Grades 3-6 Sunday School Lesson
Bible Heroines: Esther Part 1
Esther is Chosen
Author’s Notes: Last week, we began a new series of lessons on heroines in the Bible. The Bible tells us of many great women who were full of faith, courage, and conviction. Last week we learned about Deborah, the judge; and today will be the beginning of a study on Esther, the Queen of Persia. Like Deborah, Esther was given an opportunity to lead her people. And we’re going to find that she met that challenge with humility and courage.
Have you ever wondered what it might be like to be a king or a queen? How do you think your life might be different?
Do you think there would be any bad things about being a king or queen?
Our Bible heroine in this week’s lesson found out, for herself, what it was like to suddenly become a queen. And while that meant she was given many fine and fancy things, there were also many things that she had to give up. But we’re going to see, over the next few lessons, that Esther accepted her new position, and the opportunities that came with it, with great humility and courage. The survival of her people was in jeopardy; and Esther was the one who, with God’s help, might be able to save them.
This week’s memory verse was a message from Esther’s uncle, encouraging her to step up to the opportunity God gave her. He wanted her to consider that perhaps God put her in that position so that she could be a hero, and save her people. Let’s learn the verse together; then open up the book of Esther to learn about how she became a queen, at just the right time in Jewish history.
Memory verse: (Have the children repeat this verse with you several times, until they are able to say it themselves. And encourage them to repeat it to others several times during the week, so that it’ll have a place in their hearts.)
“…and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Opening prayer: Lord, thank You for each student who’s here, today. And thank You for Your Word, The Bible, where we can learn new truths about You, and Your plans for us. Help each one of us here, today, to be attentive to what You would have us learn. Give us open ears and hearts, ready to listen to Your words. Amen.
This Week’s Lesson: Esther’s Opportunity (Esther 1 – 2:18)
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away there lived a king, named Ahasuerus, and his lovely queen, Vashti. They reigned over the kingdom of Media-Persia, which was the most powerful and influential kingdom in their part of the world! And while this might sound a lot like the start to a fairy tale, this story is absolutely true. We can find it in our Bible, in the book of Esther.
But wait… earlier we mentioned the name of the girl who became queen, and it wasn’t Vashti. Do you remember the name of our heroine in today’s lesson? It’s the same name as the book of the Bible that our story is in. Yes, it’s Esther. So what happened to Queen Vashti? And how did Esther happen to take her place? Let’s find out.
Our heroine, Esther, doesn’t come into the story until chapter 2 of the book. So we won’t take the time to read through the first chapter. But we will take a moment, now, to get to know King Ahasuerus, and find out what happened to his first queen.
About five hundred years before Jesus was born, there was a very powerful kingdom known as Media-Persian Empire. And its king, Ahasuerus, was probably one of the most wealthy men in the world. He is better known in many historical documents as Xerxes. Because our Bible passage calls him Ahasuerus, that’s what we’ll call him.
Ahasuerus was very proud of all his wealth and possessions. He was so proud, in fact, that he decided to have a huge party, where he could invite all of the princes and nobles of Persia to come see and enjoy, with him, all that he had.
But it wasn’t just “things” he wanted to parade before the dignitaries of Persia. Ahasuerus was also proud of his queen, and her beauty. So along with his other possessions, he wanted to show off Vashti, too. In the middle of his great feast (to which only men had been invited), after he had become drunk from all the wine, King Ahasuerus demanded that Queen Vashti come into the mens’ feast, to display her beauty.
Now, it wasn’t like Queen Vashti had nothing better to do than parade herself before a group of very drunk men. In fact, while the king was having his party for the men, Queen Vashti was hosting a feast for the women in another part of the royal house. So she might have felt like it would be rude to leave her guests. Or she just might not have liked the idea of what King Ahasuerus wanted her to do. But for whatever reason (and we’re not told why), Queen Vashti refused to obey the king’s command.
Would you like to guess how King Ahasuerus reacted to the news that his queen had refused to come? Esther 1:12 says, “But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king's commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him.” Queen Vashti had embarrassed King Ahasuerus by not coming when he called her. And she had done it in a very public way. Everyone knew she had refused the king’s command. So the king was very angry. He was so angry that it felt like his insides were burning up! But the Medes and Persians had very specific laws. So King Ahasuerus had to consult with his wise men, to see what the law said her punishment should be.
The wise men felt that what Vashti had done was very serious; not just because she had shown disrespect for the king. But as Queen of Persia, Vashti set the example for all the other women in the kingdom. So the men were concerned that other wives, throughout the kingdom, would follow her example if she were not properly punished.
So the king’s wise men recommended that he take the crown away from Vashti, and choose another queen to take her place. King Ahasuerus thought that was a great idea. He took the title of Queen away from Vashti.
