Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Studies in Esther - "For such a time as this"|
Introduction to Esther
The Significance of Esther
In Phil 2:12,13 the apostle Paul wrote: “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” In other words we have a part to play while God is working out His purposes.
In the book of Esther, this working in harmony, between God and man, is brought into sharp focus. It takes place in the time when the Jews were in exile. The Babylonian Empire gave way to that ruled by the Medes and the Persians, and the centre of focus moved from Babylon to Susa (about 250 roughly east of Babylon ).
When the Jews were deported from Jerusalem and Judea to Babylonia after the destruction of Jerusalem in 586BC, they probably thought it was their end. They didn't know that God yet had plans for this nation and it was here that His Son would be revealed. It was only when Jeremiah prophesied that the exile would last only seventy years was hope brought again. The Bible reveals that Satan seeks to destroy the people of God and seeks to thwart the declared will of God. So we find during the later part of this exile, after the first Jews had returned and rebuilt the temple but before Ezra and Nehemiah had returned and the city walls had been rebuilt and life there re-established, there is a threat brought by the enemy that could have destroyed ALL the Jews wherever they were over the Persian Empire – including Jerusalem!
Thus we will see a most remarkable working between God and man to preserve this people and counter the workings of the enemy. If two particular Jews, a man and his cousin, had not co-operated with God, it is possible that this nation of people might have been completely wiped out!
Part 1 : “Exit the Queen”
Chapter: Esther 1
Passage: Esther 1:1-8
A. Find Out:
1. In whose reign did all this happen? v.1
2. Where did he reign? v.2
3. What did he do and who were invited? v.3
4. After what, how long did it last? v.4,5
5. Note the extent of the expense? v.6
6. What was the sign of the king's liberality? v.7,8
1. What was the extent of this king's kingdom?
2. What seems to have been the purpose of this banquet?
You may wonder at this passage, that there seems little of any spiritual interest. Look again. This passage explains the environment in which everything happens. We need to understand the power of this king in order to understand the significance of the things that happen.
This king reigns over an area from India to Egypt , a large area that would include Israel which it's freshly populated Jews. The power base has moved from Babylon to Susa . After three years in power, feeling well established, the king holds a national celebration that lasted for six months, the purpose of which was to display the immense wealth and power of the kingdom. He obviously is very rich and very powerful. At the end of these six months, the king holds a banquet for all the men of Susa (the Queen holding one for the women, we'll see later) and all his officials from across the kingdom. This is a party to exceed all parties! It is a seven-day feast of eating and drinking. It has money thrown at it and exudes his wealth. It's a showpiece party! Unfortunately one of the aspects of this party is that drink is unlimited and, as we'll see, excess drink can cause people to do foolish things.
So this is the setting of this story. An incredibly powerful king holding a celebration to show his power and his wealth. It is an exercise of pride, to show off how great he is. Such times are dangerous. They show the folly and mankind and then foolish things happen.
1. Beware pride; it leads to further folly.
2. Beware great affluence; it leads to pride.
Chapter: Esther 1
Passage: Esther 1:9-12
A. Find Out
1. What was the Queen doing all this time? v.9
2. What state was the King in at the end of the week? v.10a
3. Who did he order to do what? v.10b,11
4. What was the Queen's response? v.12a
5. What was the King's reaction? v.12b
1. What was motivating the King's actions?
2. Why do you think the Queen refused him?
There are occasional times in Scripture where, if we're honest, we say, “So what's the significance of this? This seems so ordinary!” Well, as we said yesterday, look again!
First, we have the king's actions. We have said he is very rich and very powerful and now we see that he considers that his power has no limits – and that includes his wife. On a normal day he might not have done this but this day is the last day of the feast and he is drunk! When people are drunk their inhibitions are removed and they sometimes do foolish things. The king is about to start of a train of events that will have incredible outcomes, but he doesn't know that, so he sends for the Queen to show her off as one of his possessions.
Next, the Queen. Whatever anyone else thinks about the king's power, she isn't impressed, so she is going to do something that furthers this chain of events that will have incredible outcomes. She doesn't know it either, so she simply refuses; she will not be treated as a display item, she will not be demeaned in this way. As a result the king is very upset. Before all the men he's been put in his place by his wife and he is embarrassed and so is angry.
Now we've commented twice about the train of events that were being started off here. The end result of this chain of events is that the Jewish nation was saved, but there is no inkling of that at the moment. Two actions that will lead to big things!
