Women of the Bible - Esther

    A Woman of Courage and Faith
    by Kathryn Capoccia

     Young Adults Sunday School Class
    
     All Scripture references are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW
     INTERNATIONAL VERSION (C) 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by
     permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

 Copyright Kathy Capoccia 2000.  This file may be freely copied, printed out,
and distributed as long as copyright and source statements remain intact,
and that it is not sold.

 I. Introduction

     A. Opening Prayer

     B. Review of Last Week's Lesson/Verse

II. Character Profile: Esther, A Woman of Courage and Faith

     A. WHO WAS SHE? (read Esther chapters 1 and 2:1-18)

        HOW DOES THE BIBLE DESCRIBE HER?

        1. WHAT WAS HER NAME? Hadassah, "myrtle" in Hebrew (EST 2:7), or
           Esther, "star" or "Ishtar" in Persian.

             EST 2:7 " ...Hadassah...who was also known as Esther..."

        2. WHAT WAS HER MARITAL STATUS? She was a virgin (EST 2:2,3; 2:8.)
           Heb. "a maiden, virgin"

           Webster's Dictionary: "a woman, especially a young woman, who
           has not had sexual intercourse; a girl or unmarried woman."

        3. HOW OLD WAS SHE? She was a young girl, "a maiden, girl"

        4. WHAT DID SHE LOOK LIKE? She was a lovely girl (EST 2:7.) Heb.
           "beautiful in outline and to see"

           EST 2:7 "This girl...was lovely in form and features..."

           EST 2:2  she was one of the "beautiful young virgins"

           *Rachel was also described with the same Hebrew words...

           GEN 29:17  "Rachel was lovely in form, and beautiful."

        5. WHAT WAS HER FATHER'S NAME? Her father was Abahail (EST 9:29)
           but she was an orphan who had been raised like a daughter by
           Mordecai (EST 2:7.)

           EST 2:7  " Mordecai had... brought [her] up because she had
           neither father nor mother."

        6. WHAT WAS HER COUSIN'S NAME? Her cousin was Mordecai (EST 2:7.)

           EST 2:7  "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."

           a) A Jew Of The Tribe Of Benjamin (EST 2:5.)

              EST 2:5 " Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the
              tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai."

           b) A Descendant Of Kish, Whose Family Had Been Carried Into
              Exile By  Nebuchadnezzar, King Of Babylon (EST 2:5,6)

              EST 2:5,6 "... 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."

              1) This occurred when King Jehoichin was captured in
                 Jerusalem on the 2nd invasion of Judea @597 BC.

              2) The Babylonians invaded Judea a total of 3 times; in 605
                 BC when Daniel and his friends were captured, in 597 BC
                 when Jehoichin and Ezekiel were captured, and in 586 BC
                 when the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and the temple.

              3)  King Saul of Israel, son of Kish, had been commanded to
                 annihilate the Amalekites for what they had done to the
                 Israelites during their exodus from Egypt (1 SAM 15:1-3.)
                 Agag, the king of the Amalekites, was put to death as part
                 of God's divine sentence upon the Amalekites (1 SAM
                 15:33.)

                 1SA 15:2,3 "This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'I will
                 punish the Amalekites for what they did to Israel when
                 they waylaid them as they came up from Egypt. Now go,
                 attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that
                 belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and
                 women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and
                 donkeys.'"

                 EXO 17:16  "For hands were lifted up to the throne of the
                 LORD. The LORD will be at war against the Amalekites from
                 generation to generation."

                 *This will be significant when Mordecai, the Jew, is
                 commanded to pay homage to Haman, the Agagite.

        7. WHO WERE HER PEOPLE? She was part of the Jews living in Susa, a
           citadel of Persia, in @486-465 BC (EST 1:1,2; 2:5,6.)

           a) Susa Was A Fortified Acropolis And Palace And The Winter
              Capital Of The Medo/Persian Empire; Three Other Capitals Were
              Ecbatana, Babylon, and Persepolis.

           b) There Were Jews Living In Persia Dating Back To The Fall Of
              The Northern Kingdom In 722-721 BC; Others Arrived Between
              605 And 586 BC; Under Cyrus, King Of Persia, Jews Were
              Allowed To Return To Israel But Only 50,000 Did So - The
              Others Remained In Persia.

