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Lesson No. 16—Consecutive Bible Study is One of Our Best Blessings.

LESSON THEME:—ESTHER

Esther 9:20-25.

  • KEY WORD—”PRESERVATION.”

  • KEY VERSEEsther 4:14 LAST CLAUSE.

  • KEY PHRASE—”THE FATE OF THE JEWS IN THE HANDS OF A WOMAN.”

Home Readings.

Read the whole book of Esther before next Sunday, or:—

  • Sunday—Story of Vashti.—Esther 1:1-12.

  • Monday—Esther made queen.—Esther2:1-11.

  • Tuesday—Haman’s plot.—Esther 3:1-15.

  • Wednesday—Jews fasting.—Esther 4:1-14.

  • Thursday—Courage of Esther.—Esther 5:1-14.

  • Friday—Mordecai exalted.—Esther 6:1-14.

  • Saturday—Haman hanged.—Esther 7:1-10.

NAME—This book is named for the Jewish orphan, Esther, who became a Persian queen, and through whose efforts the Jews were preserved from destruction. She was a woman of good judgement, magnificent self-control, and of the noblest self-sacrifice, ranking with the great women of the Bible.

AUTHOR—Probably Ezra.

TIME OF WRITING—About 460 B. C.

The events of the book cover 12 years, and took place between the sixth and seventh chapters of Ezra. We should remember in reading Esther that the Jews are in captivity in Persia, carried there by the Babylonians, as reported in 2 Kings 24-15.

PURPOSE—To relate an event which involved the destruction or the preservation of the Jews, and to explain the origin of the Feast of Purim. The word “Purim” means “lots,” because lots were cast to see which month the Jews should be destroyed.

GREAT FACTS:—

  1. Refusal.

  2. Crowning.

  3. Plotting.

  4. Feasting.

Great Fact I. Refusal of Vashti.

Esther 1.

King Ahasuerus entertained at a great feast in the royal palace of Shushan all the banquet was on an enormous scale and ex-nobles and princes of his kingdom. This tended over 180 days. The men were feasted in the palace gardens, while the women were received by Queen Vashti in her private apartments. When much wine had been drunk, the king commanded that Vashti should attend the feast in order to show off her beauty to the semi-drunken revellers. Such a proceeding was a great breach of Persian etiquette, and an outrage upon one whom he, above all men, was bound to protect. Vashti therefore refused to obey. This made the king a laughing stock to all at the court, and on the advice of the princess, Vashti was deposed.

LESSON—If Vashti had been proud of her beauty, and shameless, she would have gladly obeyed, but being womanly and modest, she would not make herself a gazing stock for wine-drinkers.

Vashti may be taken as an example of devotion to just and pure ideals. She was true to her best self, and suffered for the time being, “but to thy own self be true and it follows as the night, the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” Modesty is the crown jewel of womanhood. None ever err from having too much of it, while thousands err from lack of it. Goldsmith said, “Modesty seldom resides in a breast that is not enriched with nobler virtues.”

Great Fact II. Crowning of Esther.

Esther 2.

Esther is now selected to succeed Vashti. She was a Jewish orphan who had been brought up by her uncle, Mordecai, and was beautiful in face and form. Upon seeing her, Ahasuerus instantly made her his queen, placed the royal crown ‘upon her head, and celebrated the joyful event by a great feast, and a remission of taxes for a certain time. Thus the humble Jewish maiden became the queen of the empire. which comprised more than half of the known world.

LESSON—We read that Esther pleased and obtained the favour of those who could advance her interests, so young people should cultivate qualities and manners that give them favour with men. There is a foolish idea abroad that when one becomes courteous he ceases to be independent. But the scripture urges us “Be courteous,” 1 Peter 3:8, and we read that “the Lord Jesus grew in favour with God and men,” Luke 2:52. With one discourteous speech Rehoboam lost the ten tribes Of Israel, and could not win them back even with his blood. While Alexander the Great won the hearts of his footmen, by calling them his “fellow” footmen. The best Christian is the Christian who is most humble, and the truest lady or gentleman is that one who is the most courteous.

Those who enjoy promotion should endeavour with watchfulness and prayer to use it for the good of their fellowmen and glory of God.

Great Fact III. Plotting of Haman.

Esther 3; Esther 4; Esther 5.

