Esther – Reading Helps

Dates
722 – Northern kingdom deported by Assyria
605 – First Jewish captives taken to Babylon from Judah (includes Daniel)
586 – Jerusalem destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar
539 – Fall of Babylon to Persia
536 – First return of Jews to Israel under Zerubbabel (end of 70-year captivity per Daniel prophecy)
483 – Vashti deposed
481 – Xerxes’ campaign against Greece launched
479 (7th month) – Xerxes returns to Susa after defeats against Greece at Thermopylae & Salamis
479 (10th month) – Esther summoned and crowned
474 (1st month) – Decree issued by Haman that all Jews will be killed
474 (12th month) – Month that Jews were to be killed, but actually triumph

1:1
Ahasuerus = Xerxes
Provinces = smaller unit within Satrapy (approx 30 Satrapies)

1:2
Susa = 225 miles east of Babylon – winter capital of Persia

1:3
Third year of reign = 483
May have used this time to announce intention to attack Greece.

1:4
Display is most likely separate from the banquet – banquet doesn’t last 180 days.

1:5
Banquets mentioned in 3 and 5 are probably one and the same.
All the people present in Susa” probably means everyone in the Acropolis (King’s palace & seat of government) – most likely the people listed in verse 3.

1:8
Normally have to drink when the king drinks.

1:10
Harem consists of 360 concubines per Josephus.

1:11
Per Josephus, Persian custom dictates that wives are not to be seen by strangers.
To appear unveiled would humiliate Vashti.

1:12
Ironic that she humiliates the king in front of all his main men just like he was trying to do to her.

1:13
Appears that he breaks up the party and holds a caucus with the wise men.

1:16
A bunch of men get together to save face for the king and make sure the women of the kingdom
don’t rebel against their authority.  No one counsels that they should think about this for awhile.

1:21
No thought to the long-term ramifications.
The king issues a non-reversible law (king’s pronouncements cannot be reversed even by the king) in the midst of a party where he’s been drinking for seven days.

2:1
King becomes lonely and regrets what he did.
360 concubines aren’t enough – Vashti must be SOME woman.

2:2
King’s attendants probably want to make sure he doesn’t blame them for the state he’s in.
They want him to focus on the next queen.

2:3
Being brought to Susa is not optional for the virgins.
Hegai and Shaashgaz (vs. 14) not mentioned in 1:10 – perhaps those guys lost out when Vashti said “No.”

2:4
It’s good to be the king.

2:6
Jeconiah exiled in 597.

2:8
Josephus says 400 women are gathered to Susa and a different one sent to the king every day.

2:9
Hegai may rush Esther to the front of the line.

2:11
Per Josephus = Mordecai is man of means.

2:12
Preparations for the Queen contest probably take place while the King fights the Greeks so he can
start seeing women when he returns.  Possibly three months into the process when he picks Esther
– may have seen somewhere around 90-100 women.

2:14
Women who go into the king but not chosen are concubines for life and live the rest of their days in
the harem – means Xerxes adds 100 or so women to the 360 already there.

2:15
Her natural beauty is such that she probably doesn’t have to do much – other women probably
desperate to impress.

2:16
479 – 4 years without a queen.

2:18
Per Josephus this lasts one month during the 12th month of the year- Xerxes LOVES a good banquet.

2:19
Maybe this refers to the women who never went into the king who are assembled to go home?
Note that Mordecai has attained a position at the palace.

2:23
God doesn’t allow Mordecai to be rewarded just yet.

3:1
Agag = title of Amalekite king
Haman may be an Amalekite? – I Sam 15, Num 24:7

3:2
Mordecai may refuse to bow down to an Amalekite.
Ironic that Mordecai is from same tribe as Saul.

3:4
Reason may be that Persians ascribe divinity to Haman as king’s representative.

3:6
Not enough for Haman to simply get rid of Mordecai, his pride dictates a bigger event.

