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Esther - Girls Bible Study

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Introduction

The Book

of

Esther

Calvary Chapel Girls Bible Study

Note: Portions of the outline for this syllabus were taken from John Macarthur’s Bible Studies, New Testament Commentary by Moody Press, The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible by Leadership Ministries, and

The Life Application Study Bible.

I.     Overview of Esther. 4

A.      The Blueprint. 5

B.      Themes Throughout the Book of Esther. 5

C.      Historical and Theological Themes. 7

D.     Interpretive Challenges. 8

II.          Esther’s Ascension (Esther 1:1-2:20). 9

A.      Opening Thoughts. 9

B.      Background of the Passage. 10

C.      Read the Bible Passage (Esther 1:1-2:20) 10

D.     Understanding the Text. 12

III.         Haman’s Plot (Esther 2:21-3:15). 15

A.      Background of the Passage. 15

B.      Bible Passage (Read Esther 2:21-3:15). 15

C.      Understanding the Text. 17

D.     Please Read for cross-reference (Daniel 6). 18

E.      Exploring the Meaning. 18

F.      Summing It Up ….. 19

G.     Reflecting on the Text. 19

IV.        Mordecai’s Plot (Esther 4:1-17). 21

A.      Opening Thoughts. 21

B.      Background of the Passage. 22

C.      Bible Passage (Read Esther 4:1-17). 22

D.     Understanding the Text. 23

V.         Esther’s Intercession (Esther 5:1-8). 28

A.      Opening Thoughts. 28

B.      Background of the Passage. 29

C.      Bible Passage (Esther 5:1-8). 29

D.     Understanding the Text. 29

E.      Exploring the Meaning. 31

VI.        Haman’s Humiliation (Esther 5:9-6:14). 33

A.      Opening Thoughts. 33

B.      Background of the Passage. 33

C.      Read the Bible Passage (Esther 5:9-6:14). 34

D.     Understanding the Text. 35

E.      Exploring the Meaning. 37

VII.       Haman’s Downfall (Esther 7:1-8:2). 39

A.      Opening Thoughts. 39

B.      Read the Bible Passage (Esther 7:1-8:2). 40

C.      Understanding the Text. 41

VIII.       The Jew’s Deliverance (Esther 8:3-9:19). 45

A.      Opening Thoughts. 45

B.      Background of the Passage. 46

C.      Read the Bible Passage (Esther 8:3-9:19). 47

D.     Understanding the Text. 48

E.      Exploring the Meaning. 49

IX.        The Jews Celebration (Esther 9:20-10:3). 51

A.      Opening Thoughts. 51

B.      Background of the Passage. 52

C.      Read the Bible Passage (Esther 9:20-10:3). 52

D.     Understanding the Text. 53

E.      Exploring the Meaning. 54


! I.                    Overview of Esther.

DRAMA, power, romance, intrigue—this is the stuff of which best-selling novels are made.  But far from a modern piece of fiction, those words describe a true story, lived and written centuries ago.  More than entertaining reading, it is a story of the profound interplay of God’s sovereignty and human will.  God prepared the place and the opportunity, and his people, Esther and Mordecai, chose to act.

VITAL STATISTICS PURPOSE: To demonstrate God’s sovereignty and his loving care for his people AUTHOR: Unknown.  Possibly Mordecai (Esther 9:29).  Some have suggested Ezra or Nehemiah because of the similarity of the writing style. DATE WRITTEN: Approximately 483-471 B.C. (Esther became queen in 479) SETTING: Although Esther follows Nehemiah in the Bible, its events are about 30 years prior to those recorded in Nehemiah.  The story is set in the Persian empire, and most of the action takes place in the king’s palace in Susa, the Persian capital. KEY VERSE: “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish.  And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?”  (Esther 4:14). KEY PEOPLE: Esther, Mordecai, King Xerxes I, Haman KEY PLACE: The king’s palace in Susa, Persia SPECIAL FEATURES: Esther is one of only two books named for women (Ruth is the other).  The book is unusual in that in the original version no name, title, or pronoun for God appears in it (see the note on  Esther 4:14).  This caused some church fathers to question its inclusion in the canon.  But God’s presence is clear throughout the book. 

The book of Esther begins with Queen Vashti refusing to obey an order from her husband, King Xerxes.  She was subsequently banished, and the search began for a new queen.  The king sent out a decree to gather together all the beautiful women in the empire and bring them into the royal harem.  Esther, a young Jewish woman, was one of those chosen to be in the royal harem.  King Xerxes was so pleased with Esther that he made her his queen.

Meanwhile, Mordecai, Esther’s older cousin, became a government official and during his tenure foiled an assassination plot.  But the ambitious and self-serving Haman was appointed second-in-command in the empire.  When Mordecai refused to bow in reverence to him, Haman became furious and determined to destroy Mordecai and all the Jews along with him.

To accomplish his vengeful deed, Haman deceived the king and persuaded him to issue an edict condemning the Jews to death.  Mordecai told Queen Esther about this edict, and she decided to risk her life to save her people.  Esther asked King Xerxes and Haman to be her guests at a banquet.  During the feast, the king asked Esther what she really wanted, and he promised to give her anything.  Esther simply invited both men to another banquet the next day.

That night, unable to sleep, the king was flipping through some records in the royal archives when he read of the assassination plot that Mordecai thwarted.  Surprised to learn that Mordecai had never been rewarded for this deed, the king asked Haman what should be done to properly thank a hero. Haman thought the king must be talking about him, and so he described a lavish reward.  The king agreed, but to Haman’s shock and utter humiliation, he learned that Mordecai was the person to be so honored.

During the second banquet, the king again asked Esther what she desired. She replied that someone has plotted to destroy her and her people, and she named Haman as the culprit.  Immediately the king sentenced Haman to die on the gallows that he had built for Mordecai.

In the final act of this true-life drama, Mordecai was appointed to Haman’s position, and the Jews were guaranteed protection throughout the land.  To celebrate this historic occasion, the feast of Purim was established.

Because of Queen Esther’s courageous act, a whole nation was saved.  Seeing her God-given opportunity, she seized it!  Her life made a difference.  Read Esther and watch for God at work in your life.  Perhaps he has prepared you to act in “such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).


!! A.                 The Blueprint.

The book of Esther is an example of God’s divine guidance and care over our lives.  God’s sovereignty and power are seen throughout this book.  Although we may question certain circumstances in our lives, we must have faith that God is in control, working through both the pleasant and difficult times so that we can serve him effectively.

            1. Esther becomes queen (Esther 1:1-2:23)

            2. The Jews are threatened (Esther 3:1-4:17)

            3. Esther intercedes for the Jews (Esther 5:1-8:17)

            4. The Jews are delivered (Esther 9:1-10:3)

B.                Themes Throughout the Book of Esther.

THEME: God’s sovereignty

EXPLANATION: The book of Esther tells of the circumstances that were essential to the survival of God’s people in Persia.  These “circumstances” were not the result of chance, but of God’s grand design.  God is sovereign over every area of life.

IMPORTANCE: With God in charge, we can take courage.  He can guide us through the circumstances we face in our lives.  We should expect God to display his power in carrying out his will.  As we unite our life’s purposes to God’s purpose, we benefit from his sovereign care.

THEME: Racial hatred

EXPLANATION: The Jews in Persia had been a minority since their deportation from Judah 100 years earlier.  Haman was a descendant of King Agag, an enemy of the Jews.  Lust for power and pride drove Haman to hate Mordecai, Esther’s cousin.  Haman convinced the king to kill all the Jews.