Between chapters two and three there is an interval of some years. Haman has now become the chief minister to the king. In the East the men are so servile that a new favourite of the court receives royal honours. All bowed down before Haman except one man, Mordecai. But he, being a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, would not concede divine honours to a man! This enraged Haman, and he resolved, that if Mordecai, because he was a Jew, would not bow down to him, then there should be no more Jews—he would have them all put to death. To decide which day his enemies should be destroyed Haman casts lots, and the day that this indicated was the 13th of March, which was ten months distant. To obtain the king’s consent to his plot, Haman asserted that they were disloyal subjects. He also offered to pay into the king’s treasury a sum of about twelve million dollars. The result of his bribe was that King Ahasuerus signed a royal decree that on the day set, all the Jews within his kingdom, young and old, men and women, should be killed and their property confiscated. The Jews, clothed in sackcloth, fasted and prayed to God. Queen Esther inquired into Mordecai’s grief, and he gave her a copy of the decree and added these significant words, “And who knoweth whether thou are come to the kingdom for such a time as this.”

Esther venturing before the king, is received with favour and invites the king and Haman to a banquet. That night the king, unable to sleep, had the records brought in and finds that Mordecai, who had once saved the king’s life, had not been rewarded. Haman is called in and asked, what shall be done to the man the king delights to honour. Imagining that he himself was the man the king had in mind, he suggested the highest honour he could think of, which was carried out, not for himself, but for Mordecai. The king granted Esther’s plea, Haman is hanged on the scaffold he had erected for Mordecai. The Jews were allowed to defend themselves and Mordecai was advanced to the place of honour next to the king.

LESSON—It is astounding that, in order to revenge himself for one man’s discourtesy Haman should seek the destruction of a whole race. However, he left out of his calculations the God of this race, and in this respect he resembles many of the persecutors of Christianity, Julian (331-363 A. D.) emperor of Rome, sought to stamp out Christianity and bring back paganism, but at his death he said, “Thou Galilean hast conquered!” We scarcely realize the constant plotting that goes on against Bible churches and Bible Christians, but Isaiah 54:17; is still true. That religion is no religion that would persecute men’s bodies in order to save their souls. A persecutor once said to a Christian woman, “You will soon taste the bitterness of death.” But her answer was, “No, I NEVER shall, for death has lost its sting, and the grave gains no victory over those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Great Fact IV. Feasting.

Esther 9.

After the Jews had triumphed over their enemies, they had a Thanksgiving Day, and the festival became an annual holiday under the name of the Feast of Purim, or Feast of Lots, which falls on the 14th and 15th days of March, the 13th being observed as a fast in commemoration of Esther’s fast before going in uninvited to the king. When the feast is celebrated, and the name of Haman is mentioned, shouts fill the synagogue, “May his name perish!” While the memory of Esther and Mordecai is cherished with gratitude and warmth. The Jews remember that, although they were in captivity, they were not forsaken by God, and because He spared them then, He will yet recall them to the Land of Promise.

LESSON—When mercies have been received in common, they should be acknowledged in common. Praise is just and due tribute for all God’s blessings; for what else do the best favours of God call for at our hands? Thinkful and thankful are closely allied in their Anglo-Saxon derivations. To be thankful is to be thoughtful or mindful of benefits received. A beautiful tradition says that when God created the world He asked the angels what they thought of the work of His hands, One of them replied that it was perfect that only one thing was lacking, namely, voices clear, mighty and harmonious ever filling the world day and night with sweet sounds of thanksgiving for the incomparable blessings of their Maker. So our thanksgiving should not be just an annual affair. It should be constant, the voice of love, which is ever living and fresh in our hearts. When David was wearied, in praising God, he called upon the sun, the moon, and the stars, to take up his Creator’s praise! Psalm 148.

Questions on the Lesson.

  1. For whom was the book named

  2. Who was the author?

  3. When the time of writing?

  4. How many years do the events cover?

  5. Where in the events of Ezra does this book come?

  6. What is the purpose of the book?

  7. Give the key word and key verse.

  8. Name the great facts.

  9. How much of Esther have you read

  10. Why was Vashti deposed?

  11. Of what was she an example?

  12. How did Esther receive her promotion?

  13. Give illustration to show that courtesy pays.

  14. Why was Haman enraged with Mordecai?

  15. Why did Mordecai refuse to bow down to Haman?

  16. Tell the story of Haman’s plot.

  17. Can persecution stamp out Christianity?

  18. What is the meaning of the Feast of Purim?

  19. How should we acknowledge our mercies?

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