ESTHER PART 1

 

Tonight we will begin to take a look at the book of Esther. Chronologically this book is between Ezra chapter 6 and Ezra chapter 7 in which we have about a 58 year period. However, the events in Esther only deal with a 20 year period beginning around 483 B.C. So the events in Esther happened between the 1st return of the Jews with Zerubbabel and the 2nd return of the Jews with Ezra.

 

The name Esther means star and her Hebrew name Hadassah, which means Mrytle is the name of a tree that religiously symbolizes peace and joy. This fit perfectly with what Esther did for her people. There only two books in the Bible that is named after a woman, first is Ruth and of course 2nd is the book of Esther.

 

The Author is unknown, but some believe that either Ezra or Mordecai may have penned it. This book has been described as an island because it is unique as it does not mention God, it does not refer to the Law of Moses, and none of the other books in the Bible quote this book. The book of Esther mainly deals with the history of those Jews who did not return back to Jerusalem because they chose to stay in Persia. While God is not specifically mentions in this book, when you read it you can see Godís providence at work so that His people and the bloodline of Christ would be preserved.

 

So, there is twofold purpose of this book. First, it is designed to give us an accurate account of what happened to these Jews in Persia during this time and to show how the Jewish race was preserved by the bravery of Esther by the providence of God. Second, it gives us the history behind the feast of Purim, which is observed by Jews today.

 

Key Words: Providence and protection

 

Key Verses:

 

Esther 4:14 "For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai:16 "Go, gather all the Jews who are present in Shushan, and fast for me; neither eat nor drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will fast likewise. And so I will go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!"

 

Esther 8:17 And in every province and city, wherever the king's command and decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday. Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them.

 

Key Phrase: For such a time as this.

 

Key Chapter is chapter 8 because this chapter records how the Jews were saved from the decree the King made against the Jews due to Hamanís evil plot and how Esther went to the King and brought about another decree that the Jews could defend themselves. It also recaps how Haman was hung on the very gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. If Esther had not been brave and went before the King, then countless Jews would have been killed. Her bravery brought joy and honor to the Jews and Godís providence is what made it all happen.

 

Even though this book does not mention God, it is easy to see God at work in these events. Matthew Henry wrote: ďIf the name of God is not here, his finger is.Ē

 

I want you to notice what J. Baxter had say about this:

 

"...if God had been specifically mentioned in the story, or, still more, if the story had been specifically explained, in so many words, that it was God who was bringing about all those happenings which are recorded, the dramatic force and moral impact of the story would have been reduced; for, above all, we are meant to see, in the natural outworking of events, how, without violating human free will, and without interrupting the ordinary ongoing of human affairs, a hidden Power unsuspectedly but infallibly controls all things." (Baxter, pp. 260-61)

 

This same thing is true today. While many events occur in our time without God being mentioned, as Christians we can know that God has a part in what happens through his providence. After all, He as the power to build and destroy nations, as Job said,

 

Job 12:23 He makes nations great, and destroys them; He enlarges nations, and guides them.

 

Next, I want to look at some of the principle characters in this book.

 

First, is King Ahasuerus, which most agree that this is referring to King Xerxes I who reigned 485 to 464 B.C. Historically, this was man that morally bankrupt and who would change his mind over and over again. Again, J. Baxter gives us some great insight of this manís character.

 

"This is the king who ordered a bridge to be built over the Hellespont, and who, on learning that the bridge had been destroyed by a tempest, just after its completion, was so blindly enraged that he commanded three hundred strokes of the scourge to be inflicted on the sea ... and then had the unhappy builders of the bridge beheaded.This is the king who, on being offered a sum equivalent to five and a half millions sterling by Pythias, the Lydian, toward the expenses of a military expedition, was so enraptured of such loyalty that he returned the money, accompanied by a handsome present; and then, on being requested by this same Pythias, shortly afterwards, to spare him just one of his sons -- the eldest -- from the expedition, as the sole support for his declining years, furiously ordered the son to be cut into two pieces, and the army to march between them.This is the king who dishonored the remains of the heroic Spartan, Leonidus.This is the king who drowned the humiliation of his inglorious defeat in such a plunge of sensuality that he publicly offered a prize for the invention of some new indulgence ...Herodotus tells us that among the myriads gathered for the expeditions against Greece, Ahasuerus was the fairest in personal beauty and stately bearing.But morally he was a mixture of passionate extremes.He is just the despot to dethrone queen Vashti for refusing to expose herself before his tipsy guests.He is just the one to consign a people Like the Jews to be massacred, and then to swing over to the opposite extreme of sanctioning Jewish vengeance on thousands of his other subjects."

 

Knowing this background information about this king, helps us better understand his actions in the book of Esther.

 

Vashti was the queen of Ahasuerus. Ahasuerus loved to have feast and offer up wine for his guest to drink. Well, at the end of a 7 day feast, he wanted his wife to come before the men he was entertaining so they could see how beautiful she was, but she refused the king. Her actions that day were commendable, but it did cost her crown and it opened up the door for a new queen to be sought.

 

We should admire and respect Vashtiís decision because she was not willing to show herself as object of lust to group of drunken men even if it meant that she would lose her crown. There are many women today that need to learn a great lesson about modesty because many take no thought in how they dress or what they expose and some even dress themselves as skimpy as they can so they get attention or use their bodies as way of advancing themselves in their work place. No one named a Christian should ever do this because Paul teaches us that women and men should dress in such away that will profess godliness 1 Tim. 2:9-10.

