God is in control

About the Book of Esther

God is in control: The events that the first chapter of the book of Esther describes happened about 483 BC (Before Christ). Over 100 years earlier, Nebuchadnezzar (the king of Babylon) had attacked Jerusalem. He overcame the *Jews and he took many *Jews to Babylon. Almost 70 years after that, the king of Persia defeated the armies of Babylon in battle. Then the people in Persia allowed the *Jews to return to their own country, but not many *Jews did return. When the story of Esther happened, most *Jews were still living in the country called Persia.

We do not know who wrote the book. It may have been Mordecai or Ezra. Whoever wrote it knew the customs of Persia well. We know this from other history.

The Bible does not mention the book of Esther anywhere else. Some people think that it is only a story. They think that it is not true. But the writer wants us to know that the story is true. At the start of the book, he says when it happened. At the end of the book, he says that the official records included the story about Esther. (See Esther 10:2 and also Esther 2:23.)

The book of Esther does not mention the name of God. This is strange for a book that is in the Bible. Sometimes God seems to be silent. We might even think that he does not care about us. The writer of the book of Esther probably wanted his readers to realise that God is always in control. Although we cannot see God, he is always doing things in the world. Nobody can stop his plans.

·     Usually the kings of Persia only married wives from the 7 most important families in Persia. But God wanted Esther, who was a *Jew, to be queen. The servants of the king suggested that officials should search all the *kingdom for suitable young girls. The king would then choose his favourite girl and he would make her queen (Esther 2:2-4). God made Esther beautiful (Esther 2:7). And the king chose her to be queen.

·     Mordecai was Esther’s relative. He saved the king’s life. But the king forgot to reward him. That was unusual. But God knew that the best time for Mordecai to get his reward was much later (Esther 2:21-23).

·     Haman was the enemy of the *Jews. He wanted to select a lucky date when he could kill the *Jews. So he used the *Purim stones, which were a game of chance. God made sure that the *Purim stones chose a date nearly a year later. God had a special plan to save the *Jews from Haman’s plot (Esther 3:7).

·     Mordecai believed that God had made Esther queen. So Mordecai believed that God could use her to save the *Jews. But even if Esther did not speak on their behalf, God would still save the *Jews. Mordecai believed this also (Esther 4:12-14).

·     Esther went to see the king, although he had not invited her. In Persia, this was a dangerous thing to do. She knew that she was risking her life. But she also knew that God was in control. God helped Esther to please the king. The king promised to give her almost anything that she wanted (Esther 5:1-3).

·     We do not know why the king could not sleep that night. We do not know why he chose to read the books of official records. But we know that this was part of God’s plan. The records described how Mordecai saved the king’s life. So the king wanted advice about how to reward Mordecai. He decided to ask the first important official that he could find. It was Haman. Haman got up early and, at exactly the right time, he came to see the king. But Haman wanted the king to hang Mordecai (Esther 6:1-5).

·     Haman told his wife and his friends about Mordecai. He told them that Mordecai was a *Jew. They seemed to believe that God would protect his *Jewish people (Esther 6:12-14).

·     God changed the situation. Mordecai got the king’s reward that Haman had wanted for himself. And Haman got the punishment that Haman wanted Mordecai to get (Esther 7:5-10). Then the king allowed Mordecai to write a new law that would protect the *Jews from Haman’s evil plan.

·     The day that Haman had chosen for his plan came. The enemies of the *Jews had hoped to kill all the *Jews. But Mordecai’s law allowed the *Jews to defend themselves on that day. Haman’s plot had failed. God’s plan had succeeded (Esther 9:1-4).

·     The book of Esther records the origin of the holiday called *Purim. During this holiday, the *Jews remember how God saved them from their enemies (Esther 9:20-22).

Chapter 1

v1-2 King Xerxes lived in his palace at Susa. He ruled over 127 countries and regions. Their extent was from India to Cush.

Verses 1-2 Xerxes was king of the nation called Persia and Media. It was the most powerful nation in the world at that time. He fought several wars against the armies of Greece. He lived in different palaces at different times of the year. One of these palaces was at Susa. At Susa, there was a very large castle. The king’s palace was in it. Susa was also the name of the large city that was near the castle.

