Esther lived in the 5th century BC. She and many other Jews were living in exile from their homeland in the land of Persia (modern-day Iraq). After the King of Persia, Xerxes, banished his wife, he started looking for a new queen. Esther was chosen after she won a beauty contest.
Esther had a relation in the palace, her cousin, Mordecai. When Mordecai refused to bow before the prime minister Haman, Haman decided to kill all Jews in the empire, and persuaded the king to issue one of those irrevocable Persian laws decreeing it.
Esther used her position as queen to save the Jews. She wined and dined the king and persuaded him to overturn Haman's plot. As the original decree could not be reversed, the king instead ordered that the Jews be armed and organised to defend themselves against Haman's troops.
The Jews killed 500 soldiers, Haman was executed on the gallows that he had built for Mordecai, and Esther got all his stuff.
The book of Esther is the only one in the Bible not to mention God or anything overtly religious. A possible reason for this is that it was written under foreign rule when the Jewish religion was run underground.
The mausoleum of Esther and her father Mordecai can be seen in Hamdan in Iran.
The annual Jewish spring festival of Purim commemorates Esther's achievement in rescuing the Jewish people from Haman's plot to kill them. Although Purim is only a minor festival, it's very popular, especially with children. People swop presents, listen to a reading from the book of Esther, and boo the villain of the story, Haman.
This year, Purim fell on 18 March.
The Talmud, the Jewish holy book, says: "One is obliged to drink on Purim until one does not know the difference between 'Blessed is Mordechai' and 'Cursed is Haman.'"
According to the Talmud, Esther had an olive complexion, was of medium height and was one of the four most beautiful women in the world.
Esther's Hebrew name was Hadassah, meaning "myrtle". Apparently, this was either because of her righteousness or her smell.
Esther is considered a prophet in Judaism.
"Everyone viewed her as if she was one of their own people."