Esther Dispersion

These small group studies take us through almost twenty of the key events in the Old Testament. Our Old Testament Survey contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Old Testament Survey Lesson 16 – Esther

Old Testament Events #13 – The dispersion: Esther Part I

  1. Background Information (Esther 1)

    1. The Persian Empire (1:1-2)

    2. The feast (3-4)

    3. The week-long banquet (5-9)

    4. Queen Vashti refuses to be shown off (10-12)

    5. King Ahasuerus removes Vashti from her position and sends a declaration throughout the land (13-22)

  2. King Ahasuerus searches for a new queen (Esther 2)

    1. It is suggested by his servant and the king agrees (1-4)

    2. Mordecai and Esther are introduced (5-7)

    3. Esther incurs the eunuch’s favor (8-9)

    4. Mordecai continues to supervise Esther (10-11)

    5. The harem rules explained (12-14)

    6. The king chooses Esther as queen (15-20)

    7. Mordecai uncovers an assassination plot (21-23)

  3. Haman rises to power and sets himself against the Jews (Esther 3)

    1. Haman rises to power (1-2)

    2. Mordecai refuses to bow down to him (3-4)

    3. Haman decides to wipe out the Jews (5-6)

    4. Haman proposes his plot to the king (7-9)

    5. The king endorses the plot (10-15)

  4. Mordecai and Esther decide on a course of action to counter Haman’s plot (Esther 4)

    1. Mordecai mourns the news (1-3)

    2. Esther gets information for Mordecai (4-9)

    3. Esther could face the death penalty for going to the king (10-12)

    4. Mordecai displays faith and encourages Esther (13-14)

    5. Esther agrees and asks for prayers (15-17)

  5. The battle lines are drawn on both sides (Esther 5)

    1. Esther enters the king’s court and is received (1-3)

    2. She ask the king to a banquet and to a second banquet (4-8)

    3. Haman exalts himself and plots further against Mordecai (9-14)

Questions –

When do the events in Esther take place?

What was the situation of the Jewish nation at this time?

What had happened to the Babylonian kingdom?

What was the king really wanting Vashti to do?

How should Vashti have responded?

What does verse 6 of chapter 2 tell us about the time period?

What character qualities does Esther show throughout the queen selection process?

What is the relationship between Mordecai and Esther?

How do they treat each other? What can be learned from this?

Does this text offer any clues on the position/acceptance of Jews in the world at this time?

What is going on behind the scenes throughout all of these chapters?

What kind of person was Haman?

How about Mordecai?

The text doesn’t say, but why do you think Mordecai wouldn’t bow down to Haman?

What was Haman’s plot? What other similar plots have been hatched against the Jews throughout history? (Egypt, under Herod, Assyria to the Northern kingdom, Hitler. Look at what is going on behind it, Satan and his demons against God and His angels)

What mistakes did the king make in his quick decision to support Haman’s plot?

How did Esther communicate with Mordecai? Why did she need to do this?

What objection did Esther raise when asked by Mordecai to go to the king?

What was Mordecai’s response?

What can we learn about Mordecai’s beliefs in 4:14? Do you think there is truth in his assertions?

What can we learn about Esther by her response? How can we apply this to our lives?

What can you see going on in chapter 5?

What else do you notice about Haman in chapter 5?

What is going on behind the scenes throughout all of these chapters?

Cross-references

Daniel 10:13 – Angels engage in battles with demons and Satan, this one being in a twenty-one day battle before Michael came and helped.

Daniel 10:20-21 – There were demons in control of the king of Persia, that the angel and Michael were going to go attack.

Ephesians 6:12 – Our war is not against flesh and blood.

Psalm 69:4 – Those who hate me without a cause are more than the numbers of my head.

Luke 6:22 – Blessed are you who are hated for following Christ (can also apply to following God).

Observations –

Chapter 1 (Background information)

King Ahasuerus, also known as King Xerxes (his life, habits, character, and feasts match that of Xerxes), succeeded King Darius as king of Persia in 485 B.C. This was about one hundred years after the Jews had gone into captivity. Esther fills in the gap between Ezra 6 and Ezra 7. Some of the Jews had already returned from exile. But they never completely returned and for the two thousand plus years since that time some have been scattered throughout the world. He held a feast in his third year in order to invade Greece and in the seventh year came back defeated, but sought comfort in his harem, and made Esther his new queen at that time.

