Author: Ron Graham
Time ~ 8. Return of the Remnant
Span ~ 140 years
Books ~ Ezr, Neh, Est, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi
Figures ~ Ezra Nehemiah
Begins with ~ The decree to rebuild Jerusalem
Ascendant empire ~ Medopersia
Although the Jews were now free to dwell in and around their holy city Jerusalem, they were still under the rule of Persia. In 483 BC, king Ahasuerus (Xerxes) chose a Jewish woman as his queen. Her name was Esther. This lesson is about her.
Behind this story is the providence of God. He was working with Esther. He was not working miracles, or speaking through prophets. But he was working. God was working gently, invisibly, quietly, yet powerfully, keeping his promises, making "all things to work together for good" (Romans 8:28). This is how God has usually worked. This is how he works today.
As the years went by, a hatred for the Jews developed among the Medo-persian people. Haman contrived to have legislation enacted (which could not be revoked) that all Jews should be slaughtered. Had his plan succeeded, there would have been no more Times of Israel. There would have been no Ezra or Nehemiah, and worse still, no Jesus Christ! So, although the book of Esther does not mention God, he was clearly involved. God was helping Esther and Mordecai to save their people, so that his promises would not fail.
In 483 BC, king Ahasuerus (known as Xerxes) displayed his wealth and power. An enormous banquet capped off this hubris, and the king wanted to make his queen Vashti a climax to the exhibition, flaunting her before his princes and nobles. She refused, and greatly embarrassed the king. So, advised by his astrologers and magicians, he deposed her.
The king was not able to choose a new queen immediately, because of very serious wars with the Greeks. But when he finally did get around to it, he chose Esther, the beautiful young cousin of Mordecai whom Mordecai had adopted as his daughter.
Mordecai heard of a plot to lay hands on the king, and he reported it to Esther who conveyed it to the king on Mordecai's behalf.
The wicked Haman now comes into the picture. The king promotes him, but he abuses his power. For some reason —perhaps because Haman expects worship rather than mere courtly courtesy— Mordecai refuses to bow down to Haman. In anger, Haman contrives to have a law passed "to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, women and children, in one day."
It fell upon Esther to go unbidden to the king and attempt to foil Haman's plot. Esther requested that all the Jews fast three days and nights. "If I perish, I perish!" she said, and went to the king's chamber. The king held out his sceptre of welcome (he could have ordered her to be slain). She was able to set in motion a plot of her own. She invited the king to a banquet and cannily included Haman.
From that point, Haman's mind and plans went completely awry. In a sleepless night the king discovered the loyalty of Mordecai, then, at the banquet, the treachery of Haman. The hapless Haman was hanged on the very gallows he had prepared for Mordecai. The Jews were permitted to fight their enemies on the appointed day. They won, and celebrated with great joy.