Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Studies in Esther - "For such a time as this"|
Chapter: Esther 4
Passage: Esther 4:1-8
A. Find Out
1. What did Mordecai do and why? v.1
2. Why didn't he enter the king's gate? v.2
3. What happened across the kingdom? v.3
4. What did Esther do when told about Mordecai? v.4,5
5. What did that person find out? v.6-7
6. What did Mordecai ask of Esther? v.8
1. How would describe Mordecai's response to the news?
2. Why do you think Esther was in ‘great distress'?
3. What do their communications indicate?
It is obvious that there was fairly easy communication between Esther and Mordecai. She was able to use servants to find out about how he was and then to communicate between them.
This part of the story opens with Mordecai moving into a major mourning mode! He puts on sackcloth and rubbed ashes into his hair, as the typical expression of one in deep mourning. You might have expected him to keep to his own home, but he doesn't; he goes out into the streets even as far as his usual meeting place at the Kings Gate, a structure, as we've noted before, where the local dignitaries would meet. But he can't enter for protocol forbids that in his state. Esther's servants who usually made contact with him return to Esther and tell her what he is doing. At this stage she doesn't seem to know about the edict but she knows something is desperately wrong for Mordecai and is, herself, deeply distressed at the plight of her cousin-carer. She sends the servants to find out what is the cause of this. Mordecai tells of the edict and what has brought it about – in great detail. It is obviously no secret what Haman has been up to. With this news comes a plea from Mordecai to Esther to use her influence with the king, and to go to him to plead for the Jews. However, it isn't that simple as we shall see in the next study.
Chapter: Esther 4
Passage: Esther 4:9-17
A. Find Out
1. Why was it difficult to see the king? v.11a,b
2. What was Esther's difficulty over this? v.11c
3. What did Mordecai warn her? v.12,13
4. Of what was he sure? v.14a
5. What did he wonder? v.14b
6. What strategy did Esther put forward? v.15-17
1. What was the solution for the Jews but why did it seem impossible?
2. How is Mordecai shown to be a man of faith?
3. How is Esther show to be a woman of faith?
The communication between Modecai and Esther continues via the servants. As far as Esther sees it initially, she can't help. Mordecai has asked that she go into the king and plead on behalf of the Jews, but there is a problem in that. The rule in this palace is that NO ONE go in to see the king unless he first sends for them. Anyone barging into his presence without being called will be immediately executed. If the king sees the entry is legitimate he may stretch forth the royal sceptre and spare that person's life, but otherwise they will be automatically killed. The problem for Esther is that she hasn't been called into the king's presence for the past month. If she takes it upon herself to go in, he is quite likely to see this as another example of a defiant woman like his previous queen and have her killed.
Mordecai isn't put off. They are all going to die unless help comes from some quarter – and he is sure help will come – but unless Esther takes her responsibility as a Jew she will die anyway. Verse 14 is his famous suggestion – is this time the reason why she is queen, to act as a saviour for the Jews. Her response is noble and full of faith. She will go into the king's presence but only after she and all the Jews of Susa have prayed and fasted for three days. Here is an indication of the spiritual measure of this girl.
1. When the future seems black, seek God.
2. Don't be afraid to be a testimony, even in the face of threats.
Chapter: Esther 5
Passage: Esther 5:1-8
A. Find Out
1. Where did Esther go and what did she do? v.1
2. What was the king's response to her? v.2
3. What did the king say to her? v.3
4. What was her request and what was the response? v.4,5
5. At the banquet what did the king ask? v.6
6. What did she ask? v.7,8
1. Why was Esther's action very risky?
2. Why do you think she wanted to hold a banquet for the king?
3. Why do you think she asked for a second banquet?
Things are going to start happening very quickly now. The first and most important thing is Esther's decision to approach the king after three days of prayer and fasting. The mention of prayer and fasting is the only ‘spiritual' reference in this book but we must assume the Lord responds to the prayers of all the Jews of Susa, for when Esther goes to the palace she is received by the king and welcomed. This moment is the telling point. The king could have seen her approach unfavourably, but he doesn't. Instead he calls her in, offering to give her whatever she wants. He realises she must be there for a purpose.
