The people of Israel are at their lowest moment. After centuries of decline, God’s people - the Jews - had all but forgotten Him. Due to their repeated disobedience and idolatry, God removed His hand of protection from them. They were invaded by the great and terrible Babylonian Empire. The Temple was ransacked and burned to the ground, and the walls of the great city of Jerusalem were demolished. The people of Israel were scattered across the empire, uprooted from their land by their captors so that they would cease to be a nation.
Seventy years pass, as the people struggle under the oppression of their new Babylonian masters. They are treated like slaves, bought and sold across the empire. Several of their kings threaten terrible punishments for those who continue to worship their God. As they suffer persecution and miss their homeland, something happens.
The people of Israel remember.
They remember the God who had rescued them from Egypt, and they once again asked Him for deliverance. They remember their homeland - and land flowing with milk and honey - where they had lived in freedom and prosperity. The people plead with God to be allowed to return home and to become His people once again.
God hears them and answers their prayers. The Babylonians are conquered by the Persians. Under the Persians, the Jews are treated well, and are even allowed to send a small group of Jews, led by Ezra, to return home and rebuild their Temple. No longer treated as slaves, God’s people flourish and rise up in the ranks of Persia, and more and more of them begin to return back to the land God had promised them.
But as things finally begin to get better for the people of Israel, their enemies scheme in the shadows. Driven by jealousy, many of their neighbors look for any opportunity to bring God’s people down - some of them even hope for the chance to drive Israel into extinction. Many of the Jews, fearing for their lives, hide their faith and keep their heritage a secret as they wait for the moment that they can finally return home.
During this time of hope and uncertainty, a girl named Hadassah is just coming of age in the city of Susa - the bustling capital of the Persian Empire. Orphaned at a young age, Hadassah was raised by her older cousin Mordecai. Then one day, a decree comes from the palace. The queen has been banished, and the emperor himself ordered every young woman in the city to be brought before him. Suddenly, Hadassah - whose name is changed to Esther, likely to conceal her Jewish heritage - is swept off to the palace to meet the emperor.