IMPORTANCE: Racial hatred is always sinful.  We must never condone it in any form.  Every person on earth has intrinsic worth because God created mankind in his image.  Therefore, God’s people must stand against racism whenever and wherever it occurs.

THEME: Deliverance

EXPLANATION: On February 28th, the Jews celebrate the feast of Purim, which symbolizes God’s deliverance.  Purim means “lots”, such as those used by Haman to set the date for the extermination of all Jews from Persia.  But God overruled, using Queen Esther to intercede on behalf of the Jews.

IMPORTANCE: Because God is in control of history, he is never frustrated by any turn of events or action of man.  He is able to save us from the evil of this world and deliver us from sin and death.  Because we trust God, we are not to fear what people may do to us; instead, we are to be confident in God’s control.

THEME: Action

EXPLANATION: Faced with death, Esther and Mordecai set aside their own fear and took action.  Esther risked her life by asking King Xerxes to save the Jews.  They were not paralyzed by fear.

IMPORTANCE: When outnumbered and powerless, it is natural for us to feel helpless.  Esther and Mordecai resisted this temptation and acted with courage.  It is not enough to know that God is in control; we must act with self-sacrifice and courage to follow God’s guidance.

THEME: Wisdom

EXPLANATION: The Jews were a minority in a world hostile to them.  It took great wisdom for Mordecai to survive.  Serving as a faithful official of the king, Mordecai took steps to understand and work with the Persian law.  Yet he did not compromise his integrity.

IMPORTANCE: It takes great wisdom to survive in a non-believing world.  In a setting which is for the most part hostile to Christianity, we can demonstrate wisdom by giving respect to what is true and good and by humbly standing against what is wrong.

TIMELINE

Jerusalem destroyed EXILES go to Babylon 586 B.C.

First exiles return to Jerusalem 538

Temple completed 516

Xerxes becomes king of Persia 486

Esther becomes queen 479

Haman’s decree to destroy the Jews 474

First feast of Purim 473

Haman’s decree to destroy the Jews 474

First feast of Purim 473

Artaxerxes I becomes king 465

Second group of exiles returns to Jerusalem 458

Nehemiah goes to Jerusalem 445


!! C.                Historical and Theological Themes.

All 167 verses of Esther have ultimately been accepted as canonical, although the absence of God’s name anywhere has caused some to unnecessarily doubt its authenticity.  The Greek Septuagint (LXX) added an extra 107 apocryphal verses that supposedly compensated for this lack.  Along with Song of Solomon, Ruth, Ecclesiastes, and Lamentations, Esther stands with the Old Testament books of the Megilloth, or “five scrolls.”  Rabbis read these books in the synagogue on five special occasions during the year—Esther being read at Purim (see Esther 9:20–32).

The historical genesis for the drama played out between Mordecai (a Benjamite descendant of Saul—2:5) and Haman (an Agagite—3:1, 10; 8:3, 5; 9:24) goes back almost a thousand years when the Jews exited from Egypt (1445 b.c.) and were attacked by the Amalekites (Exodus 17:8–16), whose line-age began with Amalek, son of Esau (Genesis 36:12).  God pronounced His curse on the Amalekites, which resulted in their total elimination as a people (Exodus 17:14; Deuteronomy 25:17–19).  Although Saul (1030 b.c.) received orders to kill all the Amalekites, including their king Agag (1 Samuel 15:2–3), he disobeyed (15:7–9) and incurred God’s displeasure (15:11, 26; 28:18).  Samuel finally hacked Agag into pieces (15:32, 33).  Because of his lineage from Agag, Haman carried deep hostility toward the Jews.

The time of Esther arrived 550 years after the death of Agag, but despite such passage of time, neither Haman the Agagite nor Mordecai the Benjamite had forgotten the tribal feud that still smoldered in their souls.  This explains why Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman (3:2, 3) and why Haman so viciously attempted to exterminate the Jewish race (3:5, 6, 13).  As expected, God’s prophecy to extinguish the Amalekites (Exodus 17:14; Deuteronomy 25:17–19) and God’s promise to preserve the Jews (Genesis 17:1–8) prevailed.

Because of God’s faithfulness to save His people, the festival of Purim (named after the Akkadian word for “lot”—Esther 3:7; 9:26), an annual, two-day holiday of feasting, rejoicing, sending food to one another, and giving gifts to the poor (9:21–22), was decreed to be celebrated in every generation, by every family, in every province and city (9:27–28).  Esther later added a new feature of fasting with lamentation (9:31).  Purim is not mentioned in the Bible again, although it has been celebrated throughout the centuries by the Jewish people.

Esther could be compared to a chess game.  God and Satan (as invisible players) moved real kings, queens, and nobles.  When Satan put Haman into place, it was as if he announced “Check!”  God then positioned Esther and Mordecai in order to put Satan into “Checkmate!”  Ever since the Fall (Genesis 3:1–19), Satan has attempted to spiritually sever God’s relationship with His human creation and disrupt God’s covenant promises with Israel.  For example, Christ’s line through the tribe of Judah had been murderously reduced to Joash alone, who was rescued and preserved (2 Chronicles 22:10–12).  Later, Herod slaughtered the infants of Bethlehem, thinking Christ was among them (Matthew 2:16).  Satan tempted Christ to denounce God and worship him (Matthew 4:9).  Peter, at Satan’s insistence, tried to block Christ’s journey to Calvary (Matthew 16:22).  Finally, Satan entered into Judas, who then betrayed Christ to the Jews and Romans (Luke 22:3–6).  While God is not mentioned in Esther, He is everywhere apparent as the One who opposed and foiled Satan’s diabolical schemes by providential intervention.

In Esther, all of God’s unconditional covenant promises to Abraham (Genesis 17:1–8) and to David (2 Samuel 7:8–16) were jeopardized.  However, God’s love for Israel is nowhere more apparent than in this dramatic rescue of His people from pending elimination.  “Behold, He who keeps Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep” (Psalm 121:4).

D.                Interpretive Challenges.

The most obvious question raised by the Book of Esther comes from the fact that God, as in Song of Solomon, is nowhere mentioned.  Nor does the writer or any participant refer to the law of God, the Levitical sacrifices, worship, or prayer.  The skeptic might ask, “Why would God never be mentioned when the Persian king receives over 175 references?  Since God’s sovereignty prevailed to save the Jews, why does He then not receive appropriate recognition?”

It seems satisfying to respond that if God desired to be mentioned, He could just as sovereignly have moved the author to write of Him as He acted to save Israel.  This situation seems to be more of a problem at the human level than the divine because Esther is the classic illustration of God’s providence as He, the unseen power, controls everything for His purpose.  The book records no miracles either, but the preservation of Israel through providential control of every event and person reveals the omniscience and omnipotence of Jehovah.  Whether God is named is not the issue.  He is clearly the main character in the drama.

Second, why were Mordecai and Esther so secular in their lifestyles?  Esther (2:6–20) does not seem to have the zeal for holiness like Daniel (Daniel 1:8–20).  Mordecai kept his and Esther’s Jewish heritage secret, unlike Daniel (Daniel 6:5).  The law of God was absent in contrast to Ezra (Ezra 7:10).  Nehemiah had a heart for Jerusalem that seemingly eluded the affections of Esther and Mordecai (Nehemiah 1:1—2:5).

