Esther 1–10

Old Testament Teacher Resource Manual, (2003), 151–52


Introduction

The Babylonians began ruling the people of Judah in about 587 B.C. In about 538 B.C. the Persians conquered the Babylonians. Persia ruled over Judah as well as those captive Jews who remained in Babylon. Sometime between 464 and 425 B.C. the Persian ruler Ahasuerus chose a young Jewish girl named Esther to be the queen of Persia. The book of Esther is an account of this.

Esther lived about the same time as Ezra and Nehemiah. She was a righteous woman of great courage and patriotism. Her position in the Persian court enabled her to help the cause of her conquered people. Her story helps us understand how one righteous person can positively affect the course of a nation.

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

  • The Lord can intervene in political matters to benefit His people (see Esther 1–10).

  • The courageous efforts of one righteous person can greatly affect the lives of many others (see Esther 1–10).

  • God foreordained many of His children in the premortal life to certain important callings in mortality (see Esther 4:14; see also Alma 13:3–9).

  • Fasting helps us develop spiritual strength (see Esther 4:16; see also Matthew 17:14–21).

Suggestions for Teaching

Esther 1–10. An overview of the book of Esther. (30–35 minutes)

Divide the class into four groups and assign each of them one of the following chapter groups: Esther 1–2; 3–4; 5–7; 8–10. Have the groups study their chapters and present the information from them as a three-minute news broadcast. They could mix together a basic report of the history with interviews with main characters. For example, they could have a reporter outside the palace interview Queen Vashti about why she was deposed as queen.

After the groups have presented their broadcasts, discuss some of the principles taught in the story of Esther (see “Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For” above and the other teaching suggestions).

Esther 1–4. The courageous efforts of one righteous person can greatly affect the lives of many others. Fasting can help us develop spiritual strength. (25–30 minutes)

Read the following example to students: Randy is one of the top students in his math class and today is the final examination. During the long bus ride to school, Randy’s two best friends, George and Tom, mention they have not studied. They ask Randy to write extra large during the examination so they can see his paper and copy his answers.

Ask students:

  • How do you think Randy should respond to his friends’ request?

  • What might be the consequences if Randy lets his friends see his answers?

  • What might happen if he chooses not to let his friends see his answers?

Discuss how doing what is right is often difficult and also has consequences. Have students read Esther 1:5–11 and ask:

  • How long had the men been drinking? (see v. 10).

  • What impact might drinking have had on what they did?

  • What did the king want the queen to do?

Have students read Esther 1:12 and tell why they think the queen refused to obey the king. Have them read Esther 2:1–4, 8–9, 15–20. Ask:

  • What did the king do after Vashti’s dismissal?

  • Who did he choose to be the new queen?

  • Why do you think Esther did not tell the king that she was a Jew?

Summarize for your students the account of Mordecai and Haman, found in Esther 2:21–4:9. Read Esther 4:10–11 and have students explain Esther’s dilemma. Ask: What could have happened if she went before the king without being called?

Have students read Esther 4:12–17. Ask:

  • What did Esther decide to do, despite the potential consequences?

  • Why do you think she made that decision?

  • What does her decision teach us about her and her faith in God?

  • What did she do to increase her potential for success? (She fasted; see Esther 4:16.)

Read Esther 6:1–3 and ask:

  • What did the king do that could have been affected by the fasting of Esther and her people?

  • What kinds of choices do young people face today that require the kind of courage Vashti and Esther had?

  • For example: Have you ever attended or been invited to attend an inappropriate event?

  • Did you have the courage not to go or to leave after realizing it was inappropriate?

  • If you left, what were your feelings as you left?

  • How might it have affected those who saw you leave?

Have students read Proverbs 3:5–6 and look for what gives a person the strength to make difficult decisions. Have them read Matthew 17:14–21 and identify what we can do to increase our faith in the Lord and our ability to make righteous choices.

Esther 4:13–14. God foreordained many of His children in the premortal life to certain important callings in mortality. (5–10 minutes)

Share the following statement by President Harold B. Lee:

“Many were chosen, as was Abraham, before they were born, as the Lord told Moses and also Jeremiah. This was made still more meaningful by the Latter-day Prophet, Joseph Smith, who declared, ‘I believe that every person who is called to do an important work in the kingdom of God, was called to that work and foreordained to that work before the world was’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1973, 6; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, 5).

Ask students:

  • Who are some people you think may have been foreordained to an important work? (for example, see Jeremiah 1:5).

  • Do you think prophets are the only ones who were foreordained?

Have students read Esther 4:13–14 and identify who Mordecai suggested may have been foreordained for an important purpose. Share the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie:

“We are quite well aware that Joseph Smith and Jeremiah and the apostles and prophets, the wise, the great, and the good were foreordained to particular ministries. But that is only a part of the doctrine of foreordination. The great and glorious thing about foreordination is that the whole House of Israel was foreordained, that millions upon millions—comparatively few compared to the total preexistent host—but millions of people were foreordained to get certain gospel blessings” (Making Our Calling and Election Sure, Brigham Young University Speeches of the Year [25 Mar. 1969], 6).

Those not of the “whole house of Israel” are adopted into it when they are baptized (see Bible Dictionary, “adoption,” p. 604).

Help students understand that they are of the house of Israel and, as Elder McConkie said, foreordained to receive the blessings of the restored gospel. Ask:

  • What important work might those of the house of Israel today have been foreordained to do?

  • How can we be sure we are faithful to our foreordained work?

Review how Esther’s and Mordecai’s righteous choices prepared them for their important missions. Discuss how the choices we make every day affect not only our future, but also the futures of others.