Esther and the story of Haman

“As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.” –Esther 9:22 … this I believe shows the awesome power of rest!

The Book of Esther, written around 460-400 BC by an anonymous author, covers a period after the exile during the reign of King Xerxes. The Book talks much about a person named Esther who was chosen to become queen, about a plan that was crafted to destroy the Jews (and how it occurred), and about the triumphant Jews.

In the beginning of the book, an exhibition of riches was displayed before the officials and citizens, which lasted for many months. The current queen, Queen Vashti, was asked by the king to display her beauty before drunken men at this banquet, but she refused. This was defiance of the king’s authority, so therefore, she was removed from power. Soon, many young and beautiful women in the land were brought together in the palace, so that the king might choose one of them to be a queen. Among those women was a Jew, whom was also an orphan, named Esther. However, she didn’t make it known she was a Jew. After all the preparations, the women were brought before the king, and then he chose Esther and crowned her.

Now, a man named Haman, the king’s chief minister, had begun to demand people to worship him. Mordecai (cousin of Esther), refused to do this, because he was a Jew and worshiping Haman was against his religion. Haman wanted revenge because of this, and therefore decided to kill all of the Jews. Haman then gained the king’s permission to do so after he spoke that killing the Jews would greatly increase the royal treasury. The king trusted him that he gave Haman his ring, so that Haman could sign legal documents and put things into order.

However, Haman had to wait for eleven months before proceeding (to kill them). Haman decreed he would do it, which disturbed many of the people. Mordecai knew that Esther was a Jew and only she could help, so he asked Esther to have the king cancel the decree. God wanted His People alive, and so the urgency was great for Esther to do this, even though she’d be risking her life. However, she agreed to approach the king thusly, and attempt to get the problem resolved.

After a few days had passed, Esther invited the king and Haman to a couple of dinners, in hope to get favor from one or both of them. Haman was positive about the queen, likely flattered that he may have gotten the queen’s approval for killing the Jews. Haman then asked for a royal favor, in hopes to get Mordecai killed right away. However, when Haman made the request to the king, the king was hesitant because Mordecai had saved his life at an earlier time.

The king wanted to reward Mordecai, as we see in chapter six. However, Haman didn’t know about the reward, it seems, so Haman was astonished that the honor would go to Mordecai (not execution). Haman was humiliated and felt betrayed by the royal family. Later that night, another dinner was between the king, queen, and Haman, where Esther brought the case before the king that Haman had been plotting to kill the Jews (admitting she was also Jewish) and killing her, and therefore the king was angry because of it. Haman began weeping with anguish before the king, which was interpreted by the king as rape or other form of tactic by Haman to hurt the queen. Therefore, the king wanted Haman immediately executed.

Next, we see Mordecai promoted to chief minister. However, the king’s decree (from Haman’s proposal to kill the Jews) was still intact, but the king gave Mordecai and the queen power to counteract it with a new decree. Therefore, they acted promptly, and gave the Jews permission to do anything they could to defend themselves against attacks on the day (of war against them). When the day came for the Jews to be attacked, only a few of the enemies actually attacked them.

However, the Jews fought hard, it seems, and were even given an extra day to defend themselves and get revenge on the enemies. After the Jews won (and survived by the grace of God), a feast was thrown in celebration (which was done every year after that, as well). The book concluded quickly by talking about the reign of Mordecai, and how he helped the Jewish people under his leadership. Mordecai continued rule for many years.

Nehemiah: One filled with sorrow

Nehemiah was filled with sorrow because the walls of Jerusalem were broken down and gates were burned. The King was concerned about Nehemiah’s sadness and allowed him to return to Jerusalem for the purpose of going back and helping to rebuild Jerusalem. It took 52 days to rebuild the walls. When the walls were completed, they were solemnly dedicated and guarded continually.

The Book of Nehemiah, presumed to have been written by both Ezra and Nehemiah, around 430-420 BC details Nehemiah’s return to Jerusalem, the rebuilding of the city wall, and all about Nehemiah’s reforms.

The book begins by talking about Nehemiah’s return to Jerusalem, for thirteen years had passed since Artaxerxes issued the decree for Ezra to go and reform Israel. Now, Ezra’s work had been an early success, but when the Jews wanted to rebuild the city wall, they ran into many problems. Many of Israelite enemies accused them of rebellion against Persia, so the Israelites avoided any building of a wall.