        8. WHEN DID SHE LIVE? She was living in the 3rd year of King
           Xerxes' reign @486-465 BC (EST 1:3.) Xerxes is a Greek
           transliteration of the Persian name, "Khshayarshan"; the Hebrew
           form of his name is Ahasuerus. He is also mentioned in the book
           of Ezra (EZR 4:6.)

           a) He Ruled Over An Empire Stretching From India To Ethiopia;
              Divided Into 22 Satraps And 127 Provinces.

           b) The King Held A Banquet For All His Nobles And Officials And
              Military Leaders (EST 1:2,3) That Lasted 180 Days: Probably
              In The Year 483-482 BC When He Planned Military Campaigns
              Against Greece. The Historian Herodotus(7.8) May Have
              Described This Assembly.

           c) After The 180 Days Another Banquet, A 7 Day Banquet, Was
              Given For All The People In Residence In The Citadel Of Susa,
              Concurrent With The Queen's Banquet For The Women In The
              Palace.

     B. WHAT DID SHE DO?

        1. SHE BECAME A QUEEN (read Esther 2:1-20.)

           a) A New Queen Was Needed.

              1) The Queen, Vashti, would not obey a summons to appear at
                 the King's 2nd banquet (EST 1:12.)
              2)
                 The King's advisors, "the wise men who understood the
                 times and were closest to the king...and were highest in
                 the kingdom" (EST 1:13,14), said to banish Vashti and pick
                 a successor from the beautiful young virgins of the empire
                 (EST 1:13-22; 2:1-4.)

                 a] These "wise men", chakam, were both hereditary priests
                    and teachers of wisdom, but also powerful political
                    figures; also known as "magi". In the period prior to
                    the reign of Xerxes' father, Darius, these wise men
                    had, for a time, usurped the throne.

                 b] They were experts in the laws of the Medes and the
                    Persians; they also knew the Law of Moses (EZR 7:14.)

                    EZR 7:14  "You are sent by the king and his seven
                    advisers to inquire about Judah and Jerusalem with
                    regard to the Law of your God, which is in your hand."


                    *Probably as the result of Daniel's witness (see DAN
                    2:48.)

           b) A New Queen Was Chosen.

              1) Esther was chosen for the King's Harem.

                 EST 2:8 "When the king's order and edict had been
                 proclaimed, many girls were brought to the citadel of Susa
                 and put under the care of Hegai. Esther also was taken to
                 the king's palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge
                 of the harem."

                 a] Esther found favor with Hegai (EST 2:9) so he provided
                    her with:

                    i] cosmetics; literally "a rubbing".

                   ii] special food; literally "part or portion". Esther is
                       apparently not observing the dietary laws of the
                       Jews (perhaps to conceal her identity.)

                  iii] 7 choice maids; choice: literally "to see" i.e.
                       beautiful.

                   iv] the best place in the Harem; best: literally
                       "pleasant."

                       *This is reminiscent of the treatment Joseph
                       received in Pharaoh's prison- he "found favor" in
                       the eyes of the overseer just as Esther did.

                 b] Esther underwent 12 months of "beautification": 6
                    months with oil of myrrh and 6 months of cosmetics and
                    spices (EST 2:12.)

                 c] Esther found favor with all who saw her (EST 2:15.)

                 d] Esther did not reveal her "people or her kindred" in
                    obedience to Mordecai (EST 2:10,20.)

                 e] When Esther's turn came to go to the King she took
                    nothing that Hegai did not advise her to take (EST
                    2:15.)

                    *Esther displayed both a submissive attitude towards
                    authority and trust in the providential care of God by
                    her actions.

