Monday, January 7, 2013

Esther: Chapter 1- You Were Born For This

I’m really enjoying Beth Moore’s videos, Esther: It’s Tough Being A Woman. I wasn’t sure if I would, because I’m not so much a fan of fill in the blank bible studies. She makes a whole lot of good points, and if you have the money, I would really recommend downloading them. 
Mars Hill’s Mark Driscoll has a sermon series that’s free to watch online. I’ve enjoyed it as well. Mark has a tendency to call it like he sees it, so he’s not for the faint of heart.
I’ve found Esther so interesting and I’ve found more information on it than expected so we’re going to slow our study down a bit.
Your homework was to read Esther Chapters 1-3, we’re going to focus on just chapter 1 this week. So next week your homework is to read chapter 2. J Whew! We can breath easy.

 My goal is to end this study around the Jewish holiday of Purim, Sat. Feb. 23rd and Sunday Feb. 24th.

Bible verse(s) of the week. (Click on the verse to find a printable image.)

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4 (ESV)

Romans 15:4 Color
Romans 15:4 Black and White

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[a]may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)

2 Timothy 3:16-17 Color
2 Timothy 3:16-17 Black and White

I want to give you a little rundown of the facts I’ve learned over the past week and a summary of what is going on in the story. 

All of my research has been referenced on the resources page.
Just so you know, while I am doing research and studying, I am posting the resources I have found over on the resources page periodically as a kind of works sited, and a way to provide the information to you as well. So if you’re thirsty for more information and resources, pop in over there every once in a while to see if I’ve found anything new of interest to you.

So, first off the book is entitled “Esther” which means that the protagonist in the story is, of course, Esther. This is one of two books of the bible that is named after a woman.

Esther is part of the Tanakh, the Jewish Bible, in a section called the Ketuvim, or “The Writings”
In the Jewish faith, as commanded at the end of Esther,  Jews celebrate Purim, which is kind of like a Jewish Mardi Gras, in celebration of *spoiler alert* the freeing of the Jewish people from death because of Esther’s courage. During these days of Purim the “Megillah”  (The Five Scrolls including Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations and Ecclesiastes) of Esther is read out loud twice during this time to the congregation.  I’m not a huge fan of reading the end of the story first, but for me, knowing this puts Esther in a different paradigm.

Purim and the reading of Esther has a deep rooted history in the spirit and hope of the Jewish people. In Nazi Germany Hitler banned the observance of Purim, and planned attacks coinciding with the holiday. He did not want the story of Esther read to the Jewish people. In concentration camps those who had memorized the Megillah of Esther would write it down and recite it to the others to give hope to the people.

 There is no mention of God in the ENTIRE book of Esther.

Xerxes did not get to be king because he earned it. Everything he owns has been passed down to him by his father, Darius I, who shows up in the book of Ezra.

 Xerxes had propaganda like this engraved into his palace walls:

Part of it reads “I am Xerxes, the great king. The only king, the king of all countries which speak all kinds of languages, the king of the entire big and far reaching earth-the son of King Darius, the Achaemenian, a Persan, son of a Persain, an Aryan of Aryan descent.”  Xerxes basically saw himself as a god. Wow! Ummm can you say, over-compensating for something?

By the time this book was written, readers would have known that King Xerxes had been obliterated by the Greeks, all of his wealth and power drained.

More on Xerxes
More on Persian History
History Channels' Enginering an Empire the Persians   Part: 1  2  3 4

(The sermon series that Mars Hill put together has a pretty neat animated intro to set you up for the setting of this story.)

The sermons for Chapter 1

Photo by Sarah Varley

Chapter 1 in a nutshell:

The Players

King Xerxes
“The Advisors”
Queen Vashti

So here is the story so far:


There is this king named Xerxes or Ahasuerus. He’s a total playboy and is throwing this huge 180 day (P.S That’s like, half a year!) party for his army and all of his nobleman and governors. (Coincidentally, this party supposedly happens in order to rally the troops for the war that is being fought in the movie 300. I’ve never seen it but thought it was a fun tid bit.) He has completely conceded control of the party. Everyone’s drunk, and Xerxes has basically laid out the best of everything including wine and women. The last 7 days of the party he invites the ENTIRE city to this party. Queen Vashti, his wife, in the meantime is also having a party with all her girlfriends. On the last day of the party Xerxes gets this awesome idea, to call his wife into the place where all his boozed up friends are.  

