Grades 3-6 Sunday School Lesson
Bible Heroines: Esther Part 4
Esther is the Champion
Author’s Notes: This week we’ll finish the study of our Bible heroine, Queen Esther. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen her being chosen, then challenged. And today, we’re going to see Esther continuing to be very courageous. God has given us the example of Esther so that when we are faced with challenges, we too can lean on the strength of the Lord; and recognize that He has placed us in just the right place to make a difference, for Him.
Do you know what happens in your country if the rulers or the people want to change a law? In most countries, there is a well thought out process to do that, because sometimes a law made at one time doesn’t really work well years later. And sometimes people will look at a law and wonder why it was ever passed in the first place.
In the USA, we still have some pretty funny laws in our law books. For instance, in New York, “Citizens may not greet each other by ‘putting one’s thumb to the nose and wiggling the fingers.’” And in West Virginia, “whistling underwater is prohibited.” In Baldwin Park, California, “nobody is allowed to ride a bicycle in a swimming pool.” And in Minnesota, “a person may not cross state lines with a duck atop his head.”*
Now, if someone had the time, the money, and the desire, all of these laws could be changed or removed from the books. But in Esther’s time, in the Media-Persian Empire, that was not the case. When the Bible refers to a law of the Medes and Persians, it always includes a phrase like this: “it may not be altered” (Esther 1:19) or “which altereth not.” (Daniel 6:8) Once the king made a decree and signed it, it could not be changed or undone…even by the king who made it.
And this was true of the decree King Ahasuerus had signed saying that the Jews of his empire were to be killed, destroyed, and caused to perish on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month (the month of Adar). It was a law that the king couldn’t take back or change, even if he wanted to.
And that left the Jews in quite a predicament! But if you remember our lesson from last week, and our verse from the past few lessons, you will recall that God had a plan in action. He had already arranged to have just the right person at just the right place “for such a time as this.”
Let’s review that verse together, one more time. Then find out how God used Esther to save her people from Haman’s wicked scheme.
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 is the Champion (Esther 6-10)
Let’s review our story, one last time, for those who might be just joining us, today.
Throughout history, there have been several occasions where Satan has tried to destroy God’s plans for mankind by threatening His people on a massive scale. God had promised that a Messiah would come, and that it would be through the Jewish people. In Moses’ time, the Egyptian Pharaoh tried to kill off all of the male babies, so the Jewish race would die out. Many centuries later, when Jesus was born, King Herod ordered the deaths of all the babies who had been born in Bethlehem over a two year period. But in both of these cases, God provided miraculous protection from the evil schemes.
And we find the same thing happening at the time Esther was Queen of Persia. A wicked man named Haman hated the Jews. And when one in particular, Esther’s Uncle Mordecai, would not bow to him as the king had instructed, Haman became so angry and hateful that he went to the king, asking permission to exterminate all Jews living in the Media-Persian Empire.
One of those Jews living in Persia, unbeknownst to anyone else, was Queen Esther. She had been chosen by King Ahasuerus to replace Queen Vashti. And no one realized or was concerned with Esther’s family background. They simply brought her into the palace because she was beautiful. And the Lord had moved the king’s heart to show her favor, so she would be chosen queen.
God had done this so He would have the perfect person in place when the decree went out from King Ahasuerus that all of the Jews were to be killed. At Haman’s request, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month had been set aside for the slaughter. And the decree had been signed by King Ahasuerus…it was unchangeable.
And that had left Queen Esther in a pretty precarious situation. She could remain silent, and perhaps no one would figure out that she, too, was a Jew. And she might escape the slaughter that was to occur just outside the palace walls. But if she chose to remain silent, all of the rest of her people would be exterminated, or wiped out. And that would include Esther’s uncle, Mordecai.
So Mordecai had encouraged Esther to go ahead and reveal her identity as a Jew to the king. And in doing so, plead for the lives of her people. But going before the king uninvited could lead to death. Nevertheless, we saw in our last lesson that God gave Esther the courage to risk her own life, to go in to see the king.
Again we saw God move in King Ahusuerus’ heart, so he was glad to see Esther. In fact, he made her a very generous offer. Does anyone remember what that was? He offered to give her up to half of his kingdom. But that was not what Esther wanted. She wanted something far more difficult to deliver…the lives of all the Jewish people.
Did Esther share that request with the king right away? No. Instead, she invited the king to a banquet; and had him bring Haman along. The king must have thought surely that Esther would tell him, at the banquet, what was so important that she was willing to risk her life to come to him for.
But Esther did not tell him at the banquet, either. Instead, she invited the king and Haman to another banquet, to be held the next day. Then, she said, she would reveal her request to the king.
