“Unit 22: Day 1, Esther 1–Job 16,” Old Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2014)
“Unit 22: Day 1,” Old Testament Study Guide
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. After fasting along with the Jews, 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.
Job, a righteous, God-fearing man, experienced severe trials and afflictions. He lost all of his property, his children died, and he suffered with poor health. In the midst of his suffering, Job was visited by three friends. Though his friends intended to comfort him, they accused him of transgression.
The events in the book of Esther occurred before the events in the book of Nehemiah. You may recall from your study of Ezra that the Persian king Darius renewed the decree of a former king, Cyrus, for the Jews to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem (see Ezra 6). It was during the reign of Darius’s son Ahasuerus (see Ezra 4:6) that the events in the book of Esther took place. (He is often known by his Greek name, Xerxes.) Ahasuerus’s son Artaxerxes was the Persian king who gave Ezra money and supplies to beautify the temple (see Ezra 7) and sent Nehemiah to Jerusalem (see Nehemiah 2).
As you study the book of Esther, look for how Esther demonstrated faith and courage in her efforts to save her people from their enemies. The book 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 area in the Middle East where many Israelites from the kingdom of Judah (Jews) lived (see Bible Maps, no. 7, “The Persian Empire”). Ahasuerus, the king of Persia, became displeased with his queen, Vashti, and decided to replace her. He selected Esther as his new queen from among the young women of the kingdom. Esther kept her identity as a Jew secret because Mordecai, who was her cousin and the man who had raised her, had instructed her to not reveal she was a Jew.
Ahasuerus promoted a man named Haman to be his chief minister, and all of the king’s servants were commanded 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. (See the chapter headings for Esther 1–4.)
Read Esther 4:8, looking for what Mordecai asked Esther to do.
Read Esther 4:11, looking for why what Mordecai asked of Esther would be difficult and dangerous.
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.
Read Esther 4:13–14. What do you think Mordecai meant when he said to Esther, “Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14)? How can this apply to you in your life?
Consider what President James E. Faust of the First Presidency taught youth about the influence they can have on others: “These are challenging times. I believe your spirits may have been reserved for these latter days; that you, like Esther, have come to earth ‘for such a time as this.’ It may be that your most significant, everlasting achievements will be your righteous influence on others” (“The Virtues of Righteous Daughters of God,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2003, 111).
Esther was able to successfully expose Haman’s treachery, and she saved the Jews from their enemies (see the chapter headings for Esther 5–10).
Ponder the following questions: How do you typically respond when something bad happens to you? How might you respond if something bad happened to you when you had done nothing to deserve it?
The book of Job tells about a person who experienced severe trials and afflictions. Some have wondered whether Job was a fictional character, but other prophets and latter-day revelation suggest that he was a real person who went through very real suffering (see Ezekiel 14:14, 20; James 5:11; D&C 121:10). As you study Job 1–16, look for principles that can be of help when you or those around you experience trials.
Read Job 1:1–3, looking for words or phrases that describe Job.
The word perfect in verse 1 does not mean Job was without sin. It implies that Job faithfully sought to keep the commandments of God. Job was persistent in his devotion to his Heavenly Father. Those who keep the commandments and endure to the end will eventually be made perfect through the Atonement of Jesus Christ (see Moroni 10:32–33; D&C 76:69).
Job 1:6–12 contains a poetic version of an imagined conversation between the Lord and Satan, who became the adversary of mankind following his rebellion during the Council in Heaven (see Moses 4:1–4; Guide to the Scriptures, “Devil”; scriptures.lds.org). It is likely that such a conversation between God and Satan never took place. Well-meaning scribes may have added these verses as a kind of literary fiction to provide some background for Job’s suffering. Nevertheless, Job and the events of his life are real. Read Job 1:6–12, and then complete the following two sentences:
Satan claimed that Job feared or worshipped the Lord because .
Satan said that if the Lord removed His protection and blessings from Job, then Job would .
The Lord allowed Satan to afflict all that Job had, but he was not allowed to harm Job.
Contrary to the account in Job 1:6–12 (and a similar account in Job 2:1–6), the Lord does not make agreements with Satan. The conversations between the Lord and Satan in the book of Job are presented in a poetic narrative that emphasizes Satan’s role as our adversary. In reality, the Lord has power over Satan and does not bargain with him.
Read Job 1:13–19, looking for all of the things Job lost.
If you were Job, what questions or feelings would you have after these things happened to you?
Read Job’s response in Job 1:20–22, looking for how he demonstrated his faith in God.
From these verses we learn that we can choose to have faith in God even in the midst of our trials.
Satan claimed that if Job were afflicted physically, he would .
The Lord allowed Satan to , but He did not allow Satan to .
Read Job 2:7–9, looking for what happened to Job next. (It may be helpful to know that boils are a very painful skin condition and a potsherd is a piece of broken pottery. Job was using it to try to scrape off his diseased skin.)
Consider how during times of great trial a person might be tempted to blame God and turn away from Him, as Job’s wife told him he should do in verse 9.
Read Job 2:10, looking for how Job responded to the afflictions he experienced.
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
Based on what you have learned from Job’s example, what can you do to show faith in God during your trials?
Think of someone you admire for choosing to have faith in God during trials. How did this person show faith in God?
Have you ever had a friend help you during a difficult time?
In Job 2:11–13 we read about how three of Job’s friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—went to comfort him during his afflictions. Read Job 3:1–4, 25; 6:1–3, looking for thoughts and feelings Job expressed to his friends.
Throughout Job 4–16, Job’s friends expressed their belief that Job’s afflictions had come because of something Job had done wrong. Read each set of verses in the following list, looking for why each of Job’s friends believed Job deserved his afflictions. Write their reasons on the lines following the references.
Bildad (Job 8:1–6, 20):
Zophar (Job 11:1–6):
Based on what you have learned about Job, did his afflictions come upon him because of sin?
From Job’s experience we can learn that trials and difficulties come upon the righteous as well as the wicked.
- Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: Why do you think it is important to know that trials and difficulties come upon the righteous as well as the wicked?
As you continue to study Job’s words, ponder how you might complete the following principle: Although we may not know the reasons for our trials, we can .
Read Job 10:2, 15. In these verses, Job said he did not know why his afflictions had come upon him.
Read Job 13:13–16, looking for what Job said he would do no matter what happened to him.
Based on Job’s example, complete the preceding principle.
Read the following statement by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Look for and mark what can prevent us from trusting in the Lord and what we can do to trust in Him.
“When you face adversity, you can be led to ask many questions. Some serve a useful purpose; others do not. To ask, Why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to suffer this, now? What have I done to cause this? will lead you into blind alleys. It really does no good to ask questions that reflect opposition to the will of God. Rather ask, What am I to do? What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? Whom am I to help? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial? …
“This life is an experience in profound trust—trust in Jesus Christ, trust in His teachings, trust in our capacity as led by the Holy Spirit to obey those teachings. … To trust means to obey willingly without knowing the end from the beginning (see Prov. 3:5–7). To produce fruit, your trust in the Lord must be more powerful and enduring than your confidence in your own personal feelings and experience” (“Trust in the Lord,” Ensign, Nov. 1995, 17).
- Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: What are some things you can do to show your trust in the Lord during difficult times? Be sure to act on any promptings you have received to place your faith and trust in the Lord.
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: