Esther – The Book of Esther
While many Jews returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and to begin restoring their homes and cities, some Jews remained in Babylon. Esther and her uncle Mordecai were among these. They are the key players in this book of Esther (which doesn’t mention the name of God once) but which demonstrates so clearly that God will achieve His plans and purposes, working in a variety of ways to protect and care for His people and to bring glory to Himself.
This story clearly emphasizes that each of us has a unique and important role to play in God’s plan. If all the Jews had returned to Jerusalem, who would have remained in Susa to influence the king and to thwart the evil edict, which decreed the annihilation of the Jews in every province? Just because God leads some people to do something or go somewhere doesn’t mean that we all must follow suit. Obviously, there are some commands that apply to all of us, but for things that aren’t explicitly stated in Scripture, each of us must listen to the Holy Spirit and obey what He says to us individually. God’s plans for each of us are unique.
The story affirms that everything about us down to our physical appearance is part of God’s good plan for us. Esther was knit together by God to be “lovely in form and feature” so that one day she could become King Xerxes’ queen and would be in the right place at the right time. Because of her position, she helped to save Xerxes’ life (2:19-22) as well as the lives of her people (chap. 5-9).
Even the sleeplessness of King Xerxes and the choice of reading material by a servant were used by God (chap. 6). At just the right time, the king was reminded of the faithfulness and humility of Mordecai so that Mordecai’s personal qualities stood in stark contrast to Haman’s self-serving pride. Thus, when Haman was sentenced to death, Mordecai was in a perfect position to take his place.
The book of Esther reminds us that no detail of our lives is an accident. We serve a God who knows more about us than we know ourselves (Psalm 139). Acts 17:26-27 reminds us, “From one man, [God] made all the people of the world. Now they live all over the earth. He decided exactly when they should live. And he decided exactly where they should live. God did this so that people would seek him. And perhaps they would reach out for him and find him” (NIrV).
Esther reminds us that we have each been created “for such a time as this” (4:14). All things in our lives can work together for good when we love God and are called according to His purpose (Rom.8:28). Even our pain can point us to our purpose. What in your life is painful? How have you seen God use it for good? God calls us to be courageous. Courage is not the absence of fear but doing the right thing even when we feel afraid. What scares you right now? What is God asking you to do? What might God be preparing you to do? Rest assured, God is working. When you give your life to Him and are seeking to obey Him, He will use you to bring His plan to fruition.
Activity – Making Puppets – Have kids draw pictures of Esther, Haman, Mordecai and King Xerxes; then, glue each person onto a craft stick. Guide them to use their puppets to retell the story. To coach kids in re-telling the story, help them review the main points of the story. (Simplify the list below for younger kids).
- • King Xerxes got rid of his first queen, Vashti, when she refused to come to his party full of drunk guests and held a sort of “beauty contest” to choose his new queen.
- • Esther was taken to the palace and entered a one-year training program, complete with beauty treatments and lessons in make-up.
- • Esther listened to the advice she was given and found favor with everyone, including the king, so she was crowned queen, but didn’t tell anyone that she was a Jew
- • Esther’s uncle Mordecai sent her frequent messages, including one about a planned assassination attempt on King Xerxes; Esther reported the plan, and the men were caught and hanged.
- • Haman, an evil man, was elevated above all the other nobles, but Mordecai wouldn’t kneel down to him. This made Haman furious, and since Mordecai was a Jew, Haman asked King Xerxes to issue a decree to destroy all Jews.
- • King Xerxes issued a decree that in 11 months, everyone in the kingdom was commanded to kill all Jews in the kingdom – young and old, male and female – in a single day. Everyone was allowed to take anything that belonged to these Jews.
- • Mordecai sent a message to Esther to go to the king and beg for mercy for her people.
- • At first, Esther said she couldn’t because the king hadn’t asked for her to come to him in over 30 days. If she approached him unasked, he could order her to be killed.
- • Mordecai responded, “Don’t think that you can escape from this edict. Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?
- • Esther asked all Jews in Susa to pray and fast for her for 3 days; then, she went to the king and invited him and Haman to come to a banquet, which she had prepared.
- • When they came to the banquet, Esther asked them to come to another banquet the next day.
- • When Haman went home that night, he was so full of himself that he built a gallows 75 feet high, planning to ask the king to hang Mordecai on it.
- • That night, the king couldn’t sleep, so he asked a servant to read to him chronicles of his reign. The servant happened to read the story of Mordecai exposing the would-be assassins, whereupon the king discovered that Mordecai had never been honored for saving the king’s life.
- • Just then, Haman arrived, so the king asked, “What should I do to honor someone in whom I delight? Haman thought the king was thinking of him, so he recommended having a parade to honor the man, letting the man ride the king’s horse and wear the king’s robe. The king told him to do all this for Mordecai, so Haman had to carry out the honoring of Mordecai!
- • When the king and Haman went to Esther’s second banquet, she revealed that Haman had planned to annihilate her and her people. The king commanded Haman to be hung on the gallows he had built for Mordecai, and he elevated Mordecai to take over Haman’s job.
- • Esther begged the king to reverse the evil edict, but he explained that he couldn’t.
- • Mordecai, however, wrote a new edict on behalf of the king, allowing all Jews to gather together and defend themselves against any attackers, so they did – for two days.
- • Queen Esther and Mordecai wrote another edict – that every year Jews everywhere should celebrate Purim, two days when they remember these days of fighting and victory. And Jews still celebrate this holiday today.
After kids have a chance to practice re-telling the story, discuss:
- • Why do you think Esther was willing to die to save her people? Help the kids see that Esther understood that she had been made queen for this reason. She understood that God was working through her life and spent days fasting and praying about the issue. God gave her courage to stand up for her people.
- • Esther spoke up for her people in front of King Xerxes. Did you know that the Bible tells us that people who believe in Jesus also have someone who speaks up for them EVERY DAY??? Explain that when we trust in Jesus, He constantly speaks to God the Father on our behalf. He defends us when Satan accuses us. When we are joined to Jesus, He gives us His perfect righteousness and obedience. (Heb. 7:25)
- • How can you speak up for a friend in need? Guide kids to think about situations where they may see people being mistreated, such as bullying at school. Remind them that God has commanded us to treat everyone with love and to protect those in need. Brainstorm things they could say to help others.
- • What does this story teach you about God? A few ideas …1 - He uses many things to accomplish his plans: people, dreams, kings, godly people, beautiful girls, servants, etc.2 – God is powerful enough to defeat evil. 3 – God’s timing is perfect. 4 – Problems are opportunities for God to display His glory.
- • If you REALLY believed all these things about God, how would it change the way you live??