But every king needs a queen. And at the beginning of Esther chapter 2, we find King Ahasuerus remembering what happened; and seeming a little depressed at the thought that there was an empty throne in the royal house. So King Ahasuerus’ servants stepped in with a suggestion: it was time to replace Vashti with a new queen. But how would the queen be chosen? This was their idea:
“And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace, to the house of the women, unto the custody of Hege the king's chamberlain, keeper of the women; and let their things for purification be given them:
And let the maiden which pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti. And the thing pleased the king; and he did so.” (Esther 2:3-4)
Here’s what the king did: he sent officers throughout his kingdom to search for the prettiest young ladies they could find. They were to bring those young women back to the palace. And over a period of time, they would be given whatever they needed to make themselves even more beautiful. When the appointed time came, those young women would appear before King Ahasuerus, and he would choose one to replace Vashti as Queen.
So the officers went out into the kingdom, and rounded up the most beautiful young ladies they could find. And included in that group was a young jewish maid named Hadassah. Now Media-Persia was not part of Israel. But there were many Jews living in Persia, at that time. Some time before Ahasuerus became King, the Jews had been taken from their Promised Land of Israel by the Babylonians. The Media-Persian Empire conquered the Babylonians. And when they did, many of the Jews from Babylon were taken to Persia. Some of them went back to live in Israel. But many stayed in Persia.
Hadassah’s family had stayed in Persia. But her parents had died; and she was living with her uncle named Mordecai who had raised her like she was his very own daughter. While we don’t know what his job was, Mordecai had some responsibility within the royal palace. So when Hadassah was taken in by the officers, Mordecai was close by. And he told Hadassah that she should not reveal to anyone that she was a Jew.
So Hadassah joined the rest of the young women who had been brought to the palace. And she was not known by her Jewish name. But she was called Esther, instead. Esther was not given a choice in whether or not she wanted to stay at the palace. She had been chosen, and could not refuse. So Esther spent the next twelve months preparing to meet the king.
Each of the young ladies was offered whatever she wanted to make herself more beautiful, and hopefully more attractive to the king. Only one would be chosen. The rest would remain as the king’s concubines; never given the chance to return home, and only to see the king again if he happened to call for them. So the competition would have been fierce!
But Esther was a young woman of great humility. She did not make great demands of the palace servants; but instead submitted herself to whatever the king’s servants recommended. And the head servant took notice. He gave Esther a special place to live within the palace, and her own servants to help her prepare for her meeting with the king.
Then Esther’s opportunity to stand before King Ahasuerus finally came. And here’s what happened:
So Esther was taken unto king Ahasuerus into his house royal in the tenth month, which is the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign.
And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.
Then the king made a great feast unto all his princes and his servants, even Esther's feast; and he made a release to the provinces, and gave gifts, according to the state of the king. (Esther 2:16-18)
What was King Ahasuerus’ reaction when he met Esther? He loved her. He saw something in her that touched his heart more than all of the other young women who were brought before him. And King Ahasuerus chose to crown Esther his new queen. Esther was given an opportunity that twelve months before, she had probably never imagined could happen. She went from being a simple Jewish maiden, living life as a normal citizen of Persia, to being the Queen of Persia. This could present great opportunities for Esther. As the Queen, she could now ask for just about anything she wanted.
And Esther would soon need to put that privilege to the test. God had certainly brought her to such an important position for a reason she would never expect. The fate of all her people would soon be in great jeopardy. And Esther might be the only one who could save them. In the next few weeks, we’re going to see Esther transformed from a humble Jewish maiden to a bold protector of her people, God’s people, the Jews.
If God could take young Hadassah, and transform her into Esther, the Queen of Persia, what do you think He could have planned for you? God probably will not ask you to serve your country as a king or queen. But He may put you in a position to do something great for Him.
Do you think God might ask you to do something great for Him, even this week? What might that be? Perhaps you will be asked to help someone in need. Or maybe you will have an opportunity to witness to a family member or a friend. These opportunities might seem like something that’s just too hard for you to do. But when God gives us new opportunities, He also gives us the ability to carry them out.
If God asks you to help someone in need, He will give you the strength you need to help them. If God gives you the opportunity to share your love for Him with someone else, He will also give you the courage you need to open your mouth, and the words you need to help them understand.
In fact, God loves to use those who might seem weak to do great things, because then He gets all the glory for the outcome. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” God brought a humble maid, Esther, to the palace at Shushan, but did not leave here there on her own. He would give her all she needed to accomplish His will for His people. And He will do the same for us. We can be sure that if God brings an opportunity for us to bring Him glory, that He will see us through!
Closing Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank You for the example of Esther, and her willingness to accept the opportunity that You put before her. Help us, even this week, to be ready to do the same; to jump right into the opportunities you send our way that we might bring glory to You. For we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Activity: (Review Questions)
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. King Ahasuerus had a big party to show off his wealth. (true)
2. King Ahasuerus thought it was funny that Vashti refused his command. (false – he was very angry)
3. The king’s wise men recommended that King Ahasuerus find a new queen. (true)
4. Esther demanded many expensive perfumes and beauty treatments from the palace servants. (false – she took only what they gave her)
5. Esther told the king’s servants that she was a Jew. (false – she told no one, as Mordecai had instructed her)