It’s time for the last of the historical books.
Esther is a story about a girl. Another book of the Bible is Ruth, which is also a story about a woman who did amazing things that have inspired folks for thousands of years.
Background of Esther
Cyrus was the first king of the Persian Empire. He captured Babylon in 539 BC. King Cyrus was the one who let the Israelites go back to the land of Jerusalem.
By 486 BC, Cyrus’ grandson was now king of the Persian Empire: Ahasuerus (or Xerxes 1, was his Greek name).
Xerxes had some bad habits:
- He had a terrible temper.
- He sometimes took bad advice.
The Story of Esther
Xerxes was having a big party with his friends. He asked his beautiful wife to come out and show everyone how beautiful she was. She refused. “No,” Queen Vashti said. Because of Xerxes temper and bad advice from those around him, he kicked the queen out of the palace. No more queen. Xerxes’ friends told him to search for a more beautiful wife. So a search was made for the most beautiful woman in all of Persia. One of the women that was found was Esther.
Very important to the story is the fact that Esther was a Jew.
What is a Jew?
Esther is the first book in the Bible where God’s people are called Jews. After King Solomon, the kingdom of Israel was split in two with Israel (10 tribes) in the north and Judah (2 tribes) in the south.
During the exile, people in Babylon started calling the people from Judah, Jews, because they were from Judah.
So people from Judah were called Jews, and people from the northern tribe of Israel, whose capital was Samaria would later become known as Samaritans.
The Story of Esther (cont.)
So Esther was a Jew. She had no Mom or Dad so she was being raised by her cousin, Mordecai (who was also a Jew). Esther was brought before King Xerxes as he was searching for a beautiful new queen, and out of all the women in Persia, he picked Esther!
Things were great until Xerxes made a man named Haman his right-hand man. Haman was not a good man. He wanted everyone to bow to him, but Mordecai, who worked in the palace, would not bow before Haman. This made Haman angry… so angry in fact that he wanted to kill Mordecai. Haman went before King Xerxes to ask for permission to kill Mordecai. But Haman didn’t stop at Mordecai. Because Mordecai was a Jew and because Haman didn’t like the Jews, Haman asked Xerxes if he could kill all the Jews.
Why did Haman want to kill all the Jews?
Haman was an Agagite, a descendant of King Agag. Agag was killed by Israel’s first king, Saul. Haman might have been trying to get even for what some of the Israelites (Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin which was one of the two tribes of Judah… the Jews) did to his ancestors. Thus Haman advised Xerxes to kill them all.
The Story of Esther (cont.)
Xerxes took Haman’s bad advice and told Haman he could have all the Jews killed. Haman cast dice to see what day the Jews should be killed.
If Haman killed all the Jews, then that means the Messiah would never be born! It would be the end of God’s rescue plan! (Ian)
Mordecai heard about this plan to kill all the Jews and he and Esther had to figure out a way to stop it. Mordecai asked Esther to go see the king (her husband) to try and stop this. But seeing the king wasn’t simple. King Xerxes had rules. One of the rules was that no one could go talk to the king unless they were invited. The penalty for going to the king uninvited was death. Haman didn’t know Esther was a Jew. Neither did her husband the king. If Esther never said anything, she could just live in safety in the palace and probably be fine. Esther was in a quandary: either risk being killed by Haman’s evil plot to kill all the Jews, or risk being killed by Xerxes for seeing him uninvited.
What did Esther do?
She went to see the king. Everyone waited to see what Xerxes would do. If Xerxes extended to royal scepter then she would be spared. If not, she would be killed. As it turns out, Xerxes extended the scepter and Esther was spared.
He asked her what she wanted. Esther invited him and Haman to a banquet. At that banquet, she invited them to another banquet. Haman loved all the attention, but grew more and more angry with Mordecai and loathed all the Jews.
At the second banquet, Xerxes asked Esther what she wanted. Esther said, “If I have found favor in your eyes, let my life be spared and the lives of my people.” Xerxes asked her what she meant… who was going to kill my queen?
“Haman,” she said. “I am a Jew and Haman tricked you into killing all of my people!”
Xerxes flew into a rage. His servants told him that Haman had built a gallows to hang Mordecai on. The king said whatever Haman was going to do to Mordecai, do that to Haman instead.
And through the courage of a girl named Esther, God had saved his people once again. (Chester Wigget)
source What’s in the Bible? Curriculum Unit 7 Week 3