Bible Study September 17 for Worship September 30Posted: September 14, 2012
Bible Study September 17 for Worship September 30
Esther 7: 7:1 So the king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther.
2 And on the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther, “What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.”
3 Then Queen Esther answered, “If I have found favor in your 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 be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; for our affliction is not to be compared with the loss to the king.”
5 Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther, “Who is he, and where is he, that would presume to do this?”
6 And Esther said, “A foe and enemy! This wicked Haman!” Then Haman was in terror before the king and the queen.
7 And the king rose from the feast in wrath and went into the palace garden; but Haman stayed to beg his life from Queen Esther, for he saw that evil was determined against him by the king.
8 And the king returned from the palace garden to the place where they were drinking wine, as Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was; and the king said, “Will he even assault the queen in my presence, in my own house?” As the words left the mouth of the king, they covered Haman’s face.
9 Then said Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, “Moreover, the gallows which Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, is standing in Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.”
10 And the king said, “Hang him on that.” So they hanged Haman on the gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the anger of the king abated.
9: 20 And Mordecai recorded these things, and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far,
21 enjoining them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same, year by year,
22 as the days on which the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending choice portions to one another and gifts to the poor.
The Jewish people lived as dispossessed and discriminated against exiles for over two-thousand years. In the story of Queen Esther we see an ancient “final solution” foiled by the courage and intelligence of a beautiful young woman, who saved her people. We have only a small portion of the conclusion of the story of Esther in our scripture this week. We might also look at Chapter 4:10-17. Mordecai Esther’s uncle has learned of a plot by the King’s new Prime Minister Haman to destroy all of the Jews in the Persian Empire. (We should note that Haman was an Amalakite, historic enemies of the Jewish people going back to the time of the Exodus.) Mordecai sends a messenger into the harem to implore Esther to approach the King on her people’s behalf.
Esther 4:10 Then she instructed him to say to Mordecai, 11 “All the king’s officials and the people of the royal provinces know that for any man or woman who approaches the king in the inner court without being summoned the king has but one law: that they be put to death unless the king extends the gold scepter to them and spares their lives. But thirty days have passed since I was called to go to the king.”
12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.”
17 So Mordecai went away and carried out all of Esther’s instructions.
This exchange between Esther and Mordecai encapsulates the moral dilemma of keeping silence and playing it safe or risking speaking out and acting. This is a quandary many of us have faced, and Mordcai’s counsel reminds us that often we have been given a position or placed in a situation where the timing calls for us to act. “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”
In comparison to the courage and intelligence both the King and Haman are clumsy oafs. The King can’t see much beyond his physical appetites and Haman gets caught in his own webs of intrigue. Esther not only begs for her life and the life of her people, she even sets up Haman to appear to be assaulting her person. Haman was hanged, the Jews were saved from destruction.
The story of Esther does have its primitive messy tribal aspects. For instance, not only is Haman hanged but Esther asks the King to hand Haman’s 10 sons, and her request is granted. (In an area of the world where blood revenge is common, you have to stamp out the entire family.) Also Esther asks the King permission for the Jews to go after their enemies and the Jews killed 75,000 of their enemies throughout the provinces.
The story of Esther can help us to understand the depth of Jewish paranoia concerning Iran and nuclear weapons. Jews have learned from persecution in the past that when someone threatens to destroy you they should take that threat seriously. Hitler told the world exactly what he intended to do in Mein Kampf, and he did it. Peace in the Middle East may yet be decades in not centuries in the future.
For us the story of Esther can raise questions about turning the other cheek. What should our government’s response be to terrorist threats? What about the policy of selective assassination of terrorist targets, even people who hold U.S. citizenship? And what if one of us was called upon to risk ourselves in becoming a whistle blower? We have tough decisions about courage and ethics.
LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT
- Who was the heroine of the story?
- What was the name of the King?
- What Empire did the King rule?
- Who was the King’s Prime Minister?
- What plot had the Prime Minister hatched against the heroine’s people?
- Who informed the heroine of the details of the plot?
- How did the heroine trap the Prime Minister in his plot?
- How did the heroine manage to engage the King’s wrath against the Prime Minister?
- What became the fate of the Prime Minister and his family?
LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US?
- The Queen uses her feminine wiles to manipulate the King? If you are female how do you feel, when you think you have to use your sexuality to manipulate?
- How do you feel about the part of the story where Haman and all of his sons are hanged?
- Does Esther give you any insight into Jewish feelings about the Holocaust?
- What do you think should be the Israeli response to Arab calls to push the Jews into the Sea?
- Have you ever been called to upon to become a whistle blower?
- Have you ever felt you were positioned at a specific place and time in order to stand up and do something?
- What is the temptation to remain silent?
- Iran has threatened to exterminate Israel. How do you think the Israelis should respond, and what should be the role of the United States?
- Islamic terrorist have vowed to destroy the United States and harm United States citizens. What methods do you think the United States government should employ to protect United States citizens and our interests?
Week of September 24 – September 30: Eighteenth Sunday After Pentecost – Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22 – Courage for Community – Psalm 124, Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29, Psalm 19:7-14, James 5:13-20, Mark 9:38-50.