The following observations help to shed some light on these issues.  First, this short book does not record everything. Perhaps Mordecai and Esther actually possessed a deeper faith than becomes apparent here (see Esther 4:16).  Second, even godly Nehemiah did not mention his God when talking to King Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 2:1–8).  Third, the Jewish festivals which provided structure for worship had been lost long before Esther—for example, Passover (2 Kings 23:22) and Pentecost (Nehemiah 8:17).  Fourth, possibly the anti-Jewish letter written by the Samaritans to Ahasuerus several years earlier had frightened them (486 b.c., Ezra 4:6).  Fifth, the evil intentions of Haman did not just first surface when Mordecai refused to bow down (Esther 3:1, 2).  Most likely they were long before shared by others which would have intimidated the Jewish population.  Sixth, Esther did identify with her Jewish heritage at a most appropriate time (7:3–4).  Yet, the nagging question of why Esther and Mordecai did not seem to have the same kind of open devotion to God as did Daniel remains.  Further, Nehemiah’s prayer (Nehemiah 1:5–11, especially verse 7) seems to indicate a spiritual lethargy among the Jewish exiles in Susa.  So this issue must ultimately be resolved by God since He alone knows human hearts.


! II.                  Esther’s Ascension (Esther 1:1-2:20).

A.                 Opening Thoughts

1.                  What do you think it would be like to be the ruler of an entire nation or empire?  What would you do if you were declared the “benevolent dictator” of this country?

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2.                  What is your opinion of beauty contests?  Of those who participate in them?  Why?

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3.                  What does Peter say about beauty in (1 Peter 3:3-4)?  What does the writer of Proverbs say about beauty (Prov.31:30)?

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!! B.                Background of the Passage

The Old Testament books of Ezra and Nehemiah tell the story of the Jews who returned to the land of promise following their seventy-year God-ordained captivity.  This book, on the other hand, reveals what happened to the remnant of Jews who elected to remain in Persia.

It has been noted that the name of God does not appear even once in the ten chapters of Esther.  Nevertheless God’s fingerprints are all over the book.  The Lord used a beautiful young Jewish girl and her wise uncle to thwart a genocidal plot in a dramatic story filled with suspense, intrigue, and surprises.  This great deliverance of the Jews was, and is, commemorated by the Feast of Purim, an annual celebration of God’s faithfulness to His people.

Esther’s rise to a position of influence began in Susa when King Ahasuerus ordered his wife, Queen Vashti, to show off her beauty at a large and lavish banquet (chapter 1).  After Vashti balked at this edict, the king was counseled to find a new queen (lest other women in the empire become encouraged to defy their husbands).

Esther, her Jewish ancestry a secret, became a contestant in this royal beauty contest (chapter 2) to find a new queen.  The result was that “the king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti” (2:17).

C.                Read the Bible Passage (Esther 1:1-2:20)

As you read the Bible passage, please note the key words and definition in each passage.  In doing this, you will have a richer and deeper understanding of the text.

·                     one hundred and twenty-seven provinces (v. 1)—The kingdom comprised twenty regions (3:12; 8:9; 9:3) which were further divided into provinces ruled over by governors (3:12).

·                     India to Ethiopia (v. 1)— Ethiopia, not Asia Minor, is mentioned as representing the western edge of the kingdom to avoid any remembrance of the king’s previous defeat by the Greeks (481–479 b.c., see 8:9). This description also avoided any confusion with the Ahasuerus of Daniel 9:1.

·                     Shushan the citadel (v. 2)— Shushan (the Hebrew rendering of the Greek Susa), the winter residence, was one of four capital cities; the other three included Babylon, Ecbatana (Ezra 6:2), and Persepolis. The citadel refers to the fortified palace complex built above the city for protection.

·                     the third year (v. 3)—483 b.c. This probably included the planning phase for Ahasuerus’s later campaign against Greece in which the king suffered a humiliating defeat (481–479 b.c.).

·                     Persia and Media (v. 4)— Cyrus the Persian inherited Media, and thus the name Media became just as prominent as Persia (550 b.c.).

·                     Queen Vashti (v. 9)—Greek literature records her name as Amestris. She gave birth (483 b.c.) to Ahasuerus’s third son, Artaxerxes, who later succeeded his father Ahasuerus on the throne.

·                     Vashti refused (v. 12)—Her reason is not recorded, although the refusal of Vashti’s, to expose herself to the view of such a group of drunken Bacchanalians was highly praiseworthy, and became the dignity of her rank and the modesty of her sex

·                     the seven princes (v. 14)— These highest ranking officials (see Ezra 7:14) were perhaps equivalent to the magi of Daniel 1:20.

·                     will not be altered (v. 19)— The irrevocable nature of Persian law played an important role in how the rest of Esther concluded (see 8:8).

·                     letters (v. 22)—The efficient Persian communication network (a rapid relay by horses) played an important role in speedily publishing kingdom edicts (see 3:12–14; 8:9–10, 14; 9:20, 30).

·                     After these things (2:1)—most likely during the latter portion of the king’s ill-fated war with Greece (481–479 b.c.)

·                     he remembered Vashti (v. 1)—The king was legally unable to restore Vashti (see 1:19–22), so the counselors proposed a new plan with promise.

·                     Mordecai (v. 5)—among the fourth generation of deported Jews

·                     Kish (v. 5)—Mordecai’s great-grandfather, who actually experienced the Babylonian deportation; after Babylon fell to Medo-Persia (539 b.c.), Jews were moved to other parts of the new kingdom; Kish represents a Benjamite family name that could be traced back (to about 1100 b.c.) to Saul’s father

·                     Jeconiah (v. 6)—former king of Judah (also known as Jehoiachin and Coniah) who was deported (597 b.c.); due to his disobedience, the Lord removed his descendants from the line of David to Christ

·                     Esther also was taken (v. 8)— It is impossible to tell if Esther went voluntarily or against her will.

·                     pleased him (v. 9)—That she pleased Hegai points to God’s providential control.

·                     not to reveal it (v. 10)—possibly because of the hostile letter mentioned in Ezra 4:6 or the anti-Semitic sentiments of Haman and other like-minded people

·                     the second house (v. 14)—the place of concubines

·                     obtained favor (v. 15)—according to the Lord’s providential plan

·                     Tebeth (v. 16)—the tenth month, corresponding to December– January

·                     the seventh year (v. 16)— 479–478 b.c.; four years had elapsed since Vashti’s fall from favor.

·                     a holiday (v. 18)—This probably refers to a remission of taxes or release from military service.

·                     a second time (v. 19)—Perhaps the king intended to add some more girls to his concubine collection.

D.                Understanding the Text.

1.                  How would you describe the feast given by Ahasuerus?  What does this extravagant affair say about him—his character, his rule, his values?

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2.                  Why did Vashti refuse to comply with the king’s wishes?  Who was right?  Why?

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3.                  What was the king’s motive for deposing Vashti?

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!!! 4.                  What does the above passage reveal about Esther?  About her relationship with Mordecai?

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5.                  Read Psalm 75:6–7.  What do you learn about God from these verses?  How do you see these same characteristics at work in the story of Esther?

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6.                  Read 2 Corinthians 6:18.  What does the Lord say He would be to us?  What do those who believe in Jesus Christ receive according to Romans 8:15-17?

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!!! 7.                  What’s more valuable and why—wisdom (like Mordecai had) or beauty and influence (like Esther had)?  When have you been jealous of another person’s position, personality, or character qualities?  How can you learn to be grateful for how God has made you and the ways He is using you for His glory—just the way you are?

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8.                  What are some of the unique experiences, positions, opportunities, and blessings that God has given you?  How do you sense that He wants to use those to make an eternal difference in this world?

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! III.                Haman’s Plot (Esther 2:21-3:15).

