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Lesson one: esther chapterBook Profile . . . The book of Esther was recorded in Scripture to show how the Jewish people were protected and preserved from annihilation by the gracious hand of God—the sovereign controller of mankind’s history. The author’s identity is unknown, but the knowledge of Persian customs and etiquettes, and the familiarity of the palace and details of the king’s reign, indicate that the author lived in Persia during the period the story was written. The timeline of the book fits in between chapters six and seven of Ezra, between the first return of the exiles to Jerusalem led by Zerubbabel and the second return led by Ezra. The story provides the only biblical account of the Jews who chose to remain behind in Persia rather than return to Palestine. The events chronicled in the book of Esther take place in Persia during the reign of King Ahasuerus (his Greek name is Xerxes) between 486-465 B.C. The story opens in the king’s winter palace at Susa. King Ahasuerus is giving a lavish, large, six month long banquet for the nobles and officials of his realm—all 127 provinces—extending from India to the continent of Africa. As we will see, this king was a man of extremes whose actions were often contradictory and influenced by the manipulative attempts of his advisors. Historians refer to this particular banquet as the occasion of the king’s planning for his next military campaign against Greece. He would suffer a humiliating defeat by the Greeks in 479 B. C., and would return home to seek consolation in his harem. What follows is a rather unusual beauty pageant that crowns a new queen and sets the scene for the drama that follows. Esther is the only book in Scripture that does not make a direct reference to God. His name is not mentioned, but His handprint is everywhere; and though He is not visible, He is clearly the main character throughout the story. His providential care and purpose for His people is evident at all times. A sinister plot by an avowed enemy of the Jews brings grave danger and possible extinction of the Jewish race. The newly crowned queen courageously counters the plot with an intriguing twist of her own, resulting in a great deliverance of the people and the institution of the Feast of Purim, an annual reminder of God’s faithfulness that is still celebrated to the present day. Key to Esther . . . Do you ever wonder what difference, if any, your daily choices make in the overall grand scheme of things? If so, you will be encouraged through your reading of this book. As you become acquainted with the heroine of our story, you’ll find that she was an ordinary girl that God raised out of obscurity to become queen of the most powerful empire in the world. You will be challenged, just as she was challenged, to examine your own life, to stand up for righteousness, and to make developing godly character a priority so that God can effectively use you for His own purpose. Sometimes the best way to take in a story is to read it in its entirety, from beginning to end. The book of Esther is short enough to read in just one sitting—so, today read it through and then take a few minutes to record your initial observations below. 1. Name the principle characters in the story along with a brief description about each one. What struck you the most about this story from your initial reading of it? Why? Although God is not mentioned specifically, in what way did you sense His presence at work behind the scene. • Name one of the ways God is currently working in your life right now to • What can you do today or this week to cooperate with Him? Memory verse: (Begin memorizing it today.) “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28 Read Esther 1:1-9 King Ahasuerus ruled over an empire that was so vast—127 provinces—it took six months for all of the nobles and leaders of his realm to have their turn to sit in the great banquet hall. The purpose behind this elaborate celebration was to enlist the cooperation of everyone in order to attain an important military victory. This king had dreams of literally ruling the world. His immediate target was Greece, which his father, Darius I, had invaded but returned home in shameful defeat. He died before getting another opportunity, so now it was the son’s turn to take revenge on behalf of his father. No doubt at this particular time in history, King Ahasuerus was the most powerful man on earth, believing that his ability to impress his royal subjects would guarantee his next attempt to obtain a one world empire. 1. Where and when was the king holding court? vv. 2-3 Three banquets are mentioned in this chapter, who was invited to each one? In your own words, describe how the palace garden was decorated. v. 6 We’re told the drinks were served in uniquely different golden goblets. What was the law concerning drinking? v. 8 Queen Vashti also held a banquet for the women in the palace. If you had been a participant at these festivities, what affect do you think this kind of wealth would have on your perspective—would you be easily impressed or turned off buy it? The king was able to show off all his wealth in 180 days. According to Ephesians 2:7, how long will it take for you to fully grasp the inexhaustible riches God has stored up for you? Who made all this possible? Selah . . . Compare your wealth as a child of God to that of the king of Persia. What does this do for your heart attitude? Have you taken time this week to express your gratitude to the Lord? Review this week’s memory verse. Day Three: Exploring the Text Read Esther 1:10-12 A vengeful, power