Lesson 10 – Esther

March 2, 2009

ESTHER

INTRODUCTION
•    Dead Sea Scrolls / Esther not mentioned
•    God’s name is not mentioned in the book of Esther

Take Away Point #1
A Biblical worldview is more than just talk.

SETTING
A.  The setting is during the Persian King Xerxes’ reign (486 – 465 B.C.)
•    Story is tucked away in the Persian capital Shushan and it is about the remaining Jews after Zerubbabel’s temple rebuilding campaign and before Nehemiah’s rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls.
•    The year is 483 B.C.

B.  Author of Esther is unknown.
•    Written after Xerxes’ reign (10:2)
•    Author had extensive knowledge of Persian customs, etiquette, history, the palace of Shushan, and Hebrew culture and calendar.
•    Mordecai, Ezra, and Nehemiah have been suggested.
•    Could have been one of Mordecai’s assistants.

Take Away Point #2
Some of our greatest deeds may go unnoticed.

C.  Xerxes was preparing for his invasion of Greece.
1.    To finish what his father Darius had begun
2.    3rd year of his reign
3.    483 B.C.

An Old Feud

The historic strife between Haman and Mordecai goes back 1000 years to when the Jews exited Egypt (1453 B.C.). They were attacked by the Amalekites (Ex. 17:8-16), whose lineage was Amalek, son of Esau (Gen 36:12). God cursed the Amalekites–they were to be totally eliminated as a people (Ex. 17:14; Deut. 25:17-19). Saul (1030 B.C.) received orders to kill all the Amalekites, including their king Agag (1 Sam. 15:2,3); he disobeyed (15:7-9). Samuel finally hacked him to pieces (15:32, 33). King David fought them in 1 Sam. 30:1-20 and Hezekiah removed them from the land. However, they we not eliminated as a people. Saul was a Benjamite. Because of his lineage to Agag and Mordecai’s lineage to Benjamin, Haman hated the Jews and especially Mordecai. 550 years later, neither Mordecai nor Haman had forgotten the old feud.

Two Enemies Meet for Battle (2:19-7:10)
#1    Mordecai had overheard a plot on the King’s life in the city gate.  He informed Esther of Bigthan and Teresh’s plot.  They were hanged and Mordecai’s name was written in the king’s book of chronicles (2:21-23).

The Persian execution consisted of being impaled.  It is likely they were the inventors of the crucifixion.

#2    Haman, the Agagite, was promoted above all the princes in his region.  All the king’s servants in the king’s gate were commanded to bow and pay homage to Haman.

•    Mordecai refused to bow or pay homage to Haman (3:2).
•    Mordecai gave Haman the opportunity he needed to destroy all the Jews in the kingdom of Xerxes.
•    This all happened in the 1st month of the 12th year of Xerxes.
•    Lots “pur” were cast to determine the day of death–the 12th month of the 12th year of Xerxes (3:7).

•    Xerxes allowed his signet ring to seal the doom of the Jews.

Take Away Point #3
Enemies in the land will not become your friend.

4:1-3    Mordecai sees the danger to himself and the Jew.  He, along with the rest of the Jews in the kingdom, was totally distraught.
4:8-12    Mordecai asks Esther to intercede for the Jews.  Esther said it is not as simple as that, it could lead to her death.
4:13-14  Mordecai warns Esther her life is at risk as well and that God may have raised her up for such a time as this.
4:15-17  Esther agrees.

THE MAKING OF A QUEEN (1:1-2:18)

The Existing Queen is Banished
•    Xerxes (Ahasuerus) is in the 3rd year of his reign.
•    His kingdom is immense (India to Ethiopia)
•    This feast is during the planning stage of his march on Greece (1:3)
•    Queen Vashti also had a feast in the Royal palace.  She was the mother of Artaxerxes.
•    The Queen refused the request of the king to enter his presence (1:11-12).
•    Xerxes was furious and under the advice of Memucan he banished Queen Vashti from his presence.  The royal position was to go to another (1:19).

A New Queen is Chosen
•    A quest was made of the provinces for beautiful young virgins.  They were brought to the place for beauty preparations.
•    Mordecai, a Benjamite had been caring for his cousin, Hadassah (Esther).  She was chosen for the contest.
•    Esther did not tell, due to Mordecai’s warning, about her Jewishness.
•    During this choosing of Esther, Xerxes had invaded Greece and was turned away at Salamis.

