May 12, 2019 – Esther 1 – 2
Lesson Date: May 12, 2019
Focal Scripture Passage: Esther 1:1-22; 2:1-11, 16-18
AIM: To lead students to learn how God drastically changed the direction of Esther’s life, and to recognize and acknowledge God’s hand in directing the course of their own lives.
Before class: Read the notes on Esther 1 – 2 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book. Read the Historical Context of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther (pages 11-12) and study the Timeline of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther (page 13). Think of ways God has re-directed the course of your life so you will be prepared to tell the class.
INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Ask: “Has God ever re-directed your career or some other aspect of your life?”
Tell the class some of the dreams for the future you held as a child or teenager, and ways God worked to re-direct the course of your life. (Don’t tell this with an attitude of complaining about how things didn’t turn out the way you wanted, but rather that a sovereign, loving God took your life in a different and better direction from that of your plans.) Tell the students ways you saw God’s hand in changing the direction of your life. Express your gratitude to God for doing that.
Ask the students if they have seen God’s hand in events that changed the course of their lives. Stress God’s goodness in leading and directing our lives.
Tell the class in today’s lesson we will see how God used human events and circumstances to forever change the direction of a young Jewish lady.
HEART OF THE LESSON (Bible Study):
- Introduction to Esther.
- Read Esther 1:1-2.
- Briefly introduce the book of Esther using the following outline.
- Show the class the Timeline of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.
- The events recorded in the book of Esther took place from 483 BC to 473 BC.
- This was 55-65 years after Zerubbabel led the first group of Jews back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1 – 6) and just 15-25 years before Ezra led the second group back to beautify the temple (Ezra 7 – 10).
- While the books of Ezra and Nehemiah are primarily set in Jerusalem, Esther is set in the royal palace in Shushan, the capital of the Persian Empire (locate Shushan on the map).
- King Ahasuerus was known in secular history as Xerxes. He reigned over the Persian Empire from 486 to 465 BC.
- The King’s Feast.
- Read Esther 1:3-4.
- Explain the following:
- In the third year of his reign, Ahasuerus held a great feast for all of the princes and governors from his 127 provinces.
- The feast lasted 6 months, during which Ahasuerus showed off the greatness of his kingdom.
- Ahasuerus was planning a huge military campaign against Greece. The purpose of the feast was to impress his provincial governors so they would willingly contribute troops and money to the cause.
- Read Esther 1:5.
- After that official feast ended, Ahasuerus held another seven-day feast for everyone in Shushan.
- Ask a volunteer to read Esther 1:6-8.
- Ask: “How would you describe this feast?” (it was lavish and extravagant).
- Tell the students it was basically a big drinking party.
- Read Esther 1:9.
- Explain that during the king’s feast Queen Vashti held a separate feast for the women.
- Read Esther 1:10-12.
- Ask: “What was the king’s condition on the seventh day?” (he was drunk).
- Ask: “What did he command Queen Vashti to do?” (come display her beauty to the men at his drunken party).
- Ask: “What did Vashti do?” (she refused to go).
- Ask: “How did the drunken king react?” (he got very angry).
- Summarize: King Ahasuerus summoned Queen Vashti to show off her beauty to the drunken men at his big party, but she refused to go.
- The Queen was Deposed.
- Read Esther 1:13-22.
- Tell the class that after consulting with his advisors, the king made an official proclamation deposing Vashti from being queen.
- He then set off on his great military campaign, in which he was soundly defeated.
- Read Esther 2:1.
- Tell the students that Ahasuerus returned home, sad and lonely because he had no queen.
- Summarize: King Ahasuerus removed Vashti from being queen.
- The Search for a New Queen.
- Ask a volunteer to read Esther 2:2-4.
- Ask: “What did the king’s servants suggest?” (that fair young virgins be brought to the king, from whom he could select a new queen).
- Read Esther 2:5-7.
- Explain that Mordecai’s ancestors had been brought from Jerusalem to Babylon as captives more than 100 years earlier (locate Jerusalem and Babylon on the map).
- Mordecai now lived in Shushan (locate Shushan on the map), where he was raising his beautiful young cousin Esther (whose Jewish name was Hadassah).
- Read Esther 2:8-11.
- Explain the following:
- Esther was among the many young women taken to the palace.
- In obedience to Mordecai’s command she did not reveal that she was a Jew (verse 10).
- Mordecai checked on Esther’s welfare every day (verse 11).
- Tell the class that all the women went through a yearlong beautification process (verse 12).
- Explain the following from verses 13-14:
- Every evening a different woman was brought to the king.
- The next morning she was taken to the “second house” under the care of the keeper of the king’s concubines.
- She would remain in the king’s harem of concubines for life.
- Summarize: A kingdom-wide search was made for a new queen. Esther was taken, along with many other young women.
- Esther Became Queen.
- Read Esther 2:16-18.
- Explain that Esther’s turn to go to the king came in Dec. 479 or Jan. 478 BC.
- Ask: “What happened?” (King Ahasuerus loved Esther more than all the other women and chose her to be his new queen).
- Tell the class Esther still did not reveal that she was a Jew (verse 20).
- Mordecai was elevated to a new position at the king’s gate (verse 19)
- Explain that verses 21-23 reveal that Mordecai learned of a plot to kill the king, which he reported to Esther. The perpetrators were executed and the king was saved. Mordecai’s deed was recorded in the official records.
- Summarize: In an amazing turn of events, Esther the Jew became Queen of Persia.
PERSONAL APPLICATION: Tell the class that God drastically and suddenly changed the course of Esther’s life. In a very short time she went from being a Jewish captive in a foreign land to being queen of the vast Persian Empire. What an amazing transformation!
Ask: “Can you recognize God’s hand in guiding the course of your life? If so how?” Allow a few moments for testimonies. Ask: “Has God’s direction been good for you, or bad?” (while individual events and circumstances may be unpleasant, God is always working things together for our good, as promised in Rom. 8:28).
Tell the students that recognizing God’s hand in our lives should cause us to do two things: (1) thank God for guiding the course of our lives, and (2) trust Him when trials or reversals come our way. Unexpected circumstances may arise in any of our lives this week, but we should thank the Lord that He is still directing our lives. Ask everyone to bow their head and close their eyes and silently express their gratitude to God. Voice a closing prayer.
CONCLUSION: Give everyone a card on which you have written the text of Proverbs 3:5-6. Ask them to memorize those verses. Tell them when unexpected circumstances arise this week to thank God that He is directing their lives.
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