A.                 Background of the Passage.

Like a first-rate suspense novel, the Book of Esther, set in exotic Persia, tells the true story of rich, beautiful, and powerful people plotting and planning, striving and conniving.  At stake are the lives and fortunes of both individuals and the Jewish remnant.  The tension in the book is obvious.  How will God get glory in such a pagan environment?  How will God’s people survive the hostility of their captors?  Most important, what will happen to God’s promises to Israel?

Through an unlikely turn of events, an attractive young Jewish woman named Esther rose to power, replacing the deposed Queen Vashti and becoming the favored wife of King Ahasuerus.  Soon thereafter, Mordecai, Esther’s legal guardian, learned of a plan to assassinate the king.  When he revealed this plot to Esther, the would-be assassins were arrested and executed.  Significantly, Mordecai’s loyal act was recorded in the royal history books.

Clearly these events of chapters 1 and 2 set the stage for the crisis of chapter 3.  After Mordecai rebuffed Haman, a high-ranking government official, Haman became enraged.  In his thirst for revenge, he concocted a scheme to eliminate Mordecai and all the Jews.  Then, without even naming the targeted people, Haman managed to get the king’s approval to carry out his genocidal plot.

Continue reading and studying for a more in-depth understanding of the events of chapters 2 and 3.

B.                Bible Passage (Read Esther 2:21-3:15).

As you read the Bible passage, please note the key words and definition in each passage.  In doing this, you will have a richer and deeper understanding of the text.

·                     the king’s gate (2:21)—indicates the strong possibility that Mordecai held a position of prominence (see 3:2)

·                     became furious (v. 21)—perhaps in revenge over the loss of Vashti

·                     hanged on a gallows (v. 23)—the Persian execution consisted of being impaled; it is likely that they were the inventors of crucifixion

·                     book of the chronicles (v. 23—Five years later (Ahasuerus’s twelfth year), the king would read these Persian records as the turning point in Esther (6:1–2).

·                     After these things (3:1)— sometime between the seventh (2:16) and twelfth year (3:7) of the king’s reign

·                     would not bow (v. 2)—There is a question as to whether Esther and Mordecai were inclined to obey the Mosaic law. This refusal may be more likely grounded in the family feud between the Benjamites and the Agagites than in Mordecai’s allegiance to the second commandment.

·                     he was a Jew (v. 4)—It seems evident from Haman’s fury and attempted genocide that there were strong anti-Semitic attitudes in Shushan, which seems to explain Mordecai’s reluctance to reveal his true ethnic background.

·                     the people of Mordecai (v. 6)—Haman was being satanically used to target the entire Jewish race in an unsuccessful attempt to change the course of redemptive history and God’s plans for Israel.

·                     Nisan (v. 7)—the time period March–April; ironically, the Jews should have been celebrating the Passover to remind them of a former deliverance

·                     twelfth year (v. 7)—474 b.c.

·                     they cast (v. 7)—Haman’s court of advisers who made decisions superstitiously based on astrology and casting of lots

·                     Pur … lot (v. 7)—A “lot” would be like modern dice; they were cast to determine future decisions (see Jonah 1:7).

·                     Adar (v. 7)—February–March; eleven months would have passed between Haman’s decree and its expected fulfillment

·                     a certain people (v. 8)—Haman never divulged their identity.

·                     ten thousand talents (v. 9)— The exact amount in dollars is uncertain, but reportedly it would have weighed 375 tons and equaled almost 70 percent of the king’s annual revenue. Since this sum would have been derived from the plunder of the Jews, it indicates that they had grown prosperous.

·                     the enemy of the Jews (v. 10)—see 7:6; 8:1; 9:10, 24

·                     sealed … king’s signet ring (v. 12)—This would be equivalent to the king’s signature.  The date has been calculated by historians to be April 7, 474 b.c.

·                     to destroy (v. 13)—an ambitious plot to annihilate the Jews in just one day; historians have calculated the date to be March 7, 473 b.c.; the king had unwittingly approved this provision that would kill his own queen

·                     as law (v. 14)—It would be irrevocable (see 1:19; 8:5–8).

·                     perplexed (v. 15)—No specific reason is stated. Most likely even this pagan population was puzzled at the extreme and deadly racism of the king and Haman.

C.                Understanding the Text.

1.                  What were the details of the plot to assassinate King Ahasuerus?  How did Mordecai thwart this plot?

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2.                  Why did Haman become furious with Mordecai?  Why do you think Mordecai refused to pay homage to Haman?

(verses to strongly consider: (Exodus 20:3–6; Deuteronomy 25:17–19; 1 Samuel 15:32–33; Matthew 4:10)

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3.                  How did Haman try to determine a date on which to carry out his murderous plot?  How do you see God’s sovereign hand at work through this process?  Why don’t we use this method for making decisions today?  What resources has God given us to help us make decisions?

(verses to consider: Nehemiah 10:34; Proverbs 16:33; Acts 1:26)

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!! D.                Please Read for cross-reference (Daniel 6).

1.                  After reading Daniel 6, in what ways do the stories of Esther 3 and Daniel 6 parallel each other?

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E.                 Exploring the Meaning.

1.                  Read Acts 4:13–22 and 5:17–29.  Why is it common for those in positions of power to try to muzzle or control the people of God?

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2.                  Read Jehoshaphat’s prayer in 2 Chronicles 20:5–12.  In what ways is this a model prayer for any child of God who is in trouble?

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!! F.                 Summing It Up …

“Because our God is infinite in power and love, we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not fear.  What can man do to me?’  (Hebrews 13:6).  Because our God is infinite in power and love, we can say with David, ‘Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You’ (Psalm 56:3) and, ‘I will both lie down in peace and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety’ (Psalm 4:8).  Because our God is infinite in power and love, we can say with Moses, ‘The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms’ (Deuteronomy 33:27).  Because our God is infinite in power and love, we can say with the writer of Hebrews, ‘This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast’ (Hebrews 6:19).”

G.                Reflecting on the Text.

1.                  In what specific ways have you been pressured to compromise your faith?

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2.                  What do you think hastened such an extreme response on the part of Haman?

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!!! 3.                  For further study, see the following passages (Exodus 20:4-6; Ezra 6:11; Daniel 2:49).

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! IV.               Mordecai’s Plot (Esther 4:1-17).

A.                 Opening Thoughts.

1.                  In a crisis situation, how do you typically respond?  Do you

a)                  become hysterical;

b)                  become immobilized by fear;

c)                  pray;

d)                  swing into action;

e)                  try to escape;

f)                    react in some other way?

g)                  Why do you think you respond this way?

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2.                  What are some of the most courageous decisions you witnessed in the last year?  What tough, but right, choices have you made yourself?  What happened?

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!!! 3.                  Do you think it is difficult for Western Christians to really identify with stories in which people of faith face death because of their beliefs?  Why?

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B.                Background of the Passage.

Following the seventy-year exile period, the Jews were given permission to return to their homeland.  Some had done so under the leadership of Zerubbabel and had begun to rebuild the temple (see Ezra).  Another large group had remained in Persia.  Among them were a beautiful young woman named Esther and her cousin/adopted father, Mordecai.

When Vashti, the queen of Persia, defied an order of King Ahasuerus, she was deposed and a search was begun for a new queen.  Somehow, Esther, keeping her Jewish heritage a secret, was included in this royal contest; eventually she became the surprise winner.  Meanwhile, Mordecai uncovered a plot to assassinate the king.  Through Esther he was able to get word to the palace and the would-be evildoers were brought to justice.

The plot thickened when a high-ranking official named Haman, angered by Mordecai’s refusal to bow to him, concocted a scheme to eradicate all the Jews in Persia.  When the king agreed to Haman’s murderous plan, the only question remaining was whether Esther could use her position of influence to save her people.  That is the situation in chapter 4.

