bad? What happened? Maybe I can help?”
“Since his promotion, Harvona is abusing us. He insulted my honor and claimed I was not properly shaved. Damn him!.”
“Is Harvona picking on anyone else?” asked Mordecai. “Are there others who feel like you?”
“Yes. Teresh feels the same. Harvona is always picking on us.”
“The three of us should meet later. I might be able to help you.”
The next day Mordecai met with Bigthan and Teresh in secret. Mordecai’s hands were shaking and his forehead was covered with sweat. They sat tightly together, their hairs touching one another.
“My master is trying to bring things to where they were before, the time of our glory. Will you join me?” whispered Mordecai. “Yes,” agreed Bigthan and Teresh together.
Mordecai relaxed and wiped the sweat from his forehead.
“What’s your master ready to give us?” asked Bigthan.“ Command. You’ll get command of five hundred soldiers and become his trusted officers,” said Mordecai.
“What do we need to do?” asked Bigthan.
Mordecai paused. Trusted officers. Ha. How dumb they are, he thought.
“I’ll supply you with a poisonous arrow. When the time comes, while the King is passing your door, shout ‘intruder!’ Point one hand to a faraway balcony and stab him with the other hand. Then act as if you’re shielding him and trying to pull the arrow out. My master will take care of the rest. In the meantime, follow Harvona’s grooming order to the letter. Don’t show fear or joy. Just be perfect guards. It might take some time. So wait for my instructions. Are you with me?”
“Yes, your honor,” both agreed. Teresh had tears in his eyes. “For years, I was waiting for such a meeting, I prayed and prayed the god Marduk will help me, and here your name is Mordecai,” said Teresh and Bigthan nodded. Bigthan’s mood changed. He was relaxed, and content. His appearance was exemplary and Harvona praised him.
Mordecai was confident the two rogue guards wouldn’t hurt the King on their own, as long as they didn’t have the poisoned arrow. Mordecai waited ten days.
“Yavin, did you hear anything from Harvona?” asked Mordecai.“Yes. He praised your advice. He told me that at the beginning he had some troubles, but he talked to the guards, and since then, like miracle, everything is wonderful. They all dressed perfectly and all are happy.”
“Very good,” said Mordecai. “They did not report me. They have no problem to appear properly. They disrespected the King even before I approached them. They are full of hate and anger. I must move before they will find another master.”
Mordecai contacted Hini, the Queen’s head-maiden, and told her to inform Esther that the honorable guards, Bigthan and Teresh, were related to Baanah and Rechab. Hini gave the message to Esther without understanding what the meaning of it was.
Esther smiled. Esther knew that those two generals, Baanah and Rechab, had assassinated their king, the heir of King Saul, in an attempt to please King David. Esther understood there is no need to rush to the King uninvited. Two weeks later, when Esther was invited to the King’s bed, she informed the King that she heard from Mordecai that Bightan and Teresh were conspiring to kill him.
The King turned to Harvona and said, “Handle it, and write Mordecai’s deed in my history book. We owe him.”
The guards were arrested and interrogated. Each one accused Mordecai and recounted his plan, but it didn’t help their cause, because it was Mordecai who had originally reported them and not the other way around.
The guards were quickly and discretely hanged, putting an end to the incident.
The next day, Mordecai called Harvona for a secret meeting. “Thank you for handling the two traitors so professionally.”
“Thank you, kindly,” said Harvona. “Do you know, people strongly believe the all-powerful all-knowing goddess Queen saved the life of our King! The King ordered me to write your deed in the History book. He declared he owes you.”
“Interesting,” Mordecai said. “But I’m afraid you’ve failed as the King’s head bodyguard. You disciplined Bigthan and you thought you succeeded in reforming him. Wrong! That’s when he started working for me on the plot. If I wanted to, I could have killed the King.”
Harvona stared at Mordecai with wide eyes and a twitch in his mouth.
Mordecai continued. “You can’t make such grave mistakes. Never give disgruntled guards a second chance. They must be immediately removed from the King’s vicinity—preferably killed! No explanations, no excuses. There can’t be a hint of dissatisfaction within their ranks or it could be all over for the King and most likely, for you!”
Mordecai knew he could speak to his friend in such a way and Harvona would understand the serious nature of the situation without becoming defensive or explosive.
Harvona dropped to one knee, held Mordecai’s palm, and brought the upper side of Mordecai’s palm to his forehead.
“Thank you for giving me a second chance,” said Harvona.
Mordecai smiled, raised him, and hugged his childhood friend. “I am giving you a new protocol to select and manage the King’s guards in order to avoid future mistakes.”
“Thank you for your help,” said Harvona.“Keep the story secret,” said Mordecai. “When you write my heroic deeds in the King’s history book, glorify my deed. Don’t give me anything. I want the King to owe me.”
Harvona nodded. “I’ll make sure it’s taken care of.”
By Ilan Sendowski
Select all writings of Ilan Sendowski
Select biography of Ilan Sendowski