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A Word from Kay Daigle on how to use the resources for this study…I want to encourage you to complete the personal lesson below before you click on any of the accompanying elements that may be found with this lesson (audio lecture, manuscript, PowerPoint, or handout). This study was written to help you maximize your personal spiritual growth. That means that you first spend time with God through His word, and then hopefully, discuss what you learned with a small group of women. After that, if you want to hear the audio (or read the manuscript) and follow the PowerPoint, filling in the handout, then that is a great time to do it! I cannot cover all the verses in depth, but you can read and study them for yourself. It is best for you to think through the passages before hearing what anyone else thinks, even me! You will find some lessons without lectures. At our church we use some of those weeks to spend extra time in our small groups sharing life stories, having a longer prayer time, or expressing how God is working in our lives.
Have you ever lived with prejudice because of your gender, race, education, or social status? We can hide some of these factors in an attempt to be accepted. Open your heart to the plight of Esther and the Jews, foreigners living with prejudice among their captors.
A Precious Word from God
And Esther found favor in the eyes of all who saw her. Esther 2:15 NASB
Historical background: After last week’s story of the widow of Zarephath, both the northern and southern kingdoms were eventually taken into captivity because of their idolatry. The southern kingdom of Judah was defeated by the Babylonians. Eventually, the Persians conquered the Babylonians, and it is this Persian period of empire during which our story takes place. After the Israelite Exile of seventy years, a remnant returned to their land with Persian approval. The sad fact, however, was that the majority of God’s people chose to remain in the land of their captivity instead of relocating to the land of God’s promise. Esther and her cousin Mordecai were among this group. The events here occurred between those recorded in Ezra 6 and Ezra 7 and extend over a decade of time, from 483 BC (Xerxes’ 3rd year, Esther 1:3) to 473 (the end of Xerxes’ 12th year, 3:7). The king involved was Ahasuerus or Xerxes, who reigned over the Persian Empire from 485 to 465 BC.
Read the entire book of Esther.
Read the book just as you would any story. We’ll go back and begin looking at specifics concerning our story tomorrow. For today, just enjoy it!
1. Write down your first impressions of this story.
2. Responding to God: Write a prayer that God will make this story real to you over the next three weeks.
Read Esther 1:1-22.
3. Describe the events of this chapter. Answer who, what, where, when, why and how about them.
Refusal to obey the king was risky even for a queen in the ancient world. It is not clear why Vashti behaved so rashly and put herself in such danger. Apparently she anticipated humiliation of some kind and was unwilling to subject herself to it. In spite of the obvious dangers, there is no justification in the biblical text for an ancient Jewish targumic tradition that the king told her to appear before his guests dressed in nothing but her royal high-turban, this is, essentially naked.
Note in NET Bible p. 744
4. Explain the reasoning behind the decision about what to do with the queen and your thoughts about the logic.
5. Describe the King’s character from his words and actions in chapter 1.
6. Sharing question: Describe a situation where someone put you in a position of embarrassment. How did you handle it?
7. Responding to God: Write a prayer for the wisdom to handle yourself in a way that brings glory to God when you face embarrassment.
Read Esther 2:1-11.
8. What was the plan for replacing the queen? (2:3-4)
9. What insights do you gain about Esther and Mordecai’s relationship from 2:10-11?
10. Sharing question: If you are a believer, the One who has adopted you into His family and become a father to you is God Himself. Parallel your relationship with Him to that of Esther and Mordecai. Do you measure up? Write down your thoughts and pray.
Read Esther 2:12-18.
By comparing 1:3 with 2:16 we see that it has been about four years since Queen Vashti was deposed.
11. Explain the process all the women went through in the harem. (2:12-14)
12. Think about this situation from Esther’s perspective. This is not a Cinderella story where she meets the wonderful and loving prince, the man of her dreams, and desires to marry him. She is in the king’s harem. Consider what you already know about the king from the first chapter, as well as what you learn here about Esther’s future life. What could her life look like from here on out? What emotions do you think you might have if you were Esther?
13. Responding to God: Thank God that He is with you even in the darkest of places, no matter how lonely or hopeless it seems.
Read Esther 2:19-23. This event will be crucial later in the story!
That Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate apparently means that he was a high-ranking government official. It was at the city gate where important business was transacted.
Note in NET Bible p. 746
14. Reflect upon Esther Chapter 2. Write down any insights you have into Esther’s character so far. Be sure to give specifics as to why you describe her as you do.
15. Sharing question: Consider this list of Esther’s qualities. Which of these do you need to work on in your own life? Write down any thoughts you have about them.
16. Read these cross-references, and relate them to the events of Esther 1 and 2.
17. Sharing question: How can these truths about God from 1 Samuel and Daniel give you comfort today in a particular situation in which you find yourself or someone near and dear to you?
18. Consider our Precious Word from God for this week. After studying these two chapters, what do you think it was in Esther that caused her to find favor?
All of us desire in some way to find favor with others. Yet, as Christians, we are to seek the favor of God, not people. Consider the lengths to which these women went in order to gain the king’s approval. As Christians, we are totally accepted by God because of what Jesus did for us. Nothing we do can change that. However, we do want to please the One who so graciously gave us this acceptance, which we could never earn.
19. Sharing question: Read Gal. 1:10 and 2 Tim. 2:3-4. Prayerfully meditate upon these thoughts. What in your life is not pleasing to God? What do you need to change in order to make your life more pleasing to the Father?
20. Responding to God: Thank God that He doesn’t determine our acceptance based on beauty, outward charm, or even our works. Thank Him that we are accepted because of what Jesus did on our behalf.
Read Esther 3:1-6.
21. Now we meet the villain of our story. Identify him and his position, and explain his feelings toward Mordecai and his reasons for them. (3:1-5)
22. Centuries before this, God had given Abraham a promise concerning the treatment of Abraham’s descendants, the Jews. Copy it below from Genesis 12:3.
23. Sharing question: God is faithful to His promises to us, just as He was to Abraham. In II Peter 1:4 Peter calls them “precious and magnificent promises.” Consider some of these promises to you of which you are aware. Write down one promise that is especially precious to you at this time of your life. If you can locate the scripture reference, write it word for word so you can begin to memorize it if you have not already done so. Share how and why it impacts your life today.
24. Responding to God: Spend time with God meditating upon one of His promises.
Becky dealt with prejudice of a different kind than Esther. Read her story of how God worked in her situation.
I graduated from college in 1972 with a BS in Chemistry, and went back to my home town of Houston thinking that with all of the chemical and oil industry companies there, getting a job in my field would not be a problem. I knew that my choice of major was considered unusual for a woman, but I was optimistic. I looked in the want-ads, and called the likely opportunities. I got no interviews. "We don't think a woman can do this job," and "Are you calling for your husband?" were typical reactions. I have to admit that I was discouraged, but my professor had warned me that not everyone would be willing to take a chance on hiring a woman. ("She'll just get married and quit.")
I finally took a dead-end, shift work job at a medical instrument manufacturer in quality control. It was a job anyone with high school chemistry or biology could have done. However, the people were mostly nice, and we had time to talk to one another, and I was able to speak to several of them about God. After six months there, I got a job at UT Medical School in Houston, as a lab technician for one of the professors. He decided that I looked strong enough to work with the centrifuges, and that I hadn't dressed up so much for the interview meant that I wouldn't mind getting my hands dirty. This was a good job, not so much the money (the academic world never pays well), but it was very interesting and challenging. I enjoyed it. While working closely with the people there, I was able to be an ambassador for Christ in a way probably not so possible in the world of industry. God knew what He was doing. And I worked there until I got married and quit. The whole lab came to the wedding.