Do you remember how Haman had reacted to his invitations to these banquets? He was very proud to have been chosen for such an honor. But when he left the first banquet to go home, Mordecai had been at the gate, refusing to stand and show him respect. So his merry heart had quickly turned to stone cold anger. He went home and, with the support of his wife and friends, began having a gallows built so he could have Mordecai hanged.
He was in such a rush to have Mordecai disposed of that he went to the palace before morning, so he could ask the king first thing when he got up if he could take Mordecai’s life. But when he arrived at the palace, he quickly found that the king had not been sleeping. Instead, he’d been reviewing the record of a man who had saved his life, but never been rewarded for doing so. And the king asked for Haman’s help in choosing a fitting reward.
But the king did not reveal the name of the man to be honored. And who did Haman assume it would be? He thought there must be no one else in the kingdom that the king would love to honor more than Haman, himself. So his suggestion for a reward was all of the things he wanted for himself: to be paraded through the streets on the king’s horse, wearing the king’s robe and crown, with a herald calling out for all to show him honor.
King Ahasuerus had thought this a splendid idea. So he turned to Haman, and told him to do all that he had suggested… but not for himself! Just listen to who the honoree was to be:
10 Then the king said to Haman, Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, that sitteth at the king's gate: let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken.
Wouldn’t you love to have seen the look on Haman’s face right at that moment? It must have been a mix of shock, horror, and embarrassment. Mordecai the Jew was the man who had saved the king’s life? And who was now going to be honored, just as Haman had recommended? And to make matters even worse for Haman, the king had one more little surprise: Haman was to be the one to lead the parade through the streets, calling out for everyone to honor his most hated enemy. What a day for Haman!
11 Then took Haman the apparel and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and brought him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaimed before him, Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour.
12 And Mordecai came again to the king's gate. But Haman hasted to his house mourning, and having his head covered.
Not only was Haman angry and embarrassed at having to parade another man through the streets; but now how was Haman ever going to get the king to agree to having Mordecai hanged. As he went home to share the bad news with his wife and friends, they were no comfort to him. In fact, those same people who had come up with the idea of hanging Mordecai now had a revelation come over them that perhaps Haman’s plot was doomed because of Mordecai being a Jew. Perhaps they had heard of how the Israelite’s God had brought them through the Red Sea, and how He had broken down the walls of Jericho. And now, Haman had challenged this same God by threatening to destroy his people.
But Haman didn’t even have time to think about what his wife and friends were saying, because at that very moment, he was being summoned to the palace for Esther’s second banquet.
14And while they were yet talking with him, came the king's chamberlains, and hasted to bring Haman unto the banquet that Esther had prepared.
1 So the king and Haman came to banquet with Esther the queen.
2 And the king said again unto Esther on the second day at the banquet of wine, What is thy petition, queen Esther? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? and it shall be performed, even to the half of the kingdom.
This is the third time the king has asked Esther what she wanted. By now, he’s probably very anxious to find out what Esther had been holding back. And Esther was finally willing and ready to tell him. And remember…Haman is there with them, too.
3 Then Esther the queen answered and said, If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request:
4 For we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish. But if we had been sold for bondmen and bondwomen, I had held my tongue, although the enemy could not countervail the king's damage.
And there it was. Esther’s request was to have her life and the lives of all of her people spared. But she hadn’t exactly made herself clear. King Ahasuerus was still confused.
5 Then the king Ahasuerus answered and said unto Esther the queen, Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so?
Did the king realize that Esther was talking about the decree he had signed to have the Jews destroyed? No! It doesn’t seem to have crossed his mind, at all. So Esther was glad to explain. And just imagine her finger pointing, as she responded to the king’s question.
6 And Esther said, The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman. Then Haman was afraid before the king and the queen.
7 And the king arising from the banquet of wine in his wrath went into the palace garden…
What a revelation was just thrown at the king! He was completely unprepared for what he heard. His trusted friend and advisor, Haman, had convinced him to sign a death sentence for his own queen, and all of her people. He didn’t know what to do, so he left the room, perhaps so he could think more clearly; perhaps so he wouldn’t kill Haman right there, on the spot! And as the king stepped out, Haman knew it might be his only opportunity to plead for his life before the queen… the Jewish queen.
But in his haste to throw himself upon her mercy, Haman forgot about what he was doing. He forgot that he was in the presence of the queen, where there were strict rules about what one should and should NOT do.
and Haman stood up to make request for his life to Esther the queen; for he saw that there was evil determined against him by the king.
8 Then the king returned out of the palace garden into the place of the banquet of wine; and Haman was fallen upon the bed whereon Esther was. Then said the king, Will he force the queen also before me in the house? As the word went out of king's mouth, they covered Haman's face.
