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."
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