The Book of Esther

Discovery for Students

The Book of Esther

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK

SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Esther 1:1 through 10:3

KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)

BACKGROUND

The Book of Esther is a compelling illustration of God’s providential hand at work. Although no direct mention of God occurs in the book, detail after detail reveals His sovereignty. Even though the Jewish people had been exiled from their homeland because of their disobedience to God, they were still the objects of His divine mercy while living in Persia.

The events in this book occurred over an approximate twelve-year span, beginning around 483 B.C. During this period, the Persian Empire was the largest the world had ever known. Shushan, the capital city, was the location of King Ahasuerus’ winter palace where most of the happenings in the book took place. Ahasuerus’ regime enjoyed an abundance of wealth, which he flaunted before the world to portray the empire’s strength and power. 

Chapters 1-2 record that when the king’s first wife was banished for refusing to make an appearance at the king’s banquet, Esther was chosen to be the new queen. Esther’s Hebrew name was Hadassah, meaning “myrtle.” Her Persian name, Esther, meant “star,” and likely was a reference to her beauty. 

Esther’s relative and guardian, Mordecai, was a Benjamite living in Shushan. Although the events of the book took place some eighty to ninety years after his great-grandparents had been brought there in captivity, he had not lost sight of his heritage or his identity as a Jew. In chapters 3-4, Mordecai refused to pay homage to Haman, the king’s prime minister. Infuriated, Haman devised a plot to destroy all the Jews in the kingdom. Mordecai heard of this plan, and in the well-known words of this week’s focus verse, he challenged Esther to go before the king on behalf of her people.

Chapters 5-10 relate how Esther courageously made her petition to the king and pled for the protection of her people from Haman’s wicked devices. As a result, Haman was executed and Mordecai promoted to a position of honor. The king then issued a new decree allowing the Jewish people to defend themselves, thus preserving them from extinction and maintaining the Davidic lineage from which the Messiah would one day come.

The Jewish people celebrate this deliverance on their annual holiday of Purim. The name is the plural form of the Hebrew word pur, meaning “lot.” This two-day feast takes place on the fourteenth and fifteenth days in the Jewish month Adar, which typically occurs in February or March. It is a celebration of joy, in which special food is eaten, children dress in costumes, and the participants react loudly at the mention of Haman’s name as the entire Book of Esther is read.

QUESTIONS

1. In chapter 1, an angry King Ahasuerus asked his advisors what he should do when his queen, Vashti, refused to appear at his banquet. Memucan, one of those advisors, suggested that the queen’s refusal would incite kingdom-wide insubordination among the women, and that they would rise up against their husbands. What did Memucan recommend the king do, and what did he suggest would be the outcome? Esther 1:19-20

2. Mordecai apparently had a role in the Persian legal system, as we are told in chapter 2 that he “sat in the king’s gate.” That was where civil trials took place; individuals who sat in the gate were judges or other government officials. Verses 21-23 of chapter 2 describe an assassination plot against the king, which Moredecai overheard and reported to Esther. Esther, in turn, “made known this plot to the king,” and the assassination attempt was foiled. What can we conclude about Moredecai’s character based on his civic role and his actions after learning of the plot against the king’s life?

3. In Esther 3:5-6, we read of Haman’s plot to destroy the Jewish people in revenge for Mordecai’s refusal to bow down to him — he persuaded the king to issue a decree ordering the extermination of all Jews on a certain date. As the Jewish people contemplated a brutal end to their lives, their families, and their nation, it no doubt seemed that Satan was in control. In our day too, it may seem at times that evil is winning the battle against righteousness. How can the account of Esther encourage us to have a different perspective?

4. Queen Esther had a role in God’s plan, and Mordecai reminded her of that when he asked the rhetorical question of our focus verse, “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” What did Mordecai want Esther to do, and why was his instruction dangerous for her? Esther 4:8-12, 16

5. After the king authorized Esther’s presence, she invited the king and Haman to a banquet rather than immediately voicing her request regarding her people. Haman was joyful when he left that banquet, no doubt elated over the honor of dining personally with the king and queen. However, his joy disappeared when Mordecai once again refused to bow to him. What words would you use to describe Haman’s mindset and attitude toward Mordecai? Esther 5:9-13

6. In reviewing the timing and events of chapter 6, what evidences do you see of God’s providence? Esther 6:1-2, 4, 10

7. Chapter 7 describes Esther’s second banquet for the king and Haman, and her courageous request on behalf of her people. What was the implication of her statement in verse 4 that selling her people into slavery would not “countervail the king’s damage”?

8. The final verse of chapter 8 relates that many of the people of the land became Jews as a result of the mighty deliverance the Jewish people experienced at the hand of God. What are some other benefits that may result from times of hardship and suffering?

9. When the king issued a second decree, this one allowing the Jewish people to defend themselves, the mourning of the Jews turned into joy. Why do you think Mordecai instructed the Jews in Esther 9:20-22 to commemorate their deliverance every year with an annual feast? What are some steps we can take to ensure we do not forget spiritual victories in our lives?

CONCLUSION

Although the name of God is not mentioned in the Book of Esther, His providence and deliverance are manifested in a spectacular way. God cares about the needs of His people and He will show Himself mighty on their behalf when they walk according to His plan.