Are you the sort of person who likes daytime soap operas, but just wishes that they would incorporate more palace intrigue and attempted genocide into the storyline? If you're like me, the answer is an emphatic "yes!" Welcome to Esther.
Dude, that guy is a big A
So in Persia, there's a king named Ahasuerus (we'll call him the "Big A") and his queen is named Vashti. As any egocentric powermad crazed leader would do, Big A has a 180 day party to celebrate how awesome he is. At the very end he has a 7 day banquet and asks Vashti to come out and "display her beauty." She says "I don't think so" and he says "you're outta here!" and promptly gives the order that all the beautiful young girls be presented to him so he can choose a new woman. Obviously, Big A went to "The Bachelor" School of Charm.
Big A sees Esther and proclaims that she will be the new woman that gets to freely choose to love him. Chicks dig guys who take charge like that, right? Here's the thing about Esther... she's Jewish! And the Persians don't like the Jews! What's a Jewish queen to do? Lie and not reveal she's Jewish!
Mordechai, You gonna Morda-die, baby!
In the meantime, Esther's foster dad, Mordechai, overhears that some dudes are gonna try to cap the king. He tells Esther and Esther tells the king and the plot is thwarted.
Then the king's right hand man, Haman, runs into Mordechai and says, "hey Mordechai. What's up? I'm awesome so you should bow down to me." Mordechai is like "nah, don't think so. Yahweh is my homeboy." Haman is ticked and, not overreacting at all, decides that he should kill all the Jews. That may sound a little overboard, but what if someone refused to bow down and worship you as though you are God? Are you saying that you wouldn't hatch plans for a genocide? So Haman asks the king to endorse this genocide. Big A is like, "sure, whatever." Remember, Big A still doesn't know that the woman he decided should freely choose to love him (Esther) is Jewish and would be on the dying part of this genocide!
Mordechai hears about Haman's plans and is less than thrilled. He gets in touch with Esther and tells her what Haman is planning. She's like "oh, snap!" Mordechai says "go to that guy who told you that you must freely choose to love him and tell him you're Jewish. Then there's no way he'll still support the genocide." But Esther is like " I can't! No one is supposed to talk to him unannounced like that or else they could be killed." Walk in unannounced = get killed. Classic Old Testament for you.
Meanwhile, the Big A can't sleep and has someone read him the court historical records to help him fall asleep (history even bores historical people!). He hears about how Mordechai broke up a plot to kill him back in the day and realizes that he hasn't even thanked him. Just then, Haman comes in and the king is like "there's someone I need to honor. How should I do it?" Mistakenly, Haman thinks the Big A is talking about him and says that the king should do all this cool stuff. Big A is like "yeah, make sure all that stuff happens to Mordechai" and Haman is like "oh, snap!"
But wait, there's more!
I'll have Haman on a stick
Esther then reveals to Big A that she's Jewish and he gets ticked because he realizes that Haman's plan would result in her death. Big A storms out of the room, completely distraught. Haman realizes that he's in some big trouble so he gets on his knees and begs Esther to have mercy on him. But then Big A comes back and thinks that Haman is trying to get fresh with the woman he decided to have freely choose to love him and he blows his top and has Haman impaled on a stake (Hamankabob!).
What? Did you think that was the end? Think again, sucka! You don't get through an Old Testament book with only one murder!
Through decrees given by Big A, the Jews are given more freedom to defend themselves and get all Joshua and go on a killing spree, taking out 75,000 Persians.
Soap opera over.
Think your life sucks? Come back next week for Job.