Survey of the Bible - Esther

Text: Esther 4


I.         Esther’s story takes place between the first return from captivity, led by Zerubbabel, and the second return lead by Ezra.

            A.        It would fall between the 6 and 7 chapters of Ezra.

            B.        The author is unknown.

                        1.         Not the same style as Ezra and Nehemiah, which suggests a different author.

                        2.         The author had access to records during that time - Esther 2:23; 10:2

            C.        It is believed to be written after Ahasuerus’ reign since Esther 10:2-3 is in the past tense.

                        1.         A fire destroys the palace at Susa thirty years after Ahasuerus’ death, so many believe that Esther was written before that time.

            D.        Dating

                        1.         Ahasuerus is the Hebrew name of the king. His Greek name was Xerxes. His Persian name was Khshayrsh. He reigned from 486 to 464 B.C.

                        2.         The banquet takes place during Ahasureus’ third year or 483 B.C.

                        3.         The Greek historian, Herodotus, mentions this banquet as the time when Xerxes planned to attack Greece. He lost and Herodotus says he sought comfort in his harem, which was the time of the contest and crowning of Esther - Esther 2:16-17 (479 BC)

                        4.         Haman’s plot takes place in the twelfth year - Esther 3:7, 13 (473 BC)

                        5.         So the book covers a 10 year time span.

            E.        Theme

                        1.         The book illustrates how God uses ordinary people to overcome apparently impossible obstacles to His plan.

                        2.         It speaks of God’s protection of His people

                        3.         Yet, God’s name is not mentioned, which does emphasize that God can and does work behind the scenes.

                        4.         Even without mention, it isn’t that those involved are not aware of God or don’t seek God’s aid.

II.        Outline

            A.        The removal of Vashti - Esther 1

                        1.         Ahasuerus gives a great banquet that lasts for 180 days - Esther 1:4

                        2.         Men and women were served separately - Esther 1:9

                        3.         Vashti was ordered by her drunken husband to present herself before his followers, but she refused - Esther 1:10-12

                        4.         Ahasuerus asked for advice on how to deal with her rebellion.

                                    a.         His advisors said that if he didn’t do something, other women would follow suite - Esther 1:17-18

                                    b.         He was advised to divorce her and find another wife.

            B.        The marriage of Esther - Esther 2

                        1.         Several years later, Ahasuerus began to regret not having a wife - Esther 2:1

                        2.         A contest to select the most beautiful woman in the empire was proposed

                                    a.         Candidates were selected from all around the kingdom

                                    b.         Among them was Hadasshah (Hebrew - “myrtle”), also known as Esther (Greek - “star”), a young woman who had been raised by her elder cousin when she was left an orphan - Esther 2:7

                                    c.         The contestants were given a year to prepare - Esther 2:12-14

                                    d.         Esther was selected as queen - Esther 2:16-17

                                    e.         It is important to note that her heritage was not mentioned - Esther 2:20

                        3.         Some time after Esther became queen, Mordecai overheard an assassination plot. He informed Esther, who told the king - Esther 2:22-23

            C.        Haman’s Plot - Esther 3

                        1.         Sometime later, a man rose to prominence in the empire, who was named Haman. He was a vain man - Esther 3:1-2

                        2.         Mordecai refused to bow to Haman because he was a Jew - Esther 3:4

                        3.         Rather than just get mad at Mordecai, Haman decided to take revenge on all the Jews - Esther 3:5-6

                        4.         Haman was also a superstitious man because he would not make a move until the omens were just right - Esther 3:7

                        5.         Haman told the king that there was a rebellious people in his empire whom he would be happy to eliminate for the king before they caused more problems. Without checking further, Ahasuerus, gives Haman permission - Esther 3:8-14

            D.        Convincing Esther to intervene - Esther 4

                        1.         The Jews went into mourning on hearing - Esther 4:3

                        2.         Through a series of letters, Mordecai told Esther of the plot and insisted that she ask the king to stop it. But Esther was hesitant because she hadn’t seen the king in a month and she went to the king while out of favor, she could be put to death.

                        3.         These are the key verses to Esther - Esther 4:13-14

                        4.         Convinced, Esther calls for fasting (and by implication, prayers) for three days before she attempts approaching the king

            E.        Esther plays on Haman’s pride - Esther 5

                        1.         Esther does go before the king, who knows something is bothering Esther, but when he asks, she simply invites the king and Haman to a dinner.

                                    a.         At the dinner the king again asks what is bothering her - Esther 5:6-8

                        2.         Haman was besides himself in being invited to two dinners with the royal couple. But even that was spoiled when he saw Mordecai - Esther 5:9-14

            F.        Mordecai is honored - Esther 6

                        1.         By apparent chance, the king had trouble sleeping that night and was going through the records when he found the entry mentioning Mordecai foiling the assassination plot - Esther 6:3

                        2.         Wanting to correct the oversight, he called for the nearest official, who happened to be Haman and asked his advice - Esther 6:6

                        3.         Only after detailing how he wanted to be honored did Haman learn that it was actually Mordecai who would be honored and he was put in charge of the proceedings - Esther 6:10-12

                        4.         Haman and his cohorts realized they were in trouble - Esther 6:13-14

            G.        Esther’s Banquet - Esther 7

                        1.         Esther reveals at the dinner the plot against the Jews and reveals she is one - Esther 7:2-6

                        2.         The king didn’t take the news well - Esther 7:7

                        3.         But as Haman pleas with Esther, he just happens to stumble - Esther 7:8-10

            H.        Mordecai replaces Haman - Esther 8

                        1.         Mordecai is given Haman’s job and house - Esther 8:2

                        2.         The problem of the law Haman enacted remained. The Persian empire didn’t allow a law to be rescinded.

                                    a.         So an addendum was added stating that the Jews had the right to defend themselves - Esther 8:11

                        3.         A great celebration resulted. People also converted to Judaism - Esther 8:16-17

            I.         The victory of the Jews - Esther 9

                        1.         The first half of chapter 9 details the victories of the Jews over their enemies during the next two days.

                        2.         An annual feast was established - Esther 9:24-28

            J.         And they lived happily thereafter - Esther 10

III.       What do we learn?

            A.        God cares for His people. He answers their prayers.

            B.        God doesn’t always act in an obvious or miraculous way, yet He still acts.

                        1.         The number of “just happens” in the story to too great to see any other explanation.

                        2.         In those actions, everything seems “natural,” but people knew that it was God behind it all.

            C.        We also see God’s humor

                        1.         He has Haman plan and execute the honoring of Mordecai

                        2.         He hangs Haman on the very gallows he had planned to use against Mordecai.

                        3.         The feast is named after Haman’s superstitious beliefs!

            D.        There is so little we can control in our lives, but Esther reminds us of who is in control and that we can depend on Him to turn things into good - Romans 8:28

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