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The story of Esther in the Bible has always been one of my favorites. She was a beautiful yet humble young woman, raised by a cousin who saved a generation through her bravery. I love this story in the Bible because it beautifully illustrates how God can use anyone for His plans and how we, especially women, can fight our fears and bring glory to God.
The Old Testament book of Esther is unique in that it is one of the only two books in the Bible named for women (the other, of course, is Ruth). (Read below for some more fun and interesting facts on the Book of Esther).
The author is unknown, but some biblical scholars conclude that Mordecai himself wrote the book of Esther.
The events in the book take place from 483 BC to 473 BC, during the first half of the reign of King Xerxes.
If you aren’t familiar with Esther, or it’s been a while since you’ve read or heard the story. I’ve shared my abridged version below.
The Story of Esther in the Bible
The story of Esther opens with a lavish banquet in the king’s palace. King Ahasuerus (also known as King Xerxeshad) had become drunk on royal wine and commanded that his wife, Queen Vashti come at once, to show everyone how beautiful she was. Queen Vashti refused to obey her husband and didn’t come when he beckoned. The king was so enraged at her disrespect and disobedience that he decided to divorce her, as well as issue a royal decree to the Persian empire that “every man be master in his own household.” (Esther 1:22)
The king then arranged for all the beautiful virgins in in the citadel of Susa to come forth – a type of beauty pageant – so that he could name a new queen of Persia and Media.
At the king’s command, Esther, a beautiful young woman in the kingdom who had been raised by her cousin Mordecai, taking her in as his own daughter when her parents died, was among those who were summoned to the palace. Before she left, Mordecai told Esther not to tell anyone her nationality as it could be very dangerous for her. There were many who despised the Jews. There was a man named Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who was put in charge of the women, preparing them to meet the king. Hegai was struck by Esther’s beauty, and she was given special attention.
When Esther was called before the king to “be paraded,” he immediately was drawn to her for her beauty and placed the royal crown on her head. King Xerxes/Ahasuerus then held a grand banquet for his new queen, Esther.
One night, while Mordecai was sitting by the king’s gate, he overheard two guards conspiring to assassinate King Xerxes. Mordecai immediately told Queen Esther of the plan, and Esther told the king. She, of course, gave the credit to Mordecai for his protection of the king, and the two guards were hanged.
The King had a “right-hand man”, Haman, who was full of pride and haught. Mordecai refused to bow down to Haman, which bothered him to the point of rage. When Haman found out that Mordecai was a Jew, he decided to kill not just Mordecai but all of the Jewish nation. To carry out his evil plan, Haman convinced King Xerxes that the Jews opposed the king and advised that they all be killed to protect the king. The King, relying on his most trusted adviser, agreed, and set a date for Haman’s plot to commence and therefore kill all the Jews.
When Mordecai learned of Haman’s plot and the cooperation of the king, he told Esther about it. He implored her to approach the king to stop it. Of course, Esther was afraid for her own life, too. No one was to approach the king’s royal throne without being first called before him. Esther tried to avoid taking any action, but Mordecai again pleaded with Queen Esther to do something to save the Jewish community.
Finally, Esther instructed all the Jews to join her in fasting for three days and three nights. At the end of those three days, she would then approach the king with her request.
As promised, Esther went to King Xerxes after the period of fasting. The king asked her what her request was and told her she could have up to half the kingdom if she pleased. Queen Esther requested that the king and Haman join her at a banquet the next day. The king said yes, of course, and asked Esther to tell him about her request at the banquet.
Meanwhile, Haman was still so infuriated with Mordecai that the morning before the banquet, he went to set up the pole to impale Mordecai.
Did you ever have one of those nights where you tossed and turned and couldn’t sleep? Well, the king could not sleep that night and began to read the book which listed all that occurred during his reign. The king reread and was reminded of how Mordecai saved his life by exposing the plot to assassinate him. He decided that Mordecai deserved a reward for this good deed, so he called Haman to seek his advice.
He asked Haman what should be done for a man whom the king “delights in.” Haman, being the self-centered, boastful man that he was, thought the king was referring to him. He responded by saying that the man should be rewarded with land, gifts, and honor.
When the king revealed that the one whom he was delighted by was Mordecai, Haman was furious!
The next day, during the banquet Queen Esther had arranged for the King and Haman, the king again asked Esther what her request was.
Using all the bravery she could muster, Esther boldly requested that she and her people be spared. She further shared that Haman had been the one plotting to kill all Jews. The king was angry with Haman and had him hanged on the pole Haman had set up for Mordecai. Talk about poetic justice!
