Today's Verse

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Festival of Purim

If I'm not mistaken, the Festival of Purim starts today.

Last year I taught Esther to my Sunday morning ladies class.

I taught it using my grandmother's Bible, King James.

It made me really think.

I hope all of you go back to the King James Bible to study sometimes. It really does make your brain work.

To celebrate the beginning of the Festival of Purim, I'm sharing my notes.

Until tomorrow, God Bless.

The book of Esther is unique because the name of God is never directly mentioned but His presence is there.

Esther was a Jew from the tribe of Benjamin who grew up as an exile in Persia.

Her Jewish name was Hadassah. Esther was her Persian name.  The name Esther means 'star'. Hadassah means 'Myrtle',  Myrtle is a tree that signifies peace and thanksgiving, two things Esther did bring to her people.

We are studying the women of the Bible but you cannot tell the story of Esther without telling the story of these men, King Xerxes, Mordecai, and Haman. And there wouldn’t be a story without Queen Vashti. Her actions are what allowed Esther to become queen.

King Xerxes ruled over 127 provinces. In the 3rd year of his reign, he decided to display his abundant wealth. This display was for 180 days. He gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials, the military leaders of Persia and Media, and the princes and the nobles of the provinces were present. (This was not a small party. If there is at least one person from each province I would say it is at least 762 people) He wanted to show off all he had. And if a180 day banquet wasn’t enough, He followed it with a seven day feast. The feast was held “in the enclosed garden of the king’s palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest who were in the palace.”  I’m not sure of the difference between a banquet and a feast, but we know there was a lot of food  and wine involved, and he was really showing off his wealth.

I love the description of the garden, it is very specific. (READ Esther 1:6) And he shows off more by the description of the amount of wine and how it was served. (READ Esther 1:7) We wouldn’t dare serve our guest with stemware that didn’t match, but here it seems to show more of his wealth.

On the seventh day of the feast, he decides to show off even more and King Xerxes summons Queen Vashti to show off her beauty. Today I think she would be referred to as “arm candy”! She refuses to come. King Xerxes consults his wise men and they make the decision she is to be banished from the kings presence. This is not only because she disobeyed the king but these wise men were afraid their women would follow what she did. (it never says what actually happened to her, just that she was never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes and the king was to give her royal position to someone else who was better than she.

When Xerxes had calmed down, he remembered what Vashti had done and the decree he had made about her. He again turns to his wise men and they propose to “Let a search be made for a beautiful young virgin to take Vashti’s place.” Xerxes appointed someone in every province that he ruled to bring these beautiful women into his harem. They were placed under the care of Hegai, and received beauty treatments. Sounds like the first recorded beauty pageant.

Now Mordecai was a Jew in the palace and heard that Xerxes had plans for a new queen.

Mordecai had a cousin named Hadassah that he had raised because she didn’t have parents. Hadassah was also known as Esther and she was beautiful. Mordecai took Esther to the king’s palace and placed her in to the care of Hegai.

Hegai really liked Esther and immediately provided her with beauty treatments and special food. He assigned her seven female attendants selected from the king’s palace and moved her and her attendants to the best place in the harem. Mordecai had forbidden Esther to reveal her nationality and family background. But every day he walked back and forth near the courtyard of the harem to find out how she was doing.

Every young lady went through twelve months of beauty treatment before meeting the King, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics. When she was called to go to the king, she could take anything with her she wanted. In the evening she would leave the harem and go to the king’s palace and in the morning she would return to another part of the harm. She wouldn’t go back to the king unless he called her back by name.

When Esther was called to go to the king, she asked for nothing other than what Hegai had suggested and she won the favor of everyone who saw her. 2:17 King Xerxes was attracted to Esther more than any other woman. So Esther was chosen as queen and Xerces gave a great banquet for all his nobles and officials. He proclaimed it a holiday throughout his kingdom.

And Esther had still not told anyone she was a Jew.

Now, during all this time, Mordecai had been sitting at the gate to the palace. And it was during this time that he found out about a plot to kill the king by two of the guards and he told Queen Esther who told King Xerxes but gave the credit to Mordecai. King Xerxes had the guards impaled on poles and had all of this recorded in the record books which later serves as a blessing for Mordecai.

After all of these events, King Xerxes has Haman promoted to a high seat of honor, higher than any of the other nobles. Every one was to bow down to Haman and pay honor to him. But Mordecai would not. And this made Haman very angry. So Haman goes to King Xerxes and tells him about a certain group of people that live throughout all his kingdom that follow their own customs and not those of the king. Haman convinces Xerxes that these people should all be killed and he offers ten thousand talents of silver to the king.

