Saturday, October 8, 2011

Bible Study: The Book of Esther (Week 1)

So I've been meaning to write this post for a few days but have kept myself busy with other things.  Making birthday gifts, baby shower gifts, laundry, getting distracted on pinterest, etc. 

Now that I have the time I'm going to sit down and get to writing this post.  YAY!

We started the night with a huge history lesson basically, which went through and talked about the history of Israel during the time of captivity.  So I'm going to include a BRIEF outline of that here so that you can understand how to read the Bible a bit better, because it certainly helped me.

  • 720 BC The Assyrians took over the 10 tribes of Israel and dispersed them. Prophets during this time included: Isaiah, Amos, Nahum, and Jonah (Ninevah was the capital of Assyria (interesting no?)).
  • 650 BC Babylon overthrew the Assyrian Empire. Isaiah predicted Judah would fall to Babylon in Isaiah 39. Jeremiah predicted the Babylonian captivity 100 years before it happened.  Jeremiah 25, states there would be captivity for 70 years and then Babylon would be punished.
  • 606 BC Judah goes down to the Babylonians (the start of the captivity) Scripture during this time frame includes the end of 2 Kings, end of 2 Chronicles, Jeremiah, Daniel and Ezekial
  • 536 BC Babylon falls the Medo persian empire.  The captivity ended during this time as Jews were allowed to return to their home lands but were still under the rule of MedoPersians. 
  • 538 BC Cyrus became ruler and in 536 BC issued the decree to start the rebuilding of the temple (once a decree is made by the king it is irrevocable). Prophets during this time: Zechariah, Haggai, Malachi
  • 535 BC work on the temple starts.
  • 520 BC Darius funds the building of the temple
  • 516 BC Temple is completed
  • 478 BC Esther is made queen
  • 457 BC Ezra made the trek from Babylon to Jerusalem
To help you better understand these parts of Scripture, Bill (our leader) recommended reading the books of Scripture in this order:  End of 2 Chronicles or 2 Kings, Daniel, Ezra, Esther, Nehemiah (and that's basically the end of the old Testament). 

Now on to the actually Bible Study:
We only read Chapter 1 so far.  Here's an overview of what happens in that chapter:
King Xerxes has a 6 month long party for his army because they're about to go out on a big campaign. 
After that, he has a week long party for his palace servants.  The palace is described in intense detail (uncommon in the Bible).
King Xerxes commands for Queen Vashti to come out for everyone to look at (not sure if he was being rude or wanted to show of his prized possession but I lean towards the latter). 
Queen Vashti was having a separate party for the women and refused to come when ordered. (Not sure of the reason).
King Xerxes calls his advisers together, they say he should make a decree that Vashti can never come back into his presence.

Now what can we get out of this? Not the entire book of Esther just this chapter?
Here are some of the things we discussed in Bible study, feel free to leave your thoughts!  We were looking for "types" or representations in this passage of Scripture.
  • We see that King Xerxes has much splendor (from the description of the citadel or palace); treats his servants well, and punishes those who disobey him.  He represents God in this book.
  • Vashti was his bride; she rebelled.  She's representative of Israel's rebellion.  Just like Israel was banished (sent into captivity) and lost favor with God, no longer to see (Isaiah prophesied that Israel would be blinded), Vashti was also banished, no longer to see the King or what was going on in the citadel.
  • We also see that Xerxes kingdom had some of every tribe, nation and tongue, because the Medo Persians allowed those under them to keep their culture. (Does this sound familiar?)
  • We also notice that sin is far reaching, Vashti's actions didn't affect the King alone but also the whole kingdom.  She was to be made an example of.  
  • The advice given by the advisers was a "type" of the law; it was immutable and designed to keep rebellion out of the kingdom, just as God's law was designed to do for Israel.
  • Just as it was impossible for Xerxes to go back on what he decreed, God also can not go back on anything He says.
  • Just like the rest of the world was watching Israel and they represented the God they served, the world was watching Vashti and she represented the King she served.  
  • Xerxes realized that he needed a new queen, a new representative. Which will play into the story more later on.
So what do you think?  Any other insights that you may have?  These were just some of the things that we discussed and were able to pull out of the text this week.  Hopefully next week I'll get the study up earlier. 


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