Read the passage carefully and imagine yourself in Esther’s or Mordecai’s situation.  Let the drama of their crisis wash over you.  Try to appreciate the great pressure they felt.  And let God use this real-life situation from centuries past to change you today.

C.                Bible Passage (Read Esther 4:1-17).

As you read the Bible passage, please note the key words and definition in each passage.  In doing this, you will have a richer and deeper understanding of the text.

·                     sackcloth and ashes (v. 1)— an outward sign of inward distress and humiliation; Mordecai realized that he had prompted this genocidal retaliation by Haman

·                     she sent garments (v. 4)— Mordecai could then enter the king’s gate (see 4:2) and talk with Esther directly.

·                     Hathach (v. 5)—a trusted eunuch who knew of Esther’s Jewish background

·                     He also gave him a copy of the written decree (v. 8)— That Mordecai possessed this specific knowledge and a copy of the edict further evidences his prominent position in Persia.

·                     golden scepter (v. 11)—In order to protect the king’s life from would-be assassins, this practice prevailed; seemingly, the king would extend the scepter (a sign of kingly authority) only to those whom he knew and from whom he welcomed a visit (see 5:2; 8:4).

·                     these thirty days (v. 11)— Perhaps Esther feared she had lost favor with the king since he had not summoned her recently.

·                     relief and deliverance (v. 14)—Mordecai exhibited a healthy faith in God’s sovereign power to preserve His people. He may have remembered the Lord’s promise to Abraham (see Genesis 12:3; 17:1–8).

·                     you … will perish (v. 14)— Mordecai indicated that Esther because of her prominence, would not escape the sentence or be overlooked (see 4:13).

·                     such a time as this (v. 14)— Mordecai indirectly appealed to God’s providential timing.

·                     fast (v. 16)—The text does not mention prayer being included, though surely it was.

·                     perish (v. 16)—Esther’s heroic willingness to die for the sake of her fellow Jews is commendable.

D.                Understanding the Text.

1.                  How did Mordecai respond when he learned that Haman’s genocidal decree had been approved by the king?  What is the significance of sackcloth and ashes?  Can you think of any modern-day equivalents for believers in the West?

(verses to consider: Genesis 37:34; 2 Kings 19:1; Jeremiah 6:26; Daniel 9:3).

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!!! 2.                  The chapter makes a couple of references to fasting, (verses 3, 16).  What is the purpose of fasting?  What does it indicate?  (verses to consider: Ezra 8:21; 9:5; Nehemiah 1:4; Psalm 35:13).

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3.                  Some notes from Pastor Chuck Smith:

            As God has promised the future for the Jewish people, the Messiah has not yet come, Mordecai, knowing the faithfulness of God in keeping His promises and keeping His word, knew that somehow, God would spare the Jewish people from this edict that he had been given.  The idea that he's impressing upon Esther is; who knows, Esther, but maybe God has chosen you to be the instrument in bringing to pass His purposes.  Maybe God has brought you to the kingdom for such a time as this.  Five years ago when you were chosen to be queen.  Maybe God had positioned you for this very moment; for this very task of saving your people.  Maybe that's why this all transpired before.

            I do believe that all of us come to that place in life for which God has been preparing us.  Paul, as he is writing to the Ephesians, said, "You are His workmanship.  You've been created together in Christ Jesus unto the good works that God has before ordained that you should accomplish, that you should fulfill."  In other words, what Paul is saying is God has set out a plan for your life.  God has foreordained the work that He intends for you to do for the glory of the kingdom.  He's already got it all worked out; but in the mean time, He's working in you to prepare you for that work that He's prepared that you should do.

            Now, a lot of times, while we're in this time of preparation, as God is working in us, we're chomping at the bit.  I'm prone to despise these days of small things.  I want to see the purpose, the plan of God.  I don't like this time of preparation.  And many times, a person has a tendency to jump out ahead of the Lord.  "I'm going to do it on my own."  It's sort of like Jacob; "Lord, I've waited long enough, and now I'm going to handle it myself."  Or, even like Abraham, the great man of faith; and finally his wife Sarah said, "Honey, it's not going to happen.  Take my handmaid, and have a child by her; and I'll take it when it's born, and I'll raise it, and it'll be as my child."  So let's help God out.  The purposes of God are too slow in being fulfilled, or in coming to pass, so let's jump in and do it ourselves.

            And so many times, we jump in ahead of God, and we find ourselves totally failing.  But that's all a part of the training, too.  Perhaps God is showing you, you can't do it yourself; and so He allows you those times of failure.  The wrong conclusion to make, though, is that, if you, in doing it yourself, fail, that it can't be done, or you can't do it.  It was only a matter of timing.  You can't really do it until God is ready to do it through you.

            And so, God brings us, I do believe, to those places that He has been preparing us for; that moment that all of this life up to this point was being designed and planned and ordained by God to bring to this place of now beginning to see the fulfillment, and all of the purposes of God that He had in those earlier experiences that I did not understand; that hard school in which I was just weeping and straining, and enduring; but finally, I come to this place, and now, God has brought me to the kingdom for such a time as this.  This becomes God's time to do His work, and it's always exciting when we come to that time of life.

            Now, the interesting thing to me is that in three days' time, Esther fulfilled the whole purpose of God for her life.  The rest of it, she could just cruise and enjoy being queen.  But in three days, all of the preparation up to that point was for these three critical days.  God brought her to the kingdom for such a time as this.  These three momentous days. 

            God is going to work.  God is going to deliver His people.  Esther, if you fail to fulfill the purpose of God, then when the decree is enacted, you're going to be destroyed with your family.  I'm going to be wiped out, too.  It's really designed against me, but you and your father's house, you'll be destroyed.  God will save His people somehow, some way, because God has His eternal purposes for them, but Esther, maybe this is the reason why God's brought you to the kingdom.  Who knows but what you came to the kingdom for just such a time as this.

4.                  What did Mordecai want Esther to do?  Why was she fearful of his request?  What finally convinced her to approach the king?

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!!! 5.                  What is significant about Mordecai’s claim that if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place (verse 14)?  (verses to consider: Genesis 17:1–8)

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6.                  Read Daniel 3.  How is Esther’s classic statement of courage, “If I perish, I perish,” similar to the response of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego to King Nebuchadnezzar?

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7.                  What do the following passages teach us about Esther’s statement “If I perish, I perish” (Luke 9:24; Acts 20:24; Romans 16:3-4; 9:1-3)?

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!!! 8.                  Read Acts 20:22–24.  Did the threat of punishment or suffering deter Paul?  Why or why not?

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9.                  Read Philippians 2:3–4.  In what ways did Esther “live out” the truth of this New Testament passage?  How might her privileged life in the luxury of the Persian royal palace have altered her values and affected her actions?

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10.             For further study, see the following passages: (Genesis 12:1; Isaiah 37:1; Jonah 3:5; Nehemiah 2:2; Daniel 9:3; Matthew 11:21; Psalm 109:24; Joel 2:12).

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! V.                 Esther’s Intercession (Esther 5:1-8).

A.                 Opening Thoughts.

1.                  If you could ask any person for any favor (and you knew it would be granted), whom would you approach and what would you request?  Why?

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2.                  What does the word “intercession” mean?

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3.                  What giant requests to God do you consistently make on behalf of others?

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!! B.                Background of the Passage.

Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther give an account of what happened to the Jewish people following their seventy-year exile.  Ezra is essentially a book about restoration.  Chapters 1–6 describe Zerubbabel’s attempt to rebuild the temple (538–515 b.c.), and chapters 7–10 speak of a spiritual revival sparked by Ezra (457 b.c.).  Nehemiah is a book about reconstruction, describing the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (444–425 b.c.).  Esther, meanwhile, is a book about preservation, telling what happened to the Jews who remained behind in Persia (sometime between the years of 515–457 b.c.).

The story of chapters 1–4 of Esther is this: Through a series of God-ordained events, the queen of Persia was deposed after defying the king.  After a beauty contest of sorts was held in order to find a new queen, a young Jewish girl named Esther was the surprise winner.

When Esther’s cousin Mordecai offended a high-ranking government official, that official, Haman, vengefully enacted a plan to exterminate the Jews.  Humanly speaking, only Esther was in a position to influence the king to rescind his decree.  She must somehow intercede for her people.  And given the king’s willingness to impulsively replace any queen who displeases him, Esther faced very real risks.

Following the counsel of her uncle, Esther bravely agreed to do what she could.  Esther 4:16 says: “Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise.  And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!”

C.                Bible Passage (Esther 5:1-8).

As you read the Bible passage, please note the key words and definition in each passage.  In doing this, you will have a richer and deeper understanding of the text.

·                     she found favor (v. 2)—This actually means that Esther first found favor with the God of Israel.

·                     What is your request?  (v. 3)—Esther deferred her real wish until 7:2–3.

·                     sup to half the kingdom (vv. 3–6)—royal hyperbole that was not intended to be taken at face value

·                     the banquet (v. 4)—the first of two (see 5:4–8; 6:14—7:1) that Esther prepared; God would providentially intervene between the two (6:1–2)

D.                Understanding the Text.

1.                  What was risky about Esther’s plan and actions?

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!!! 2.                  Esther was obviously favored by the king—he had hand-picked her from among the most desirable women in Persia.  What do you think made her afraid (or at least timid) to intercede for her people?

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3.                  Why do you think Esther invited the king and Haman to elaborate back-to-back banquets, rather than just coming right out with her petition?  Why the second banquet?

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4.                  Read the following cross reference (Romans 8:26-39).  What does this passage teach about intercession?  Who is doing the interceding in this passage?

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!! E.                 Exploring the Meaning.

1.                  Read Exodus 32:7–14.  Why did Moses intercede for the people of Israel in this passage?  What happened as a result?

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2.                  Read Ephesians 6:18–19.  How and why should we intercede for other believers?  (verses to consider: 1 Samuel 12:23; Colossians 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:1)

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3.                  Can you think of a recent situation in which you needed courage to do something difficult or risky?  What happened?

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!!! 4.                  Who in your sphere of influence needs your intercessory prayer today?  How can you use your position with the King of kings (Hebrews 4:16) to make a difference in another’s life?

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5.                  For further study, see the following passages (Proverbs 21:1; Philippians 1:3-4; Mark 6:22-23; Hebrews 7:25; Romans 1:9; 15:30; 1Peter 3:12).

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! VI.               Haman’s Humiliation (Esther 5:9-6:14).

A.                 Opening Thoughts.

1.                  Is there such a thing as “good pride”?  Why or why not?

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2.                  What does the following passage teach us about pride (Luke 18:9-14)?

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B.                Background of the Passage.

In his masterwork Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis called pride “the great sin” and wrote: “The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride.  Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.  As long as you are proud you cannot know God at all.  A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”  (New York, NY: Collier Books/MacMillan Publishing Co., 1943, 1945, 1952, pp. 94, 96).

The Book of Esther offers a classic case study of the sin and consequences of pride.  Haman was an Agagite, a prominent government official in Persia. Because he had been snubbed by an exiled Jew named Mordecai, Haman used his power and influence to secure a royal decree calling for the extermination of all Jews.

What the arrogant Haman didn’t know was that years earlier, Mordecai had saved the king’s life and that Mordecai’s young cousin was Queen Esther!  Together these two facts would cause Haman’s murderous plot to quickly unravel.  In fact, the tables would be utterly turned, proving that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).


!! C.                Read the Bible Passage (Esther 5:9-6:14).  

As you read the Bible passage, please note the key words and definition in each passage.  In doing this, you will have a richer and deeper understanding of the text.

·                     the multitude of his children (v. 11)—At least ten sons were fathered by Haman (see 9:13), who personified sinful pride (see Galatians 6:3).

·                     avails me nothing (v. 13)— Haman expressed raging fixation on killing Mordecai.

·                     gallows (v. 14)—a stake on which a human would be impaled to death or displayed after death (see 2:23).

·                     fifty cubits (v. 14)—approximately 75 feet or almost eight stories high; perhaps the gallows involved displaying a shorter stake atop a building or wall to attain this height.

·                     the book (6:1)—Five years (see 2:16 with 3:7) had past since Mordecai’s loyal, but as yet unrewarded, act (see 2:23). At exactly the proper moment, God providentially intervened so that the king suffered insomnia, called for the book of records, read of Mordecai’s unrewarded deeds five years earlier, and then desired to reward him (see Daniel 6:18).

·                     Who is in the court? (v. 4)— The drama intensified as Haman arrived at just the wrong time and for just the wrong reason.

·                     Whom would the king delight to honor more than me? (v. 6)—Haman ironically defined the honor to be given to Mordecai at Haman’s expense. To his potential wealth from the Jewish plunder, he thought public acclaim would be added.

·                     royal robe … royal crest (v. 8)—an honor which involved being treated as though the recipient were the king himself (see 8:15); this is reminiscent of Joseph in Egypt; history affirms that horses were adorned with the royal crown

·                     the city square (v. 9)— Mordecai had been there the day before in sackcloth and ashes (Esther 4:6); this time he arrived with royal honor.

·                     Mordecai the Jew (v. 10)— See 8:7; 9:29, 31; 10:3. Why the king did not remember Haman’s edict against the Jews remains unknown.

·                     mourning (v. 12)—Deservedly, Haman inherited Mordecai’s distress (see 4:1–2). What a difference a day makes! His imagined honors had quickly turned to unimaginable humiliation.

·                     his head covered (v. 12)—an extreme sign of shame (see 2 Samuel 15:30)

·                     you have begun to fall (v. 13)—Neither divine prophecy (Exodus 17:14) nor biblical history (1 Samuel 15:8, 9) stood in Haman’s favor. Haman’s entourage seemed to have some knowledge of this biblical history.

·                     Haman to the banquet (v. 14)—Like a lamb led to slaughter, Haman was escorted off to his just due.


!! D.                Understanding the Text.

1.                  What made Haman so proud?  So angry?  (verses to consider: Proverbs 11:2; Habakkuk 2:4; 2 Timothy 3:2).

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2.                  What were Haman’s expectations?  What counsel did he receive from family and friends?

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3.                  What do the following passages teach us about boasting (Jeremiah 9:23-24; 1 Corinthians 1:26-31; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; Ephesians 2:8-9; James 3:5;

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!!! 4.                  To what do you attribute the king’s sleeplessness?  Why?

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5.                  What happened when Haman realized the king intended to honor Mordecai instead?  What words do you think accurately describe Haman’s internal state?

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6.                  Read the following cross-references (Daniel 4:28-37).

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!!! 7.                  In what ways were Haman’s and Nebuchadnezzar’s experiences alike?  How were they different?

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E.                 Exploring the Meaning.

1.                  Read Proverbs 16:18.  If Haman had read this verse and applied it to his life, how would his actions have been different?

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2.                  Read James 4:6–10.  What does this passage say to those who are proud in heart?  What does it promise to the humble?