We read about Nehemiah, for in Persia, Nehemiah, who was a Jewish official in the king’s palace, had become a cupbearer (which I have recognized is someone who is a wine steward). The Jews heard about Nehemiah and wanted to speak with him, for someone so trusted had to be someone they could trust also maybe. Nehemiah, though, was a man of God who prayed much, and therefore, knew the people’s troubles were resulting from sin. Therefore, Nehemiah brought a confession before God and interceded before Him for four months.

He prepared to speak to the king about this, but the king was taken aback about Nehemiah’s return. However, he was given permission after all to return and carry out the reconstruction of the wall that was planned. He obtained the necessary building materials. Soon, the rebuilding of the city wall had commenced. During the period of building this wall, a lot of antagonism had occurred. Much of the antagonism involved mockery, treachery, extortion, compromise, insults, and other forms of disloyalty – before it was finally accomplished, as we see in chapters six through seven. Right before it was completed; there was a significant event, in which people attempted to draw Nehemiah out of the city in order to kill him. However, Nehemiah knew their tactics and did not budge from the plan of completing the wall. In completing the wall, Nehemiah made a record of all of those that lived in Jerusalem now.

Next, now that the wall was finished, it was time to execute Nehemiah’s reformation. By the end of the sixth month, the wall was complete, which was right before Israel’s mid-year meetings and festivals had occurred, so he thought this is the perfect time for a celebration of the completion of the wall. After this, the people requested that Ezra, assisted by some Levites, would read the Law and explain it to the people, because it had been so long since they heard it. When people looked upon themselves and figured how far they had departed from the Law, they began to grieve and worry. Nehemiah thought that the festivities were going to be filled with a bunch of sad people. Nevertheless, to his surprise, there wasn’t much to worry about. People were intently focused on attending every reading of the Law.

After the end of the Feast of the Tabernacles, more readings of the Law occurred. Then, there was a time of confession and worship that was led by the Levites. After confession, a fresh covenant promise was made so that they would be faithful unto God. An oath was created as well, which was signed by many leaders. All of the people involved in this oath were bound to the covenant document that told them to be obedient to the Law. There were specific matters in the document, which involved mixed marriages, temple taxes, the Sabbath Day and Sabbatical Year, maintenance of the temple and rituals, and tithes and offerings. After that, listings were created of residents, and priests and Levites. Then, we see the dedication of the wall. After the reading of the Law and miscellaneous celebrations, it appears that they dedicated the wall. People joined in offering sacrifices, praised, and rejoiced God. Officials were then assigned to watch over the money and supplies that were brought by people to the temple. All of the Israelites gave one-tenth of their income to the central fund. After the funds would be collected, it would be distributed among the Levites, as they worked in different functions in the temple. People were also reminded to keep God’s temple holy and that Pagans were not allowed inside.

Now, after serving about twelve years governing Jerusalem, Nehemiah had been called back to Persia for a while. Some of the Jews’ old enemies had returned and caused issues, such as a mixed marriage for example. Nehemiah had heard and quickly corrected this situation, since it was a violation of the promise made. Also, they hadn’t paid tithes in quite a while, and because of this, the Levites no longer worked at the temple, but went to the fields to work instead. If that wasn’t bad enough, people were working and trading on the Sabbath.

All of these things broke the covenant promise that was made. Nehemiah was furious and intent on putting an end to it. He closed the city gates on the Sabbath, which prevented people from bringing goods into the city to sell. He made doubly sure that no one sold right outside the gate either. Nehemiah had continued to correct the people and helped them follow God’s Law the best they can. Nehemiah was remarkable in trying to keep up with the reformation and overall was helpful in continuing Israelite living in Jerusalem.

Book of Ezra in the Bible

“Now when Ezra had prayed, and when he had confessed, weeping and casting himself down before the house of God, there assembled unto him out of Israel a very great congregation of men and women and children: for the people wept very sore.” –Ezra 10:1

King Cyrus of Persia had hoped that the prophecy by Jeremiah might be fulfilled, so he made a proclamation, which involved building a house at Jerusalem (in Judah). The chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, as well as the priests and Levites, went to go build the house of the Lord. Vessels were brought and placed in the house of his gods. When the seventh month came, people gathered themselves as one in Jerusalem, and an altar was built to offer burnt offerings as it is written in the Law of Moses. They praised and worshiped God in the house.

The prophecy was that King Cyrus would be a shepherd performing His pleasure, to which, he shall say to Jerusalem be built, and to the Temple would the foundation be laid. He is to also subdue nations before him, and the power of kings will be weakened so that he is made to be conqueror.