She simply requests that the king come to a banquet she has prepared – and bring her top advisor, Haman with him. Not having seen the king for a month, it is perhaps understandable that she might make such a request of her husband. Food is always a good attraction and this king is known for his eating – and the effects it has on him. She is counting on it having a good effect upon him, but at this first banquet she deems it unwise to bring up the subject of the Jews. It doesn't yet seem quite the right moment so she holds back and instead asks that she may have the pleasure of his company again the next day at a similar banquet where she will make her request. The king agrees.
1. It is sometimes wise to keep silent, and sometimes wise to speak out.
Chapter: Esther 5
Passage: Esther 5:9-14
A. Find Out
1. What changed Haman's feelings? v.9
2. Yet what did he do? v.10a
3. What did he do there? v.10b-12
4. Yet what was he left feeling, and why? v.13
5. What counsel was he given? v.14
1. What is the timing of the most recent events?
2. When does Haman plan to hang Mordecai?
There are two things of particular note here: Haman's reactions and the timing of all that is happening. Haman has just been to a private banquet with the king and the queen, particularly at the queen's request. He has eaten and drunk well and he feels really good. He feels he has ‘arrived'; he's in the company of the very top people. What more can he want. He comes out and there he sees Modecai who clearly doesn't feel about him as he does about himself. He is enraged, but he doesn't have the courage to do anything about it. He goes home and brags about his achievements and position, but then, when he thinks of Mordecai, he sulks! In this he reminds us of King Ahab (1 Kings 21:4). Like Ahab, it is his wife who prods him into action. He goes along with her suggestion and has a gallows erected outside to have Mordecai hanged next morning.
Now let's remind ourselves of the timing of all that has happened. On the thirteenth day of the first month ( 3:12 ), the decree was sent out to kill the Jews in exactly eleven months ( 3:13 ). A short time passes and Mordecai presses Esther to act. After three days prayer and fasting she acted. She invites the king to what was probably lunch. After lunch Haman plots to kill Mordecai the next morning and then go on to the second banquet. Time is running out for Mordecai. It looks like he will be killed before Esther has time to plead for the Jews. The situation looks hopeless. Watch this space. Things are about to happen quickly!
1. Sulking is a sign of a weak character.
2. Wives are powerful people – for good or for evil!
Chapter: Esther 6
Passage: Esther 6:1-5
A. Find Out
1. What happened to the king and what did he do? v.1
2. What did he find there? v.2
3. What did he ask and what answer did he get? v.3
4. What did he then ask? v.4a
5. Who was there, and why? v.4b
6. So what happened? v.5
1. What prompted the king to look up the records?
2. What, perhaps, is unusual about his question about Mordecai?
3. How is ‘fate' working here?
Recap what's been happening: Haman is planning to kill Mordecai the next morning. Time is rapidly running out for the Jew. There are still a number of months before the main extermination of the Jews is due, but Mordecai is under immediate threat. Now read on.
That very night the king couldn't sleep. What a coincidence! So he decides to read and what does he read, the records of what has happened in the kingdom. What a chance! And what does his eye fall upon? The record of Mordecai saving his life from an assassination plot! What a chance. What does he do? Pauses and wonders more about that. Look, this is really going beyond mere coincidence! He could have just read past and nothing happen, but he doesn't. He stops and enquires of his servants what had been done to honour Mordecai. They tell him that nothing had been done. He immediately wants to remedy this situation. He needs one of his officials. Who is around? Haman, coming to talk about killing Modecai! This is pure irony. The king wants to honour Mordecai and Haman wants to kill him. There must be laughter in heaven over this! I know God is not mentioned in all of this story but perhaps that was because it was written down in an alien environment where the writer didn't want to upset the authorities of Susa , but for anyone with eyes to see, this is obvious!
