Monday, March 5, 2012

Esther Bible Study - Chapter One

Note: I apologize that I had the dates wrong on the schedule. The Bible study starts today, and the dates on the schedule have been updated. Sorry for the inconvenience.

The events in the story of Esther reveal the plot of one man who desired to have God’s people destroyed, and the courage of a woman who stepped out in faith to turn that plan around.

Esther gives us something to celebrate as it chronicles the deliverance of God’s chosen people, the Jews. It is also a great lesson on Biblical submission for both women and the church in general.

It is in the book of Esther that the feast of Purim—a feast that the Jews still celebrate today—is established. In fact it is being celebrated this very week, March 7-8, 2012.

The Book of Esther or the Megillah is the basis for the Jewish celebration of Purim. Its full text is read aloud twice during the celebration, in the evening and again the following morning. (Wikipedia, The Book of Esther)

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves as we’ll talk more about that in chapter nine.

Chapter 1

Main characters in the first chapter and the Hebrew meaning of their names:

Ahasuerus – Mighty or venerable (respected) king.

Vashti – Beautiful

Esther 1:1-4

In chapter one, we’re introduced to King Ahasuerus. We are told in verse 1 that he reigned over 127 provinces, and in verse 2 we see that his kingdom was in Shushan, which is also known as “Susa.” See map.

The king made a feast greater than any other that we have read about in scripture--except of course the marriage supper of the lamb, which is yet to come! The reason for the feast is unknown for sure, but what we do know is that it lasted 180 days, followed by a 7-day feast.

Esther 1:5-9

What we learn about in these verses is that the seven day feast was extremely lavish. As you’re reading these scriptures, what do you learn about these four things?

1. The location of the feast:

2. The decorations:

3. The drink:

4. The furnishings:

As we continue to read, we start to notice that King Ahasuerus was a foreshadow of a greater King and his party of yet a greater feast—Jesus and the marriage supper of the lamb.

Note: He’s not a flawless example of Christ by any means, as neither were David or Solomon. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” but the lives of many flawed men have been used throughout scripture to illustrate Jesus as our Lord and King.

Notice the intimacy of the location at this seven-day feast? It was in the court of the garden of the King’s palace. In Revelation we are invited to come and sup with Jesus, our King, in the most honored and intimate place—His throne room:

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. ~ Revelation 3:20-21, KJV

Esther 1:10-15

Compare verses 10-12 with that of the parable found in Matthew 22:1-7. What similarities do you find?

Esther 1:16-19

It’s interesting to note here that while Queen Vashti was an ancient example of women’s liberation with her refusal to submit to her husband, we are dealing with a much deeper issue which is that of God’s people refusing to submit to Jesus Christ as their King.

I know that some readers may disagree with me, saying that the King was drunk (the heart of the king was merry with wine) and therefore Vashti had good reason to refuse him.

And yet some others may say, “This was the seventh day of the feast, and I’m sure that she was tired from wearing open toed shoes all week…”

Okay, seriously—what? This is the King we are talking about. Not a drunken back-yard mechanic that’s calling you into the garage to show you off to the guys. It was an honor even for the queen to be called into the King’s presence. And besides that, the scripture doesn’t give us any valid reason she didn’t. So making excuses for her would be speculation at best.

The way I see it, this is a matter of submission and “righteousness.” Now before I lose you, let me explain…

Righteousness is conformity to God’s laws. But you see, since we are all human beings and therefore fallible, not one of us can be righteous by our own work. Therefore, righteousness is imputed (freely given) to us by God through faith in Jesus Christ.

The Jews refused to accept Jesus as their King, and continued to live by the works of law in much the same way as Vashti refused to submit to the King. Both beauty and sacrifice are merely skin deep, unless they stem from obedience to God through Jesus Christ.

It’s a lack of faith on our part when we can’t trust God’s wisdom over our own. And so people distort the truth of God’s word delivered by the hand of His messengers. We see this happening every minute of every day as people assume that good deeds and being a good person somehow makes them righteous. It doesn’t make us righteous any more than her beauty did. The truth is that we are all born in sin, and we all fall into sin, therefore we are in need of a savior.

To say that she didn’t go because her husband was drunk wouldn’t make all that much sense since she was beckoned to come by his messengers.

Compare verse 19 to Matthew 22:11-13. 

In this parable, what do you think the wedding garment represented and how might that compare to the attitude of Queen Vashti?

How does it compare to the attitude of many “god” believing people today?

If you have trouble answering those questions, consider this verse:

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.
~ Isaiah 61:10, KJV

Esther 1:20-22

I love this one little verse tucked into scripture—in fact my heart started beating crazy hard when I read it!--because it’s packed with direction for today’s church:
And when the king's decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small. ~ Esther 1:20, KJV
See another similarity to The New Testament church there? In verse 20 all women were commanded to honor their husbands. Why? Because this sent an important message to everyone: that the Queen must submit to the King.

If Jesus is the King, then who is His Queen?

Compare Ephesians 5:22-28. What are the roles of both husbands and wives?

When you and I submit to our husbands, we are not only submitting to the commandments found in scripture, we are sending a message out to the kingdom far and wide: that the Queen must submit to the King of all kings! 

Chapter one is an illustration of God beckoning his people to come to the marriage supper of the Lamb through faith in Jesus.

When you are saved through faith in Jesus Christ, your righteousness is imputed (freely given) to you. And so yes we will stumble and fall and sin because we are human. It is because we love Jesus that we obey His commandments. Not perfectly, but that is our goal.

That's the end of chapter one, ladies! If you want extra homework, here are two things you can do:

Underline some of the scriptures that stood out to you and add cross references for future study.

Read this chapter again with some of the lessons in mind.

Check out Romans 11:7-12

Tomorrow is Titus 2sdays, and Wednesday we're on to chapter two!

Find the other chapters here:

Esther Chapter 6

If you are studying along with us this week, you are welcome to leave a link to your site in the Linky tool below. But rather than linking up with a graphic from your blog like we usually do, it would be nice if you could post your profile photo so we can all see each other. If you don't have one--not a problem, another graphic will do. The Linky tool is just a way for all of us to get to know each other, it's not necessary to write a corresponding post.

I'm also posting the button code to the Bible study in hopes that you can add it to your post or sidebar.

And don't forget, tomorrow is Titus 2sdays, so if you're a blogger, come back and link up with your post on marriage, parenting, housekeeping or recipes.

You are loved by an almighty God,


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