In chapter 7, we see Ezra’s genealogy. We also see the priests, Levites, and Ezra going up to Jerusalem, which involves the commission of Artaxerxes to Ezra. Ezra also blesses God for his favor to the people. In chapter 8, we see Ezra’s companions returning from Babylon. He sends Levites to Iddo to be ministers for the Temple, keeps a fast at Ahava (for a safe and prosperous journey), and committed the treasures to the custody of the priests. After Ahava, they go to Jerusalem, where the treasure is weighed in the Temple. Lastly, the commission is delivered to their adversaries, and they further the house of God (by making sacrifices).

After Ezra prayed and confessed, it was proposed by Shechaniah that those who had married strange wives should put them away with their children – to which, they had sworn to do so. A proclamation is made through the land for a meeting at Jerusalem in three days – to which, they attended. At exhortation from Ezra, all had agreed to do it, and there were persons set up to see it done. The work was completed in three months, and a list of names of them are given who married strangely and now put away – which were of the priests, Levites, and other Israelites.

Synopsis

The Book of Ezra, written by Ezra himself around 450-420 BC, is a continuation of where Second Chronicles left off. This book deals with the first return of the exiles to Jerusalem resulting from King Cyrus, and the second return of the exiles to Jerusalem led by Ezra. Many main events that occurred involved the return of the exiles, restoration of the temple/reconstruction, and Ezra’s work.

Cyrus ruled in Persia for a while before conquering Babylon in 539 BC. After this conquest, he gave the Jew permission to return to Jerusalem. The Jews, according to Jeremiah’s prophecy, were released from the Babylonian captivity and were allowed to return and rebuild their nation. Many people had chosen to remain in Babylon; it appears, however, Cyrus wanted as many to return as possible. He even provided for many of the exiles to return, and helped people rebuild their lives overall, it seems.

The primary leaders were Zerubbabel and Joshua over the returned exiles. The total number returned was around 50,000. Many people, when returned, contributed to the rebuilding of the temple. So then, the temple work began for rebuilding, where the Jews got the provisions and got to work right away. However, a halt was placed on the rebuilding, even though much of it was complete – for Artaxerxes thought that it was necessary to postpone it.

Next, we find that the temple rebuilding continued, after not being worked on for about sixteen years. The prophets Haggai and Zechariah encouraged the work to re-begin for the temple work. Although some rejected the idea, others caught on and completed the temple rebuilding and rededication within four years. A while after the dedication, a new annual festival was to be held in the temple. This was the Feast of Passover and Unleavened Bread. Celebrations were held for the restoration of their homeland.

Now, the return of Ezra is detailed, as the temple being completed in 516 BC, Ezra came back around 458 BC. This was a time when Artaxerxes I was still reigning. Ezra had big plans to reform, as he was both a priest and scribe. He had much knowledge of Jewish Law, it seems, and had the ability and funds to be able to conduct a reform. Ezra could also appoint judges to set up courts and carry out punishments as necessary. So, under this mission, authorized by the king, a journey was conducted for Ezra and others that accompanied him to Jerusalem. The journey was set to take around four months, and Ezra was fully intent on this reform.

Ezra went to the Persian officials and presented the documents that authorized him to take control of the Jewish homeland. Therefore, being allowed to do so, Ezra began his reformation as planned. Ezra was quite grieved; it appears, at mixed marriages. Israelite men married non-Israelite women; making families by them. Ezra was aware that this could destroy the religion of Israel, and therefore, he wanted this changed first. Ezra confessed sin on behalf of the nation, before presenting his case.

People heard and met with Ezra, confessed their troubles, and made an oath that it would be corrected. The work of this, though, took around three months to complete. People, though, were intent on relieving the grief of Ezra, confessing their sins, and making sacrifices as necessary. Ezra was successful in this reformation, and was great leader who had influenced many in the Israelite region.

2 Chronicles guide and info on the kings

“And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries, when they had heard that the LORD fought against the enemies of Israel.” -2 Chronicles 20:29

