Introduction: Your life is probably not centered on one great event
in which you can step up and stop a holocaust. More likely, your life
is a series of smaller decisions about right and wrong. Will the way
you make decisions in the small things of life reveal how you would
make the great decisions of life? If you fail in the small
decisions, will this force you into larger, more difficult decisions?
Let’s dig into the story of Esther and look at this familiar story in
a little different way!

  1. Background

    1. Read Esther 1:1-5. What is the extent of Xerxes’ kingdom?
      (“Cush” is the northern part of Egypt, so he ruled from
      India to Egypt!)

      1. Is Xerxes just a party animal? Or, do you think this
        party has other goals? (It is a great party, but I’ll
        bet Xerxes threw it in part to strengthen his
        rulership by consulting face-to-face with leaders he
        did not see very often. He reaffirms that he is the

    2. Read Esther 1:6-8. How sober is this group? (You could
      drink as much as you wanted – it was free!)

  2. Vashti

    1. Read Esther 1:9. What does this say about the role of
      women in the Kingdom of Xerxes?

    2. Read Ester 1:10-12. What is the state of the King’s
      sobriety? (He is in “high spirits.” My guess is that all
      of the men had drunk a lot of wine.)

      1. What is the Queen supposed to wear? (Her royal crown.
        Recall that Xerxes has been showing off his assets,
        now he wants to show his wife’s crown and his wife.)

      2. What else is she wearing? (Adam Clarke’s commentary
        reports the Targum adds that aside from her crown she
        was to be naked. Other commentaries do not agree. The
        text says that the King wanted to “display her
        beauty.” Queen Vashti realizes that disobedience is a
        serious matter, but she disobeys. Most of the
        commentaries suggest she did not want to be paraded
        before a bunch of men. Notice that at this point the
        crowd includes common men. Drunk commoners might be
        the problem. Whatever the true situation, it seems
        that Vashti thought she would be humiliated in some

    3. Read Esther 1:13-15. What is the real problem for Xerxes?
      (He is holding the party in large part to display his
      power and authority. Now, his wife does not obey him!)

    4. Read Esther 1:19-22. What does this say about men? Anyone,
      even the men, think that “all the women will [now] respect
      their husbands?” (My guess is that if Xerxes wanted Vashti
      to appear wearing only her crown, she is now the hero of
      all of the women, and respect for men has gone down, not

  3. Esther

    1. Read Esther 2:2-7. How is Mordecai like Daniel and his
      friends? (They are captives from Jerusalem.)

      1. What kind of life has Esther led so far? (Both of her
        parents died. She is the daughter of exiles. Doesn’t
        sound like a great life.)

    2. Read Esther 2:8-10. Notice that she, like Daniel, was
      assigned “special food.” Are Esther and Mordecai not up
      to Daniel’s high standards?

      1. Why has Mordecai forbidden her to reveal that she is

      2. If Esther, like Daniel, took a stand against the food
        would it reveal that she was Jewish?

      3. Is it good that she is taking advice from Mordecai?

    3. Read Esther 2:12 and Esther 2:15-17. Is Esther sinning by
      sleeping with the King? (Esther did not create the system.
      When she slept with the King she became his wife (or at
      least his concubine). If things went as they did for most
      of the others, she would never see the King again and this
      orphan would face a life living in the King’s harem.)

      1. Instead of being a concubine, what happens to Esther?
        (She is crowned Queen!)

    4. Read Esther 2:20. Why does the story keep mentioning this?
      Is Esther living a lie?(Xerxes did not marry her based on
      her family background. It seems the issue did not come up,
      and he has no interest in it. Esther respects the advice
      of the man who adopted her as his daughter.)

  4. The Plots

    1. Read Esther 2:21-23. Esther gives credit to Mordecai.
      Would it have helped her to take credit?

    2. Read Esther 3:1-2. Why would Mordecai refuse? (Read Esther
      3:3-4. Mordecai’s answer is that he is Jewish – thus he
      had religious reasons for not kneeling down to Haman.)

      1. Read Exodus 20:4-5. Is this the applicable rule?

      2. Recall three weeks ago when we studied Naaman? Read 2
        Kings 5:18-19. Why is this okay for Naaman, but not
        okay for Mordecai?

      3. Read Romans 14:22-23. If you have time, read the
        entire chapter of Romans 14. When we have “disputable
        matters” ( Romans 14:1), the Bible tells us that our
        conscience is our guide.)

        1. Is this why we have Daniel objecting to his
          food, but not Esther?

        2. Is bowing down to Haman a “disputable matter?”
          (Haman is not a god. We have Naaman bowing down
          to someone who is clearly a god, therefore in
          Mordecai’s case it seems a disputable matter.)

    3. Read Esther 3:5-6. What kind of man is Haman?

    4. Read Esther 3:8-11. Haman’s pride comes at a cost – 10,000
      talents of silver. Why would the king tell him to keep his
      money? (Xerxes trusts Haman. He thinks he is doing the
      right thing.)

      1. If Esther had not kept silent about being Jewish,
        would this crisis have arisen?

        1. If she had stood firm on food, would she have
          avoided this larger conflict?

    5. Read Esther 3:12-14. Will Haman have trouble getting
      people to kill the Jews on the appointed day? (You get to
      keep their stuff! This is officially approved anarchy!
      Murders and thieves day! Now we know why Haman could keep
      his silver.)

    6. Read Esther 4:1-3. Who is responsible for the coming
      destruction of the Jewish people?

      1. We discussed Mordecai’s instruction to Esther to hide
        that she was Jewish. If his decision to refuse to bow
        to Haman is “disputable,” has Mordecai killed his
        people for no good reason?

  5. Salvation

    1. Read Esther 4:5-11. What worries Esther?

    2. Read Esther 4:12-14. What arguments is Mordecai making,
      and what do you think about them? (His first argument is
      that she is going to die anyway. His second argument is
      that this crisis is the reason why God made her the Queen.
      I like the second argument a lot better.)

      1. Since Mordecai told Esther to keep her race a secret,
        is the first argument a valid threat?

    3. Read Esther 4:15-16. We now come to a time when Esther is
      giving instructions to Mordecai, not the other way around.
      What is her answer to this crisis? (Prayer and fasting.)

    4. Read Esther 5:1-8. Tell me what you think is going through
      Xerxes’ mind? His new Queen is risking her life to ask him
      to dinner, and then she doesn’t tell him what she wants.

    5. Read Esther 5:9-14. Should we always follow our wife’s

    6. In Esther 6:1-5 Xerxes is reminded that Mordecai saved his
      life and was never rewarded. Let’s continue by reading
      Esther 6:6-12. That morning did not turn out as expected!
      Have you had days like that?

    7. Read Esther 6:12-14. Zeresh and the advisors know that
      Mordecai is Jewish. How do you explain this fear? (The
      Holy Spirit is speaking to them.)

    8. Read Esther 7:3-9, Esther 8:3-4 and Esther 8:7-8 and
      Esther 8:11. Is this how the world is supposed to work?
      How did we come to this point? (Esther showed courage, she
      prayed, and God gave her a great plan.)

    9. Read Esther 8:16-17. Is this a missionary endeavor?

      1. What do you think about the motive for conversion?

    10. Friend, it seems likely to me that if Esther acted like
      Daniel, the bigger crisis would have been averted. Here is
      the good news: Esther made the right decision when the
      lives of thousands were at stake. God honored that and
      protected His people. Will do determine today to follow
      God’s will, even if you might not have been obeying God in
      the past?

  6. Next week: Jesus: The Master of Missions.