Esther, is the Jewish woman who served as queen among the Gentile people. The book which bears her name tells of a plot to destroy the entire Jewish nation which would have ended the blood line of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Although the book does not mention God by name, it speaks of His intervention in the affairs of men to care for His people and accomplish His divine purposes. It also shows how each one of us has an important part in God's plan.
The book is named for the main character, Esther. Originally her Hebrew name was Hadassah. Her name means "star of the east."
From the best evidence, the story of Esther occurred during the rule of the king who is known in secular history as Xerxes. In Esther, the name used for this king is Ahasuerus, the Hebrew form of the Greek name Xerxes. The nature of the court, social customs, and state of affairs described in Esther fit perfectly into the secular history of this time which was around 473 B.C.
The setting was in the palace at Shushan which was in a city in Elam 150 miles east of Babylon. An estimated two to three million Jews were living there during the time of Esther.
This book was probably prepared for the Jews scattered all over Persia, as well as for those in Palestine, to tell them how God had saved them from death. For the Christian, it shows God's intervention on behalf of His people.
Ahasuerus: King over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia.
Vashti: The queen who refused the king's orders and lost her position as queen.
Esther: The new queen, a Hebrew woman.
Mordecai: Esther's cousin, who raised her from a child.
Haman: An enemy of the Jewish people who devised a plot to destroy them.
The purposes of Esther:
The book contains an important episode in Jewish history which provided the Jewish people of Persia and Palestine with the story of the intervention of God to spare their lives.
It demonstrates how God works for His people. He intervenes in the affairs of men to fulfill His will and places His people in the right places at the right times for the advancement of His Kingdom.
The Great Feasts (Esther1:1-9):
Ahasuerus held a feast for his princes and servants which lasted for 180 days. Meanwhile, Vashti, the queen, was hosting the women at a separate feast in her quarters.
A Domestic Problem (Esther 1:10-12):
On the seventh day of the feast, the king called for Queen Vashti to come and show her beauty to the men. She refused his request, and the king was angry.
A Royal Commandment (Esther 1:13-22):
The wise men counseled the king to dethrone Vashti and give her position to another.
The Search For A Queen (Esther 2:1-4):
The King began the search for a queen. Young women were brought from all over the kingdom and prepared for his review.
Esther Enters The Competition (Esther 2:5-11):
A Jewish man named Mordecai had raised his cousin Esther since she was an orphan. Esther entered the competition to become queen. Mordecai told Esther not to let the people of the royal court know she was a Jew, then he waited to see what would happen to her.
Esther Selected As Queen (Esther 2:12-21):
Each woman in the competition for the position of queen appeared before the king. When Esther appeared, she was selected and a special feast was given in her honor.
The Plot Against The King (Esther 2:22-23):
Two men, Bigthan and Teresh, planned to kill the king. Mordecai learned of the plot and informed Esther who told the king. Both men were hanged.
The Promotion Of Haman (Esther 3:1-6):
King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, one of his servants, to a position over all the princes and servants. Everyone showed honor to him except Mordecai, and Haman was angry.
Haman's Plot (Esther 3:7-15):
Learning that Mordecai was a Jew, Haman went before the king and bribed him to issue an order that on a certain date all the Jews were to be destroyed. The King signed the order and it was sent throughout the kingdom.
Mourning Of The Jews (Esther 4:1-11):
When news of the dreadful order reached the Jews, they began to mourn. Mordecai put on sackcloth and rubbed himself with ashes, which was a custom when one was mourning.
Esther Hears The News (Esther 4:9-12):
Sheltered in the palace, Esther had not heard of the new law. When she was told Mordecai was wearing sackcloth and ashes, she sent him clothing. He refused the beautiful garments, and sent her a copy of the order which had been issued.
The Plan For Deliverance (Esther 4:10-17):
A plan for deliverance was made by Esther and Mordecai. The Jews would fast and pray for Esther and she would go in to the king to seek help for her people.
To approach the king without being summoned could result in death, but Esther was willing to pay the price if necessary. She said, "If I perish, I perish."
The key verse, Esther 4:14, presents an important truth. God had a plan for deliverance. If Esther did not fulfill her appointed role, then deliverance for the Jews would come from some other source.