1. Do coincidences happen? It makes you wonder.
2. When they keep happening you should really wonder.
Chapter: Esther 6
Passage: Esther 6:6-11
A. Find Out
1. What did the king ask Haman? v.6a
2. Who did Haman think the king was referring to? v.6b
3. What did Haman suggest? v.7-9
4. So what did the king reply? v.10
5. So what did Haman have to do? v.11
2. How did Haman's pride bounce back on him?
The king is eager to put right this failure in court etiquette and have Mordecai rewarded for having saved his life. He looks for someone to take action and do this straight away. Just ‘by chance' (!) Haman is in the outer court waiting to speak to the king about hanging Mordecai. The king calls him in and without asking Haman why he was there, he ploughs in with the thing that is uppermost on his mind: how can I honour the man who delights me?
Haman's pride assumes this has got to refer to him. He acts all coy and pretends it must be someone else and so gives his advice. Let such a person be truly identified with the king, by giving him the king's royal robe, the king's horse with a royal crest upon. Make sure this man is truly honoured by having one of the top princes parade him in the streets so there is no mistaking the king's intent to honour this man.
Excellent, replies the king, let it be so. Go and do just what you've suggested for Mordecai the Jew who sits among the officials and wise men in the king's gate. At this point the bottom must have fallen out of Haman's life! The man who he has come to destroy with the king's approval is receiving the king's blessing, and he, Haman, has got to do it. There is no going back on this; it is clear that this is the king's will and when the king set his mind on something, woe and betide the man who tries to counter that will. Mordecai is saved!
1. Beware lest your pride leads you into bad circumstances.
2. Keep a good heart towards all people, less God deal with you!
A. Find Out
1. Where did Haman go? v.12
2. What did he do? v.13a
3. What did they predict? v.13b
4. What then happened? v.14
1. Why is Haman feeling so bad?
2. What does he NOT have time to do?
3. What is his state of mind?
This story is full of tiny details that are so easy to miss, and when we do miss them we miss the significance of what is happening. Haman has just had to process Modecai round the city acclaiming him at the king's instructions. In doing this, his mind must have been in complete turmoil. He is doing the very opposite to what he had planned, and for a man of pride (as we've seen), this must have been doubly hard.
Having done what the king orders he rushes home. Note the haste in what is taking place. He can't wait to get off the streets and back to his home – probably a palace-like building somewhere in Susa or just outside it. He is in a state of utter grief – all his plans for Mordecai have come to nothing, yet he still feels hatred for Mordecai. He gets home to find his wife and friends there who, being friends, think as he does, so he pours out what has happened. He is perhaps looking for some consolation but is given the opposite. His wife realises that Mordecai is a Jew and if this Jew is being honoured it will be impossible to execute the edict against him. It has, as we say, gone pear shaped! This must surely add to the turmoil in Haman's mind, adding to the already total upset. While they are still debating this, the servants from the palace arrive to hurry up Haman, reminding him that he is due at the royal palace for the second banquet with the queen, and it is well not to keep royalty waiting. There is a sense of rush. He has no time to compose himself, no time to take down the gallows outside. It is rush!
1. When proud men fall it is doubly bad!
2. When God brings His enemies down, He does it properly!
A. Find Out
1. So what next takes place? v.1
2. What does the king ask of Esther? v.2
3. What 2 things does Esther ask for? v.3
4. Why was she not keeping quiet? v.4
5. What does the king ask and is told? v.5,6
6. How did the king respond? v.7a
1. How many times has the king promised her up to half his kingdom?
2. What do you think he is expecting her to ask?
3. Why do you think the king leaves the room?
The time has come for Esther to speak out at the second banquet. She feels that this is the right time. They have prayed and fasted, she has prepared the way, so now is the time to speak, yet she waits for the right signal. It comes in the form of the king declaring for the third time (also 5:3 & 6) that she can have whatever she likes, even up to half the kingdom. This is the king being magnanimous, clearly expecting her to ask for some gift. This makes her actual request even more terrible and shocking. She simply asks that her life be spared. No doubt at this moment the king's smile vanishes and his brow is furrowed. Life spared? Whatever does she mean?
