ESTHER – 10 Points for Bible Study

10 Study Points for Bible Study of Esther

Esther’s Relationship with Xerxes

Xerxes in search of a Queen:

1-  2:3 Let the King appoint commissioners in every province of his realm to bring all these beautiful girls into the harem at the citadel of Susa.
**NIV note 2:3 Parallel to the Joseph story of Israelite commoners rising to prominence and saving their people
2-  2:8 Esther was also taken to the King’s palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem.
**NIV note Neither she nor Mordecai had any choice in the matter.
** Ruth & Esther Life Change note p.98 Probably not forced but to refuse the summons would have meant death**
3- 2:17 Now the king was attracted to Esther more than to any of the other women, and she won his favor and approval more than any of the other virgins. So he set a royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.
**Ruth & Esther Life Change note p.98 Favor or hesed was a reminder to Jewish readers of the divine hesed toward Esther and her people.

Esther’s Relationship to Mordecai

Family:
4-  2:7 Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother. This girl, who was also known as Esther, was lovely in form and features, and Mordecai had taken her as his own daughter when her father and mother died.
Obedience:
5-  2:20 But Esther had kept secret her family background and nationality just as Mordecai had told her to do, for she continued to follow Mordecai’s instructions as she had done when he was bringing her up.
Loyalty:
6-  2:22 But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai.
Strong Influence:
7-  4:14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this.
**NIV Note 4:14 Mordecai’s knowledge of God’s fulfillment of his promise to the Jews, his continued knowledge that there are consequences if one does not fulfill one’s own responsibilities and his wondering if God put Esther this influential position of queen to save their people.

Esther’s Relationship with God

Fasting:
8- 4:16 Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day.  I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law.  And if I perish, I perish.
( Esther’s reply to Mordecai)
**Note NIV 4:16   Prayer usually accompanies fasting and presumably was a part of this fast.  Though God is not mentioned specifically in this whole narrative, God is who is orchestrating and directing all that occurs.
**Esther states a similar comment as Israel in Ge 43:14 If I am bereaved, I am bereaved. It is in God’s hand what happens to all us.

Devine Providence or Co-incidence

9-
a) 5:2 When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.
Note 5:2 NIV
b)  6:10 “Go at once”, the king commanded Haman. “Get the robe and the horse  and do just as you have suggested for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king’s gate. Do not neglect anything you have recommended.”
Note 6:1 NIV
c) 7:8 The  king exclaimed, “Will he (Haman) even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?”  
d) 7:10 So they hung Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.
Esther’s Legacy / The feast of Purim
10-
a) 9:31 to establish these days of Purim at their designated times, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther had decreed for them, and as they had established for themselves and their descendants in regard to the times of fasting and lamentation.
 The 2 day celebration of Purim illustrates God’s sovereignty and fulfillment of his promise, preventing the annihilation of his people using commoners Esther and Mordecai who rose to prominence during the reign of a Persian king.
Sources:
1. The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, 1995 (All scriptures, Footnotes)
2. Women of the Bible, 52 Bible Studies for Individuals and Groups,
Jean E. Syswerda, Zondervan 1999
3. Ruth & Esther Life Change Series
Navpress, The Navigators 1987

 

 

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The Book of Esther – Fabrication, Faithfulness, Fulfillment

The Old Testament Book of Esther is very different from most books in the Bible. Because the book doesn’t specifically say the word “God” at all, many Christian simply find no value in the writing. However, while the word “God” is not written, there are implications and evidence of God at work.