3:7
Esther has been queen for just over four years.
12th year of Ahasuerus = 474
They don’t cast lots for a year – they cast lots for each month and it falls on the 12th month.
God’s timing – only now (after four years) do we see why He made Esther queen.

3:9
Silver amounts to over 330 tons!
The money is to be used to fund the plan – obviously a military operation.

3:11
King tells Haman to use the money as he wishes to carry out the plan – he doesn’t mean that
Haman gets to keep the money for himself (4:7).

3:12
Jews given 11 months to prepare because of the providence of God.
On the 14th day of the first month the Jews celebrate Passover – that’s when they start hearing about Haman’s plan.

3:13
Haman obviously doesn’t care that by issuing his edict early he gives the Jews time to react – he
may relish the psychological torture.
Haman must assume he can get his money back from plundering the Jews.

4:1
Mordecai has to feel somewhat responsible.

4:4
She obviously knows something awful has happened; she just doesn’t know what.

4:5
How does she not know what is going on?

4:7
By telling her about the money he shows her how serious Haman is about carrying this out.

4:8
Esther’s attendants apparently know she’s a Jew.

4:11
She could request an audience with the king, but perhaps this has to go through Haman as the #2
guy.  She hasn’t seen the king in 30 days (He DOES have 460 other women to choose from) so she
has no idea what he thinks of her right now.  King has demonstrated he’s a little impulsive, so it
makes sense to be a little fearful of his reactions when there’s been no communication for so long.

4:14
Mordecai has complete faith in God and His covenants.  He essentially tells Esther she’ll be cursed and
die WHEN the Jews are delivered if she doesn’t help.
Who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” – this is how life is – we don’t usually know how God is working when we’re in the middle of a situation.

4:16
Fasting was often practiced only during the day.

5:2
The King’s heart is like channels of water in the hand of the Lord.  He turns it wherever He wishes. Prov 21:1

5:3
History tells us that Xerxes made this same offer to a mistress once.  She asked for a coat that his
wife had made for him.  The gift of the coat made the wife aware of the affair.  Later, on the wife’s
birthday, the king made the same offer to her.  She asked for the mother of the mistress whom she
then had brutally mutilated.  That woman’s husband, who happened to be the king’s brother,
started an insurrection.
The king knows she didn’t risk her life just to say ‘hello’.

5:4
Much discipline needed to prepare a banquet while fasting.
Esther knows the king likes his banquets.
Probably wants Haman at the banquet so that he can’t scheme his way out of the blame – she wants her petition to shock both men at the same time.

5:5
She obviously wasn’t just fasting and praying during the three days.
She perhaps wants to reestablish the relationship before making the request – they haven’t been together for 30 days.

5:8
God guiding Esther’s timing so Chapter 6 can happen.

5:9
Mordecai no longer in mourning – must know Esther was received by the king.
Even after all the trouble that it caused, Mordecai still won’t give in and bow down.
Though Haman knows he’s about to wipe out Mordecai and his entire race, it’s not enough.

5:11
Haman has EVERYTHING – he is 2nd most powerful man in the world – he has incredible wealth and
many sons – he even has ultimate vengeance on his enemies.  But it’s not enough – he’s just like us.

5:13
Wife and friends don’t mention anything about Mordecai being Jewish here – God doesn’t give
them the thought?

5:14
“In the morning” = God controlling all the timing.
Gallows 75’ high – goes along with Hamans’ ego – he wants everyone to see what happens to the man who crosses him.
Prov 16:9 – The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.

6:1
Not a coincidence that the king can’t sleep.
No one does anything way out of the ordinary, but God controls everything for His ends without the people in the story knowing that He’s orchestrating all events.  This is LIFE!

6:2
It was found written” – not a coincidence.

6:3
The fact that nothing has been done for Mordecai reflects poorly on the king – it makes him want to
specially honor Mordecai.

6:4
Haman’s timing not a coincidence – it is exactly when they reach the part of the chronicles detailing
Mordecai’s actions.

