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BOOK : Esther

Description : historical book telling of God's preservation when a threat of extermination of the Jews arises in the period of their exile.

Author: unknown

Date written : probably about 470BC

Chapters : 10


Brief Synopsis:


•  Gets its name from the heroine, Esther who becomes queen and eventual saviour of the Jews
•  Cousin Mordecai hears of a plot against the king (it is recorded – see later)
•  Senior court official, Haman, plans to have all the Jews killed
•  Mordecai informs Esther of this asking her to intervene
•  Using her diplomatic skills she reveals to the king the plot to kill her people
•  Haman is hanged, Mordecai promoted and the Jews saved


Outline :


Ch.1,2 The Feasts of Xerxes

Ch.1 Vashti Deposed
Ch.2 Esther Made Queen

Ch.2-7 The Feasts of Esther

Ch.2 Mordecai Uncovers a Plot
Ch.3 Haman's Plot
Ch.4 Mordecai Persuades Esther to Help
Ch.5 Esther's First Banquet: Her Request to the King
Ch.5,6 A Sleepless Night with interesting results
Ch.7 Esther's Second Banquet: Haman Hanged

Ch.8-10 The Feasts of Purim

Ch.8 The King's Edict in Behalf of the Jews
Ch.9 The Institution of Purim
Ch.10 The Promotion of Mordecai


Key Verses :


Historical setting – during exile

1:1.2 This is what happened during the time of Xerxes , the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush : At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa

A Jewish couple

2:5-7 Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin king of Judah. 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.

Esther made queen

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.

Haman plots genocide

3:1,5,6 After these events, King Xerxes honored Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles….. When Haman saw that Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him 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 .

The difficulty of approaching the king

4:7,8,10,11,13-16 Mordecai told him everything that had happened to him, including the exact amount of money Haman had promised to pay into the royal treasury for the destruction of the Jews. He also gave him a copy of the text of the edict for their annihilation, which had been published in Susa , to show to Esther and explain it to her, and he told him to urge her to go into the king's presence to beg for mercy and plead with him for her people….. she instructed him to say to Mordecai, "All the king's officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that he be put to death…. 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….. who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" ….. Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: "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 uses diplomatic wisdom

5:3,4,7,8 Then the king asked, "What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you." "If it pleases the king," replied Esther, "let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him." ….. Esther replied, "My petition and my request is this: If the king regards me with favor and if it pleases the king to grant my petition and fulfill my request, let the king and Haman come tomorrow to the banquet I will prepare for them. Then I will answer the king's question."

The king is “accidentally” reminded of Mordecai's help

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 had conspired to assassinate King Xerxes. "What honor and recognition has Mordecai received for this?" the king asked.

Esther reveals the plot and Haman is hanged

7:1-4,10 T he king again asked, "Queen Esther, what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted." Then Queen Esther answered, "If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life--this is my petition. And spare my people--this is my request. For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king." …… So they hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the king's fury subsided.

The Jews are saved

8:10,11 Mordecai wrote in the name of King Xerxes, sealed the dispatches with the king's signet ring, and sent them by mounted couriers, who rode fast horses especially bred for the king. The king's edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves.



Concluding Comments


•  The story is a simple one of potential genocide of the Jews.
•  Through the faithfulness of two Jews in exile the Jews were saved from a plot to exterminate them. The difficulty was dealing with a powerful despot and scheming plotter and catching the king at the right moment.
•  Although God is not mentioned in the book, one wonders if it were He who kept the king awake at night so he would check the records and end thinking well of Mordecai.
•  This is the origin of the feast of Purim.



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