•    Upon his return, the King chose Esther as the new queen during the month of Tebeth (10th) of his 7th year.

Three Stories and One Night (5-7)

1.  Esther is hosting two banquets for Xerxes and Haman in order to request her own life and the life of the Jews.

2. Haman is puffed up with self-importance and plans a special execution for Mordecai.

3. Mordecai is being elevated in the eyes of the King due to his exposure of the assassination attempt five years prior.

It all comes together:
•    Esther plans two banquets for Xerxes and Haman in order to reveal Haman’s plot.
•    Haman plans to hang Mordecai on a 50 cubits (75’) gallows.
•    The King discovers that Mordecai was never rewarded for saving the King’s life.
•    Mordecai is exalted with Haman’s own words (who thought it was for himself)
•    Haman is exposed by Esther as the impetus of the plot.
•    The King is furious that someone would attempt genocide on the Jews, which includes his wife.
•    Haman beseeches Esther for help and Xerxes sees this as an assault.
•    Haman is hanged on the gallows he made for Mordecai.

The Plans of God are not Thwarted (8:1-9:17)
8:1-17     Under Mordecai’s council, Esther asked Xerxes to counteract the scheme of Haman.  What resulted was permission for the Jews to slaughter those who were their enemies (v. 11).
8:17    “Many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them.”

9:1-17  About 76,000 people (including the Amalekites) are killed.

Take Away Point #4
God’s promises are kept.  Time is not a sparse commodity to Him.

Take Away Point #5
There is a unity between God’s sovereignty and man’s will.

The Feast of Purim (9:18-32)
•    Named after the Akkadian word for “lot” – 3:7; 9:26.  “The Lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the Lord” Prov. 16:33
•    Annual, two-day holiday of feasting, rejoicing, sending food to another, and giving gifts to the poor – 9:21, 22.
•    Decreed to be celebrated in every generation – 9:27, 28.
•    Esther added the feature of fasting with lamentation – 9:31
•    The feast is not mentioned again in the Bible.  However, it has been celebrated throughout the centuries in Israel.

Mordecai’s Advancement (10:1-3)
•    Was raised to ‘second to the king’.
•    He was great among the Jews.
•    He was esteemed by the people.

•    He was put in the ranks of Joseph and Daniel.

Take Away Point #6
Secular and difficult life circumstances are within God’s design.

Esther

Take Away Points

#1    A Biblical worldview is more than just talk.
God’s name is not mentioned and Xerxes’ is mentioned 175 times!  Does God exist only because we speak His name?  Is He still sovereign if we have not declared it so?  So our lives can display His presence even though our speech may not be peppered with religious terms.  Let us not fall into the trap of Jesse as the prophet Samuel was picking the next king of Israel.  Though talk is crucial, it is the heart to which God is looking.  A biblical worldview is found in how one thinks and what is found in the heart.  It is not necessarily found in the words they choose to say.  Talk is cheap.

#2      Some of our greatest deeds may go unnoticed.
Just as we do not know who wrote the book of Esther (and it has been read for centuries by millions), much of our life events may not go recognized in the future.  Faithfulness, contentment, and their service of God should be our daily mindset.

#3      Enemies in the land will not become your friend.
Disobedience does have a way of festering, only to raise its ugly head.  The earlier you slay the enemy in your land the better it is.

#4      God’s promises are kept.
Time is not a sparse commodity to Him.  He will do His will when He wants to do it.  We are so time-driven.  We can’t image building a cathedral which takes more than one lifetime.  However, God builds plans and executes them over many lifetimes.

#5    There is a unity between God’s sovereignty and man’s will.
The lives of Esther, Xerxes, Mordecai, Haman, and the Amalekites are an amazing testimony to God’s ability to carry out His will and purposes through human being who are making real choices and decision to which they are held accountable.  “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”  Prov. 16:9

#6     Secular or difficult life circumstances are within God’s design.
Esther served as a queen.  Mordecai served in a secular administration.  These two were doing God’s will.  Likewise, serving God and His will is not only found in pastoring, church staff positions, missionaries, and in para-church organizations.  Here Mordecai’s words to Esther, “Who knows that you have not be put in your position for such a time as this?”


Lesson 7 Video

February 9, 2009

CLICK HERE to watch the video of Rob Genin teaching Lesson #7 of the Old Testament Survey Class, Eastwood Presbyterian Church, Montgomery, AL on Feb. 1, 2009.