Sunday School Bible Survey:      ESTHER

Theme: The Providence of God

Key verses: "And who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:14b).

From the Scofield Study Bible:
The significance of the Book of Esther is that it testifies to the secret watch care of Jehovah over dispersed Israel. The name of God does not once occur, but in no other book of the Bible is His providence more conspicuous. A mere remnant returned to Jerusalem. The mass of the nation preferred the easy and lucrative life under the Persian rule. But God did not forsake them. What He here does for Judah, He is surely doing for all the covenant people.

The book is in seven parts:

  1. The Story of Vashti (1:1-22).
  2. Esther made queen (2:1-23).
  3. The conspiracy of Haman (3:1-15).
  4. The courage of Esther brings deliverance (4:1-7:10).
  5. The vengeance (8:1-9:19).
  6. The feast of Purim (9:20-32).
  7. Epilogue (10:1-3).

The events recorded in Esther cover a period of 12 years (Ussher).


  1. The book of Esther is the second book of the Bible that bears a woman's name. The other book is Ruth.
  2. Ruth was a Gentile woman who married a Jew. Esther was a Jewish woman who married a Gentile.
  3. The author is unknown.
  4. The name of God is not mentioned, but the hand of God is seen throughout the book. God is busy working behind the scenes throughout the entire book.
  5. A.T. Pierson called the book of Esther, "The Romance of Providence."
  6. Providence has been defined as "God's activity resulting from His foresight." The word "providence" literally means "pre-vision" — a foreseeing. God knows everything (He is omniscient), and therefore He sees everything.
  7. Taking this a step further, God not only sees everything, He prepares for that which is foreseen, so pre-vision leads to provision.
  8. One of the names of God is Jehovah-jireh, which means, "the LORD will provide."
  9. Here is a good definition of Divine Providence from the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646):
    "God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy."

  1. God provided for his people by using Esther to preserve them from death.
  2. God had already promised a blessing on all nations through His promised Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ, who would be a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, of the tribe of Judah, and of the lineage of David.
  3. This could not have happened if Haman had succeeded in destroying all the Jews.
  4. In Esther 4:14, Mordecai stated that God's purpose could not fail.
  5. In spite of his great power, Haman failed, not one single Jew died, and Haman was slain in the very way he wanted to kill Mordecai.
  6. God directed events so as to accomplish His will.
  • Vashti was deposed for disobeying the king (1:12—2:4).
  • Esther (a Jewess) was chosen to take her place (2:16, 17).
  • Mordecai reported the treacherous plot against the king (2:21-23).
  • Haman's wicked plan (3).
  • The Jews fast and pray (4).
  • Esther asked the king if she could organize a banquet (5:7, 8).
  • The king could not sleep on the night before her request, so had the court chronicles read and discovered what Mordecai had done (6:1-3).
  • Esther spoke to the king on behalf of her people (7:4), and Haman was exposed and hung (cf. 7:10).
  • Vengeance was executed on the house of Haman (8, 9).
  • The feast of Purim was instituted (9:20-32).
  • Mordecai was promoted. "For Mordecai the Jew was next unto king Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren, seeking the wealth of his people, and speaking peace to all his seed" (10:3).
  1. King Ahasuerus — the king of Persia; vividly described in chapter 1 as a sensuous drunkard with a short temper (1:10-12; cf. 7:7-10).
  2. Vashti — the queen. She is deposed in chapter 1.
  3. Esther — a beautiful Jewess who married King Ahasuerus in chapter 2.
  4. Mordecai — the cousin of Esther, who brought her up as his own daughter (2:5-7).
  5. Haman — one of the worst villains in the Bible. He was proud and scornful. He hated the Jews and plotted to destroy them, but received his just reward when he was hanged on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai (7:10).

From John Phillips (Exploring the Scriptures):
In Esther we have no miraculous intervention by God to prevent Haman's plot from coming to fruition. Instead we have an outworking of events by natural sequence, God behind the scenes checkmating each of Haman's moves. God does not have to work miracles in order to bring to nought the schemes of men. Look at what happens. Esther becomes queen. Mordecai renders the king a great service, which goes unnoticed at the time although worthy of great reward. The king cannot resist the beauty, courage, and pleas of Esther. On the most critical night in the story the king cannot sleep and learns of Mordecai's service.

Haman is forced to play the part of a slave to Mordecai in a public exhibition of the king's regard for this Jew. The archplotter is trapped at Esther's banquet and hanged on the very gallows he made for Mordecai. The Jews throughout the empire are delivered from their plight. The timing and sequences of the events are no less remarkable than the events themselves. To this very day the Jews annually keep the Feast of Purim in remembrance of the deliverance Esther wrought from the plot of Haman the Agagite.

With the book of Esther the historical portion of the Old Testament comes to a close. Looking back over the unfolding of this history, we see divine Providence overruling in the affairs of men, even in the darkest hours. Behind the scenes God rules. James Russell Lowell puts it thus:

Careless seems the great Avenger;
history's pages but record
One death-grapple in the darkness twixt old systems and the Word.
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne —
Yet that scaffold sways the future and, behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

These are simple Sunday School survey notes. They are not for sale. The author used many outlines from popular Bible teachers such as C.I. Scofield and J. Vernon McGee, and he has tried to give credit when using their material.

—  Pastor James J. Barker  —