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Esther Lesson 5: An Unexpected Banquet

Esther Lesson 5: An Unexpected Banquet

Lesson 4 in Review

News of the crisis facing the Jews had spread throughout the Persian Empire. Mordecai and others put on sackcloth, mourning loudly and openly. One of the palace servants saw this and went to tell Queen Esther. Esther was deeply grieved and knew Mordecai couldn’t enter the palace in such a condition. She sent clothing to him so he would put it on and she could see him, but he refused. She then sent a trusted eunuch to find out what had so disturbed Mordecai. The servant returned with the news of what had been decreed against them, a copy of the order, and Mordecai’s message that she should go to the king to intercede and plead for the lives of their people. Esther was shocked at this request. She sent back the message that no-one could go in to the king without being called. They faced death if they did; the king didn’t forgive their trespassing, and she hadn’t even been called to him for over a month. Mordecai knew how to bring his young cousin around, though. He told her that if she didn’t intervene, God would bring relief and deliverance somehow, but she and her family’s line would be destroyed. He reminded her that being in the palace wouldn’t save her, but perhaps God had brought her to this place of influence “for such a time as this.” Esther requested that Mordecai gather all the Jews he could, to fast and pray for her for three days, and she and her maidservants would as well. Then she would “go to the king, which is against the law; and if I perish, I perish!” (Esther 4:16, NKJV).

This week we will learn of Esther’s fate as she sought to gain help for her people, and she does so in an unexpected way. The drama is building; the suspense and tension are rising, as the Book of Esther comes to its climax over these next three chapters. Interestingly, while some time had passed between the early chapters of Esther, chapters 5-7 actually are the account of less than two days’ time.

DAY ONE: A Bold Step of Faith

Please carefully read Esther 5:1-2 and answer the following questions.

1. Toward the end of the third day of the fast, Esther took action. What did she do according to verse 1?

2. When Esther “put on her royal robes,” the phrase literally meant “put on her royalty.”[i] We too will have a meeting with our King one day. Amos 4:12 warned Israel to “Prepare to meet your God!” in a negative sense, in fear and trepidation. No doubt Esther had fears, but she allowed faith in God to be her best preparation to meet this human king. What are some ways we can prepare to meet our heavenly King, helping us to be ready on that day?

John 15:4-8; 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18

Romans 10:17; Colossians 3:16-17; 2 Timothy 2:15

Hebrews 10:22-25

3. Esther now stood in full view of Ahasuerus. What was his reaction to seeing her standing there, and how did Esther respond (v. 2) 

4. The Septuagint for some reason again added to the story here. It states that when Esther entered the court, Ahasuerus’ face grew angry, at which Esther fainted. Ahasuerus then rushed to her, embraced her, and assured her she wouldn’t be put to death, attributing the change of his heart to God’s intervention.[ii] While this romanticizes the story a little more, it is not true. The thing that caught the eye of the king in sparing Esther was her bold faith to do such a thing, and he knew that this lovely woman wouldn’t do anything so risky unless she had good reason. Thus he extended forgiveness to her, and she also received that forgiveness by faith, just as we did when we accepted God’s forgiveness by receiving His gracious gift. 

Head knowledge of something, even believing that it might be true or that God’s promises are good, means nothing unless we take a step of faith to act upon them. What are some of the things that we learn about faith and action from the following passages, and how do they tie in with the experience of Esther also?

Hebrews 11:1-2, Heb. 6; Heb. 12:1-2

James 1:22; James 2:18-26

Scripture Memory: This week we will be memorizing Hebrews 11:6. Review the passage several times throughout the day each day this week, and by the end of the week, you should have it memorized completely.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. - Hebrews 11:6 NKJV

DAY TWO: An Unexpected Invitation

Please carefully read Esther 5:3-5 and answer the following questions.

1. Esther found favor with Ahasuerus (was lifted up in his sight with grace[1][iii]) because of this bold step. What did he ask this brave woman (v. 3)?

2. What was her unexpected request in view of the seriousness of what she had done (v. 4)?

NOTE: An important “hidden” picture of God in Esther can be found in verse 4. The initial letters of each word of the phrase “Let the king...come today” spell out YHWH, Yahweh, the divine name of God! [1][iv] Indeed, let Yahweh come today!

3. We don’t know the thoughts of Ahasuerus at this strange request, whether he was shocked, laughed to himself, or if he thought, ‘A banquet! Bring it on! Yeah, I can get into those!’ We do know though that he felt there was something else going on behind this by what we’ll read tomorrow. What was his response to Esther’s request (v. 5)?

4. The witness of Esther to the king by her bold steps of faith to approach him like this must have truly touched him. Remember, she hadn’t told him her background but lived in a godly way before him. The world is looking for Christians to truly live out what we say we believe, and as we stand up by faith, it speaks to them. What are some ways we can be a living witness of Christ to those in our sphere of influence?