Esther is driven by the characters; Xerxes, the King, Vashti, the queen, Mordecai, Esther’s cousin who raised her and was a friend to the court, Haman, Xerxes’s executive officer and Esther, also known as Hadassah (2:7), who became the queen. The Book raises a lot of questions such as; is it historical or fictional? Does it take persons and events from different times and mix them together to make a story?  Is the intent of the Book merely to raise the awareness of Purim or to justify Purim, since it has no basis in the Law?  Regardless of the questions, highly evident is the Fulfillment of God’s promises for the protection of His followers. However, to reach the conclusion of God’s fulfillment, we must examine a contrast between the dysfunction, represented by the ungodly acts of Xerxes and Haman, and the faith of functioning under the belief in God, represented by Mordecai and Esther. The conclusion presents success for the Godly, as God fulfills His promises in the salvation of the Persian Jews. In this presentation I choose to call the acts of the ungodly, Fabrication, the acts of the Godly, Faithfulness and the results the Fulfillment of God’s Promises. Let us therefore look at these three elements to see if we can reach a better understanding of this treasured Scripture.

Fabrication – The lives of both Xerxes and Haman were about fabrication. Fabricate is “to make or build.”1 Xerxes thrived on the creation of whatever made him happy without any moral consideration. Many of his activities were centered on excessive wine and drink (Esther 1:10, 3:15, 5:6, 7:2). He ordered Queen Vashti to be his trophy presentation at his banquet (Esther 1:10-11). When Queen Vashti refused to attend the banquet, he had her dethroned (Esther 1:16-20). He then sought to replace her by having a contest to find a “woman of pleasure” as a replacement queen (Esther 2:4). By finding favor in Esther, he not only crowned her as queen, but produced a royal holiday with “gifts and royal liberations” (Esther 2:18). He hastily promised Esther any of her requests, including half of his kingdom (Esther 5:3, 7:2). Whatever Xerxes created was for him and him only. Even if it seemed he was doing something for someone else, in the end it was all about Xerxes.

Haman was a “fabricating-hater” and created whatever he thought was necessary to eradicate the Jews in Persia. He put himself in a position where he would be granted the highest seat of honor among the nobles under King Xerxes. In this place of authority everyone under the King and Queen had to “kneel down” to him (Esther 3:1-2). Upon Mordecai’s refusal to obey, he took out his anger not only Mordecai, but on all Persian Jews (Esther 3:5). He conspired with King Xerxes and received permission to destroy all the Persian Jews, offering ten-thousand talents of silver to be allowed to destroy them (Esther 3:9, 3:12-14). He took his wife Zeresh’s advice to build a gallows to hang Mordecai (Esther 5:14). When King Xerxes asked Haman what should be given to the person that the king wanted to honor, he thought only of himself and created a list of gifts that pleased him (Esther 6:4-9). Little did he know that the gifts and celebration was for Mordecai. Because he was so self-centered, there was no possible way of him thinking that the gifts and celebration were not for him. Like most people who live the life of fabrication, everything was about him only. There is however, one difference between Xerxes and Haman. Haman’s selfishness was destructive. In order for him to be uplifted, there had to be the destruction of others. It was the need to destroy others that was his ultimate downfall.

Faithfulness – The lives of Mordecai and Esther are centered in faithfulness. Mordecai was faithful in this order: (1) to God, (2) to family and (3) to Xerxes, the king. In his faithfulness to God Mordecai refused to give honor to Haman, who Mordecai knew was intent on eradication the Persian Jews. The reason for the enmity between them is not given, but it is clear that the issue goes beyond Mordecai and Haman personally. The hostility goes back to issues between the Jews and the Amalekites, during the Exodus (Ex 17:8-16)2,3. Mordecai understood that the threat of eradication was real and had to be met with a bold solution. In any time of trouble, what can be bolder than the solution of depending on God through prayer and supplication? For the Scripture tells us, “When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his cloths, put on sackcloth and ashes and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly”(Esther 4:1). He did not depend on himself, but only on God.