              2) The King chose Esther to be his new Queen in the 10th
                 month of his 7th year of reign because he loved her and
                 she pleased him "more than all the virgins" (EST 2:17.)

                 a] A banquet was held in celebration, Esther's Banquet,
                    for all the King's princes and servants (EST 2:18.)

                 b] A holiday was invoked for the provinces and gifts were
                    distributed (EST 2:18.)

                 c] Mordecai took up position in the King's gate (EST
                    2:19,21) so that he could keep an eye on her (EST
                    2:10.)

        2. SHE AND MORDECAI SAVED THE KING'S LIFE

           a) Mordecai Overheard A Plot To Kill The King And Told Esther Of
              It (EST 2:21,22.)

           b) Esther Relayed Mordecai's Report To The King (EST 2:22.)

           c) The Report Was Verified, The Plotters Hanged, And The Episode
              Was Recorded In The "Book Of The Chronicles" (EST 2:23.)

              *According to Herodotus, the Persian form of execution was
              impalement followed by an exhibition of the body by hanging.

        3. SHE SAVED HER PEOPLE

           a) Haman's Plot.

              1) Haman was elevated (EST 3:1.)

                 a] Haman was the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite (EST 3:1.)

                 b] He was given a seat of honor above all the other
                    officials (EST 3:1.)

                 c] The king had decreed that everyone should kneel down
                    and pay honor to Haman (EST 3:2,3.)

              2) Haman was dishonored by Mordecai.

                 WHY WOULD HE DO THIS?

                 He seemed to be either continuing the war with the
                 Amalekites that Saul, another Benjamite, began some 500
                 years before, or simply employing his "right" to dishonor
                 the descendant of one whom God had judged and condemned
                 as evil.

                 a] He would neither bow down before him or pay him honor
                    (EST 3:2-5.)

                 b] The reason he gave for his refusal was that he was a
                    Jew (EST 3:4.)

              3) Haman determined to kill not only Mordecai but all Jews
                 (EST 3:6-13.)

                 WHY WOULD HE DO THIS?

                 He seemed to be responding to the same traditional enmity
                 that Mordecai felt; the issue was the continuing war
                 between the two races. Haman tried to annihilate the Jews
                 in the same way God had decreed that the Amalekites would
                 be destroyed - "all the Jews - young and old, women and
                 little children " (EST 3:13.)

                 a] Haman had a lot or "pur" cast in the 12th year of King
                    Xerxes to determine a day to destroy the Jews (EST
                    3:7.)

                    EST 3:7  "In the twelfth year of King Xerxes, in the
                    first month, the month of Nisan, they cast the pur
                    (that is, the lot) in the presence of Haman to select a
                    day and month. And the lot fell on the twelfth month,
                    the month of Adar."

                    i] "they" cast the "pur" before Haman means that
                       someone else was involved in this, advisors of some
                       kind, possibly the Magi.

                   ii] the "pur" fell on the 13th day of the 12th month,
                       Adar, for the slaughter (EST 3:7,13.)

                 b] Haman sought permission for his plan (EST 3:8,9.)

                    i] he misrepresented the character of the Jews to make
                       them seem a threat to the Empire and the King (EST
                       3:8.)

                       EST 3:8  "Then Haman said to King Xerxes, "There is
                       a certain people dispersed and scattered among the
                       peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose
                       customs are different from those of all other people
                       and who do not obey the king's laws; it is not in
                       the king's best interest to tolerate them."

                   ii] he asked permission to destroy them (EST 3:9.)

                  iii] he offered to finance the operation (thus making it
                       painless for the King to comply EST 3:9.)

                   iv] he and the King drank to signify the completion of
                       the edict (EST 3:15.)

              4) Haman issued a decree in the King's name to kill the Jews
                 on the 13th day of Adar and plunder their goods (EST
                 3:12-14.)

