Based on the Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, & Esther
When the Babylonians conquered the land of Judah, what happened to the beautiful temple that Solomon had built hundreds of years before?
2 Chronicles 36:18, 19.
But God had promised that after 70 years, the Jews who had been taken prisoners could go back home. Jeremiah 29:10.
God kept His promise. Cyrus, one of the greatest kings of Medo-Persia, made a law that allowed the Jews to go back to Jerusalem. Many of them did, but most decided to stay in Persia.
Now, many years later, Ahasuerus was the king. He was having a grand celebration at his palace, and all the important officers in his kingdom were there.
On the last day of the feast, the king sent for Queen Vashti to come so the men could see how beautiful she was. But Queen Vashti would not go. She knew that the men were drinking too much wine, and that she should not go just for them to look at her. That made the king very angry. So he signed a law that said that Vashti wouldn’t be queen anymore.
When the king was able to think right again, he was sorry for what he had done. But Persian laws couldn’t be changed. What did the king’s servants say he should do? Esther 2:1-4.
He would need to choose a new queen. His servants would find all the beautiful, unmarried young women in the country, and the king would choose one of them to be his new queen.
One of the Jewish families that had stayed in Persia had a little girl named Esther. When her parents died, her older cousin named Mordecai took care of her as if she were his own little girl. And Esther grew up to become a beautiful young lady. Esther 2:7.
When Mordecai heard the news about the beauty contest he wondered if Esther might be chosen. And she was chosen!
Before long, she was in a special part of the palace where the young women were to live until they met the king. Esther 2:8.
Mordecai knew that many people didn’t like the Jews, because they worshiped God instead of idols. So, before Esther went to the palace, Mordecai told her not to tell people that she was a Jewess.
How glad Mordecai and Esther must have been to be close to each other! Every day she could let him know what was happening. They must have prayed that if it were God’s will, she would be chosen to be queen.
Hegai, the man who was in charge of all the young women, could tell that Esther was very special. She was beautiful on the outside, but more important than that, she was beautiful on the inside, too. She wasn’t proud or selfish or jealous. Everyone loved her.
Hegai did special things for Esther. Before she visited the king, Hegai helped her choose the right clothes to wear, and he made sure that she looked just right. Esther 2:5.
When the king saw Esther and talked with her, he could tell that she was different from all of the other young women. What did he do? Esther 2:17, 18.
One day, Mordecai found out that two of the king’s servants were very angry about something, and that they were planning to murder the king. Right away he sent word to Esther, and she immediately told the king about their plan. When the king found that it was true, the wicked servants were punished.
The king made sure that his secretary wrote about everything that happened. And sure enough, the record said that Mordecai had saved the king’s life by reporting to Queen Esther the terrible plan to kill the king. How pleased the king must have been that his lovely queen didn’t want anything bad to happen to him! Esther 2:21-23.
One of the king’s officers was a man named Haman, and the king decided to make him the most important officer in the palace. What did the king’s servants do whenever Haman went past them? Esther 3:2.
Mordecai was very loyal to the king, but he would not bow down as if he were worshiping anyone but the true God in heaven. The other servants couldn’t understand why Mordecai wouldn’t kneel to Haman. Finally they told Haman about Mordecai to see what would happen. Esther 3:3-6.
When Haman found out that Mordecai was a Jew, and that he refused to kneel as the other servants did, he made a terrible plan to destroy not just Mordecai, but all the Jews in the whole kingdom. The king didn’t know that the plan would destroy some of his best people. He trusted Haman, so the wicked plan became law. Esther 3:8-13.
Also, the king didn’t know that Haman hated God, nor why he hated God’s people. The Jews were good citizens, and they were not making trouble as the king had been told.
Haman was happy about the law that all the Jews were to be killed on a certain day that year. He didn’t know that Esther was a Jewess. The king and Haman celebrated the new law. But what did Mordecai do when he heard about it?
When Esther learned about Mordecai, what did she do? Esther 3:4-9. And when he asked her to plead with the king, she quickly sent word back to Mordecai reminding him that it was against the law for anyone to visit the king unless they were invited. Even the queen had to obey that law. Anyone who disobeyed would be killed, except those to whom the king held out his golden scepter. What could she do?
Mordecai reminded Queen Esther that even though the king didn’t know that she was Jewish, it would become known; and she would have to die with all the other Jews. He said that perhaps God had let her be chosen as queen, because He would help her save His people. Esther 4:13, 14.
What message did Esther send back to Mordecai? Esther 4:15, 16.
How Esther, her maids, and all the Jews must have prayed! And God helped her to think of a plan. She prepared a wonderful dinner for the king and Haman. Then, she put on her queen’s dress and bravely went to the part of the palace where the king was sitting on his throne. What happened? Esther 5:1-8.
The king and Haman enjoyed the wonderful dinner. Haman was feeling very important as he left the banquet—until he walked past Mordecai. How he hated that Jew who wouldn’t kneel before him! When he got home, he told his friends about how important he was. Then he told them about Mordecai. Esther 5:9-13.
Haman’s family told him just what to do. “Build a gallows right now,” they said, “and tomorrow morning, ask the king if you may hang Mordecai.” Haman liked the idea, and the gallows was built.