List of Kings mentioned

  • Rehoboam – He was made king, and a relaxation was requested for him. He also refused counsel from the old men, but in the end, raised an army to subdue Israel.
  • Abijah – He was the son of Rehoboam and inherited his throne. He warred against Jeroboam and overcame him by trusting in God.
  • (Jeroboam – a King of Israel, who was shown warring with several kings of Judah.)
  • Asa was king after Abijah, to which, he was most known for destroying idolatry, promoting peace, and putting his faith in God.
  • Jehoshaphat was made king after him, to which, he sent Levites with the princes to teach Judah, was feared by the nations, and joined up with Ahab to be against Ramoth-gilead.
  • Jehoram is made king after him, and ruled wickedly – to which, a prophecy was made against him by Elijah, the Philistines and Arabians oppress him, and he had an incurable disease that brought death.
  • Ahaziah, another wicked king, takes the throne, to which he made confederacy with Joram the son of Ahab, and was then slain by Jehu.
  • Athaliah came in and usurped the kingdom, destroying the entire seed royal, and saving Joash.
  • Joash was made king, and soon after, Athaliah is slain. He reigned well, fell into idolatry, and slayed Zechariah.
  • Amaziah succeeded him on the throne. He began by slaying his father’s murderers, hired an army of Israelites against the Edomites, and successfully overthrew the Edomites.
  • Uzziah is then made king, and reigned well. He invaded the priest’s office and was smitten with leprosy.
  • Jotham succeeded Uzziah, to which, he was a prosperous king, but with little Scriptural record.
  • Ahaz was the next king, in which, he reigned in a bad way. He asked for help from the king of Assyria against the Philistines and Edomites, but to no avail. He was heavily involved in idolatry.
  • Hezekiah then took the throne after him. He restored religion, offered solemn sacrifices, and sung with praise. Also, he destroyed the altars of idolatry.
  • Manasseh would succeed him, and was wicked. Even so, he believed in God, and prayed – still dealing with idolatry.
  • Amon would reign shortly. He was slain by his servants (Amon was usually found guilty of trespassing), which ended his kingship quickly.

About Josiah: Josiah was best known for having a good reign starting at eight years old and being right in the eyes of the Lord. He walked in the ways of David, his father. He chose to destroy idolatry, which involved purging Judah and Jerusalem of all high places, carved images, and other molten images and groves. He also takes order of the repair of the Temple. Hilkiah the priest found the Book of the Law, and therefore, the king asked that people do after all that is written in the book. Finally, he makes a covenant with the Lord to walk after Him, keep His commandments, His testimonies, His statutes with all of his heart and soul. He desired to keep the words of the covenant, which are in the book. He led others to believe in God and never to depart from Him!

The Temple: The Temple was made as sacred as possible, with all the decorative furniture and “heavenly” things added to make it appear more holy. Since it was wonderfully made, and now that God has established his Temple within us instead of a building, we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Queen of Sheba: Queen of Sheba heard about Solomon’s fame, and therefore, visited him. She admired his wisdom, and blessed him with her words. She saw that God blessed him, and that he was working for the glory of God, for God had loved Israel. She gave him 120 talents of gold, spices in great abundance, precious stones, and other gifts were brought as well. Therefore, King Solomon gave to the queen all that she desired or asked, and then she left. (Solomon had 1,400 chariots and 12,000 horsemen. He made silver and gold at Jerusalem that was as much as stones (which probably means quite a bit), and cedar trees he had. A chariot out of Egypt brought 600 shekels of silver, and a horse for 150 (horses were brought for all the kings of the Hittites and the Kings of Syria).)

1:11-12 says, “And God said to Solomon, Because this was in thine heart, and thou hast not asked riches, wealth, or honour, nor the life of thine enemies, neither yet hast asked long life; but hast asked wisdom and knowledge for thyself, that thou mayest judge my people, over whom I have made thee king: Wisdom and knowledge is granted unto thee; and I will give thee riches, and wealth, and honour, such as none of the kings have had that have been before thee, neither shall there any after thee have the like.”

Synopsis

The Book of Second Chronicles, a book written by Ezra (most presume, or some other chronicler), was done around 450-420 BC. Much as First Chronicles was, Second Chronicles continues where it left off – which was the detail of the redemptive history of Israel. While the genealogy was detailed as well as David’s reign as king in First Chronicles, then in Second Chronicles, Solomon’s reign was detailed as well as the listing of Judah’s kings. The chronicler details the reigns of certain kings in Judah, especially those responsible for revival and reformation. Some of it focuses on the evil kings that caused problems, including the corruption and collapse of the kingdom.

The writer here is very focused on the dynasty continuance through Solomon from David. Solomon was another very important figure as he was to build the temple and create a lasting way for people to be able to worship God and bring sacrifices unto Him. Solomon’s devotion to God was great at the beginning of his reign, in that he arranged a ceremony at the tabernacle in Gibeon and had been offered a gift from God – to which he chose wisdom to be able to reign in Israel. So, Solomon’s wisdom would be at work in the everyday affairs of people’s lives, especially in how he managed his kingdom. Solomon also would write words of wisdom and songs – some people would record the wisdom he would speak. His wisdom was so widely known. But, more importantly, the plans for building the temple were to be done. The writer shows the enjoyment Israel had under King Solomon. They trusted that he would carry out the temple project successfully.

