Haman, the prime minister of Persia, has turned a personal grudge against one Jewish slave into a murderous plot to destroy all the Jews in the empire. A young girl named Esther may possibly hold in her hands an opportunity to save her people.

1) What is the meaning of the word "providence"?

2) Can you share a personal experience that illustrates the providence of God?

INSIGHT: Haman is determined to destroy the Jews. So he asks the king's permission to get rid of some trouble-makers in the Persian Empire, without telling him who they are. The king agrees to do as Haman asks. The day of their intended doom is set by "lot" (Pur, 3:7–like a modern-day throw of the dice). The date determined for the slaughter of the Jews is some months away. This was likely necessary because they were scattered across the Persian Empire, and official word had to be sent out everywhere (3:13-14).

3) In Esther 3:10, Haman is called "the enemy of the Jews." Why does this put him in a dangerous position (Gen. 12:3; Deut. 7:6)?

4) What is the response of the Jews to this terrible plot (4:3)?

INSIGHT: Mordecai was among those who put on sackcloth and ashes in his grief (4:1). Queen Esther heard about what he was doing, and asked for an explanation. In response, Mordecai sent a copy of the king's decree for Esther to see, in hopes that she could go before the king and plead for her people (4:8).

5) What response does Esther send out to Mordecai (4:10-11)?

6) Mordecai's famous reply is found in 4:13-14. What does he say?

7) Is there a basic principle here we need to be aware of (compare Acts 13:36)?

INSIGHT: Mordecai's words, in Esther 4:14 show us: 1) That God is sovereign. His purposes will be fulfilled. 2) That God's providence places us where we may have a part in His unfolding purpose. 3) That we have been given a choice as to whether to be a part of the fulfilment of God's design or not. 4) If we refuse, God's plan will be accomplished all the same, but we will suffer the consequences of our choice.

INSIGHT: Wicked Haman plotted to annihilate all of the Jews in the empire. Mordecai appealed to Esther to speak to the king on behalf of her people. But because of the custom of the time, this was a very dangerous thing to attempt.

8) What did Persian law do to those attempting to go to the king without being officially summoned (4:11)?

9) What two things did Queen Esther do in hopes of getting an audience with her husband the king (4:16; 5:1)?

10) With what result (5:2)?

11) What amazing offer does the king make to his queen (5:3)?

INSIGHT: It is a mark of the impulsive character of this strange man that he has not bothered to have any contact with the queen for 30 days (4:11), and now he is ready to give her half his kingdom!

12) Instead of pleading for the Jews, what request does Esther make (5:4)?

INSIGHT: The king and his prime minister attend the dinner in the queen's quarters (5:5). Then, the king renews his request (5:6). Esther simply asks them to come to dinner again, on the following day, saying that she will finally make her request then (5:7-8). Haman swells with pride over having a private dinner with the king and queen two days in a row.

13) In your opinion, what is Esther doing here? (That is, why these delays in stating her business to the king?)

14) What does Haman do after the dinner (5:11-12)?

INSIGHT: It does rankle Haman that Mordecai still will not bow to him, but he holds his anger in, knowing what is coming for all the Jews (5:9-10).

15) When Haman's wife realizes how much Mordecai is annoying her husband, what does she suggest (5:14)? (Note: 50 cubits = 75 feet or 22.9 metres.)

16) What happens during the night? And what does the king do about it (6:1)?

17) What fact comes to light in the records (6:2)?

18) How does the king respond to this information–likely in the morning (6:3)?

19) Based on this event, how is the providence of God at work in Esther's delay, whatever her personal reasons were (Compare Question 13)?

20) How can doing things in too big a hurry sometimes rob us of a better outcome? (And might the use or abuse of credit cards to make purchases illustrate this?)

INSIGHT: The king wanted to reward Mordecai who had saved his life. (A good thing to do. That's the kind of loyalty he would want to promote!) So he asked who was outside in the court who could take some kind of reward to Mordecai. And at that very moment, Haman was coming in (6:4).

21) Why is Haman coming to see the king (6:4)?

22) When the king speaks to Haman of a reward, whom does he plan to give it to?

23) And of whom does Haman think he is speaking (6:6)?

24) Haman quickly conceives of what would fulfil his wildest dreams of glory. What does he say should be done (6:7-9)?

25) The king agrees! And what happens next (6:10-11)?

26) The Bible's account of Haman's reaction is brief (6:12). Describe how you think it felt to publicly honour the man he hates most in all the world.