Inciting Incident:

Vashti says “No!” to Xerxes and he gets all upset, his completely not-wise advisors tell Xerxes that if he doesn’t punish Vashti all the woman in the country will rise up and disrespect their husbands, so of course, the best thing to do is to dethrone Vashti (possibly kill her…we don’t know?) and send word out to the entire country that the law is that all woman must respect their husbands.

This past summer, my aunt and I took a little trip up California 1 and we visited the Hearst Castle. It’s fantastically amazing. I only took the downstairs tour, but that was enough. It blew my mind how ridiculously wealthy this man was, his use of woman, the lavish parties he would throw, I just couldn’t even imagine! When I think of King Xerxes palace I think of Hearst Castle.  Xerxes had way more power and money than Hearst did though. To help a little with your imagination: check out this virtual tour of Hearst Castle.   Click on Explore and then click on Virtual Tours. It’s even more incredible in person, but you get the idea. TheUniversity of Chicago has some clickable maps and information about the palaces, gardens and Land that Xerxes owned. Persepolis (Xerxes other palace) Recreated: 1 2 3 4

Chapter 1 Discussion Questions:

So, I’m not really sure how this is going to work. At the moment, my idea is to post some discussion questions. You can answer one of them…or all of them. You can not answer any of them and come up with your own questions, comments or insights. Please leave your comments in the comments box. They won't appear immediately because I don't want spam posted in our discussion, but as soon as I know you're not a spammer I will "approve" your comments.
In Chapter 1 we see a man who makes himself out to be a god. Before we start judging Xerxes, are there times when you make yourself out to be a god, in control of your own world? In what ways do we live for ourselves?

If you had the money and power of Xerxes, if you were honest with yourself, what would be the first thing you would do with all of that money? You’ve pondered this question before, If I won the lottery, the first thing I would do is…

In what circumstances do we; every day, all Americans, show off our wealth and opulence, to our friends? Our neighbors? To the world? When someone shows these things off to us, how does that make us feel?

Some scholars think that when Vashti was called to parade in front of all the drunken men, Xerxes asked her to wear her crown, and ONLY her crown.  Do you think Vashti was justified in refusing her husband? Did Xerxes have a right to be angry? 

King Xerxes in effect “posted” or “tweeted” his marital problems by sending out his edict through the entire known world. How do you think this decision effected his reputation? How do you think it made Vashti look? Are there platforms that we similarly publicly vent in ways that could possibly affect our reputations?

The book of Esther does not mention God one time in the whole book. Without speaking his name, what does Chapter 1 tell us or remind us about God?

How does Chapter 1 point us toward Jesus? In contrast to King Xerxes, what does the REAL King of Kings look like?  (Check out Psalm 49:6-20 and Psalm 96:4-6)

In reading Chapter 1 of Esther, how does this affect your world view? How does this chapter affect your view of God? How does it affect your view of yourself?

Purim is a celebration of hope. Can you see a need for hope in Chapter 1? What are you hoping for? Is there a need for hope in your life?

Women all over the known world bore the consequences of Vashti’s behavior. In what ways do we bear the consequences of other women’s behavior, or decisions? In what ways are we living in other women’s shadows? What are the pressures you are feeling?  How can we help encourage each other instead of weighing each other down? How does the truth of the gospel lighten the load you carry? 

Dear Lord, 
I want to pray for those reading this blog, 
Sometimes we wonder where You are.
I know You are with us, because You have promised us
that You will never leave us or forsake us.  
You will be with us always, 
but sometimes we cannot feel your presence, 
and sometimes we feel terribly alone.

In Esther, You are not named, but we know that You 
are weaving the story for the good of Your people.

When our hearts fail, and our spirit falls,
remind us of your presence, and give us hope.
Remind us to seek you
To be strong
To take heart
To Praise you
and to Wait for you to move.

I ask these things in Christs name.

*Inspired ("Prayers for the Moment: One-Minute Scripture Prayers")*
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