“Home-Study Lesson: Esther; Job; Psalms, Part 1 (Unit 22)” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)
“Unit 22,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual
After deposing Queen Vashti, King Ahasuerus of Persia chose a Jewish girl named Esther to be his new queen. Esther’s cousin and guardian, Mordecai, offended Haman, a leader in the Persian kingdom, by not bowing to him. Haman received permission from the king to destroy all of the Jews in the kingdom. Esther risked her life by approaching the king to intervene in the Jews’ behalf. She exposed Haman’s treachery and saved the Jews from their enemies.
Before class, write the following questions on the board: If you could have lived during any other time period in history, when would it have been and why? If you could have been born in any other place in the present, where would it have been and why?
Divide students into pairs. Invite one student in each partnership to answer the first question on the board and the other student in each partnership to answer the second question. After they have shared their answers with their partners, invite a few students to share their answers with the class. Then write the following question on the board: Why has the Lord sent you to the earth at this time and placed you in your circumstances?
Invite students to ponder this question as they study the book of Esther during this lesson.
Explain that the book of Esther contains the account of a young woman who was placed in a time and in a position to perform a great act of service for the Lord’s people. In Esther’s day, the Persian Empire controlled a large portion of the Middle East where many Israelites from the kingdom of Judah (Jews) lived. Esther lived in Shushan, which was the capital of the Persian Empire.
Invite a student to summarize Esther 1–3. Ensure that students understand that Ahasuerus, the king of Persia, became displeased with his queen, Vashti, and decided to replace her. The king selected Esther as his new queen from among the young women of the kingdom. Esther kept her identity as a Jew secret because Mordecai, Esther’s cousin and the man who had raised her, had instructed her not to reveal she was a Jew. The king promoted a man named Haman to be his chief minister and commanded all of his servants to bow before Haman as he passed by. Mordecai refused to do so, and this infuriated Haman. As a result, Haman sought to kill all of the Jews in the kingdom. He proposed the idea to the king, and he was given the authority to do as he desired. The decree was published and sent forth throughout the land.
Invite students to read Esther 4:8 silently, looking for what Mordecai asked Esther to do.
What did Mordecai ask Esther to do? (To go to the king and plead for him to save her people.)
Explain that while Mordecai’s suggestion might sound easy for Esther to follow, it would have been difficult and dangerous for her. Invite a student to read Esther 4:11 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for Esther’s concern.
Why would Mordecai’s suggestion for Esther to go to the king have been difficult for her?
Invite a student to explain why no one was allowed into the king’s presence without being called. Ensure that students understand that during this time, kings were often in danger of assassination, so they surrounded themselves with guards and had harsh penalties for anyone who came uninvited into any room they were in. Esther would be risking her life if she went in to the king without having been called. Her life would be spared only if he held out his golden scepter to her.
Invite a student to read Esther 4:13–14 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Mordecai told Esther. (You may need to explain that in verse 14 the phrase “holdest thy peace” means to not speak, and the word enlargement means relief [see Esther 4:14, footnote a].)
What do you think Mordecai meant when he told Esther that she might have come to the kingdom “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14)? (Perhaps the Lord had placed Esther in her position for the purpose of saving the Jews.)
What truths can we learn from Mordecai’s suggestion about why Esther might have become queen? (Students may identify a variety of principles, but make sure it is clear that the Lord can place us in particular circumstances so we can help others. Using students’ words, write this truth on the board.)
Invite students to briefly ponder the third question you wrote on the board at the beginning of class: Why has the Lord sent you to the earth at this time and placed you in your circumstances?
Explain that, like Esther, we have a responsibility to help other people in the various circumstances and situations we are in, even when we may feel hesitant to do so.
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency. Ask the class to listen for what the Lord expects of us.
“The Lord gave you your responsibilities for a reason. There may be people and hearts only you can reach and touch. Perhaps no one else could do it in quite the same way” (“Lift Where You Stand,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2008, 56).
According to President Uchtdorf’s statement, why has the Lord given us our various responsibilities?
Invite students to answer the following questions in their class notebooks or scripture study journals:
When have you seen someone use his or her position or circumstances to bless the lives of others, and how did this affect you?
In the particular circumstances the Lord has placed you in, how can you bless the lives of others?
Ask students to ponder whether they have ever worried that they may not be strong enough to do something that God wants them to do.
Explain that Esther sent the palace messengers with her response to Mordecai’s request that she go to the king for help. Invite a student to read Esther 4:15–17 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for her decision and what she asked Mordecai to do.
Why do you think Esther asked that all of the Jews in the city fast for three days before she went in to see the king?
What principle can we learn from Esther about preparing to do difficult things? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following principle: If we fast and pray for the Lord’s help, He can bless us with spiritual strength to do difficult things.)
Encourage students to fast and pray for greater spiritual strength and courage to do difficult things. You may want to suggest that students also consider asking loved ones to join them in their fasting and prayers.
Invite a student to read Esther 5:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what happened when the king saw Esther. Invite students to report what they find.
Summarize Esther 5:4–10:3 by explaining that after the king asked Esther what she wanted from him, she asked if he and Haman would come to a banquet that she would prepare for them. The king and Haman gladly accepted the invitation. The next day Esther revealed that she was a Jew and that Haman was plotting to kill all of the Jews in the kingdom.
What were the consequences of Esther acting courageously to save the Jews?
What principles can we learn from the example of Queen Esther? (Students may identify a variety of principles, but be sure to emphasize that if we act courageously to do what is right, then our efforts can bless the lives of many people.)
When have you or someone you know acted courageously to do the right thing? How were others blessed because of this courageous action?
Explain that the events in the book of Esther occurred before the events in the book of Nehemiah. It was Ahasuerus’s son Artaxerxes who was the Persian king who later gave Ezra money and supplies to beautify the temple in Jerusalem (see Ezra 7) and sent Nehemiah to Jerusalem (see Nehemiah 2).
Conclude the lesson by inviting students to testify of truths they have learned from the account of Esther. Invite them to follow the example of Esther by acting courageously to choose the right in difficult situations and finding ways to serve others.
Invite students to consider how their attitudes about life and the choices they make would be different without an understanding of the plan of salvation. Explain that as they continue to study the book of Psalms, they will discover truths that can add purpose to their lives and help them to know what they must do to dwell in God’s presence.