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Esther Lesson 3: No Compromise

  • Thomas Klock Harvest Ministries
  • 2008 4 Feb
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Lesson 2 in Review

After returning from defeat at the hands of the Greeks, Ahasuerus realized that he had cut off the one he would have wanted to comfort him, and probably sank into depression. Knowing Ahasuerus’ lustful nature, his servants suggested they bring him the best virgins of the land, and the one he “enjoyed” the most would replace Vashti as queen. He quickly accepted their suggestion, and the gathering of these young women began.  It so happened that Mordecai, one of the Jewish captives who had made his way into service for the king, had a beautiful young cousin named Esther (Hadassah). She was also taken, but those selecting her didn’t know her heritage. Through this turn of events, Mordecai and Esther were placed into position to fulfill the purposes God had for them. A preparation period was set for these women to beautify them, but Esther brought all the beauty she would need with her. Not only was she physically attractive, but her relationship with God shone forth beautifully, leading her to find favor in the sight of all. Once Ahasuerus saw this lovely woman, the search was over, and he made her queen the next day. Esther 2 closes in an unusual way with Mordecai overhearing a plot against Ahasuerus.  He reported this to Esther and she to the King. Upon investigation of this, the two plotters were put to death. This obscure incident will play an important role in a future study at a pivotal point in the story. 

This week we’ll read of the great courage of Mordecai to stand against wrong and not compromise his faith despite tremendous pressure to do so. The repercussions of this stand would be significant, and clear action was required to counter it. Let’s turn to the next phase of the story now and see what we can learn from it.

Day One: A Courageous Stand

Please carefully read Esther 3:1-3 and answer the following questions.

1. One would think that Mordecai would have been honored for his actions, but instead what took place (v. 1)?

Note: If Haman was indeed an Agagite, he would have descended from those who were enemies of Israel’s first King Saul, showing that he would have already been at enmity with the Jewish people (see 1 Samuel 15). However, the term Agagite can be translated “fiery one,” perhaps more of a nickname like we have seen elsewhere in the book of Esther, and not literally meaning he descended from Agag.[i]

2. What had Ahasuerus ordered about Haman?  How did Mordecai respond to this (v. 2)?

3. What was the reaction of Mordecai’s co-workers to his stand (v. 3)?

4. Mordecai refused to bow (humbly bend the knee to) let alone pay homage (to prostrate oneself before a superior)[ii] to this man. He knew there is a time to transgress, standing up for what is right without compromising his relationship with God. What are some examples of others who had made a similar decision while in that land (Daniel 1:8, Dan. 3:15-18, Dan. 6:6-10)? To whom alone should we bow (Philippians 2:9-11)?

5. We’ll see many parallels in our studies between Haman and the long line of others who have sought to destroy the Jews, ultimately inspired by our greatest adversary, Satan. Haman’s name meant “well disposed,” and we’ll see that he was very wealthy, but morally and in every other way that counts he was a small, evil man; Haman’s name is still an evil one to the Jews.[iii] In fact, the Septuagint translates Agagite as “bully!”[iv] He was the fiery one allowed to have sway over the people. How does Satan, the ultimate fiery one, now have a similar authority (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2, Eph. 6:12; 1 John 5:19)?

Scripture Memory: This week we will be memorizing Esther 3:2b, 4. 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 Mordecai would not bow or pay homage. Now it happened, when they spoke to him daily and he would not listen to them, that they told it to Haman, to see whether Mordecai's words would stand; for Mordecai had told them that he was a Jew.  - Esther 3:2b, 4 (NKJV)

DAY TWO: An Evil Reaction

Please carefully read Esther 3:4-6 and answer the following questions. 

1. How did Mordecai’s co-workers further press him to compromise, but how did he respond to them (v. 4)?

2. What was Haman’s reaction to this (v. 5)?

Note: The phrase filled with wrath implies something being filled up that was previously empty, here with poisonous indignation and rage.[v]  Perhaps this means there was no enmity between Haman and Mordecai before this incident.

3. Haman was so angered by this that it wasn’t enough for him to lay hands on Mordecai. What did he seek to do instead (v. 6)?

4. Haman submitted himself to the same spirit that had directed others who have sought to destroy the Jewish people over the centuries. Promotion and prominence went to his head, while we would think that if anyone had deserved this position, it would have been the humble Mordecai.  What does Ecclesiastes 9:11 remind us about things not always turning out as seems logical? 

5. Also, it has been pointed out that not only had Haman sold himself out to destroy the Jews, but he actually embodied the very things God hates![vi] What are the seven things especially hateful to God according to Proverbs 6:16-19?

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 Mordecai would not _____________ or pay homage.  Now it happened, when they spoke to him __________________ and he would not ___________________ to them, that they told it to Haman, to see whether Mordecai's words would ______________________; for Mordecai had told them that he was a Jew.  Esther 3:2b, 4 (NKJV)

Day Three: A Proposed Plot

Please carefully read Esther 3:7-9 and answer the following questions. 

1. How does verse 7 provide us with another historical link, verifying that these were actual events, not fiction?

Note: The NLT tells us that casting the lot (Pur) in April 484 BC would have meant the day for the Jews’ destruction would be March 7, 483 BC, about one year later. 

2. To do anything like this, though, Haman would have to have the king’s permission. How did he twist the story to try to convince the king to let this be done (v. 8)?