Matthew 5:13-16

1 Thessalonians 4:8-12; Colossians 4:5-6

1 Peter 3:1-2 (the principle also applies to husbands with non-believing wives)

Scripture Memory: Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

But without faith it is impossible to _______________________ Him, for he who comes to God must ___________________ that He is, and that He is a _______________________ of those who diligently seek Him. Hebrews 11:6, NKJV

DAY THREE: An Unexpected Banquet

Please carefully read Esther 5:6-8 and answer the following questions.

1. The main idea behind the word used for banquet was that it wasn’t just a special meal prepared for an honored guest, but implied drinking was involved, as we saw in the beginning of Esther.[1][v] No wonder Ahasuerus and Haman, old drinking buddies, high-tailed it over there! The wine would be served after the meal typically.[1][vi] What did Ahasuerus ask Esther at that time, no doubt in front of Haman (v. 6)?

2. Esther then made her petition and request. What was it (v. 7)?

3. Perhaps as Esther said that she would answer the king’s question the next day, she communicated through her eyes as couples do that there was something hidden of great importance, so of course Ahasuerus agreed to have them come the next day again. We don’t know Ahasuerus’ thoughts about this, but perhaps he pondered late into the night, which led to the events beginning our next chapter. How did Esther serve as a fulfillment of the principle behind what we read in 2 Corinthians 2:14-17?

4. Did you know that a banquet is being prepared for you? Not a booze party, but a great feast being prepared by our Lord Himself! One day you will hear a heavenly cry, “Come, for all things are now ready” (Luke 14:17, NKJV) as you are summoned to the marriage supper He has prepared for you as His bride. What are some things Isaiah 25:6-9 beautifully describes the events of that awesome feast?

Scripture Memory: Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

But without ________________ it is impossible to _______________________ Him, for he who comes to God must ___________________ that He is, and that He is a ________________________ of those who ___________________________ seek Him. Hebrews 11:6, NKJV

DAY FOUR: A Disgruntled Braggart

Please carefully read Esther 5:9-11 and answer the following questions.

1. Haman must have felt he was on top of the world to be so favored. How does verse 9 describe the attitude with which he left the banquet, and how did that mood suddenly and drastically change?

2. Haman saw the one he hated, Mordecai, sitting at the king’s gate (of course now having removed the sackcloth at the end of the fast). Even now Mordecai refused to stand before him or even to tremble in fear of ”such a great man as I am,” Haman no doubt thought. He boiled up in the heat of anger and rage,[1][vii] but was able to control himself. What did he do next (v. 10)?

NOTE: Haman’s wife, Zeresh, is one of the final minor characters introduced in the story, and she had the opposite impact that the servant Hathach did. Her name’s meaning is not certain, but probably means either star of adoration or gold.[1][viii]

3. At this get-together, the braggart begins to blow, scoring off as though he was making a tally[1][ix] of all the great things about himself. What were these (v. 11)?

NOTE: We know of Haman’s vast wealth and advancement above others from what we have already read. A Targum says that Haman had 208 sons in addition to the 10 who held government offices, and one was the king’s scribe; the Persians held the people with the greatest number of sons in high esteem.[1][x] According to Esther 9:14, we know that Haman had 10 sons “hanging around.” [Sorry for the bad pun!]

4. What a shallow, selfish, sickening man Haman was! His joy turned to rage to bragging all within a brief period of time. He could see nothing but himself, and even one person refusing to stand before him put him into a fury to the point of wanting to commit genocide! If only Haman knew that this would be the last time he would gather with his friends and that all these things he took pride in would shortly crumble away from him. How is this much like a story Jesus told in Luke 12:13-21?

What should Haman as well as the man in this story have been doing instead of these selfish pursuits (Luke 12:22-31)?

Scripture Memory: Try to fill in the missing words in the blanks below, by memory if at all possible, and then review the passage several times today.

But without ________________ it is impossible to _______________________ Him, for he who comes to God must ___________________ that He is, and that He is a ________________________ of those who ___________________________ seek Him. Hebrews 11:6, NKJV

DAY FIVE: A Sinister Plot

Please carefully read Esther 5:12-14 and answer the following questions.

1. What was Haman’s latest and biggest brag to his wife and friends (v. 12)? What does Proverbs 16:18 warn about such bragging?

2. Perhaps Haman became quiet for a minute, and his guests watched the self-satisfied facial expression of a braggart turn to the bitter one of the wretched man he really was. Why was this (v. 13)?

3. No matter what he had, Haman felt it was availing him nothing, meaningless, not even being worth comparing to[1][xi] the hatred he felt every time he saw Mordecai sitting there in a place of influence. What suggestion did Zeresh make so Haman could go on his merry way to the Queen’s banquet (v. 14)?

NOTE: Remember that a gallows isn’t like the thing we see someone hanging by the neck from as in Westerns. The word for gallows meant a tree, wood, timber, plank; it was a tree or pole on which a slain person was hanged.[1][xii] The criminal would be either impaled to death or hung on it after being killed to be displayed for all to see. Some have scoffed at the idea of a 50 cubit, 75 foot tall (about eight stories high) gallows being put up overnight, but this was possibly a smaller structure placed upon a hill or building to reach that height, and the victim would be impaled and hoisted to the top[1][xiii] for all to take warning from. The Phoenicians came up with impaling, the Persians adopted it and expanded it, but the Romans “perfected” this torture into the form of crucifixion.

