Esther – chapter 3

Esther chapter 3

Verses 1-4 – The initial incident that sparked the conflict was Mordecais’s refusal to bow to Haman. Haman was a descendant of Agag (1 Samuel 15:8-33), the leader of the Amalekities, ancient enemies of the Jews. Israel had been commanded by God to “blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.” (Deuteronomy 25:17-19). Mordecai was not about to bow to a man who acknowledged himself a god. When people demand loyalties or duties from you that don’t honor God, you need to take a stand for righteousness.

Verses 5, 6 – Haman loved his power and authority and the reverence shown him. He not only hated Mordecai but all Jews. He let this hatred consume him. Haman couldn’t stand that the Jews only gave reverence to the only true authority–God.

Verse 7 – Little did Haman know that he was playing into God’s hand when he cast lots to determine the best day to carry out his decree. It was set for almost a year away, giving Esther time to discover the plot and to plea with the king to save her people.

Verse 9 – Haman thought he could give this large sum of money because he would plunder the homes and possessions of the Jews he intended to kill through this decree. Again, little did he know his plan would backfire. Those who plot against God’s people, will pay a heavy price.

Verses 10-15 – The instructions were clear–all people, young, old, women, and children were to be annihilated! The king didn’t know at this point that his beautiful Queen was a Jew also, but he’s about to find out.

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Esther – Chapter 2

Esther chapter 2

Verse 1 – It is clear from verse 16 in this chapter, that Esther did not meet King Ahasuerus until four years after the first events (479-478 B.C.). Some scholars have suggested that the search for a replacement queen only started when Ahasuerus returned from fighting with the Greeks.

Verses 3, 14-17 – Persian Kings collected not only vast amounts of jewelry, but also great numbers of women. These young virgins were taken from their homes and required to live in a separate building near the palace, called a harem. Their sole purpose was to await a call from the king for sexual pleasure. However, Esther’s beauty pleased the king enough that he crowned her queen in place of Vashti.

Verses 5, 6 – The Jewish population had increased since their exile 100 years earlier. The Bible says that Mordecai was carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar. This word “who,” referring to Mordecai, could also mean his family. If it was truly Mordecai, then he would be over 100 years old which is not that hard to imagine. We shouldn’t read things into scripture that is not there.

Verse 10 – It’s not clear why Mordecai told Esther to keep her heritage quiet, but she did so until the proper time. As Christians, we shouldn’t have to tell others that we are a Christian. It should be obvious the difference God makes in our lives.

Verse 17 – God placed Esther on the throne even before the Jews faced the possibility of complete destruction so that when trouble came, she would already be in position to help. Sometimes, we are just unable to figure out why God has placed us where He does. More than likely, it is always for a higher purpose.

Esther – Introduction and Chapter 1

Esther chapter 1

Introduction:

The book of Esther begins with Queen Vashti refusing to obey an order from her husband, King Xerxes (Ahasuerus is the Hebrew name), who was banished from ever appearing before the king again. The search begins, to look for a new queen. The story of Esther fits between chapters 6 and 7 of Ezra, between the first return  led by Zerubbabel and the second return led by Ezra. It provides the only biblical portrait of the vast majority of Jews who choose to remain in Persia rather than return to Palestine.

The king sends out a decree to gather all the beautiful women in the empire and bring them into the royal harem. Esther, a young Jewish woman was one of those chosen to be in the kings harem.

Note: Don’t forget to read the chapter in its entirety first, then the commentary I have written.

Chapter 1

Verses 1, 2 – This story takes place in Shushan, under Babylonian control, but captured by the Persians under Cyrus the Great, who made it the seat of government. Shushan is mentioned in Nehemiah and once in Daniel. It was also the winter residence of the kings of Persia. Esther’s story begins 103 years after Nebuchadnezzar had taken the Jews into captivity, 54 years after Zerubbabel led the first group of exiles back to Jerusalem, and 25 years before Ezra led the second group. The Jewish exiles had great freedom in Persia, and many remained because they had been there long enough to establish themselves there.

Verse 4 – This celebration lasted six months. The real purpose of this great celebration was for the king to show that he had sufficient resources to engage in war against Greece. Waging war was not only for survival but it was a means of acquiring more wealth, territory, and power.

Verses 5-7 – Persia was a world power and the king was one of the wealthiest people in the world. Persian kings loved to flaunt their wealth. Some would wear  precious gems in their beards and the soldiers would wear gold jewelry into battle.

Verse 9 – The third feast was given by Queen Vashti and it was only for women. Neither Persian nor Greek records mentions a queen named Vashti but identify Amestris as queen during Xerxes’ reign. Old Testament scholars suggest that Vashti may not be a proper name but a title.

Verses 10, 11 – A castrated official was called a eunuch. They were castrated to prevent them from having children and rebelling and establishing their own dynasty. The king made a decision based on feelings after he had been drinking wine. Impulsive decisions leads to severe complications, especially when alcohol is involved.

Verse 12 – Queen Vashti refused to be paraded before the kings all male party. King Xerxes had invited important officials from all over to see his wealth, power, and authority. If it was perceived that he had no authority over his own wife, his military credibility would be damaged. In addition, he was accustom to getting what he wanted.

Verse 15 – Middle Eastern men often did not have close personal relationships with their wives. We can see that here because he had a harem; he showed no respect toward Vashti; and when Esther became queen, she didn’t see him for long periods of time.