Cush was in a country in north east Africa. Today, Cush is part of Egypt and Sudan.

v3 When Xerxes had been king for almost three years, he gave a special party. The party was for all his palace officials and important people. Xerxes also invited the important officials of the districts and the military officers of Persia and Media. v4 Xerxes displayed his immense wealth. The party lasted for 6 months. Xerxes wanted to impress everyone that he was a very great king.

v5 After this, Xerxes invited all the people who lived in the castle in Susa to a special party. He invited everyone to come, whether they were important or not important. The party was in the garden of the king’s palace. The party lasted for a week. v6 In the garden there were white and blue curtains. White and purple material fastened the curtains to silver rings on stone columns. There were seats that someone had made out of gold and silver. The floor was a pattern of precious stones that had many colours. v7 The guests drank from gold cups. Each cup was different from every other cup. There was plenty of the king’s special wine, because the king was very generous. v8 The king ordered all the palace servants to give everyone as much wine as they wanted. So, everyone drank all the wine that they desired.

v9 Queen Vashti also gave a special party. This party was for the women in King Xerxes’ royal palace.

Verses 3-9 In those days, many kings were very rich and powerful. Often they would have parties that lasted for long periods. During these parties, they would eat and drink. They would invite many people. 6 months is a long time for a party, but probably different officials came at different times. Maybe Xerxes gave the party to show his new palace to the people. Darius, who was king before Xerxes, started to build the palace. Xerxes finished it. Maybe he wanted to show how great he was. He was intending to fight a war with Greece. So he also invited his military leaders.

White and blue or purple were the special royal colours. The gold cups were all different. They showed that Xerxes was very rich.

After the 6 months, the king gave another special party. This party was for the local people and it lasted for a week.

The queen gave a special party too. The women’s party was separate from the men’s party. This also shows that the king was very rich.

v10-11 After 7 days, King Xerxes was merry, because he had drunk a lot of wine. He ordered the 7 men who looked after his wives to come to him. The men’s names were Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Carcas. He ordered them to fetch Queen Vashti to him. She should wear her royal crown. The queen was very beautiful. The king wanted to show all the princes and the other guests what a beautiful wife he had.

v12 The servants told Queen Vashti what the king had ordered. But the queen refused to obey. This made the king extremely angry.

Verses 10-12 The king ordered the queen to stand in front of men who had drunk lots of wine. She would not have enjoyed that. Perhaps the king only ordered her because he had drunk too much wine. Maybe that is why she did not obey the king.

The rich and powerful king was very angry. He wanted to show all his people how great he was. Now everyone knew that the king’s own wife did not obey him.

v13 It was the king’s custom to ask for advice about legal matters. He called for the experts. They would know what to do. v14 The wise men that the king especially trusted were called Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena and Memucan. These 7 men were the most important officials in the nation called Persia and Media. v15 The king asked them, ‘What does the law say? What must happen to Queen Vashti? The servants told the king’s command to Queen Vashti, but she has not obeyed him.’

v16 Memucan answered the king and the officials. ‘Queen Vashti has caused trouble for the king. She has also caused trouble for the officials and all the people in the entire *kingdom. v17 All the women will hear what the queen has done. They will hear that King Xerxes ordered the queen to come. They will hear that she did not come to the king. Then they will not respect their husbands. v18 Today the important women in Persia and Media will hear what the queen has done. Then they will not respect the royal officials. There will be no honour and much anger. v19 Therefore, here is an idea that the king might like. The king should issue a royal law. Nobody can ever change the laws of Persia and Media. Vashti must not come to the king again. Then the king can find someone better to be queen. v20 The king will issue this royal law to all parts of this great *kingdom. Then all the women will respect their husbands, from the least important men to the most important men.’

v21 The king and his noble officials liked this advice. So the king did what Memucan had suggested. v22 He sent letters to all parts of the *kingdom. The letters were in the language of each district. In the letters, the king ordered that every man should rule over his own family.

Verses 13-22 The king asked the wise men about the law. Memucan did not mention the law when he answered the king. He just wanted to say something that would please the king. All the women in the country would hear that the queen had not obeyed the king. Memucan knew that. He was afraid that wives would not obey their husbands. Maybe he was afraid that his own wife would not obey him in future.

The king ordered that every man should rule over his own family. But the queen had not obeyed the king. So the king would find a better queen who would obey him. God was preparing the way for Esther to become queen.

There were many different nations in the *kingdom and they spoke many different languages. Officials wrote the king’s command in each nation’s own language. This would make sure that everyone would understand the new law.

Persia had good roads. So officials could deliver the royal messages quickly.