                 EST 3:12,13  "Then on the thirteenth day of the first
                 month the royal secretaries were summoned. They wrote out
                 in the script of each province and in the language of each
                 people all Haman's orders to the king's satraps, the
                 governors of the various provinces and the nobles of the
                 various peoples. These were written in the name of King
                 Xerxes himself and sealed with his own ring. Dispatches
                 were sent by couriers to all the king's provinces with the
                 order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews--young
                 and old, women and little children--on a single day, the
                 thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar,
                 and to plunder their goods."

                 *The opportunity to plunder the goods of the Jews served
                 as an added incentive to attack and kill them.

           b) Esther's Courage

              1) Esther urged to intervene (EST 4:1-14.)

                 a] Mordecai publicly mourned the decree (EST 4:1,2.)

                    EST 4:1  "When Mordecai learned of all that had been
                    done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes,
                    and went out into the city, wailing loudly and
                    bitterly."

                 b] Mordecai explained the reason for his distress (EST
                    4:4-8.)

                    i] Esther's attendants reported about Mordecai's
                       distress (EST 4:4.)

                   ii] Mordecai explained his grief and sent a copy of the
                       decree to Esther (EST 4:7,8.)

                 c] Mordecai reminded Esther of her responsibility towards
                    God and His people.

                    i] He urged her "to beg for mercy and plead with him
                       [the King] for her people" (EST 4:8b.)

                   ii] He reminded her that God would deliver His people,
                       and that He had probably put her in the palace to
                       effect such a salvation if she would trust Him (EST
                       4:14.)

                       EST 4:14 "For if you remain silent at this time,
                       relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from
                       another place, but you and your father's family will
                       perish. And who knows but that you have come to
                       royal position for such a time as this?"

              2) Esther's response (EST 4:15-5:4.)

                 a] She sought God's intervention through fasting (EST
                    4:15-17.)

                    i] among the Jews in Susa

                       EST 4:16  "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."

                   ii] among her maids and herself

                       EST 4:16  "I and my maids will fast as you do."

                 b] She approached the King (EST 5:1-7.)

                    i] she braved the approach

                        -- Esther knew it could mean death to approach the
                          King (EST 4:11.)

                          EST 4:11  "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. The only exception
                          to this is for the king to extend the gold
                          scepter to him and spare his life. But thirty
                          days have passed since I was called to go to the
                          king."

                        -- Esther was willing to go to the King after
                          praying and fasting (EST 4:16.)

                          *The text does not say that she prayed also-
                          however, fasting and praying go together
                          traditionally (JDG 20:26,27; 1 SA 7:6; 2 SA 12:16
                          etc.)

                          EST 4:16  "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."

                          *This showed both her love for her people and
                          also her trust in God. She acknowledged His power
                          over her life and allowed Him to do with her what
                          He willed, to either use her to deliver her
                          people or to end her life.

                        -- Esther came to the King (EST 5:1,2.)

                          EST 5:1 "On the third day Esther put on her royal
                          robes and stood in the inner court of the palace,
                          in front of the king's hall. The king was sitting
                          on his royal throne in the hall, facing the
                          entrance."

                   ii] she was delivered (EST 5:2.)

                       EST 5:2 " When he saw Queen Esther standing in the
                       court, he was pleased with her and held out to her
                       the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther
                       approached and touched the tip of the scepter."

                 c] She made a request (EST 5:3-7.)

                    i] To come to her banquet (EST 5:4.)

                       EST 5:4 " 'If it pleases the king,' replied Esther,
                       'let the king, together with Haman, come today to a
                       banquet I have prepared for him.'"

                   ii] To come to another banquet (EST 5:7.)

                       EST 5:8  "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."

                        -- Haman was flattered to be asked to two banquets

                        -- Haman was enraged to see the continued disrespect
                          of Mordecai after the 1st banquet and prepared to
                          have him hung.

           c) God's Intervention (EST 6:1-11.)

              1) God caused Mordecai to be remembered favorably (EST
                 6:1,2.)

                 a] The King could not sleep

                 b] The King read the "book of the chronicles"

                    i] the King was reminded of Mordecai's service to him

                   ii] the King purposed to reward Mordecai

              2) Mordecai was publicly honored by the King (EST 6:10,11.)