Verses 16-21 – These advisers were obviously drunk if they thought a decree would cause all wives to respect their husbands. Forced obedience doesn’t substitute for the love and respect wives and husbands should have for each other. A Persian king was thought to be a god by many so when he issued a command, it stood forever. It became law but a new law could be made by a new king and neutralize the effects of the old law.

Nehemiah – Chapter 13

Nehemiah chapter 13

Nehemiah’s Final Reforms

Verse 3 – “All who were of foreign descent” refers to the Moabites and Ammonites, the two nations who were bitter enemies of Israel.

They had blocked the path that Moses wanted to take during the time when he was leading the Israelites into the promised land. This had nothing to do with racial prejudice. The relationships that had been formed in the past with these two nations had caused the Jews their captivity in the first place.

Verses 6, 7 – Twelve years after Nehemiah had been in Jerusalem, he returned to Babylon. He was fulfilling an agreement to Artaxerxes, the king. It is not known how long he stayed there, but when he returned to Jerusalem, he found that Tobiah, one of his major opponents in rebuilding the walls, had been given his own room in the “temple!” Tobiah was an Ammonite, which was forbidden, by God, to even enter the temple. Eliashib, the priest, had married Tobiah’s daughter. (chapters 2, 4, and 6 tell about Tobiah.)

Verse 10 – Too much had changed in the time that Nehemiah had been in Babylon to the point of, even the priests were no longer being supported. They had left the temple and returned to their farms to support themselves, neglecting their temple duties and spiritual welfare of the people.

Verse 17 – God had commanded Israel not to work on the Sabbath but to rest in remembrance of creation and the exodus (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5;12-15). Jerusalem’s busy Sabbath trade directly violated God’s law, so Nehemiah ordered the city gates to be shut from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday.

Verse 25 – Here again, in Nehemiah’s absence, the Israelites started marrying pagans. Nehemiah’s severe treatment of the people showed how serious this commandment from God was.

Verse 26 – Nehemiah used the example of Solomon’s mistake of marrying foreign women to teach his people. If one of the greatest kings of Israel could fall into sin because of being united with unbelievers, others could too. Although Solomon was a great king, his marriages to pagan foreign women brought tragedy to the entire kingdom.

Conclusion

Nehemiah’s life story provides many principles of effective leadership that can still be applied today. (1) Had a clear purpose that alines with God’s will. (2) Being straightforward and honest made Nehemiah clear in what he wanted to accomplish for God. (3) Live above reproach. The accusations against Nehemiah were empty and false. (4) Everything Nehemiah did, glorified God. Nehemiah was able to accomplish a huge task against incredible odds because he knew there would be no success without the risk of failure. This book is about rebuilding a great city wall but also showed a great spiritual reward, rebuilding a peoples dependance on God. When we take our eyes off the savior, our lives will begin to crumble.

Nehemiah – Chapter 12

Nehemiah chapter 12

The dedication of the city wall was characterized with joy and praise. King David had instituted music as a part of worship. Nehemiah repeatedly mentions David.

Scripture says Nehemiah assigned two large choirs to give thanks to God in this dedication. They were placed in opposite directions so they could be heard far off. With trumpets, tambourines, and stringed instruments they gave praises to God.

Can you imagine the celebration that took place? They were all thankful for having their city, own homes to live in, and of course the temple of God again. I think our celebrations of what God has done in each of our lives is way too small sometimes. Deliverance today should be a time of praise and worship to the All Mighty King, just like it was done in the Old Testament. I’m not talking about the animal sacrifices, because there was only one true sacrifice-Jesus. I’m talking about filling up with such a joy and thankfulness of what Jesus has done for us that it overflows into and onto others around us. God had turned their curse into a blessing.

Nehemiah – Chapter 11

Nehemiah chapter 11

Summery of Chapter 11

Jerusalem was underpopulated and consisted largely of the leaders. The solution to the problem was to have a tenth of the population to move and live inside the walls of Jerusalem. Evidently Nehemiah couldn’t get enough volunteers so he cast lots. Not wanting to move into the city could have been because: (1) non-Jews attached a stigma to Jerusalem residents, often excluding them from trade because of their religious beliefs; (2) moving into the city meant rebuilding their homes and reestablishing their business; (3) living within the walls required stricter obedience to God’s Word.

Nehemiah – Chapter 10

Nehemiah chapter 10

Verse 28 – The walls were complete and the agreement God made with His people in the day of Moses restored (Deuteronomy 8). Our relationship with God should go far beyond church attendance and a 20 minute devotion time. It should affect our relationships, our time, and our natural resources. The truth is, though, it is hard to find people today who are totally devoted to God and His ways.

Verse 30 – God’s chosen people were to be a witness to the pagan world. However, time after time, marrying foreigners led God’s people into idolatry (1 Kings 11:1-11). Whenever the nation turned its back on God it lost its prosperity and influence for good.

Verse 31 – God recognized that the lure of money would conflict with the need for a day of rest, so trade was forbidden inside the city on the Sabbath. Forgoing all debts every seventh year was a part of the law (Exodus 23:10 and Deuteronomy 15:1, 2).

Verse 32 – The temple had been rebuilt under Ezra’s leadership about 70 years earlier, so the temple tax, offerings, and feasts had been restored.

Verse 36 – Although this principle of giving the first-fruits was not carried over into the New Testament times, the concept of giving God the best is still there.

Verses 37-39 – The principle at work here, was to ensure the support of the house of God and His workers, as it should be today.