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!!! 3.                  Clearly God was in control of this harrowing situation from start to finish.  He caused the sleeplessness of the king, He orchestrated the events which led to the king’s discovery of Mordecai’s earlier loyalty.  Describe some similar “coincidences” in your past which prove God’s sovereignty over your life.

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4.                  In what areas of your life are you most tempted to become cocky or arrogant?  Why?  Put another way, if God desired to humble you, where do you think He might focus His attention?

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5.                  What are some specific and concrete safeguards against a prideful spirit?  How can you implement those practices today?

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VII.             Haman’s Downfall (Esther 7:1-8:2).

A.                 Opening Thoughts.

1.                  Rank the following in terms of how unfair they are (1 is the absolute worst injustice; 10 is the least):

_____ getting a ticket for going six miles over the speed limit when all other drivers have been passing you!
_____ the obviously guilty murderer who gets off on a legal technicality
_____ the wealthy neighbor who is the constant recipient of free bies, give-aways, and prizes
_____ the friend who never exercises or counts calories and still never gains an ounce
_____ getting passed over for a promotion because the boss want ed to hire her daughter-in-law
_____ the corrupt politician with lots of money who uses dirty tactics and misleading ads to defeat an honest challenger
_____ the convict who spends eleven years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit
_____ the company that lays off a batch of loyal, lifelong employees in their late fifties
_____ a major network’s refusal to report an important pro-life event or to accept a paid pro-life advertisement
_____ a judge who rules that a public school teacher cannot say, “Thank you, Jesus!” in the classroom

2.                  What are some of the greatest injustices you’ve witnessed in your life?

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!!! 3.                  What causes movie audiences to spontaneously cheer and applaud when the villain gets what he or she deserves?

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B.                Read the Bible Passage (Esther 7:1-8:2). 

As you read the Bible passage, please note the key words and definition in each passage.  In doing this, you will have a richer and deeper understanding of the text.

·                     they hanged Haman (v. 10)— the ultimate expression of justice (see Psalm 9:15–16)

·                     the house of Haman (8:1)— The property of a traitor by Persian custom returned to the king. In this case, the king gave it to his queen, Esther, who put Mordecai in charge of it (8:2). The fate of Haman’s wife, Zeresh, and his wise men is unknown (5:14; 6:12–13). Haman’s ten sons later died (9:7–10).

·                     second day (v. 2)—The first day reference point included the first banquet; this refers to the second banquet on the second day (see 5:8).

·                     what is your request? (v. 2)—This was the third time that the king inquired (see 5:3, 6).

·                     my people (v. 3)—This plea parallels God’s message given to Pharaoh through Moses, “Let my people go,” almost a thousand years earlier (Exodus 7:16).

·                     sold (v. 4)—refers back to Haman’s bribe (see 3:9; 4:7)

·                     destroyed … killed … annihilated (v. 4)—Esther recounted the exact language of Haman’s decree (see 3:13).

·                     this wicked Haman (v. 6)— similar to Nathan’s famous accusation against King David, “You are the man” (2 Samuel 12:7); Haman’s honor quickly turned to humiliation and then to horror

·                     assault the queen (v. 8)— Blinded by anger, Ahasuerus interpreted Haman’s plea to be an act of violence against Esther rather than a plea for mercy.

·                     Harbonah (v. 9)—See 1:10.

·                     Look! (v. 9)—Because the place prepared by Haman for Mordecai’s execution towered above the city, it was the obvious spot for Haman’s death.

·                     Mordecai, who spoke good (v. 9)—Haman heard the three capital offenses charged against him. One, he manipulated the king in planning to kill the queen’s people. Two, he was perceived to accost the queen. Three, he planned to execute a man whom the king had just greatly honored


!! C.                Understanding the Text.

1.                  When Esther finally made her request to the king, how did the king react?  How did Haman react?

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2.                  How was Ahasuerus an instrument of God?  (verses to consider: Proverbs 21:1; Habakkuk 1:6; Isaiah 45:1).

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3.                  How was Mordecai exalted?  (verses to consider: Genesis 41:41–45; Daniel 2:46–49)

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!!! 4.                  Read the following cross-reference (Psalm 37).  What does David’s psalm say with certainty about the destinies of the wicked and the righteous?  Do we always see ultimate justice in this life?

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5.                  Read Isaiah 13:11.  How does its statement regarding the punishment of the wicked dovetail with the declarations of Psalm 37?  (verses to consider: Psalm 145:20; Proverbs 21:7)

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6.                  Go back and underline every statement about the destruction of the wicked found in Psalm 37.

7.                  Read Deuteronomy 32:4.  What does it tell you about the nature of God?  (verses to consider: Psalms 37:28; 89:14)

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!!! 8.                  Circle every promise to the faithful in Psalm 37.

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9.                  As you look around you and see unbelievers who do not honor God and yet who seem to be prospering in life, how can (and should) this passage from Esther alter your attitudes?

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10.             How is Mordecai’s life a challenge to you to be faithful no matter what the circumstances?

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!!! 11.             God had placed Esther in her unique position of influence “for such a time as this.” What unique opportunities or platforms has God given you?  List two or three specific things you could do this week to use your position for the glory of God and the good of Christ’s church.

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! VIII.           The Jew’s Deliverance (Esther 8:3-9:19).

A.                 Opening Thoughts.

1.                  Describe a time in your life when you were expecting one thing and the exact opposite happened.  Were you more surprised, shocked, glad, sad, or mad?

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2.                  What is a “comeback”? What’s the most amazing comeback or seemingly impossible turnaround you’ve ever witnessed?

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3.                  Why do the media get so enamored with comebacks (whether political, athletic, or economic)?

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!! B.                Background of the Passage.

Though God is not mentioned by name in this book, He was clearly at work in Esther’s life and in the situation.

In the first seven chapters God

1.                  engineered circumstances so that Esther, a beautiful young Jewish woman, would become queen of all Persia, in the place of the deposed Vashti;

2.                  orchestrated events so that Esther’s Cousin Mordecai would be a candidate for royal favor because of his discovery and reporting of an assassination plot against the king;

3.                  allowed the prideful Haman to concoct a seemingly airtight scheme to eradicate the Jewish people;

4.                  made the king agreeable to hear and comply with Esther’s desperate petition for her people’s deliverance;

5.                  kept the king from sleeping, only to remind him of Mordecai’s earlier act of loyalty;

6.                  forced Haman to honor Mordecai before having Haman executed.

Following the death of their mortal foe, the Jews received even more good news.  A counterdecree was approved by Ahasuerus, giving Mordecai and the exile community the authority to protect themselves by punishing any and all enemies.  The result was that more than five hundred Persian men were killed by the Jews in Shushan alone, including Haman’s ten sons.

What an amazing turn of events!  A dark and bleak situation—with no hope in sight.  But God was faithful, working in and through His faithful servants.  The result?  A true miracle! A good reminder of God’s proclamation in Isaiah 55:8–9: “ ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’  ”


!! C.                Read the Bible Passage (Esther 8:3-9:19). 

As you read the Bible passage, please note the key words and definition in each passage.  In doing this, you will have a richer and deeper understanding of the text.

·                     to revoke (v. 5)—This proved to be impossible in light of the inflexible nature of the king’s edicts (1:19); however, counterdecree was possible (see 8:8, 11–12).

·                     Sivan (v. 9)-—This refers to the period May–June. It had been two months and ten days since Haman’s decree (see 3:12); eight months and twenty days remained until both decrees became simultaneously effective (see 3:13).