That night, Haman probably slept well. But in the palace, the king couldn’t sleep. Finally, what did he tell a servant to do? Esther 6:1, 3.
Just as the servant finished reading about how Mordecai had saved the king’s life, Haman arrived. Immediately, the king asked him, “What can I do to show honor to someone special?”
Of course, the king was thinking about honoring Mordecai for saving his life. But proud, wicked Haman was sure the king was thinking about him. Esther 6:6.
Imagine how shocked Haman was when the king told him that he would have to give special honor to Mordecai, the very man he hated so much, and had planned to kill that very day. Esther 6:7-12.
At home, his family knew that Haman was in big trouble. And while they were talking, a servant came to hurry him to Esther’s next banquet.
The king knew that his beautiful queen wanted something special, and again he asked her to tell him what it was. This time, Esther was ready. Esther 7:1-6.
The king was shocked. As Esther told him about Haman’s plan, the king became so angry that Haman had done such a terrible thing he stormed out of the room. And suddenly Haman realized that Queen Esther was a Jewess. He was terrified. At the king’s command, servants quickly took wicked Haman away, and he was executed. Esther 7:7-10.
Then Esther told the king that she was related to Mordecai. At once, the king made him his most important officer. Esther 8:1, 2, 15, and Esther 9:3, 4.
How quickly everything had changed! But there was still a big problem. At Haman’s request, the king had already signed a law saying that all the Jews were to be killed on a certain day. And Persian laws couldn’t be changed.
Esther talked to the king again about the problem. He at once told her and Mordecai to write another law that would give the Jews permission to protect themselves. Esther 8:8.
Once again, messengers rode away on fast horses, carrying Mordecai’s letter to all the Persian kingdom.
The wonderful news spread fast. The Jews in Shushan got the news first. Can you imagine how happy they were? What celebrations there were all over the land! The people saw how wonderfully God had blessed Mordecai for being faithful to Him. God had saved His people from being destroyed. Esther 8:17.
Wicked Satan was sure that he had found a way to destroy God’s people. But God had proven again that He can always help and bless us when we choose to trust and obey Him.
Artaxerxes was the next king after Ahasuerus. He made another law that allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem.
Many years before, some of God’s people had gone back to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple. Now many more decided to return. Ezra was in charge of those returning. Ezra 7:6-10. He truly loved and trusted God. But not all the Jews living in Persia went back to Jerusalem with him.
Nehemiah, who worked for King Artaxerxes, was one of those who had stayed in Persia. Several years after Ezra led the people back to Jerusalem, a messenger came from Jerusalem to where Nehemiah lived and told him about what was happening in Jerusalem. Enemies living nearby had made trouble, and now the people were discouraged. And even though the temple had been rebuilt, the walls of the city were still broken down.
Nehemiah was very sad. For many days, he prayed that God would somehow help him go to Jerusalem to help his people. When he finally talked to the king, how did God answer his prayer? Nehemiah 2:6-8.
When he got to Jerusalem, he talked to the leaders, and very soon Nehemiah had everyone organized. It was exciting to see how quickly the walls were being repaired as all the people—both leaders and common people—worked together side by side.
And even though their enemies kept trying to stop the work, Nehemiah wouldn’t give up. How long did it take them to build the wall? Nehemiah 6:15.
What a short time it had taken to do such a very big job! But because God had blessed and protected them, and because everyone had helped, it was all finished in less than two months.
Nehemiah and Ezra taught the people about our wonderful God. When the people realized that in many ways they had not been obeying God, they were truly sorry; and they confessed their sins. God forgave them and helped them stop doing those wrong things.
Do you know why the stories about God’s people who lived so many years ago are in the Bible? They are for us. God wants us to learn lessons from what happened to them so we can, by His help, avoid their mistakes. He wants us to remember that we each have to choose for ourselves whom to obey.
Jesus wants each of us to choose to love, trust, and obey Him. And with His help, we can.
Do you think that Vashti made the right choice, even though she knew that the king would be angry? Should we ever do something just to show off? We should always choose to do right, no matter what happens.
Which is more important—how we look on the outside, or what we are like on the inside? What do you think Esther was like? Do you think that she pouted and whined if she didn’t get her way? Was she proud of her clothes and beautiful dress?
When Haman planned to kill all the Jews because Mordecai was loyal to God, Mordecai, Esther, and the Jews trusted God. In our world today, wicked people sometimes still plan to hurt those who choose to obey God. Do we need to be afraid? Romans 8:31-39.
What did the Jews do when they were in trouble? What should we do? Are there people in our world now who sometimes suffer for choosing to be loyal to God?
Once again, God showed that there is nothing too hard for Him to do. He was able to save the Jews, even though proud, wicked Haman tried to kill them. God can always make good things happen, even when everything seems to be going wrong. Romans 8:28.
Nehemiah wanted to help God’s people, and God answered his prayer. Will God answer our prayers, too, when we are truly wanting to serve God?
When Mordecai, Esther, and Nehemiah were in trouble, they asked God to help them. God loves to answer our prayers and help us when we are in trouble. Whenever you are in trouble, will you trust God and ask Him to help you know what to do?