Xerxes was known for his wealth, feasting, and sensuality. He held a festival to prepare for invading Greece and show off his splendor. At the end of that time he had an extra seven day banquet. People became wantonly drunk. The king asked Vashti to come before them, almost surely to dance or do other lewd and sensual things. She did the right thing and refused such an evil command. The king’s counselors told him he should issue a decree and punish Vashti severely to set an example for the kingdom and to prevent other wives from acting in the same way. Clearly it was a male-dominated society and they didn’t treat their wives with respect, but viewed them more as property and sex vessels.

Chapter 2 (King Ahaseurus searches for a new queen)

This time period seems to coincide with Xerxes’ defeat at the hands of the Greeks and return to Susa. He was in need of comfort and sought it by gathering many young virgins to his harem.

Mordecai was over one hundred. He had a good relationship with Esther and behaved well by guiding her correctly. He was loyal to the king. He was faithful to his family by taking care of Esther, his cousin. This shows some light on Jewish culture.

Jews were still scattered around the kingdom and began to take various positions wherever they were. However, from a later chapter we know that they lived in isolation from others. That is what allowed them to keep their religion, customs, and ethnicity for so long. It was normal for Jews to rise up to high positions everywhere because God was with them and they were known for intelligence and being good businessmen. Esther was no exception. She, like Joseph about a thousand years before, gained favor with those over her. She also listened to Hegai and followed all of his advice. God’s sovereignty always holds true, but He also wants us to be responsible.

Esther did not reveal his ethnicity as Mordecai instructed her. This sheds more light on the situation of Jews at that time. There was much prejudice and discrimination against them. Mordecai knew it would be difficult for her to rise up if others knew she was a Jew. Throughout history many peoples have hated the Jews, for the reason than that God was them and blessed them. Satan also hates the Jews and worked in people’s hearts to stir up hatred. Many of his plots focused on killing the Jewish lines, especially the line of David. If he could have succeeded at this, he could have prevented the Messiah’s birth.

Esther also had a good relationship with Mordecai. She obeyed him like a father.

This plot by the eunuchs and discovery by Mordecai wasn’t put down here for no reason. It would become an integral part of the story. It is already evident that God and His forces were at work setting the stage for a deliverer for Israel when it became necessary.

Chapter 3 (Haman rises to power and sets himself against the Jews)

This chapter gives the story of the rise to power by Haman and how he set himself against the Jews. It is Haman’s story. But it is also Satan’s story. Satan is at work in the world, seeking to destroy God’s people and rebel against God. We know from Daniel and other passages that Satan has demon princes controlling some kings and presumably other powerful people (Ezekiel 28:11-19, Daniel 10:13,20-21). He tries to use the governments of the earth to accomplish his plans. What he tries once, he normally tries many more times. He will try this during the tribulation when the antichrist comes to power. He will try it again at the end of the millennium. His goal is the destruction of all of God’s people. He hates the followers of God and is an adversary not only to God, but also to all who follow Him.

Haman was a very prideful man, full of himself (and very rich). It infuriated him that Mordecai would not bow to him. Mordecai, on the other hand, was a man of principle. He worshiped God only and would not pay homage to a wicked fool like Haman. It generated a lot of talk and he knew it could lead to serious problems. But that is what a person of principle does. He does what is right without worrying about the consequences. In Haman’s rage, he decided not only to have Mordecai killed, but also to destroy all of the Jews. There is obviously a lot of prejudice going on.

The king made a rash decision and quickly agreed to do what Haman asked without thinking carefully about the results. Perhaps the money was also a factor in it, since the king would have lost a lot of money in the attack on Greece. One might be able to imagine a king endorsing the wholesale slaughter of a people in his kingdom if he hated that race or had some reason to be against them. But the king had no special reason to hate the Jews. What is more, it appears that he didn’t even know it was the Jews that Haman wanted to destroy!! It is extremely difficult to imagine a king allowing the wholesale slaughter of a race without even asking which race. This eventually led to an endorsed civil war. The king was rash and didn’t think through his decisions. He gave complete control over to a foolish, prideful, and wicked man that was under the control of Satan.