1. Sometimes our actions seem inconsequential, but they're not!
2. Don't demean the things you do in life. You don't know their effects.
Chapter: Esther 1
Passage: Esther 1:13-16
A. Find Out
1. Who did the king consult and why? v.13
2. Who specifically did he speak to? v.14
3. What did he ask? v.15
4. What was the pronouncement against the Queen? v.16
1. What do you think is the king's motivation here?
2. What does this law-seeking process say about the king?
3. How was the Queen's action a wrong against the king?
The chain of events moves on. The king had been affronted by the Queen's refusal to come in response to his very public command. He is angry and wants to do something about it. He could have simply sent a harsher demand that she attend him with dire threats attached, but something in him drives him to take action that is going to have great implications. He wants to bring the full might of the law down on her – whatever the consequences. He appeals to his wise men, the top seven nobles. Now there may be an element of wanting to shift the onus for acting against her from himself to the wise men. Is there a cowardly element in all this? Is he afraid of the tongue of his wife? Someone has suggested that a husband is often afraid of his wife's tongue because of her greater capability with words and her ability to harness emotion to be cutting. Perhaps it is so with the king.
The fact that the king has these seven rulers as his wise men seems to indicate that he isn't as powerful as he might seem. On occasion he is still subject to the law and uses that here to deal with his wife.
The fact of the matter is that she has slighted him publicly. Yes, it was petty of him to issue this command and, yes, it was bad that he treated her like a possession, but it wouldn't have cost her a lot to come in all her beauty and splendour and pander to his silliness. There are signs here on both sides that this relationship was rocky to start with!
1. Does pride lead us to do foolish things?
2. Does pride stop God's grace flowing in us?
Chapter: Esther 1
Passage: Esther 1:16-22
A. Find Out
1. What did the wise man say the Queen had done? v.16
2. What did he say will be the result of that? v.17,18
3. What twofold edict did he recommend? v.19
4. What result did he think that would have? v.20
5. What was the king's response to this? v.21
6. So what was done? v.22
1. Read Gen 3:15c / 1 Cor 11:3 / Prov 27:15. What do these say?
2. What is usually meant by “the battle of the sexes”?
3. How do the verses of this study fit the Bible's teaching?
We may just see these verses as these men and the king reacting in what is sometimes called, “the battle of the sexes”, the struggle of male versus female. Why is there a struggle? Because of sin in the world and Satan seeking to counter God's design. God's order in creation was male then female and the apostle Paul reasons this out in 1 Cor 11:8-10 indicating that in God's order the man is to lead and be responsible and the woman to follow. This is not supposed to be a negative thing for the woman (Eph 5:25 -29) but a major caring thing. Even Solomon knew the awfulness of it going wrong (Prov 27:15).
So, in this passage we find these men seeking to preserve their dignity and avoid disrespect and discord (v.18c). Perhaps this seems strange to our Western way of thinking but their fear was a very real one that Vashti had brought before them. If we look at marriages (partnerships) in the West, how often do we find a husband who is ‘respected' and a relationship that is completely free from discord? Yes, we may also ask, how often to we find husbands laying down their lives for their wives as Christ did for us (Eph 5)?
The decree that is issued is twofold: Vashti is never again to come near the king and another Queen is to be found. Remarkably human really, Vashti could have been put to death.
1. Is my relationship based on God's instructions and design?
RECAP - "Exit the Queen" - Esther 1
In this first group of 4 studies we have seen :
- The might of king Xerxes (1:1,2)
- The king holding a seven day banquet (1:3-8)
- Queen Vashti holding her own banquet (1:9)
- The king sending for the queen to show her off (1:10-11)
- The queen refusing to come (1:12)
- The king consulting his wise men over the issue (1:13-15)
- The wise men counselling the queen be removed (1:16-20)
- The king doing this (1:21-22)
From a spiritual point of view this first chapter of Esther may seem rather barren at first sight. However what it does show us is that life is made up of circumstances created by the actions of men and women which, at the time, seem fairly innocuous. Two banquets are held. So? So in one of them the king drinks too much. So? So this makes him do something foolish. So? So this puts the queen in a difficult position. So? So she responds badly. So? So that makes the king look silly. So? So he feels that, to save face, he needs to take action. So? So that results in the queen being removed. So? That leaves a vacancy for what is potentially one of the most powerful positions in the land. So? So watch this space!
1. Small events can have big consequences!
2. God may not be seen but He is moving behind the scenes.
3. Careless words can have devastating effects. Be careful.
4. Pride can be the cause of much unpleasantness.
Ask the Lord to show you the significance of the things that make up your life and the things you do.
PART 2 : "Enter Mordecai & Esther"
In this next Part we will be introduced to Mordecai and Esther, see Esther being chosen as queen and Mordecai doing something that will have far reaching consequences.