hungry, wealthy ruler is a potentially dangerous person—nothing can stop him short of divine intervention! Ahasuerus expected the whole world to sit up and take notice at his greatness. This was a man void of the spiritual understanding that “things” don’t matter, but people do. This failure would result in hasty and costly decisions that would affect not only himself, but a great many others in the realm. After 7 days of celebrating, when the king’s heart was “merry with wine,” Ahasuerus commanded that Queen Vashti appear to be put on display for his drunken guests. But when she refused to come, at that moment, not only was she a disobedient wife to her husband, she was also a disobedient subject to her king, and something had to be done. 1. What did the king want Queen Vashti to wear she made her appearance? v. 11 Why do you think this was important to him at this moment in time? When the queen refused to come, what was the king’s response? v. 12 The king may not have compelled his guests to drink, which was commendable, but what kind of example did he set by his own behavior? What do the following verses have to say about anger? When you mix drinking and anger, what do you get? Proverbs 20:1 b. From the above verses, what can you discern about the king’s character? c. According to Proverbs 15:1, how could the king have responded? Keep in mind that this is the man who wanted to rule the world, but who was not able to control his own spirit. What he was asking his wife to do was demeaning to her and entirely for his own selfish pleasure. An intoxicated head added on to a prideful heart led King Ahasuerus to a decision that he would greatly regret later on. His condition also made him vulnerable to the manipulative attempts of his advisors, which we will see in the remainder of our chapter. 5. The best way to avoid drunkenness is to not drink at all. What alternative does Are you filled with the Holy Spirit to the point that you are speaking to others in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord? Being Spirit-filled is the only way to control your emotions, guard your decisions, and find true joy in life. Review this week’s memory verse. Day Four: Exploring the Text Read Esther 1:13-22 Everyone needs advice from time to time—the question is, when you do, where do you go—to whom do you turn? When King Ahasuerus needed advice he turned to his seven “wise men” that were known for being astrologers, soothsayers, and even magicians. These individuals were not known for consulting with heaven, but rather with the stars and for using various forms of divination. 1. What do verses 13-14 record about the men whose advice the king sought? Why, specifically, was King Ahasuerus seeking their advice? v. 15 Who answered as spokesman for the advisers and how did he exaggerate the situation? vv. 16-18 Why did he use exaggeration to influence the king—whose best interest was he really promoting? True wisdom involves correctly judging and then following the best course of action based upon the solid principles of God’s Word. 4. Where does true wisdom start? Proverbs 9:10 How can you get wisdom? What is the one requirement to obtain it? James 1:5 Have you asked for wisdom to help you select the best course of action for your present circumstances? Describe the royal decree the king was persuaded to make. vv. 19-20 The king agreed to an irrevocable decree by sending letters throughout the kingdom. Exaggeration, manipulation, and fear were used on the part of the wise men; pride, anger, and vindictiveness were evident on the part of the king. All of it added up to the queen being deposed and the stage being set for a new one to be crowned. Whatever your personal opinion of the actions taking place in our study, we must remember the bottom line: God used the choices made and the circumstances resulting from them for His own purpose and plan, which we will now see begin to unfold. Selah . . . You cannot control your circumstances, but you can control how you handle your circumstances. How are you choosing to respond to what is going on around you at the present time? If you haven’t already asked God for wisdom, ask Him now. Review this week’s memory verse. Take a moment to ponder each request before writing out your prayer. Lift these requests at home in your quiet time with the Lord. (If you are participating in a group study, you will also have the opportunity to pray for these requests in agreement with others.) A prayer for a heart attitude that is pleasing to God . . . Attitude is everything in the Christian life. A person with a bad attitude will find it easy to be angry at others, blaming someone else for their misfortunes; while a person with a good attitude will be more likely to accept responsibility for their actions—which do you have? Do you need to pray about making any changes? A prayer for being filled with the Holy Spirit . . . A look at Ephesians 5:18 reveals that every believer is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The words be filled in this verse are in the present tense and literally mean to be being filled. You should be asking God daily to fill you and give you the wisdom you need. A prayer for advisors who will give godly counsel . . . If you have someone who will be honest with you and give you scriptural counsel in any situation, thank God for them. If you don’t have someone, ask God to bring a person into your life who will help keep you on the straight and narrow. Write out this week’s verse from memory: 2005 Janis J. Vance; Harvest Christian Fellowship—All Rights Reserved.
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