For an ironic twist, Queen Esther and Mordecai were given Haman’s estate and were honored with royal garments. The king also wrote a special decree to protect all Jews.
Whew! What an action-packed story, right? Intrigue, suspense, gratitude, bravery – all in one beautiful story in the Bible.
If you want to watch a fantastic movie about the story of Esther in the Bible, this is One Night with The King, a story about Esther. It is a full-length feature film, so grab the popcorn because you won’t want to miss any of it!
There’s much we can learn from Esther and her story. Although I’m sure there’s even more, here’s my take on what we can learn from Esther in the Bible.
What we can learn from Esther in the Bible
God uses ordinary people to do extraordinary things
Remember that Esther lived in a time when Israel was in captivity, consequently to their disobedience to God. She was just an adopted daughter of a cousin living in a foreign land. Other than her beauty, she was not unique in any way. In fact, she was of Jewish heritage, which was a minority race that was frowned upon and, at times, scorned or worse.
God used Esther to carry out His plan on a typical day in the Kingdom of Xerxes. A plan that He ordained before she was even born.
God can use you, too, for His plans. You just need to submit to His will and go when and where He calls you. (If you are struggling with finding God’s calling for your life, see this post).
Beauty should not make us boastful
From all biblical accounts, Esther was a very beautiful young woman. And, given a whole year of pampering and months of beauty treatments, her beauty could only have been enhanced.
The king was enthralled with her physical beauty, but it was Esther’s character, her quiet and humble spirit, that shone through, especially to Hegai, the king’s eunuch charged with preparing the virgins for their time with the king.
When the king summoned one of the young maidens, each was permitted to bring in with her anything she felt would help her to be more attractive. Esther, however, took only what she was advised to under the care of Hegai, and the king was very pleased. So pleased that he chose her to be his queen.
She could have requested anything. She could have been demanding, but she was humble and let her inner beauty and her faith in God shine through.
You may have been born with physical good looks, but if your attitude or personality is sour, no amount of beauty will cover that up. Remember that God has blessed you with your looks, but it is up to you to treat people with respect, be humble and gracious, and remember Who created you.
With God’s help, we can step out in faith and fight our fears.
Esther was a woman of Jewish background (a lowly esteemed group) who was the wife of a powerful king. No one, not even the queen, was to be in the presence of the king without being asked. And remember that King Xerxes had an evil member of his cabinet, Haman, who had already convinced the king to kill all the Jews. Can you imagine the fear she would be feeling?
Her first reaction was hesitation. She did not want to approach the king. Instead, she prayed, fasted for three days, and bravely approached the royal throne.
When you are faced with something scary, do as Esther did: Pray. Fast. And then bravely face your fears.
Our past doesn’t dictate our future.
As I’ve mentioned, Esther didn’t come from much, but God had a plan for her life. Esther, an orphan living in a strange country, probably didn’t dream of being the queen of the Persian empire. No matter where we come from, where we live, or our mistakes, we can put that all in the past and move confidently forward, knowing that God has plans for us for hope and a future. You, too, my friend. Your past does not dictate your future – only God can!
God places mentors in our lives to teach us wisdom.
Mordecai proved to be a wonderful mentor and parent to Esther. He gave her good advice before she went to the palace with the other virgins (don’t share that you are Jewish), and he continued to give her advice after she became the new queen.
Mordecai was also very loyal. Remember that he went to Esther when he uncovered the plot of the guards to murder the king.
When he learned of the plan to kill all the Jews, he asked Esther to go before the king. We now know that this timely advice from her trusted advisor saved a nation.
We all need God-loving mentors in our life will advise, correct, and at times, rebuke. God places these special people in our lives to raise up the next generation and help them to follow His ways.
If you are facing a struggle, seek the advice of a mentor who will help you discern and guide you with the Bible as your compass.
Look, too, for other women that you can mentor. Titus 2 calls “mature” women to teach the younger women. You can touch the lives of others by acting as a loving guide.
(For more on mentoring and the Titus 2 relationship, see this post)
Our strength does not come from us
When Esther was reminded that she may have been made queen “for such a time as this,” she drew on strength to save her fellow Jews, but that strength was not of her own. Her strength came from God. She fasted and prayed and drew on the supernatural strength from God to approach the king and save a nation.
When you feel weak, when life’s struggles seem overwhelming, you feel like you can’t do it. Give it to God and let Him do it for you. Let Him fight your battles.
I love this song that reminds us that He will fight our battles for us. He, alone, is our strength and stronghold.