6:10
King obviously sees no inconsistency with honoring Mordecai right after decreeing that all his
people are to be killed – perhaps he forgot about the decree?
Perhaps Mordecai sees this as the first sign that God is starting to act – what an encouragement!

6:12
Mordecai’s status not permanently changed.

6:13
Wife and friends see God’s hand on Mordecai through story Haman tells them.
Why didn’t they think of this before?  5:13-14

6:14
The eunuchs obviously see the gallows when they come to get Haman.
Haman’s head has to be swimming right now.

7:3
Esther makes a festive atmosphere VERY sober.

7:4
She uses the exact wording of the decree (3:13).
She emphasizes the seriousness of her petition while flattering the king.

7:5
King obviously isn’t spending a lot of time thinking about the decree he signed just three months
earlier.
He essentially asks her “You’re the queen!  How can this be?  How can someone threaten MY queen??!!”

7:6
By identifying Haman she divulges she’s a Jew.  Not until this point do the king and Haman realize it
is the decree they made three months earlier that Esther is talking about.

7:7
Haman has to humiliate himself and beg for mercy from a Jew.

7:8
King may think that Haman knew all along that Esther was a Jew.  King likely feels humiliated before
Esther for having been duped.  Also may think that Haman is trying a power play by getting rid of
the queen.
Haman potentially killed here – could be that they kill him and then hang his body on the gallows – 9:12-14.

7:9
If not for the previous sleepless night, the King would not know who Mordecai is.

7:10
Ironic that Mordecai receives the reward that Haman had devised for himself (Ch 6) and Haman
receives the punishment he had devised for Mordecai.

8:1
Property of executed criminals reverts to the state.  This probably means that Haman’s wife and
sons are left with nothing.

8:2
Mordecai now has Haman’s wealth AND power – the triumph over Haman is complete in every way.

8:4
Not the same scene as in 5:2 – here the king encourages her to speak.

8:7
He reassures them that he’s on their side and ready to help.

8:8
Cannot revoke original decree – can only countermand it with new decree.

8:9
Nine months to go before the day of annihilation.

8:10
Sent out by the quickest means possible.

8:11
The new edict does not allow them to kill anyone they don’t like – it allows them to kill those who
try to carry out the first edict.
The Jews can fight against those that attack them without fear of retribution from the crown.  The new edict takes the royal protection away from Haman’s mercenaries.  The funding of the mercenaries remains since the original edict cannot be revoked.  The new edict and Mordecai’s new position make it clear whose side the king is on, however.

8:15
Very public evidence to the Jews that their guy is now the new #2 = very reassuring.

8:17
Contrast with 3:15.
Josephus says that many are circumcised.

9:3
The members of government know they now answer to Mordecai – their support probably is with
troops – a HUGE advantage for the Jews.

9:5
Note similar terminology in 3:11 – “as they pleased…

9:10
The sons of Haman evidently try to follow through on their father’s plans – especially now that they
no longer have dad’s wealth, it might be a desperate act to restore finances and dad’s honor.

9:10,15,16
The Jews are allowed to plunder but don’t – shows they practice self-defense only.

9:16
The death count would have been much higher under the original edict (many more Jews in Xerxes’
kingdom than people killed here) – also, the army recruited to attack the Jews would have been
much larger than 75,000 before the 2nd edict was issued.  The ones who die here are most likely the
ones who still wanted the money from the crown and were promised the Jews’ plunder.

9:29-32
They take steps to ensure that they will always remember what God has done for them.

Were the book of Esther to have been omitted from the canon we would have recognized the Almighty only under circumstances when His name may be uttered, within a reality where spirituality can legitimately be maintained.  Esther is thus indispensable as it demonstrates God’s existence even in places where His name may not be introduced, even in situations where one may not pray, study, or be engaged in anything sacred.  Esther shows us the reality of Divine Providence in the topsy-turvy world of Susa, where everything appears to happen by chance, through a random lottery with no spiritual dimension whatsoever.              – Rav Yoel Bin-Nun

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