Note: Notice that Haman never even mentions who the people are whom he thought worthy for the king to destroy! The phrase their laws are different means that theirs were changed from the laws the Persians set up, and implies that they have done this repeatedly; not fitting means to not be like or equal to, not being on the same level or worth comparing to themselves.[vii]

3. How did Haman really sweeten the deal for the king to destroy these people (v. 9)?

Note: This was no small chunk of change that Haman offered the king. Ten thousand talents of silver was quite a bit, considering that the total annual income of the Persian Empire was 15,000 talents of silver.[viii] Ten thousand talents of silver would be 375 tons, or 750,000 pounds; in today’s value for silver, about $8.00 an ounce, that would be worth around $96 million![ix] 

4. As Charles Swindoll pointed out, Haman knew which buttons to push to sway the king, for this presentation appealed to his superstition, conceit, and greed.[x] As we read in Lesson One, how does this further demonstrate the power of the world to destroy rather than to build our lives (1 John 2:15-17)?

5. Of whom does Haman also serve as a type (1 John 2:18, 22), and how does he reflect the one who inspired him (John 8:44)?

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 Mordecai would not _____________ or pay homage.  Now it happened, when they ______________________ to him __________________ and he would not ___________________ to them, that they told it to Haman, to see whether Mordecai's ___________________ would ______________________; for Mordecai had told them that he was a Jew. Esther 3:2b, 4 (NKJV)

Day Four: A Pleased Enemy

Please carefully read Esther 3:10-12 and answer the following questions.

1. As we’d expect, how does Ahasuerus respond to this (v. 10, 11)? 

Note: Some versions translate the beginning of verse 11 as “You keep the money,” but this did not mean he didn’t want the money. He did want it, because this was an oriental custom to at first refuse, and then accept the deal.[xi]

2. The signet ring of Ahasuerus was like his platinum credit card, allowing Haman to order whatever he wanted to be done. By these actions, Haman made himself the enemy of the Jews; their oppressor, rival, adversary, one who harasses another.[xii] How does this make Haman another picture of our ultimate enemy, and how should we live in view of that enemy (1 Peter 5:8-9)?

3. What did Haman do right away, and how does this also serve as a historical link for us (v. 12)?

4. Interestingly, just as Haman had to get the king’s permission to attack the Jews, our ultimate enemy cannot do anything beyond what God allows him to, which is encouraging to know.  How do we see this in the experience of Job’s severe trials (Job 1:12, Job 2:6), and by extension for us today in 1 Corinthians 10:13?

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 Mordecai would not _____________ or pay ________________________.  Now it happened, when they ______________________ to him __________________ and he would not ___________________ to them, that they _________________ it to Haman, to see whether Mordecai's ___________________ would ______________________; for Mordecai had ___________________ them that he was a Jew.  Esther 3:2b, 4 (NKJV)

Day Five: A Perplexed City

Please carefully read Esther 3:13-15 and answer the following questions.

1. What was the content of the letter that Haman sent quickly by the Persian Pony Express (v. 13)?

2. By using the three terms, to destroy (to desolate, destroy, cut off), kill (to murder, commit homicide), and annihilate (to leave desolate, destroyed, the term that Abaddon, the place of destruction, comes from),[xiii] it indicated the totality of how Haman wanted the Jewish race to be nothing but a memory, which would fulfill Satan’s goal of preventing a Messiah ever coming to destroy him (see Genesis 3). How did Haman reflect the plans of the ultimate enemy of our souls, but how has Christ countered that for us (John 10:10-11)? 

Note: We need to keep this edict in mind when we get to Esther 8, and find out what ironically actually happened. 

3. What did the edict also tell the Persian people (v. 14)?

Note: The NLT translates this that the people should be “ready to do their duty.”

4. What stark contrast does verse 15 relate between the reactions of Ahasuerus, Haman, and the people of Shushan (Susa) to this edict?

Note: The term perplexed is elsewhere translated “bewildered” (NIV) and “fell into confusion” (NLT, NASB). In Hebrew, the word means to be confused, to mill around and wander aimlessly because of not knowing what to do.[xiv] 

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. Esther 3:2b, 4

Day Six: Living in Such a Time as This

1. Wow, what a chapter this has been! Derek Prime records four conclusions we can reach about what we learned this week.[xv]  As you read these, ponder them for a few minutes, and record how they fit into the current experiences you face. Share your thoughts with your group as well:

(1) There is nothing new under the sun in the types of methods Satan uses against God’s children

(2) There is always a spiritual battle going on in this world

(3) These things should stimulate us to pray more regularly and effectively

(4) These things challenge us as to how we live in an unbelieving world 

2. Interestingly, as we look at Haman’s hatred as well as Mordecai’s coworkers’ pressuring him to do wrong, we need to understand that there is always going to be someone who resents our commitment to God,[xvi] and will be an adversary to us. Put yourself into Mordecai’s sandals in this situation, and think back in your own life to times you have been tempted to compromise your beliefs for some reason. Were you able to stand, or did you crumble? What are some things you learned through the times of your life that you have compromised or stood strong against the pressure to give in? Think about this: what if your decision to compromise or not meant saving your life or that of your family and friends? What are some ideas you can think of as to how you can better live a life without compromise? Please record some thoughts here about these things and how you should be living in these days, and discuss these with your group.

3. If there was anything else, in particular, that spoke to your heart this week as you studied this chapter, please record it here to share with your group so everyone can be encouraged by it.

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. Esther 3:2b

Footnotes for Lesson 3:

[i] Spiros Zodhiates, ed., The Complete Word Study Old Testament (Chattanooga:  AMG Publishers, 1994), p. 1294.

[ii] Ibid, pp. 2327, 2372.

[iii Herbert Lockyer, All the Men of the Bible (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Publishing House, 1958), p. 135.

[iv] Joyce G. Baldwin, Esther (Downer’s Grove:  InterVarsity Press, 1984), p. 72.

[v] Spiros Zodhiates, ed., The Complete Word Study Old Testament, pp. 2316, 2332.

[vi] Derek Prime, Unspoken Lessons about the Unseen God (Darlington, England:  Evangelical Press, 2001), p. 63.

Click Here for Lesson 4


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

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