Esther and Mordecai

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(Esther 2-8)
Lesson Number: 

Lesson 12

Esther and Mordecai

(Esther 2-8)

Copr. 2023, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. If you normally receive this lesson by e-mail, but it is lost one week, you can find it by clicking on this link: Pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit as you study.

Introduction: Do you have to be careful about what you say regarding your religious beliefs? A few years ago, when the lessons involved a comparison of Islam and Christianity, one of my translators told me that she must be cautious about what she wrote about Islam. Apparently, what I wrote in the lesson was questionable! Having lived in the United States all my life, and being a lawyer defending the free speech of other Americans, I reject the idea of compromising my right to share the gospel. Not everyone reading this lesson has this same freedom. Even in America the right to religious free speech is currently under attack. Elite universities no longer protect free speech, and parts of the federal government have been actively working to suppress speech. We need to learn what the Bible teaches us about sharing our faith in a hostile culture. Let’s start now!

  1. Mordecai
    1. Read Esther 2:5-6. What does this teach us about Mordecai? (He is Jewish. He (or his ancestors) were part of the group that was taken to Babylon when Nebuchadnezzar captured Jerusalem.)
      1. Read Daniel 1:6-7. Think back to what you know about the story of Daniel and his experience as a new captive. Were the Babylonians trying to preserve Jewish culture and religious beliefs? (No. They changed their captives’ names as part of an effort to have them adopt Babylonian culture and beliefs.)
    2. Read Esther 2:7. What else does this tell us about Mordecai? (He believes in family. He has compassion for Esther who is an orphan. He takes her into his home and treats her as his daughter.)
    3. Let’s skip down to Esther 2:19. Was Mordecai just loitering? Or does this tell us something important about him? (This is one of three texts telling us that Mordecai sat at the King’s gate. This strongly suggests that he is a judicial official in the government.)
  2. Esther
    1. Read Esther 2:7-8. What do we learn about Esther? (She is a fabulous looking woman. So beautiful that the king’s agents collect her because of her beauty.)
    2. Read Esther 2:9, Esther 2:12-13, and Esther 2:15. Not only is Esther a beauty, what else do we find out about her? (She has a winning personality. She has emotional intelligence.)
    3. Unless you know the back story, you might wonder what is happening to Esther. Does the government routinely capture beautiful women and then make them even more beautiful? Read Esther 1:10-12 and Esther 1:17 and Esther 1:19-20. Why is there an opening for the job of Queen in Persia? (Queen Vashti has been disobedient to the King. The concern among the men is that this might spur a rebellion among all of the wives. Vashti is removed from her position, and Esther is part of the search for a new queen.)
    4. Read Esther 2:10. Would it be a problem for the King to pick a Jewish queen? (Apparently, Mordecai thought so.)
      1. What do you think about the honesty of what Mordecai and Esther are doing? (Nothing in the text says that Esther lied about her ancestry in response to questions. Instead, she did not volunteer the information. This is advice I routinely give clients when they are being questioned under oath. They do not need to volunteer information.)
  3. Haman
    1. Read Esther 3:1-2 and Esther 3:5. Why do you think Mordecai refused to show respect to Haman? (Read Esther 3:3-4. When Mordecai is asked that question he answered that “he was a Jew.”)
      1. What do you think that means? (Certainly Mordecai would believe it was wrong to worship a human. See Exodus 20:3-5. The Bible Knowledge Commentary argues that the issue is not worship, but rather showing respect to Haman. It is unlike the story in Daniel 3 where actual worship of the image was involved.)
      2. Some argue that as a Jew, Mordecai would resist showing honor to someone descended from Agag, King of the Amalekites. The Bible Knowledge Commentary points out that Agag lived 600 years earlier, thus the link to Agag is unlikely. Rather, archeologists found a province in the Persian Empire called Agag, and it is more likely Haman came from that province. What do you think about these two different points of view?
      3. Notice that Mordecai told Esther not to reveal that she was Jewish (Esther 2:10), but Mordecai tells those who ask why he is violating the law that he is Jewish (Esther 3:4). Why the different responses?
    2. Read Esther 3:5-6 and Esther 3:8-11. The decision of Mordecai results in an order to kill all the Jews. Is this a result of a clash between the pride of Haman and the pride of Mordecai? Or is this the result of Mordecai following the Ten Commandments? (This is an important question which everyone of us must consider. Are we in trouble with pagans because of our pride, or because of obedience to God?)
      1. Look again at Esther 3:8. Does this suggest this is a matter of pride, or a matter of religious belief? (Haman reports that the Jews follow their own laws. I think the better understanding is that Mordecai took his stand for religious reasons.)
  4. Rescue
    1. Read Esther 4:1. What has Mordecai done? (His actions will cause his people to be destroyed.)
      1. Mordecai and Esther could have returned to Israel. Have they made a mistake staying in a pagan nation?
      2. Do you think God would say regarding the decision not to return, “You made your choice, now you have to live with it?”
    2. Read Esther 4:8 and Esther 4:10-12. What is the problem with Esther obeying the command of Mordecai? (She could die.)
    3. Read Esther 4:13. Do you agree with Mordecai? Remember that he told Esther not to tell the king that she was Jewish.
      1. If you were Esther, would you seriously consider that you might escape the death decree? (I think it likely she would escape. Haman would not attack the Queen. But, she would surely lose Mordecai.)
    4. Read Esther 4:14-16. On what do Mordecai and Esther agree? (That God will help the Jews.)
      1. Notice that Esther 4:16 only calls for fasting and not prayer. Read Daniel 9:3 for a point of comparison. Do you believe that they prayed and the text merely omits this? (There is a concern that Mordecai and Esther were not religious. Why did Mordecai refer to deliverance “from another place” and not refer to God delivering His people?)
    5. In Esther 5 we discover that Esther takes her life in her hands and appears unbidden before the King. He grants her an audience (rather than having her killed) and she invites the King and Haman to dinner. Read Esther 5:12-14. What is Haman’s plan for dinner with the King and Esther? (He will attend and enjoy the idea that Mordecai be hung.)
    6. The royal dinner is served! Read Esther 7:3-10. Has Haman been outwitted? Has God turned the tables? How do you explain this outcome? (On the issue of whether Esther and Mordecai are religious, the outcome is so amazing that this must be the hand of God. We can see God’s hand from the very beginning of the story.)
      1. What does this teach us about being faithful in a pagan country?
    7. Read Esther 8:1-3. Revenge is complete against Haman and his house, but what terrible threat remains? (The death degree for the Jews.)
    8. Read Esther 8:11. What do you think about this answer? Is this what is going on right now in Gaza?
    9. Read Esther 8:15-17. Is this a great triumph for God? Are there many converts to Judaism because of fear? (We don’t like to think that we should use fear to convert others, but consider how this elevates the Great God of Heaven over all other gods of the land? I think fearing the power of the true God is what is meant here.)
    10. Friend, what an adventure for Esther and Mordecai! Will you trust God in terrible circumstances? Will you be willing to sacrifice yourself for the benefit of others?
  1. Next week: The End of God’s Mission.