9 And Harbonah, one of the chamberlains, said before the king, Behold also, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, Hang him thereon.
10 So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king's wrath pacified.
In just a matter of moments, the whole game changed for Haman, for Esther, and for all of the Jews. King Ahasuerus got a glimpse of Haman’s wickedness. And it was all he needed to be convinced that Haman was the real enemy… not the Jews. What did the king order to be done to Haman? He was to be hanged on the very gallows he had built to hang Mordecai on. And only when the sentence had been carried out did the king’s anger subside. And once his anger was soothed, King Ahasuerus gave Haman’s house to Esther, who in turn gave it to Mordecai. Then the king gave Mordecai the ring he had given to Haman. And Mordecai was promoted to the position of being second in the kingdom, behind only the king. There was a great celebration among the Jews in Shushan that day.
But even though that enemy of the Jews had been eliminated, there remained an enormous problem. Do you know what that was? The law the king had signed could not be changed. The thirteenth day of the twelfth month was still on its way. And the Jews were still scheduled to be killed on that day. What could be done?
King Ahasuerus had an idea. He called in his scribes, and told them to write a new law that said whatever Queen Esther and Mordecai told them. They could not change the old law. But they could certainly write a new one. So here’s what the new law had to say:
8 Write ye also for the Jews, as it liketh you, in the king's name, and seal it with the king's ring: for the writing which is written in the king's name, and sealed with the king's ring, may no man reverse.
9 Then were the king's scribes called at that time in the third month, that is, the month Sivan, on the three and twentieth day thereof; and it was written according to all that Mordecai commanded unto the Jews, and to the lieutenants, and the deputies and rulers of the provinces which are from India unto Ethiopia, an hundred twenty and seven provinces, unto every province according to the writing thereof, and unto every people after their language, and to the Jews according to their writing, and according to their language.
10 And he wrote in the king Ahasuerus' name, and sealed it with the king's ring, and sent letters by posts on horseback, and riders on mules, camels, and young dromedaries:
11 Wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey,
12 Upon one day in all the provinces of king Ahasuerus, namely, upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar.
13 The copy of the writing for a commandment to be given in every province was published unto all people, and that the Jews should be ready against that day to avenge themselves on their enemies.
14 So the posts that rode upon mules and camels went out, being hastened and pressed on by the king's commandment. And the decree was given at Shushan the palace.
What was the proposed solution? The new law gave the Jews the opportunity to defend themselves. And that’s just what they did. When the month of Adar arrived, then the thirteenth day, the Jews joined together to defend themselves. And they were so successful that they completely destroyed all those who fought against them.
Then God moved on King Ahasuerus’ heart, to once again ask Esther if there was anything else she wanted. And she asked for an additional day for the Jews to take care of their enemies. And for a second day, the Lord helped the Jews be victorious over their enemies. The hand of God was so obvious that even some of the Persian officials helped the Jews as they fought to defend themselves. Esther 9:3 says “And all the rulers of the provinces, and the lieutenants, and the deputies, and officers of the king, helped the Jews; because the fear of Mordecai fell upon them.”
The day that Haman had plotted for evil, the Lord turned into good for His people. Not only were the Jews saved, they were also able to eliminate many of those who hated them, and sought to have them killed. So the Jews were able to live in peace in Persia for many, many years to come.
The book of Esther ends with these words: “For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed.” (Esther 10:3) Just a few years before the events of Esther took place, the prophet Jeremiah wrote these words: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
No matter how things might look at the time, God always has a plan for our good. He is working all things together in a way that will bring about the end that He has planned. And that end will be peace…a peace that goes beyond all of our understanding. (Philippians 4:7) It’s not a peace that believes everything will be easy, or feel good all the time. It’s a peace in knowing that God is completely in control, and doing things for our good.
How does God do all of that? By making sure He has an “Esther” in every situation: someone who will be at the right place, at the right time, and do the right thing “for such a time as this.” You can be sure that God will do the same in your life. He will make sure the right person is there to bring about His will. And sometimes, that someone will be you! Will you be a conqueror like Esther, able to step up to the challenge with a courage only the Lord can provide? He will help you to, if you’re willing to trust Him.
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 trust You to stand up for us; and give us the wisdom and strength we need to face our challenges, too. For we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.
Activity: (Review Questions)
Fill in the Blanks
True or False
1. Haman’s wife and friends realized that Haman’s plan was doomed. (true)
2. Haman was honored to escort Mordecai through the streets of Shushan. (false – He was angry and embarrassed)
3. Esther revealed to the king that her people were in great danger. (true)
4. The king forgave Haman for his wickedness. (false – he had him hanged on his own gallows)
5. God gave the Jews complete victory over their enemies. (true)