Insight can also be gathered into the Jews and their lifestyle at the time of the exile and afterwards. They lived scattered throughout the empire in all of the provinces. However, they lived in isolation. It is well-known that Jews stuck together. Even though they lived in foreign countries only prodigals married into the other nations’ people (and these were generally looked down on and cast out). They kept much of their culture, tradition, customs, religion, and ethnic distinctions. Also, they still followed their own sets of laws and these they put higher than the laws of the places where they lived. This is another area that brought the hate of others upon them. Others considered them to be weird and to be law-breakers.

Chapter 4 (Mordecai and Esther respond to the plot)

The news of the edict that all the Jews could be slain without penalty caused great mourning for all of the Jews. Mordecai was distraught over it. Esther and Mordecai communicated through Esther’s aid.

Mordecai came up with a plan for Esther to use her position (he thought she may have had it for this very purpose) to request the king to do something about the edict. Esther was hesitant at first. Why? She knew that if she entered the king’s presence without being asked (and she wasn’t) that she faced possible death. If the king didn’t specifically raise his scepter to her she would automatically be killed. Finally she decided to it. Her people needed help and she might be able to help them. She wisely asked all the Jews to gather and pray and fast for her. She knew it wasn’t by her own strength, but by God’s. This is also the clearest indication that God was involved in the process. Esther, Mordecai, and the Jews all were praying to and relying on God.

Chapter 5

Esther came up with a plan to ask the king about helping her people. She was being bold and making a stand, even at the possible cost of giving her life. But at the same time she was wise. She knew how to approach the king. She didn’t just go and demand that he do something. She had a plan, but she carried it out in a soft and kind way. Even when making a stand we can be humble. We can think about the best way to approach the authorities or others. Conviction, boldness, and firmness are all good attributes, but pride, strictness, and harshness is not. Esther rightly found the balance between boldness and tact.

The book of Esther never mentions the name of God. It is an interesting and helpful book though because it shows us that God and His forces are everywhere working and battling against Satan and his forces. There is a cosmic battle and vying for position going on. Satan is warring against God and thinks his plots are clever and great. But God knows exactly what Satan will do (allowing it in His divine sovereignty), and sets up the perfect “counter” ahead of time so that Satan’s plans will not prevail. Esther and Mordecai being in that land, the king’s rage with Vashti, Esther’s rise to become queen, Mordecai’s discovery of the plot, the king reading about the plot that very night, and etc. are some of the examples of things God used to save His people. The conflict is and opposing sides is clearly seen throughout the book, especially chapter 5. Just when Haman/Satan thinks he won victory, their hopes come crashing down and God crushes the plot.

Haman becomes very prideful at this point. The fact that Esther invited him only increases his pride. He loves himself and centers the world around himself. He even built huge gallows in order to hang Mordecai on them later. At this point Haman could hardly have been more confident. His plan was sure. Its success was certain. Or so he thought…

Main Points –

  1. Spiritual battles rage all around us between good and evil forces – Esther is the classical book to show the struggle that is going on behind the scenes of governments and wars and world plans. Satan attempts to use Haman as a pawn, but God is prepared and protects His people. There are unseen conflicts raging all around you between the angelic forces of the host of heavens and the demonic forces from the pit. We are in a spiritual war and need to aware of that and protect against evil forces.

  2. God is sovereign and controls even the future so that His plan will come about – Satan thinks his plans are very great and will be effective. He thinks that he has a chance against God. At times he even rejoices in his “success”, but in the end he always finds that he failed and God “outplayed” him. Nothing will stop God’s plan, no matter how cleverly devised.

  3. Jews were and are hated by many (as believers in Christ are today) – The Jews were very unpopular at that time and have been ever since. Many peoples hated them (at least 75,000 of their enemies attacked them when they had the opportunity). They kept their own laws and lived somewhat isolated from others. They didn’t worship the false gods or give into the customs. Their actions were perceived as weird and anti-government, anti-society. Because of this they were hated. As Christians, we also will be. Expect it.

Old Testament Survey #17 – Daniel in Babylon

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