Queen Esther is one of the most inspirational women in the Bible. Her courage and faith saved the Jewish people from destruction. Esther went from being an orphaned Jewish girl to becoming the Queen of Persia. She risked her life by approaching King Xerxes uninvited to expose a plot to massacre all the Jews in the kingdom. God used Esther mightily to deliver His people. But after her rise to power and saving her people, what happened to Esther? How did she eventually die? Let’s explore what Scripture and history tell us about the final days of Queen Esther’s life.
- The Bible does not record how or when Esther died, but history indicates she likely lived into old age as Queen.
- Esther devoted her life to God and the welfare of the Jewish people after her role in saving them.
- Jewish tradition states she may have written part of the book of Esther herself.
- Apocryphal writings propose she was poisoned or strangled but provide unreliable accounts.
- Historically she would have been buried with honors befitting a Queen.
- Her courageous example of godly leadership continues to inspire young women today.
- Esther sacrificed her own comfort for the good of her people, modeling Jesus’s sacrificial love.
Esther’s Later Years as Queen
After Esther bravely approached King Xerxes without being summoned to expose Haman’s evil plot against the Jews, the king granted her request to issue a new decree allowing the Jews to defend themselves (Esther 7:3-4, 8:3-8). Because of Esther’s faithful action, the Jews were rescued from destruction. Esther 9 describes how the Jewish people established the festival of Purim to commemorate their deliverance.
The book of Esther concludes with Esther and her cousin Mordecai, who raised her as his own daughter, instituting Purim as a celebration for future generations (Esther 9:20-32). This indicates that Esther continued on as Queen even after her ordeal, with Mordecai serving as second to King Xerxes (Esther 10:2-3). We can presume Esther lived out the remainder of her life in the king’s palace as Queen of Persia.
But the Bible gives no further details about the specific span or nature of Esther’s life after the main events of the book occurred. We are left to piece together what we know more broadly about Esther’s historical context to imagine what her later years may have entailed. As Queen, Esther likely lived a life of refinement and luxury, but also devoted herself to advocating for the wellbeing of the Jewish people. Some Jewish traditions even propose that Esther played a role in writing part of the book of Esther, though dating the book’s composition remains complex.
The Bible does not definitively tell us how or when Queen Esther died. But we can make some educated guesses based on the evidence.
Jewish Tradition: Poisoned or Strangled?
Over the centuries, Jewish scholars have sought to fill in the gaps about Esther’s later life and death. But this speculation often ventures into legendary rather than historically verifiable accounts. The Talmud records a tradition that Esther was married to Mordecai and that Ahasuerus (Xerxes) eventually killed them both (Megillah 15a). Hundreds of years later, an early Hebrew commentary on the book of Esther proposed that Esther was strangled by Ahasuerus’ vizier, Haman’s ten sons, because she refused to appear at the king’s drunken feast (Targum Sheni 2:11).
This story circulated in various forms, with more elaborate retellings appearing over time. The apocryphal Greek text Esther adds the dramatic flourish that Esther ascended her bedchamber to pray while the king’s eunuchs came to take her to the banquet. She put on her royal robes, called upon God, and fainted after saying “amen.” The king’s eunuchs then strangled her with her own robes. This extra-biblical tale aimed to dramatize Esther’s piety and explain how she may have died a martyr. However, no execution of Esther appears in the original Hebrew Bible or other historically reliable sources.
Another apocryphal text, the Greek Additions to Esther, claims Esther feared being poisoned and only ate food she had prepared herself under the supervision of her faithful attendants. This story highlights Esther’s wisdom but again has no basis in the biblical account or other credible records. While the precise traditions vary, these extra-biblical Jewish stories commonly propose that Esther remained true to God until the time of her martyrdom at the hands of her enemies. But compelling historical evidence for Esther being murdered is lacking.
Natural Death After a Long Reign?
Though the Bible does not state how long Esther lived as Queen, various historical clues suggest she likely enjoyed a full lifespan and died of natural causes after a lengthy reign. King Xerxes reigned around 485-465 BC. The book of Esther took place from 483-473 BC. As his chosen Queen, Esther was highly favored and no evidence indicates Xerxes deposed her after the events recorded in Scripture.
If Esther was around 15 when she became queen, she could have lived well into her 60s or beyond as a prominent figure in the royal court. Her death from old age or illness after decades of serving as Queen of Persia seems more historically plausible than an execution ordered by Xerxes. Esther saved Xerxes’ life by exposing the assassination plot against him, so he had great reason to honor her position for the duration of her life.
A Queen’s Burial
The Bible gives no details about Esther’s burial. But throughout history, deceased kings and queens were memorialized with formal burials reflecting their status and wealth. Based on Persian royal practices, Esther would have likely been buried in a rock-cut tomb befitting a prominent monarch. Many royal Persian tombs were cut into cliff faces or hillsides for natural preservation. Bodies were wrapped in linen and placed in stone sarcophagi along with lavish grave goods.
Given Esther’s prominent position for many years as Queen in the royal palace of Susa, she would have certainly received an honorable burial commemorating her life and service to King Xerxes. The location of her tomb is unknown, though it was likely adorned with inscriptions and offerings fit for royalty. Esther’s lasting legacy lived on in the way she saved her people and established the festival of Purim. Her brave example as a godly woman in a position of power continued inspiring Jews long after her earthly life ended.
A Godly Legacy
The time, place and exact manner of Esther’s passing remains a mystery. But the legacy she left behind is clear. Against all odds, Esther ascended from obscurity to become a vessel God used to rescue His people from destruction. Her willingness to risk her life for the wellbeing of the Jews established her as a paragon of faithfulness for generations to come.
Even in her exalted position as Queen of the mighty Persian empire, Esther remained humble and courageous. She sacrificed the comforts of palace life to advocate for the oppressed and marginalized. Her life pointed to the coming Messiah who would also lay down His life for His people. Esther’s humility, bravery and steadfast devotion continue to inspire young women of faith today.
God used Esther’s obedience to change the course of history. By saving the Jews from annihilation, she preserved the lineage that would one day produce Jesus Christ, the ultimate Savior of the world. Esther responded to Mordecai’s call that she may have “come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). Esther lived fully in that appointed time, fulfilling God’s purpose for her life during her years as Queen of Persia.
The impact of her bold intervention persisted long after Esther’s earthly life ended. Her legacy continues to shine centuries later as a testimony to God’s faithfulness and the call for His people to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him. Esther’s courageous leadership under oppressive circumstances stands as a model of how God can do extraordinary things through ordinary people who love Him.
Though the details of Esther’s later years and death are shrouded in mystery, her inspiring example of sacrificial love lives on. Like Esther, God calls each of His followers to play their part in His grand story, no matter how small it may seem. Esther responded faithfully and became God’s chosen instrument to deliver His people. May her legacy spur modern believers to boldly follow God’s leading each day, fulfilled by the purpose and destiny He has prepared for them.