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Lesson 6: Esther and Mordecai *

Introduction: Your life is probably not centered on one great event in which you can step up and stop a holocaust. More likely, your life is a series of smaller decisions about right and wrong. Will the way you make decisions in the small things of life reveal how you would make the great decisions of life? If you fail in the small decisions, will this force you into larger, more difficult decisions? Let's dig into the story of Esther and look at this familiar story in a little different way!

  1. Background

    1. Read Esther 1:1-5. What is the extent of Xerxes' kingdom? ("Cush" is the northern part of Egypt, so he ruled from India to Egypt!)

      1. Is Xerxes just a party animal? Or, do you think this party has other goals? (It is a great party, but I'll bet Xerxes threw it in part to strengthen his rulership by consulting face-to-face with leaders he did not see very often. He reaffirms that he is the ruler.)

    2. Read Esther 1:6-8. How sober is this group? (You could drink as much as you wanted - it was free!)

  2. Vashti

    1. Read Esther 1:9. What does this say about the role of women in the Kingdom of Xerxes?

    2. Read Ester 1:10-12. What is the state of the King's sobriety? (He is in "high spirits." My guess is that all of the men had drunk a lot of wine.)

      1. What is the Queen supposed to wear? (Her royal crown. Recall that Xerxes has been showing off his assets, now he wants to show his wife's crown and his wife.)

      2. What else is she wearing? (Adam Clarke's commentary reports the Targum adds that aside from her crown she was to be naked. Other commentaries do not agree. The text says that the King wanted to "display her beauty." Queen Vashti realizes that disobedience is a serious matter, but she disobeys. Most of the commentaries suggest she did not want to be paraded before a bunch of men. Notice that at this point the crowd includes common men. Drunk commoners might be the problem. Whatever the true situation, it seems that Vashti thought she would be humiliated in some way.)

    3. Read Esther 1:13-15. What is the real problem for Xerxes? (He is holding the party in large part to display his power and authority. Now, his wife does not obey him!)

    4. Read Esther 1:19-22. What does this say about men? Anyone, even the men, think that "all the women will [now] respect their husbands?" (My guess is that if Xerxes wanted Vashti to appear wearing only her crown, she is now the hero of all of the women, and respect for men has gone down, not up.)

  3. Esther

    1. Read Esther 2:2-7. How is Mordecai like Daniel and his friends? (They are captives from Jerusalem.)

      1. What kind of life has Esther led so far? (Both of her parents died. She is the daughter of exiles. Doesn't sound like a great life.)

    2. Read Esther 2:8-10. Notice that she, like Daniel, was assigned "special food." Are Esther and Mordecai not up to Daniel's high standards?

      1. Why has Mordecai forbidden her to reveal that she is Jewish?

      2. If Esther, like Daniel, took a stand against the food would it reveal that she was Jewish?

      3. Is it good that she is taking advice from Mordecai?

    3. Read Esther 2:12 and Esther 2:15-17. Is Esther sinning by sleeping with the King? (Esther did not create the system. When she slept with the King she became his wife (or at least his concubine). If things went as they did for most of the others, she would never see the King again and this orphan would face a life living in the King's harem.)

      1. Instead of being a concubine, what happens to Esther? (She is crowned Queen!)

    4. Read Esther 2:20. Why does the story keep mentioning this? Is Esther living a lie?(Xerxes did not marry her based on her family background. It seems the issue did not come up, and he has no interest in it. Esther respects the advice of the man who adopted her as his daughter.)

  4. The Plots

    1. Read Esther 2:21-23. Esther gives credit to Mordecai. Would it have helped her to take credit?

    2. Read Esther 3:1-2. Why would Mordecai refuse? (Read Esther 3:3-4. Mordecai's answer is that he is Jewish - thus he had religious reasons for not kneeling down to Haman.)

      1. Read Exodus 20:4-5. Is this the applicable rule?

      2. Recall three weeks ago when we studied Naaman? Read 2 Kings 5:18-19. Why is this okay for Naaman, but not okay for Mordecai?

      3. Read Romans 14:22-23. If you have time, read the entire chapter of Romans 14. When we have "disputable matters" ( Romans 14:1), the Bible tells us that our conscience is our guide.)

        1. Is this why we have Daniel objecting to his food, but not Esther?

        2. Is bowing down to Haman a "disputable matter?" (Haman is not a god. We have Naaman bowing down to someone who is clearly a god, therefore in Mordecai's case it seems a disputable matter.)

    3. Read Esther 3:5-6. What kind of man is Haman?

    4. Read Esther 3:8-11. Haman's pride comes at a cost - 10,000 talents of silver. Why would the king tell him to keep his money? (Xerxes trusts Haman. He thinks he is doing the right thing.)

      1. If Esther had not kept silent about being Jewish, would this crisis have arisen?

        1. If she had stood firm on food, would she have avoided this larger conflict?

    5. Read Esther 3:12-14. Will Haman have trouble getting people to kill the Jews on the appointed day? (You get to keep their stuff! This is officially approved anarchy! Murders and thieves day! Now we know why Haman could keep his silver.)

    6. Read Esther 4:1-3. Who is responsible for the coming destruction of the Jewish people?

      1. We discussed Mordecai's instruction to Esther to hide that she was Jewish. If his decision to refuse to bow to Haman is "disputable," has Mordecai killed his people for no good reason?

  5. Salvation

    1. Read Esther 4:5-11. What worries Esther?

    2. Read Esther 4:12-14. What arguments is Mordecai making, and what do you think about them? (His first argument is that she is going to die anyway. His second argument is that this crisis is the reason why God made her the Queen. I like the second argument a lot better.)

      1. Since Mordecai told Esther to keep her race a secret, is the first argument a valid threat?

    3. Read Esther 4:15-16. We now come to a time when Esther is giving instructions to Mordecai, not the other way around. What is her answer to this crisis? (Prayer and fasting.)

    4. Read Esther 5:1-8. Tell me what you think is going through Xerxes' mind? His new Queen is risking her life to ask him to dinner, and then she doesn't tell him what she wants.

    5. Read Esther 5:9-14. Should we always follow our wife's advice?

    6. In Esther 6:1-5 Xerxes is reminded that Mordecai saved his life and was never rewarded. Let's continue by reading Esther 6:6-12. That morning did not turn out as expected! Have you had days like that?

    7. Read Esther 6:12-14. Zeresh and the advisors know that Mordecai is Jewish. How do you explain this fear? (The Holy Spirit is speaking to them.)

    8. Read Esther 7:3-9, Esther 8:3-4 and Esther 8:7-8 and Esther 8:11. Is this how the world is supposed to work? How did we come to this point? (Esther showed courage, she prayed, and God gave her a great plan.)

    9. Read Esther 8:16-17. Is this a missionary endeavor?

      1. What do you think about the motive for conversion?

    10. Friend, it seems likely to me that if Esther acted like Daniel, the bigger crisis would have been averted. Here is the good news: Esther made the right decision when the lives of thousands were at stake. God honored that and protected His people. Will do determine today to follow God's will, even if you might not have been obeying God in the past?

  6. Next week: Jesus: The Master of Missions.
* Copr. 2015, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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