Check out these four ways to study Esther.
Surprisingly, there are four people in Esther on the Bible Top 55 list. The first is King Ahasuerus or Xerxes who is ranked #20. He far outranks Esther (#42), Mordecai (#46), her older cousin, and Haman (#54), the villain of the story. There is a one-page study on each of these in the Top 55 booklet.
THE ESTHER TOP FOUR GAME -- a simple and fun way to teach through Esther
Take the cards for Ahasuaerus, Esther, Mordecai, and Haman from the Top 55 deck or simply print out the cards below. Arrange these on the table or a white board to form a rectangle. Then do a short pregame interactive study of a few basic things about these four main characters in Esther. Do not spend too much time on this, however, because much will be learned during the game itself, much of which is open-Bible.
During the game, players or teams take turns making sentences about one or two of the Top Four people in Esther. One point is awarded for each correct sentence that mentions one of the Top Four, and two points are awarded for each correct sentence which links two of them.
For instance, a player or team could earn two points by saying, "Moredecai was Esther's older cousin." They would only earn one points, however, for saying, "Esther was young and beautiful."
Compound sentences are not to be used to score two points. For instance, the sentence "Esther was young, but Mordecai was old." contains two names but it is only worth one point because it is a compound sentence with two parts which can not both be counted. On the other hand two points would be earned for saying, "Both Esther and Mordecai were godly."
At first it is easy to make sentences and score points, but a particular sentence can only be used once. (The leader should keep a record of what is said.) As the game progresses, it becomes difficult to think of something new to say. So as it begin to slow down, the leader should allow all players to use their Bibles. A timer should also be used, however, to keep the game from becoming too slow.
Near the end of the game, players or teams are to be given between five and ten minutes to use their Bibles and write out on paper as many NEW lines about people in the Top Four as possible. This special, game-ending round is where much of the differences in scoring will occur.
TEACHING DURING THE GAME
During the game, especially the open-Bible portion, the leader should ask participants to back up their sentences. For instance, if someone says, "Both Esther and Mordecai were godly." the leader should ask for evidence, in which case reading the verses on fasting (4:15-16) would be appropriate.
The leader should also be prepared to expand upon various points that are made. For instance, he or she might point out that fasting is directly mentioned in Esther but prayer is not. Probably this is because, mentioning prayer would have been too close to directly mentioning God. Undoubtedly they prayed as they fasted, but it does not directly say so.
TEACHING AT THE END OF THE GAME
At the end, the leader should ask the group, "What do you think is the most important thing that should be said about these four Bible characters?" Opinions will vary, but that is no problem. For instance, one might say, "The most important thing to say about Esther and Mordecai is that God worked in special ways to protected them and the other Jews." Someone else might say, "The most important thing to say about Esther is that God wonderfully worked in her life." Both of these are good answers.
The Lord is never directly mentioned in Esther. So in a way it is a godless book, and the title of this study is God's People in Godless Times. As in other studies in this series on passages in which God is never or rarely mentioned, the main point is that the Lord is active even when he seems to be missing. -- So for us, Esther is a call to live by faith (Heb. 11:1-2), expecting to see God work in the little things as well as in the big things of human history which is centered on the Jewish people and the Messiah (John 4:22).
The idea of building a gallows or execution tower to hang Mordecai was Hanan's wife's idea, and as she hoped, it changed his somber mood (Est. 5:14). In the end, however, the tower was used to hang Haman. So it was a very bad idea for him, but the outcome was fitting. Zeresh was Haman's counselor, and this is one of several studies on good and bad ideas in the Bible which demonstrate four simple steps to use in order to see if an idea is good or bad.
This study on Vashti, the queen whom Esther replaced, is featured in the Lesser-Known but Significant Women series. The main point in the study is that God was in charge of all that happened. It is similar to the study in Esther in the Godless-Times series, but that study (#2 above) makes it more clear that God was not responsible for the various evil things that the king did.
© 2020 by Jon F. Mahar, Hakusan City, Japan