4. Why was Haman so bothered by Mordecai?  Probably it was because Mordecai was a source of conviction of sin for him.  As we saw above, Esther was a “fragrance of Christ” to Ahasuerus, although history would seem to indicate he never turned to God.  How would Mordecai differently impact Haman (see 2 Corinthians 2:14-16)?

What did Jesus warn His followers about this (John 15:18-23)?

Scripture Memory: Can you write out this week’s passage by memory here below? Give it a try, and keep reviewing the passage several times throughout the day. Hebrews 11:6

DAY SIX: Living in Such a Time as This

1. What an example of boldness and stepping out by faith Esther is for us! Without faith, it is impossible to please God, but we must also take steps of action to show that we believe He is indeed a rewarder of those who do so. Yet Esther could have never done this by herself. Without the prayer support of others, these efforts would have failed. Also without the encouragement and exhortation of Mordecai, she wouldn’t have been moved to courage to take this step of faith. 

As you think about these things, what are some ways that you can be an encourager and supporter of another who is seeking to step out in faith, becoming a co-laborer with them in the things God has called them to do? How about you as well? Are you taking the steps by faith that you know God has been speaking to you about taking, or are you letting fear or human weakness hold you back? Record your thoughts here and discuss with your group how you can support one another in following and serving Christ. 

2. Warren Wiersbe pointed out that there were four forces that worked together to destroy Haman: The hand of God’s sovereign providence; Haman’s false confidence in himself; pride; and the evil malice that he kept building in his heart.[1][xiv] He sought to build his life on the foundation of worldliness and self, and his pride we read of in this chapter would prove a very weak foundation as the floodwaters swept it all out from under him, the very next day! 

Rather than allowing our lives to be built upon such things, we need to be building ourselves up in Christ and developing Christ’s attitude of humility, not pride. From some of the things we read this week, what are some ways that you can better build your life around the right things that will help you victoriously face the storms of life? How can you take more of a Christ-like attitude toward the circumstances that come your way? Record some thoughts here, and share them with your group.

3. Charles Swindoll, in his typical great fashion, describes four lessons from this chapter in dealing with the unexpected things we come across in life.[1][xv] As you read the four main points below, think through an experience you have had or are currently facing. How can you apply these truths to them, or better deal with such things in the future in view of them? Share your thoughts about this with your group as well.

(1) When you are preparing for an unprecedented event, take time to wait on God before getting involved (e.g., Isaiah 40:31).

(2) When you are dealing with an unpredictable person, look to and count on the Lord to open the doors and heart of that person, not trying to do it on your own.

(3) When you are working through an unpleasant situation, look to and trust the Lord for enduring patience through it.

(4) When standing against an unprincipled person, ask the Lord for invincible courage and strength to do so.

Scripture Memory:  Hopefully you now can write out this week’s passage completely by memory. Do so now, and keep on reviewing it so you will be ready to share it with others in your group time. Hebrews 11:6

Footnotes for Lesson 5

[i] Derek Prime, Unspoken Lesson about the Unseen God (Darlington, England: Evangelical Press, 2001), p. 90.
[ii] F.B. Huey Jr., Esther. In F.E. Gaebelein ed., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1988), p. 819.
[iii] Spiros Zodhiates ed., The Complete Word Study Old Testament (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 1994), pp. 2316, 2343.
[iv] John A. Martin, Esther. In J.F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck eds., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament (Wheaton: Victor Books/SP Publications, 1985), p. 339.
[v] Spiros Zodhiates ed., The Complete Word Study Old Testament, p. 2337.
[vi] Joyce G. Baldwin, Esther (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1984), p. 87.
[vii] Spiros Zodhiates ed., The Complete Word Study Old Testament, p. 2316.
[viii] Herbert L. Lockyer, All the Women of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958), p. 167.
[ix] Spiros Zodhiates ed., The Complete Word Study Old Testament, p. 2345.
[x] F.B. Huey Jr., Esther, p. 821.
[xi] Warren Baker and Eugene Carpenter eds., The Complete Word Study Dictionary Old Testament (Chattanooga: AMG Publishers, 2003), pp. 1109-1110.
[xii] Ibid., p. 858.
[xiii] John MacArthur ed., The MacArthur Study Bible (Nashville: Word Bibles, 1997), p. 689.
[xiv] See Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Committed (Colorado Springs: Chariot Victor Publishing, 1993), pp. 118-126.
[xv] From Charles R. Swindoll, Esther, A Woman of Strength and Dignity (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), pp. 107, 108.

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© 2005 by Harvest Christian Fellowship. All rights reserved. Written by Thomas Klock for Men’s Bible Fellowship, 2004-2005.

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