In his faithfulness to his family Mordecai provided a family for his cousin, Esther, “Mordecai has a cousin named Hadassah, whom he had brought up because she had neither father nor mother” (Esther 2:7). He put her in a position as potential queen when the opportunity arose, “When the king’s order and edict had been proclaimed, many girls were brought to the citadel of Susa and put under the care Hegai. Esther also was taken to the king’s palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem” (Esther 2:8).  In his faithfulness to King Xerxes, Mordecai uncovered a conspiracy and saved the king’s life. Esther 2:21 –“During the time Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthana and Teresh, two or the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, became angry and conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. But Mordecai found out about the plot and told Queen Esther, who in turn reported it to the king, giving credit to Mordecai”  Mordecai is truly a model for faithfulness  for others as well as ourselves.

Mordecai’s faithfulness to Esther was crucial, because she learned faithfulness from him. Esther followed the advice of Mordecai and didn’t not reveal her nationality (Esther 2:10). She followed the advice of Hegai, the king’s eunuch and quickly found favor with King Xerxes, which led to her becoming queen (Esther 2:15-17). When it came time to put her life on the line, by  advising King Xerxes of her nationality, she also asked that he spare her and all the Persian Jews from annihilation (Esther 7:3-4).  The most important point of this Book: Esther’s decree confirmed these regulations about Purim and it was written down in the records. Esther was faithful to God and family which ultimately led to her being responsible for the institution of the celebration of Purim (Esther 9:32). Esther’s faithfulness led to her being able to establish a permanent celebration of the occasion when the Persian Jews successfully defended themselves from Haman’s people. The celebration led to an annual celebration, decreed by the royals of Persia because of the faithfulness of Esther. Purim continues to be listed on the Jewish calendar today on March 16th. Check your calendar for 2014 to see if Purim is noted.

 

The Fulfillment of God’s Promises – While the Book of Esther is most certainly the reason for the Jewish celebration of Purim, which is a holiday not found in the Jewish laws, I feel the most relevant conclusion in this Book is that God keeps his promise to the Jews when Haman tries to eradicate them. In Esther Chapter 3 Haman sets up the plot to destroy the Jews and uses his relationship with Xerxes to gain the authority to do the deed. Esther 3:5-6 tells us that “When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay honor , he was enraged. Yet having learned who Mordecai’s people were, he scorned the idea of killing only Mordecai. Instead Haman looked for a way to destroy all Mordecai’s people, the Jews throughout the whole kingdom of Xerxes.”  Now this is a problem, because the actions of Haman infringed directly upon the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 12:3 “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you will be cursed;” So, it is no surprise that, first of all Esther and Mordecai knew that her rise to queen was not by coincidence but by the hand of God for a specific purpose,  Esther 4:12 “When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 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?””  We find the specific purpose of God being fulfilled when Mordecai saved Xerxes life. Although there were no immediate rewards, “…. at just the right time….” (Romans 5:6), Xerxes “….ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read him. It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the  king’s officers who guarded the doorway, who had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes (Esther 6:1-2). Was this coincidental? No, it was right on time to fulfill God’s promise of protection for his people.  Purim is a celebration of God’s fulfillment of His promise to the Persian Jews and ultimately to all God’s people. Isn’t that what we Christians celebrate? Living and standing on the promises of God.

1. Merriam-Webster Online, An Encyclopedia Britannica Co.  http://www.merriam-

webster.com/dictionary/stewardship.

2. The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume III, Abingdon Press, New York, Book of Esther.

3.,The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, Book of Esther, Text Notes.

(Previously released in series, January 2014)

Esther 6:1-3

“That night the king could not sleep; so he ordered the book of the chronicles, the record of his reign, to be brought in and read to him. It was found recorded there that Mordecai had exposed Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s officers who guarded the doorway, who conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. “

“”What honor and recognition had Mordecai received for this? ” the king asked. “Nothing has been done for him,” his attendants answered.”

We find the specific purpose of God being fulfilled when Mordecai saved Xerxes life. Although there were no immediate rewards,  the reward came“… at just the right time…” (Romans 5:6).

Could God be waiting for “just the right time” to give you a special blessing?