She explains that she and her people have been sold, not merely as slaves, but to extermination. Destruction, slaughter and annihilation. Those are the words she uses to pile on the awfulness of what is about to happen. Note also the word, ‘sold'. Money has been offered to achieve this. The king is aghast at the thought of HIS queen being murdered. How can this be, he demands. It's Haman's plan, she pours out. The king is in turmoil because he realises his folly is handing Haman such authority. What can he do to cover his folly. He rushes out to consider the matter alone. Haman is terrified. Remember he has been in a state of shock and turmoil already. There is no opportunity for defence. He feels helpless, doomed!
1. Needing to ask for something difficult? Pray about it first.
2. Needing to ask something difficult? Watch for the sign to speak.
A. Find Out
1. Why did Haman remain? v.7b
2. What happened as he went to do this? v.8a
3. What did the king think he was doing? v.8b
4. What was the king then told? v.9
5. What did the king command to happen? v.9c,10
1. How did Haman put himself in a wrong position?
2. Why do you think the servant spoke up?
3. How did this ensure Haman's doom?
Everything happens with such speed now that there is little time to think or rationalise what should be. The king has gone outside to consider what his response should be. Haman, as we've seen previously, is in a state of anguish already over Mordecai and his mind was already in a state of confusion. As soon as the king leaves the room he dashes over to the queen and falls before the couch where she reclined to beg for his life. He is in abject terror and his gibbering pleading appears to the king who re-enters, more as fawning over the queen. There is not a moment lost. Things have happened too quickly and so the king without a moment's thought condemns the man before the servant onlookers.
The custom was to cover the face of a condemned man and as they do this, one of the servants realising that Haman is no longer the man of power and authority, blurts out what Haman has been doing; he tells of the gallows outside Haman's house, ready and waiting for Mordecai – yes, this Mordecai who had saved the king's life. This on top of what the king believes he has just witnessed, and what he knows he has just heard, simply confirms him in his resolve. The command is given and Haman is taken out and hanged on his own gallows. The ‘great man' is not longer great, but a condemned and hanged felon. How quickly the situation has been changed. How quickly the various things have come together to bring about his downfall, instead of Mordecai's!
1. When downfall comes, it so often comes so swiftly.
2. One minute power, the next the judgement of God!
RECAP - "Counter Measures" - Esther 4-7
In this fourth group of 9 studies we have seen :
- Mordecai mourning outside the palace (4:1-5)
- Mordecai informing Esther what was happening (4:6-9)
- Esther saying she couldn't approach the king ( 4:10 ,11)
- Mordecai pressing her to speak out ( 4:12 -14)
- Esther calling for prayer and fasting ( 4:15 -17)
- Esther inviting the king & Haman to a banquet (5:1-8)
- Haman planning to hang Mordecai the next day (5:9-14)
- The king unable to sleep, getting up to read (6:1)
- Mordecai honoured (6:2-14)
- Esther pleading at the 2 nd banquet (7:1-7)
- Haman hanged (7:8-10)
The turning point of this whole story is in a very simple thing that no one could have foreseen – the king having a bad night's sleep. Having come after three days of prayer and fasting by all the Jews, one can only surmise that this was the intervention of the Lord. Who would have dreamt that such a little thing would lead to the salvation of the Jews? If Mordecai had been killed that might have undermined Esther's faith and she might not have had the courage to speak out. As it was it proved to be the thing that set off a chain of events that saved the day! God knows how to use the smallest of things to change history!
1. Mordecai knew how to express his feelings. Do we?
2. Tough times need tough faith. Do we have it?
3. Seeking God is critical to bringing change. Do we?
4. God's answers are sometimes tiny – but effectual!
5. Courage is still needed to press through to victory.
Thank the Lord that He is the Lord of History.
PART 5 : "Salvation for the Jews"
In this last Part we'll see the outcome of this story – salvation and security for all the Jews in the kingdom.