God has a special plan for each of us in His overall plan to reach the world with the Gospel. His desire is that you find your position and fulfill His will. But if you do not find your place in the kingdom, God will still proceed with His plan and deliverance will arise from another source.
As Esther, you have come into His Kingdom for a special purpose. This is why it is important to discover your position and ministry in the Body of Christ.
An Invitation To A Banquet (Esther 5:1-8):
Esther appeared before the king, and he accepted her. She invited the King and Haman to a banquet and during the meal requested their presence at a special banquet she would give the following day.
Haman's Pride (Esther 5:9-14):
Haman left the queen's presence and boasted about his invitation to all of his friends. Yet even this great honor brought him no joy as long as Mordecai refused to honor him. Haman's wife and friends suggested he build a gallows and hang Mordecai. Haman was pleased with this idea, and the gallows were constructed. (Gallows were a tall wooden structure from which a rope was hung for purposes of execution).
Mordecai Honored (Esther 6:1-14):
The king had a sleepless night and as he was reviewing court records it was brought to his attention that Mordecai had stopped a murderous plot against his life. The king inquired as to what reward was given to Mordecai for this, and was informed that nothing had been done.
Haman Humiliated (Esther 6:12-14):
Meanwhile, Haman was coming to the King to ask permission to hang Mordecai. Before he could speak, the King ordered him to honor Mordecai for his loyalty to the kingdom. Haman reluctantly obeyed the orders and was quite upset that his enemy was honored.
The Feast Of Esther (Esther 7:1-6):
Esther held a special feast and during dinner revealed her true identity and the plot of Haman to kill her and the Jews.
Haman Punished (Esther 7:7-10):
The king ordered Haman to be hanged from the gallows prepared for Mordecai.
New Orders From The King (Esther 8:1-14):
Esther asked the king to issue orders to save her people. The King sent out a decree for deliverance of the Jews.
Mordecai Honored (Esther 8:15-17):
Mordecai received additional honors from the king, and there was feasting and rejoicing by the Jews throughout the kingdom. The previous law which was issued to bring death to the Jews is a type of the death which sin brought upon man. The Bible records "the soul that sinneth, it shall die."
The second law brought life instead of death, just as the coming of Jesus Christ brought life to sinful man. It does not eliminate the previous law requiring death for sin but, just as the order of King Ahasuerus, it provides a way of escape.
Deliverance Of The Jews (Esther 9:1-11):
The Jews were delivered from death. With the king's permission, they fought against their enemies and overcame them.
House Of Haman Destroyed (Esther 9:12-16):
Final deliverance came to the Jews as the entire family of the wicked Haman was destroyed.
The Feast Of Purim (Esther 9:17-32):
A special feast celebrating the deliverance of the Jews was held and the date marked to be observed annually.
In Esther, chapter 10, Mordecai was selected to serve next to the king and represent his people and their interests. Mordecai and Haman provide an interesting contrast in the use and abuse of power. One used position to help others, while the other used it to destroy.
Character Traits Of Esther
Esther demonstrated some beautiful personality traits. Study the references on the following page. Ask God to help you incorporate some of these traits into your own life:
2:15 Beautiful and modest
2:9-17; 5:1-3 Winsome
2:15 Related well to those around her
2:22 Not self-seeking (revealed plot in name of Mordecai instead of taking credit herself)
4:16; 7:6 Courageous
2:22; 8:1-2; 7:3-4 Loyal
An Important Lesson
One important lesson in the story of Esther is that although the wicked may appear to prosper, in the end, God's people will triumph.
David spoke of this in Psalms. In a way, he summarized one of the main concepts of the book of Esther:
I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and lo, he was not; yea, I sought him, but he could not be found. Mark the perfect man and behold the upright; for the end of that man is peace.
But the transgressors shall be destroyed together; the end of the wicked shall be cut off.
But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord; he is their strength in the time of trouble. And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them; he shall deliver them from the wicked and save them because they trust in him. (Psalms 37:35-40)
The study of characteristics of godly leaders in the Bible provides knowledge of positive traits which you can seek to develop in your own life. The study of ungodly characters provides warning of negative traits you should avoid.
To expand your knowledge of the book of Esther and develop your own skills in doing character studies, analyze the characters of Haman and Mordecai. These two men provide an interesting contrast of positive and negative traits. Read the book of Esther again, observing the characteristics of each man.