God’s timing is perfect. Ours is flawed.
I struggle with this one myself. I’m so type A. A planner. A doer. I jump right in when I see that something needs to be done. That’s not always the best course of action, however. Sometimes, I need to wait on God and let His timing play out. It’s always perfect. Mine, however, is not so perfect. If I act immediately, sometimes I mess things up. I’m working on stopping. Praying and waiting for God to reveal His timing. I’m a work in progress.
When Esther learned of Haman’s plan to massacre the Jews, she didn’t instantly jump up and run to the king. Rather, she prayed, fasted, and waited for God to prompt her on when to approach the king and how to do it.
While Esther, Mordecai, and the other Jews fasted and prayed, God kept a certain king up at night and pointed him to read the book of the kingdom.
If Esther had immediately approached the king when she heard of the plan to kill the Jews, the king would not have had the opportunity to read the book and be reminded of Mordecai’s good deed of saving his life. This, in turn, opened the door for Mordecai to be honored and Esther to ask the king to save the lives of the Jews.
God’s timing is always perfect. The story of Esther in the Bible reminds us to pray and wait for God’s purpose to play out.
Loving others is the most beautiful thing we can do
Jesus reminded us when He paraphrased the Torah and said that love is the greatest commandment. Loving God and loving others. THAT is what it’s all about.
Esther knew this in her heart and said, “When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16).
She was willing to risk her own life to save the lives of many.
While there aren’t too many of us who would be faced with this type of situation, I pray that, if the situation called for it, I would call on God and be willing to risk my own life to save others.
Since many of us won’t ever, thankfully, be faced with this type of decision, we have many other opportunities each day to love others as God commands us to. You can get some ideas and learn more in this post.
We can make an impact for generations.
When Esther stepped up and spoke to save the Jewish people, she couldn’t have known that she would be impacting the future generations of the Jewish people to come. Her selfless and brave acts have been celebrated since that time.
Could inviting that friend to church and leading her to Jesus be a catalyst in her whole family being redeemed? Could that prayer you pray for the inmate turn their life around and be the encouragement for them to study at seminary and become a renowned pastor who reaches millions?
You will never know how one small act of loving others can make an impact on many. What can you do today that can impact a generation?
A Bit About Purim from Esther in the Bible
Mordechai and Esther are at the heart of the origin of the feast of Purim, a holiday to commemorate these amazing events. Jews worldwide celebrate on the 14th of Adar (this usually falls sometime in March in the modern-day calendar). This holiday is the most joyous holiday on the Jewish calendar.
For more on Esther and the celebration of Purim, check out this fantastic post on Worth Beyond Rubies.
As a Christian, you may also wish to celebrate Jewish festivals. To learn more about them and why you should celebrate, see this post.
Key Bible Verses from the Book of Esther
There are several beautiful and encouraging Bible verses from the Old Testament Book of Esther. I’ve shared a downloadable/printable PDF for you containing some of these verses. Print them and use them in your war binder or Bible journaling, or consider verse mapping them. Just click on the image below for your printable. You’ll also receive a PDF of the lessons we learned from Esther in the Bible.
Fun Facts from the Book of Esther
- Queen Esther’s Hebrew name was Hadassah (“Esther” is Persian)
- Mordechai was the first person in history to be called a “Jew”.
- He wasn’t the first Jewish person; he’s thought to be the first person to be referred to as a Jew rather than an Israelite or Hebrew.
- Achashverosh searched for four years for a queen, during which he considered more than 1400 contestants, before choosing Esther.
- The Word Purim Means Lot –That’s a lot, as in drawing lots. In this case, it refers to the way Haman chose the date for slaughtering all the Jews in Persia.
- The earliest observances of Purim are believed to date back to the 5th century BC.
- Mordechai was a very old man during the story of Purim. (He was already a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest court of Torah law in Jerusalem, 79 years before the miracle of Purim!)
- The day before Purim is a day of fasting to commemorate Esther’s fasting.
- God’s name is not mentioned even once in the entire Book of Esther.
Esther Bible Study
While I have been praying about writing a Bible study on the Book of Esther that incorporates verse mapping and inductive Bible study, some great Bible studies on the Book of Esther are already available. You may wish to consider one of the following:
Esther – Bible Study Book: It’s Tough Being a Woman by Beth Moore
Esther: In-Depth Bible Study Journal by Darlene Schacht
Or try them on Audible Plus with a free trial!
For lessons from Martha in the Bible, see this post in our series of Women of the Bible.
Because He Lives,
ESV – “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.”