Solomon had help from King Hiram of Tyre in preparing the materials and arranging a workforce to build the temple. Construction lasted for seven years – to which the temple and all its furnishings were completely done and prepared ceremonially. After that, the temple was dedicated to God. Solomon wanted to preserve the holiness of his throne, so he had a palace built for his Egyptian wife. The writer emphasized that the Davidic line of kings wanted to stay faithful to God. Anyway, temple services were organized according to the plans laid out by David and him.          After noting a bit more about the wisdom of Solomon, his ability in business, and his fame and wealth – the writer closes with talking about the death of Solomon. Rehoboam, his son, took the helm after his death.

Next, the writer deals with an outlined explanation of all of the important reigns of Judah’s kings. He starts with Rehoboam, who took the kingly throne after the death of Solomon. Rehoboam began his reign well, which was influenced by priests and Levites who came to Judah from Israel. Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, took Judah’s throne, which caused the Davidic line to be under “Judah” rather than “Israel.” During the kingdom division, Israel was divided, and two of the tribes went into their own kingdom called Judah. Jeroboam ruled in Israel, and Rehoboam ruled in Judah.

Next, the writer details the reformation under Asa, and then talked about the end of his reign before Ahab came to power in the north. Under the influence of his wife, Jezebel, Baalism became a norm in Israel. This “Baalism” was very evil and powerful than others had practiced, and this concerned the other kingdom. After the reign of Asa and Ahab was outlined, then the writer talks about the reign of Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat carried on the reformation of Asa, and destroyed all of the Baal shrines that remained in Judah. Jehoshaphat also reformed and reorganized the judicial system in Judah, because of the need to eliminate injustice and to be sure, that people are treated fair.

The Baalism of Ahab and Jezebel had remained to be strong in the northern kingdom during the reigns of Ahaziah and Joram. It had spread to Judah in the reign of Jehoram. When Judah had died, Athaliah seized the throne herself and she ruled for six years – doing all she could to establish the northern Baalism for her parents in Judah. However, the death of Athaliah was also the end of Jezebel’s Baalism in Judah.

Another proponent of David was Joash, whom encouraged better worship among his people. However, Joash was reported to have turned away from God and encouraged Canaanite worship – and in this, he came under God’s judgment. His death was a punishment, because he murdered a priest who had rebuked him. The writer, then, moves forward in other kings he details, such as Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, and Ahaz. On Hezekiah’s work, great detail was added, because he began a very thorough reformation of Judah’s religion, which was prompted by the prophet Micah.

Hezekiah’s work affected the temple, priests, and Levites – as they neglected the temple because of God’s anger with Judah. The temple was to be cleansed and prepared for a renewal of services. Services were held, offerings were made, and the temple was successfully rededicated. A Passover feast was held after, and all of the traces of false religions were removed from Jerusalem. His reformations helped Judah to be more prosperous, but pride led him on to becoming friends with Babylon, which was the current rising power in that area. Later, this brought disaster upon Judah.

With Manasseh ruling next, he destroyed all the good work of his father, and drug the nation down to a very low condition spiritually. However, when his life was ending, he tried to quickly reform it and undo the damage, but it was impossible to do with so many years of damage. Amon followed and removed the reform that was beginning from Manasseh. However, once Josiah stepped in, a big reform came, and a Passover feast followed – just like during the reform of Hezekiah.

The Ark was returned to the temple where it belonged, and many good things happened during his reign – until he was killed in battle. Hezekiah and Josiah were two great kings who had successfully reformed in Judah. However, once Josiah died, Judah returned to its wicked ways, and the successors for the throne kept following disastrous policies that only hurt Judah so much more. God, then, allowed one final judgment upon the nation by allowing Babylon to conquer Judah, destroy Jerusalem, and take the people captive to another land. Many of the reasons for the destruction included the unfaithfulness of the priests and people, their refusal to heed the warnings of the messengers of God, and kept on with their sinful acts.

God, however, was not through with His People just yet, as a new king was raised up named Cyrus of Persia, who conquered Babylon – as well as freeing the Jews to be able to return and rebuild their homeland. The nation then centered its life on the temple in Jerusalem. King Cyrus desired that the Lord be with them once again.