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Why did Esther marry a non-Jewish king?

Why did Esther marry a non-Jewish king?


When reading the story of Purim as recorded in the Book of Esther (the Megillah), it is important to understand that the authors had to be extremely careful with their words and account of events—considering that the Jews were still under Persian rule. Undoubtedly, the Persians powers-that-be would get a hold of a copy of the Megillah. As such, many aspects of the Purim story – specifically those that would reflect badly on the king or empire – were included in a very veiled manner. Only in later generations was the full story transcribed in the Talmud, various midrashim, and commentaries.

Esther did not want to be taken to the palace. Not only was she an upright Jewish girl who abhorred the notion of marriage to a Gentile vile king, she was actually already married! The Talmud explains that she was married to Mordechai, her cousin, who was also the greatest sage of that generation.

Every time Esther was taken to Ahasuerus, she was literally taken and forced to be with him. Throughout her "marriage" to Ahasuerus, Esther still remained loyal to her true husband, Mordechai. After leaving Ahasuerus' presence she would immerse in a mikvah and then secretly rendezvous with Mordechai.

So, to get back to your question of how she could marry a non-Jew—it was not her choice, but rather something that she was forced to do. Had she refused to comply with the king's wishes, she would have been put to death. (Remember that Ahasuerus had already ordered his previous wife's execution in a fit of drunken rage.)1

That, in a nutshell, is why she was able to continue living in the palace.

See also Is a Jew required to die rather than disobey a Torah command?

I hope this clarifies the issue,

Chana Weisberg for


The obligation to be martyred rather than transgress sexual sins does not apply to one who is only a passive partner in the act.

Chana Weisberg is the editor of She lectures internationally on issues relating to women, relationships, meaning, self-esteem and the Jewish soul. She is the author of five popular books.
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Discussion (24)
February 11, 2017
I think choosing to be put to death would have been better than to subject one's self (to sacrifice one's self-respect) to the lecherous passions of a vile heathen man, who had unjustly treated his former wife.
Bettrina Truitt
October 25, 2015
Did you read the article?
To the last commenter:

Please read the article carefully. It clearly states that the Megillah does not contain all the details of what happened. The missing details are from the Talmud.
October 23, 2015
I don't seem to agree with you on this, the bible categorically states that, Ester was Mordecai"s cousin and played the role of a father in her life.i have not been able to find where it was recorded that any sort of marriage existed between the two. Esther 2:7
August 13, 2015
Did the Queen have any kids by the king of Persia?
March 3, 2015
Why did Esther marry a non-Jewish king?
BS"D Since it is forbidden for us to intermarry, why would Hashem allow and arrange for Esther to marry a non Jew? Who was the father of her son Darius if an angel went instead of her to be with Ahasuerus?
March 3, 2015
The parallel is Abraham giving his wife to Pharaoh and Elimelech
This powerful story is a lesson for Jews when their survival is at stake is to be self reliant and not rely on miracles.
Today Israel has the IDF, is self reliant, resourceful and does not rely on miracles.
Netanyahu has absorbed the message.
This story should have been put in the Bible because every generation needs to study the story and absorb the lessons.
Dont forget the decree was not rescinded.
If the story says 70,000 Persians were killed then 140,000 Jews lost their lives.
The Jews had no training to fight the strongest army in the world
Hessel Meilech
September 4, 2014
Queen Esther
We do not know if the story is correct. People may have their own ideas about this story The. important thing is that it stimulates ideas.
Midkand Park
September 2, 2014
I know that I am a little behind in the discussion, but if anyone else stumbles across this, maybe this will be helpful to those who feel confused about the article.
Historically speaking, Ahasuerus is usually thought to be King Xerxes who reigned 486-465. If that is the case, then Vashti would more likely be Queen Amestris, who gave birth to Artaxerxes in 483; which was the year of the banquet she refused to be seen at. Vashti wasn't killed, but she was put out of favor.
As for Esther, there's no knowledge that she was married before...I'm sure that the Torah would have mentioned this in written form, due to what an important detail it is.
It seems that there are two groups of women (the virgins and the married), but the text doesn't emphasize Esther was married, and it makes a note of saying that Esther was Mordecai's adopted daughter... the question seems to answer itself. (And, I don't see where G-d would destroy a marriage anywhere in the Torah).
March 16, 2014
So in our megillah reading tonight, Mordechai was her adopted father, and that Esther's father was Mordechai's uncle.
Naomi Smith
March 13, 2014
Actually whenever Esther was called to the king, an angel went instead of her.