Bible Survey on Esther – Introduction

Major Theme:

One of the major lessons of Esther is how God uses His almighty power in the circumstances of life and in the hearts of people.  The book of Esther shows God working to deliver the Jews from annihilation.

Date:

Covers Approx. 478 B.C. – 464 B.C.

Some background Info

There are many lessons to be learned from the book of Esther. One of the major lessons of Esther is how God uses His almighty power in the circumstances of life and in the hearts of people. In Esther we see God’s hand in Mordecai finding out about a plot to kill the king years before that information will be used by God to elevate Mordecai and humble Haman. And that is just one example. We see God’s hand moving all thru out the book even when Mordecai and Esther could not see it. This is an important truth to us today and can be a great encouragement to us today. Even when we cannot see God working, He is! And there are many other lessons in Esther like faith, and courage.

Est 1:1 Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned, from India even unto Ethiopia, over an hundred and seven and twenty provinces:)

Esther starts out by giving us some important information. This is information that does have a bearing to the story. It is important to know how powerful this king was. His empire was huge. It extended from Egypt and Ethiopia to the border of India.
From the border of Greece and the Black Sea to the Arabian Sea.

This king had incredible power. And to keep control of all of that and to keep informed of what was going on would take a good deal of your time. As well as all the decisions that you would have to make.  And a king of an empire like this would have to keep up appearances. All of the pomp and show, the display of position and power would go on. It was expected and required to keep power.  He is a very busy man. This helps shed light on the holding out the scepter. It was not good to just walk in and interrupt the king. He had to allow the interruption by the holding out of the scepter.

Another thing to notice is that Israel is in this kingdom. So when the decree went out to kill the Jews, there was no place of safety for them. No place to hide. No place for them to run to. Even if they were allowed to leave the empire, most would not have that kind of money to travel that far.  The mountains on the border of India are almost impassable. Past Egypt is horrible desert. Escaping the empire was not an option. The Jews were in real danger of being wiped out.

Est 1:2 That in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan the palace,

It is about 200 miles east of Babylon. It was the winter palace of the Persian kings.  They found Shushan in the 1890’s It was a very large place.  The author of Esther is sometimes extremely precise when describing locations, allowing us to determine where certain events took place. One example is of Esther’s approach to King Ahasuerus:

Est 5:1 Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house, over against the king’s house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of the house.
Est 1:3 In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him:
Est 1:4 When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days.
Est 1:5 And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace;

It helps to know a little about the empire and it’s power to understand Esther. And it is always good to see how archology backs up that the Bible is true.

Another thing that is good to know about Esther is the timing. When did it happen. And what was going on before and after Esther. This all helps with a deeper understanding of the book of Esther.  Ahasauerus ruled Persia from 485 BC to 465 BC. So about 20 years. The great feast in Chapter 1 has also been found in Persian inscriptions. We learn from those that this feast was held in preparation for his expedition against Greece.

Shushan the winter palace was a place that the kings really enjoyed. All the amenities. Instead of sleeping in a palace he is going to be sleeping in a tent. Instead of days of pleasure and of holding court, he is going to be marching with his army.
Instead of food prepared in the royal kitchen. Now don’t misunderstand me, the king will still be eating well. But eating will not be the same out in the country during war than in the palace.  So the feast was a big deal. He was going to be gone a while. A big send off to go on a military victory.

It seems that he deposed Vashti before he left in 482 and married Esther in 478 after he returned. About 4 years or so later.
This also explains why when we read the story that there seems to be a good deal of time between Vashti and Esther. Most kings would not be without a queen for very long. But this king was gone for a while.

The previous king allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem in 536 B.C.
The temple was rebuilt by 516 B.C. So that took about 20 years. But the wall was not rebuilt.
Ahasauerus becomes king in 485. After being king for 3 years he has a feast, deposed Vashti and goes to war. You know you have to prove your metal being a new king. He fights with Greece but does not take them over.

Comes back and makes Esther queen in 478 B.C.

Esther appears on the scene about 40 years after the Temple was Rebuilt and about 30 years before the wall of Jerusalem was Rebuilt.

Think about this, if Esther did not save the Jews, there would have been no Jerusalem and no Temple for Jesus to turn the tables over in. There would have been no Pharisees and others to betray Christ to the Romans.  There would be no Bethlehem. Prophecies about the coming Savior could not have been fulfilled.  There would have been no Mary, no Joseph, no manger, and most importantly no cross. In short no salvation for man.  So there really was a lot at stake.

This leads us to the purpose of the book.
Esther is about showing the providence of God. It shows Him using His almighty power in both the circumstances of life and Him using His power in and thru the lives of people.  Esther not only saved the Jews, but her being married to the king of the empire gave the Jews some position after they defended themselves.  And it would seem that Esther had a very positive influence upon her stepson who became king after Ahasauerus died.

It is Esther’s stepson who will give Nehemiah permission to go build the wall.

Esther does not just play an important role in this story. Esther plays an important role in that period of history. And even more than that. Esther played an important role in the coming of Jesus and that affected millions of people.  To this very day, the Jews hold the feast of Purim to remember and celebrate what happened in the book of Esther.  God’s name will not be mentioned in the book of Esther. Not even once.  However, we see His hand in the entire book. Esther came soon enough to save the Jews but she was late enough to still have an influence upon her stepson. She came after the rebuilding of the temple but before the building of the wall.

Esther had a part in paving the way for the work of Nehemiah and Ezra.

God arranged the timing of it all. God arranged for the proper people to be where they were when they were to be there.

God was working thru it all.

See more Lessons on the book of Esther