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Esther study guide

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Preparation Prior to the study session, participants should read the entire book.
Orientation Esther is book #17 of 39 in the Old Testament. It is considered a book of History. For more information see the Bible Overview page.

Synopsis At the winter residence of Xerxes, king of Persia, Xerxes gets annoyed when Queen Vashti refuses to be put on vulgar display at a party (1:12). He "divorces" his wife, and replaces her with Esther (2:17), a graduate of a year-long beauty school (2:12) who does not reveal she is Jewish. She was raised by her cousin, Mordecai, a middle manager in the palace.

Mordecai gets in trouble by refusing to bow to a higher official, Haman (3:2). This annoys Haman (3:5) who then concocts a scheme to kill all the Jews in the nation (3:6). He gets Xerxes to sign a vague document ordering the removal of a certain people on a certain day (3:13). Esther finds out and appeals to the king (7:3), who is surprised to find that 1). the target is the Jewish people and 2). his wife is one of them! The king executes Haman, and replaces him with Mordecai. The Jews figure a way to foil the plot. Esther organizes the festival of Purim (9:29) in remembrance.

Major Characters Xerxes, king of Persia
Queen Vashti, his wife, whom he sends away
Esther, becomes the king's second wife and Queen
Mordecai, palace official, and cousin of Esther
Haman, a higher palace official, seeks to kill all the Jews
Major Events Queen Vashti refuses to be put on display at a banquet (1:12)
Esther replaces Vashti as Queen (2:17)
Mordecai thwarts an assassination plot (2:21)
Haman plots to destroy the Jews with a king's order (3:8)
Xerxes humiliates Haman (6:11)
Haman hanged on his own gallows (7:10)
The Jews figure out how to fight the coming massacre (8:11)
Festival of Purim is established (9:20)
Activities God is not mentioned at all in this book. But God's hand is seen in the amazing sequence of "coincidences" which comprise the book ... List these events. *

This book has been called the greatest short story in Jewish literature. What makes it so? **

Connections This book seems entirely secular. It was one of the last books approved into the Bible; the reason for inclusion is that God's hand is seen directing the sequence of "coincidences".

This book is translated from Hebrew. There is another translation, from the Greek, which has much additional content. This longer version is part of the Apocrypha, and titled "The Rest Of The Chapters of the Book of Esther".

For source citations see the home page. Revised April 9 2014

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* Esther, a Jew, finds herself put in position to help the Jews
Esther keeps her Jewishness a secret
Mordecai overhears an assassination plot, gets him in good with the king
King sets up Mordecai for honors but embarasses Haman
Haman builds a gallows but he winds up the victim
Xerxes discovers it was Mordecai who heard the assassination plot
King hints a solution to Esther (8:8)
Mordecai replaces Haman in the palace

**It has everything! Here is a list:

Open bar (1:7)
A Queen who gets put away
A harem (2:8)
A beautiful new queen with a big secret (2:10)
Beauty school (2:12)
Mordecai saves the king's life (2:22)
An evil villain, Haman (3)
The King has a drink while city is in confusion (3:15)
Famous line! "It could be that you were made queen for a time like this!" (4:14)
Embarassment and humiliation for the villain (6:11)
An irrevocable order sealed with the king's seal (3:12)
Eunichs! (6:14)
The Villian hanged on gallows he built (7:10)
A successful defense strategy (9: 10-12)
Happy Ending! Modecai replaces Haman in the palace. (10)