King Xerxes tells Haman to keep his money, places his own signet ring on Haman’s finger and tells him to “do with these people as you please”. They write out an order to “destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews - young and old. (READ 3:9) And Haman seals it with the king’s ring.

When Mordecai learns what has been done he tears his clothes and puts on sackcloth and ashes. He goes out in the city wailing, but he does not go through the king’s gate because he is dressed only in sackcloth. Esther’s attendants came and told her about Mordecai and she sends clothes for him but he wouldn’t accept them. When Esther is told about this she sends another attendant to go back and find out what is wrong with him.  

Mordecai tells the attendant everything and gives him a copy of the decree. He sends word for Esther to go before the King. She sends word back to Mordecai saying that everyone knows what happens to a man or woman that goes before the king without being summoned. They will be put to death unless the king holds out the golden sceptre to them. She also tells him she has not been called by the king for the last 30 days.

The attendant tells Mordecai what Esther had said and he sent these words back (READ 4:13-14)

And Esther responded to Mordecai (READ 4:16)

Mordecai did all that Esther had commanded him.

On the third day Esther put on her royal clothes and went into King Xerxes inner court.

When the King saw her he extended his royal sceptre. She touched the top of the sceptre and the king asked her “What is it Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given to you.” She asks him and Haman to come to a banquet she has prepared for them. He summons Haman and they go.

As they are eating, King Xerxes asks Esther again what it is she wants. She asks for the two of them to come to another banquet tomorrow and she will ask him then.

When Haman left he was happy and in high spirits, but then he sees Mordecai at the gate and he becomes angry again. He goes home and gathers all his friends to show off his great wealth. He shows off his many sons and tells of all the ways the king has honored him, even elevating him above all the other nobles. Then he says (READ 5:12-13) His wife and friends suggest he have a gallows made, then suggest to the king that Mordecai be hanged on it. This made him happy and the next day he had the gallows made.

That night King Xerxes could not sleep, so he ordered the book of records brought up and read to him. It was read to him about Mordecai exposing the two guards that had planed to kill the king and he asked what reward or honor Mordecai had received for this. When they told him nothing, he asked who was in the court at that time. Haman had just entered and wanted to talk to the king about having Mordecai hung on the gallows. King Xerxes had him brought in and asked him what he thought should be done for a man that had found great honor with the king. Haman thought to himself that there was no  one the King would rather honor than himself so he said (READ 6:7-9). King Xerxes told Haman to hurry and have all of this done for Mordecai the Jew and not to leave out a detail that he had mentioned.

Haman did as he was commanded and led the horse with Mordecai through the city claiming “This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor.”

Afterward, Mordecai returned to the gate and Haman headed home in shame. He told his wife what had happened. She said there wasn’t anything he could do about it because Mordecai was a Jew and that would be the downfall of Haman. Before they could finish, the king’s attendants came for him to take him to the banquet that Queen Esther had prepared.

King Xerxes and Haman again attended the banquet that Esther had prepared for them. The king again asked the queen why she had petitioned him and again offered up to half of the kingdom. (READ 7:3-4) King Xerxes asked his queen who was the man that had dared to do such a thing. She said it was Haman. Haman became terrified before the king and queen. Xerxes flew into a rage, left his wine and went out into the palace garden. Haman stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life. And just as the king was returning, Haman was falling onto the couch where Queen Esther was. The king exclaimed “Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?” As soon as the king had said this, they covered Haman’s face.

One of the king’s attendants said that a gallows had been set up by Haman that he had intended for Mordecai. The king said to hang Haman on it instead. And when they did, the king’s fury subsided.

The same day, King Xerxes gave Esther the estate of Haman and had Mordecai brought to him, because Esther had explained how they were related. The king took off the signet ring he had taken back from Haman and gave it to Mordecai. Esther appointed Mordecai over Haman’s estate.

Esther again pleaded with the king to save her people. She begged him to put an end to Haman’s plan against the Jews. (READ 8:7-8) The royal secretaries began writing Mordecai’s orders. Mordecai sealed them in the king’s name with his signet ring and they were sent out to all of the king’ provinces. The orders provided that the Jews had the right to assemble and protect themselves from anyone that wanted to hurt or kill them. Then Mordecai left the king’s presence in royal garments of blue and white, a large golden crown and a purple robe. And all the city held a joyous celebration.

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