 

Mordecai is an interesting man. He was probably born while in Babylonian captivity. When Mordecaiís uncle died, he adopted his daughter as his own because she had no else that could take care of her. Mordecai did his best to raise Esther and give her guidance. When she was chosen to be one of the women the king would choose as his new queen, he advised her not tell anyone that she was a Jew.

 

While he was hanging out at the Kingsí gate to find out if Esther would be chosen or not, he overheard the plan of 2 eunuchs who were going to kill the king and he let the king know about this. Since, Mordecai exposed these traitors, his name and what he did was written in royal chronicles of Persia (Est. 2:23). Later on, he would even be honored by the king for his good deed.

 

Even though it is not specifically stated, I believe that Mordecai showed his loyalty to God by not bowing down to Haman, who at the time was the official second to the king. According to Greek History when a Persian would before the king, they paid homage to him as a God. Even though Haman was not the King himself, he wasnít about to bow down to a man and give him the homage that belonged to God.

 

Mordecai also played a significant role in the providence of God because he encouraged Queen Esther to speak up to the king so that the Jewish people might be able to survive the wicked plot of Haman. As the story goes we know that Mordecai ends up taking the position of Haman, while Haman is hung on the same gallows that the he prepared for Mordecai.

 

Esther was a beautiful Hebrew woman. As I said earlier, she was raised by her cousin Mordecai. Out of all of the young virgins in Persia, Esther won the heart of the king and became the new queen. Even though Haman managed to get the king to sign a decree to kill the Jews in their area, Esther dug down deep and went before the king and revealed the reason for Hamanís plan and that she was a Jew as well. Her bravery saved her people, which shows how much a difference one person can make.

 

Finally, we need to talk about Haman. Haman was the prime minister of the king and he was rotten to the core. All he thought about was himself and his reputation. He is called an Agagite. This means that he was Amalekite and he was most likely a direct descendant of King Agag who King Saul was supposed to kill, but he did not.

 

We can see how prideful he was because he could not stand it when Mordecai would not bow down to him. This is why he plotted not only to take down Mordecai, but all the Jews. Haman was successful at getting the king to sign a decree that the Jews should be destroyed, but everything else he tried to do kept going wrong for him. For instance, he was going to get the king to hang Mordecai, but instead, he ended up having to parade him around for exposing the plot of the eunuchs to kill the king. The gallows he made to hang Mordecai ended being used to hang him. This goes to show you that it doesnít pay to be evil and even if you get your way all of your life by living the evil way eventually you will pay for your evil deeds when you stand before God at the judgment day.

 

The book of Esther centers around 3 different feasts.

 

1. The feast of Ahasuerus, which covers chapters 1 and 2. The following events occur:

  • The king has a feast for 180 days for the princes, officials and servents.
  • Then he has a seven day feast for all the people in Shusha.
  • Queen Vashti refuses to parade herself before these men.
  • Esther is chosen and she becomes the new queen.
  • Mordecai saves the life of the king.

 

2. The feast of Esther covers events leading up to the feast and its outcome in chapter 3 Ė 7. The following events occur:

  • The king promotes Haman as his ambassador and Mordecai refuses to bow down to him.
  • Haman gets the king to sign a decree to destroy all the Jews on the 13 day of 12 month of Adar, which is the later part of our February and the beginning of our March.
  • The Jews mourn when they hear about this.
  • Mordecai encourages Esther to go before the king and she does.
  • Esther invites the king and Haman to her feast.
  • Haman plots to hang Mordecai, but the king honors him and Haman has to participate.
  • At Estherís banquet, she revealed Hamanís plot to kill her people and Haman gets hung on his own gallows he built for Mordecai.

 

3. The feast of Purim covers the events that bring this feast to life in chapters 8 Ė 10. The following events occur:

  • The king honors Esther and Mordecai.
  • At Ethers request, the king authorizes the Jews to defend themselves when the Persians came to kill them.
  • When the day came, the Jews killed more than 75,000 of their enemies including the 10 sons of Haman.
  • The feast of Purim is instituted.
  • The exaltation of Mordecai is given.

 

Now I want to give you little more information about the feast of Purim, which was instituted by Mordecai in Est. 9:20. Please note what Nelsonís Bible Dictionary states about this feast:

 

This feast commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people from destruction by an evil schemer named Haman during the days of their captivity by the Persians. It took its name from the Babylonian word put, meaning lot, because Haman cast lots to determine when he would carry out his plot against the Jews. The Feast of Purim took place on the 14th and 15th of Adar, and during it celebration the Book of Esther is read as a reminder of their deliverance. A happy ceremony, Purim is accompanied with the giving of gifts and much celebration.

 

The last thing I want to look at this evening is some of the great lesson that we can learn from this book.

 

1. This book teaches us how God is watching out for us and He is working in the background. We just have to faith that He is doing so. As Paul said:

 

Romans 8:28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

 

2. Queen Vashti gives a great example to all women that they donít have compromise with the world and parade themselves around so that they can appease the lustful eye of worldly men. Of course the men can learn the same lesson.

 

3. This book teaches us the importance of always being ready to serve God like Mordecai and Esther did. Sometimes we may have to make a hard choice like Esther did, but we must be willing to do it, when we know it will bring honor and glory to God. This is why Paul tells us to be ready for every good work in Titus 3:1.