                 EST 6:10,11 "'Go at once,' the king commanded Haman. 'Get
                 the robe and the horse and do just as you have suggested
                 for Mordecai the Jew, who sits at the king's gate. Do not
                 neglect anything you have recommended.' So Haman got the
                 robe and the horse. He robed Mordecai, and led him on
                 horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before
                 him, 'This is what is done for the man the king delights
                 to honor!'"

           d) Esther's Petition (EST 7:1-4.)

              1) Esther pleaded for her people (EST 7:3,4.)

                 a] Xerxes requested Esther's petition (EST 7:2-6.)

                    i] Esther pleaded for the lives of her people and
                       herself

                   ii] Esther accused Haman of being an adversary and
                       enemy

                        -- she appealed to him on her reputation

                        -- she revealed that she was a Jew

                        -- she requested deliverance

                 b] Xerxes condemned Haman (EST 7:7-10.)

                    i] Xerxes was enraged at him

                   ii] Xerxes sentenced Haman to die

                 c] Xerxes honored Esther (EST 8:7.)

                    i] Xerxes gave Haman's estate to Esther

                   ii] Xerxes elevated Mordecai to court

              2) Esther pleads for her people again (EST 8:3,4.)

                 EST 8:3  "Esther again pleaded with the king, falling at
                 his feet and weeping. She begged him to put an end to the
                 evil plan of Haman the Agagite, which he had devised
                 against the Jews."

           e) Esther's Solution (EST 8:5,6.)

              EST 8:5  "'If it pleases the king,' she said, 'and if he
              regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do,
              and if he is pleased with me, let an order be written
              overruling the dispatches that Haman son of Hammedatha, the
              Agagite, devised and wrote to destroy the Jews in all the
              king's provinces.'"

              1) She asked the King to order a decree overriding Haman's
                 (EST 8:8.)

              2) Mordecai issued a new decree in the King's name (EST
                 8:9-14.)

                 a] the royal secretaries wrote all of Mordecai's orders in
                    the languages of all the provinces (EST 8:9,10.)

                 b] the edict granted the Jews the right to "assemble and
                    protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate any
                    ...that might attack them...and to plunder the property
                    of their enemies" (EST 8:11.)

                 c] couriers took the edict to every province in Persia
                    (EST 8:10,13-14.)

              3) Esther called for a permanent remembrance to be made
                 (Est 9:29.)

                 EST 9:20-22  "Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent
                 letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King
                 Xerxes, near and far, to have them celebrate annually the
                 fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar as the
                 time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as
                 the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their
                 mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to
                 observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving
                 presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor."

                 EST 9:26  "Therefore these days were called Purim, from
                 the word pur."

                 EST 9:28,29 "These days should be remembered and observed
                 in every generation by every family, and in every province
                 and in every city. And these days of Purim should never
                 cease to be celebrated by the Jews, nor should the memory
                 of them die out among their descendants. So Queen Esther,
                 daughter of Abihail, along with Mordecai the Jew, wrote
                 with full authority to confirm this second letter
                 concerning Purim."

     C. WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM HER?

        1. Fasting is a good means to express the seriousness of one's
           concerns before God.

        2. God is in total control of events and is working all things for
           the good of His people.

        3. God had a plan for the lives of Esther and Mordecai and He has a
           plan for each one of us.

 III. What fruits of the Spirit can we see in her?

     A. love

     B. peace

     C. patience

     D. kindness

     E. faithfulness

     F. self-control

  IV. Memory Verse: Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and courageous. Do not be
     afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with
     you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

  

Added to Bible Bulletin Board's "Kathy Capoccia's Sunday School Lessons" by:

Tony Capoccia
Bible Bulletin Board
Box 119
Columbus, New Jersey, USA, 08022
Websites: www.biblebb.com and www.gospelgems.com
Email: tony@biblebb.com
Online since 1986