Theme: God acts behind the scenes to work His will, to protect His Chosen
People (the Jews) and to demonstrate His sovereignty even over heathen
rulers. It could be the most striking biblical statement of the providence of
Historical context: Cyrus the Great attacked and conquered Babylon in 539
BC. Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuilt (found in Ezra
1). Eventually, Xerxes I, the son of Darius, became emperor, ruling from
486-465 BC, perpetually at war with Greece. During this period of struggle
between Persia and Greece, comes the story of Esther.
1:1-8--The third year when Xerxes ruled in Susa over 127 provinces from
India to Cush, he gave a banquet of 180 days (to impress the war council
planning the Persian invasion of Greece.)
1:9-12—The queen gives her own banquet for the wives. On the 7 th day of
Xerxes’ banquet, he demands she show off her beauty and fabulous royal
garments. Vashti refuses. Xerxes is ticked. He’s not used to being told “no”.
1:13-22—Xerxes asks his wisest advisors what to do about the queen. They
are worried that all the other women will follow her example, disobeying
their husbands, and bringing chaos. So they banish her from the king’s
presence, and will replace her.
2:1-11—Xerxes orders the most beautiful girls in the kingdom to vie for the
queenhood. A Jew named Mordechai urges adopted daughter Hadassah, also
known as Esther, to audition, discouraging her from revealing she is a Jew.
She is beautiful and well-shaped.
2:12-18—The kings eunuch oversees the twelve months of beauty
treatments for all the “contestants”, then the nights with the King. Esther
pleases Xerxes the most, so he crowns her the new queen. Banquets,
holidays, and gifts abound to celebrate.
2:19-3:15— Mordecai overhears an assassination plot and tells Esther, who
tells the King. The conspirators are hanged. Five years later, a noble named
Haman the Agagite was highly honiored and promoted, and the others bow
to him. Mordecai refuses, enraging Haman, who plots to destroy all the Jews
in Persia. He approaches the king and gets permission to send notice to
every province that on the 13 th day of the 12 th month, all Jews are to be
4:1-17—The Jews are mourning their impending doom. Esther sends a
servant to check on Mordecai, who replies that she must appeal to her
husband to stop the slaughter. She reminds him of the danger of
approaching the King unbiden. Mordeai reminds her that she won’t escape
the sentence, adding“ who knows but that you have come to royal position
for such a time as this?” She asks the Jews to fast and pray for 3 days, then
she will go to Xerxes. “And if I perish, I perish.”
5:1-14—Esther stood in the inner court in her royal robes; her husband
urges her to approach him. She requests his presence, and that of Haman,
at a banquet she has prepared. Xerxes asks what she would like, and she
invites them both to a banquet the next day. Haman builds a gallows 75 feet
high, thinking he has really arrived by being invited to a private banquet.
6:1-14—Xerxes decides to read the historical record of his reign, and
discovers Mordecai’s role in saving the king’s life. Learning Mordecai was
never honored for that, he asks Haman who has just entered, what the king
should do. Thinking it is he that will be honored, Haman suggest a parade.
Xerxes likes it, and tells him to get Mordecai so he can take Haman’s advice!
Haman does it, and his wife warns him that to oppose the Jew is dangerous.
7:1-10—On the second day, Xerxes again asks Esther what is her petition?
She tells him her people are about to murdered. Who is doing this? demands
the King. Haman, she answers, and Xerxes storms out of the room. Haman
is terrified, and pleads with Esther while falling on her couch. Xerxes returns
and is stunned: will Haman assault the queen in our house? A servant tells
Xerxes about Haman’s plans for Mordecai. Hang him on his own gallows,
commands the king.
8:1-17—Xerxes gives Mordecai his signet ring. Esther has one more petition,
and the king gives her the authority to send a letter from him to all 127
provinces, signed with the signet ring, that allows the Jews to defend
9:1-28—The Jews capture Haman’s 10 sons, who are also hanged by Xerxes.
The enemies are killed by the 14 th day of the month Adar (which is why that
date is still observed by Jews as Purim.)
9:29-10:3—Purim is established by Esther and Mordecai, who was second in
rank to Xerxes!
The Divine Name of God (yahweh or ‘elohim) is never mentioned in the Book
of Esther, but His Fingerprints are all over it. He is the Lead Character.
Unlike the book Daniel, also set in the court of a pagan king, where Jews
pray and long to return to Jerusalem and the temple, there is no mention of
these things in Esther. The heroine wins a beauty contest so she submits to
sleeping with a pagan, uncircumcised Gentile King to whom she is not wed
until he is satisfied that she will be a proper Queen. However, Esther is the
story of God’s keeping promises in spite of political configuration of the
world. Her story is perfect inspiration when we find ourselves in situations
we never sought, for which we never planned, and we don’t think we have
the gifts with which to succeed. It tells us what to do: Trust those situations
to the Lord and move on. The great paradox of Esther is that God is
omnipotently present even where God is most conspicuously absent.” As is
Jesus! In the shadow of the Holocaust, we remember that God saved many
Jews from destruction. In imitating the courage of Esther, what are you
prepared to risk for the Kingdom of God?