·                     the king permitted (v. 11)— Just as the king had permitted Haman, so he permitted the Jews to defend themselves and to plunder their spoil (see 9:10, 15, 16).

·                     Mordecai went out (v. 15)— This second reward exceeded the first (see 6:6–9); blue and white were the royal colors of the Persian Empire.

·                     many … people … Jews (v. 17)—The population realized that the God of the Jews greatly exceeded anything that the pantheon of Persian deities could offer (see Exodus 15:14–16), especially in contrast to their recent defeat by the Greeks.

·                     twelfth month (9:1)—during the period February–March; here is a powerful statement with regard to God’s providential preservation of the Jewish race in harmony with God’s unconditional promise to Abraham (Genesis 17:1–8); this providential deliverance stands in contrast to God’s miraculous deliverance of the Jews from Egypt; yet in both cases the same end had been accomplished by the supernatural power of God.

·                     the fear of Mordecai (v. 3)— Pragmatically, the nation had a change of heart toward the Jews, knowing that the king, the queen, and Mordecai were the ranking royal officials of the land. To be pro-Jewish would put one in favor with the king and his court and put one on the side of God, the ultimate King (see Revelation 19:16).

·                     did not lay a hand (v. 10)— Unlike Saul, who did take the plunder (see 1 Samuel 15:3 with 15:9), the Jews focused only on the mission at hand, that is, to preserve the Jewish race (see 9:15–16), even though the king’s edict permitted this (8:11).

·                     further request?  (v. 12)—Even this pagan king served the cause of utterly blotting out the Amalekites in accord with God’s original decree (Exodus 17:14) by allowing for a second day of killing in Shushan to eliminate all Jewish enemies.

·                     be hanged (v. 13)—be publicly displayed

·                     fourteenth day (v. 15)— Another 300 men died the second day of killing in Shushan, bringing the total dead in Shushan to 810.

·                     had rest from their enemies (v. 16)—Over fifteen hundred years earlier God had promised to curse those who curse Abraham’s descendants (Genesis 12:3).

·                     killed (v. 16)—Outside of Shushan, only one day of killing occurred in which seventy-five thousand enemies died.

·                     as well as on the fourteenth (v. 18)-—would be celebrated for two days rather than one.


!! D.                Understanding the Text.

1.                  What steps led to the revoking of Haman’s decree?

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2.                  What kind of decree did Ahasuerus allow Mordecai to make on behalf of the Jewish people (see 8:11)?  What effect did this decree have on the Jewish people?

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3.                  How did these events affect the Persian populace?  (verses to consider: Leviticus 26:8; Deuteronomy 2:25; Joshua 23:10)

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!!! 4.                  Read the following cross-reference (Revelation 19:11-20:10).  What does this passage say about the ultimate overthrow of the enemies of God and God’s people?

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E.                 Exploring the Meaning.

1.                  Read 1 Thessalonians 1:9–10.  How were the Thessalonians similar to the Jewish converts of Esther 8:17?  (verses to consider: Jonah 3:5–10; Acts 5:11–14).

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2.                  Some people of faith argue that total trust in God means it is never right to defend oneself against the charges or attacks of the wicked.  What do you think about this argument and about Mordecai’s decree?

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!!! 3.                  Can you think of an area in your life in which all seems hopeless?  How does the story of Esther and Mordecai alter the way in which you think about this situation?

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4.                  Consider those individuals in your life who need to see God work an amazing comeback.  How can you come alongside them in their time of need?  What specific acts of encouragement could you perform?

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! IX.               The Jews Celebration (Esther 9:20-10:3).

A.                 Opening Thoughts.

1.                  What is your favorite holiday of the year and why?

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2.                  Describe the worship at your church. What are your personal habits of worship? Are they occasions of true celebration and unabashed joy, or something else?

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3.                  When was the last time you genuinely celebrated? What prompted this occasion?

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!! B.                Background of the Passage.

Like a first-rate suspense novel, this true narrative of the Jews who remained in Persia following the exile takes the reader on an emotional roller-coaster ride.  From surprise to despair and from fear to triumph, Esther records how the invisible (but powerful!) hand of God protected His people and provided great blessing for them in a foreign land.

At the conclusion of the book, we find the Jewish people engaged in a great celebration, the Feast of Purim.  This festival commemorated their miraculous preservation from the genocidal plot of Haman. Purim is a holiday still celebrated by the Jewish faithful to this day.

How did this unlikely holiday come about?  Esther’s charm and beauty won the king’s heart.  Mordecai’s honesty and wisdom won the king’s gratitude.  When the crisis arose, therefore, this God-fearing tandem was able to use their position and influence to make a life and death difference.  The Jewish people were spared; the glory of God was revealed.

This book is packed with powerful lessons, but one moral of the story is this: The faithful who participate in the work of God will eventually see and celebrate the wonders of God.

C.                Read the Bible Passage (Esther 9:20-10:3). 

As you read the Bible passage, please note the key words and definition in each passage.  In doing this, you will have a richer and deeper understanding of the text.

·                     And Mordecai wrote these things (vv. 20–25)—a brief summary of God’s providential intervention on behalf of the Jews

·                     Purim (v. 26)—the only biblically revealed, non-Mosaic festival with perpetual significance

·                     second letter (v. 29)—an additional letter (see verse 20 for the first letter), which added “fasting and lamenting” to the prescribed activity of Purim

·                     written in the book (v. 32)— This could be the chronicle referred to in 10:3 or another archival type document; it certainly does not hint that Esther wrote this canonical book.

·                     And King Ahasuerus imposed tribute (vv. 1–3)—apparently a postscript

·                     Mordecai … was second (v. 3)—Mordecai joined the top echelon of Jewish international statesmen like Joseph, who ranked second in the Egyptian dynasty (Genesis 41:37–45), and Daniel, who succeeded in both the Babylonian (Daniel 5:29) and Medo-Persian Empires (Daniel 6:28).

·                     speaking peace (v. 3)— Ahasuerus was assassinated. No further details are available concerning Esther and Mordecai. What Mordecai did for less than a decade on behalf of Israel, Jesus Christ will do for all eternity as the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6–7; Zechariah 9:9–10).


!! D.                Understanding the Text.

1.                  According to the description in this passage, what sorts of things did the Jews do to celebrate the Feast of Purim?

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2.                  The Pur (or lots) that Haman had cast as part of his scheme to annihilate the Jews eventually became a symbol, not of death and destruction, but of God’s goodness and power.  How?  Can you think of other negative symbols that ironically have come to serve as positive reminders?

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3.                  At the end of this book, how is Mordecai described?  What does this reveal about God’s ability to place His people in positions of strategic importance?  (verses to consider: Psalm 147:6; Proverbs 8:15; Romans 13:1).

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!!! 4.                  Read the following cross-reference (Psalm 47).  What is the theme or message of Psalm 47 and why would this have been an appropriate song of praise for the Jews in Persia to sing?

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E.                 Exploring the Meaning.

1.                  Read Exodus 15:1–21.  What specific deliverance was being celebrated here?  What common elements do you see in the celebration of the Jews at Purim and the Jews at the Red Sea?

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2.                  Read Revelation 7:9–17.  What does the scene pictured in this passage teach about God?  About appropriate worship on the part of the people of God?

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!!! 3.                  What, specifically, could you do today to celebrate and commemorate God’s goodness and deliverance?

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4.                  A friend comes to you and says, “I have no joy in worship.  It has become nothing more than a time of dry, dull ritual.  What should I do?”  What counsel would you give?

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5.                  What is one thing you’d like to change about your habits of worship?

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6.                  What lessons or truths from Esther have had the biggest impact on you personally?  Why?

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