THE STORY OF ESTHER, NEHEMIAH‚ EZRA—THE RETURN OF THE JEWS FROM CAPTIVITY
According to World History, the dual kingdom of Medo-Persia followed Babylon. The Medo-Persian Empire was a dual power‚ "two horns" (Daniel 8), but the Persians were the stronger of the two: "one was higher than the other."
Who was the warrior king who conquered Babylon? Darius. And he invited Cyrus to come and reign. Though Darius the Mede was a great conqueror, and conquered the so-called impregnable city of Babylon, it was Cyrus the Persian and his Persian Empire that eventually reigned supreme: "the higher came up last." (ML 343:12; 347:5) Cyrus was the bigshot. Darius went around fighting his battles for him‚ conquering cities and then Cyrus would march in, in triumph and take'm over! So Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian came and conquered Babylon, and along with it the children of Israel. And one of the things Cyrus did, pretty soon, by the will of God and the persuasion of some of God's prophets, he decided to let the Jews go. (Excerpts from Father David, Daniel 9 Flannelgraph, par. 20; Daniel 8 Flannelgraph, par.30)
How long is it from 586 B.C. (the fall of Jerusalem) to 516 B.C., when the temple was completed after Cyrus issued his proclamation to free the Jews? Exactly 70 years! Which is exactly the length of time that the Lord prophesied in the Book of Jeremiah, chapter 25, verse 11, that Israel would be in bondage as the slaves of Babylon! 70 years! And we get these dates for the Medo–Persian Empire from secular history; which is proof that the Bible is not only a good history book but also the inspired Word of God. (ML 694:89)
The books of Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther tell the history of how the Jews returned out of Babylon to restore their home land.
1. Here is a map showing the Medo–Persian Empire. Its capitals were Persepolis and Susa (Shushan), but sometimes its kings lived in Babylon. (ML 694:86)
2. The ruins of Shushan, 200 miles east of Babylon. Shushan was the winter capital of the Persian kings.
3. In these ruins of the royal palace of Ahasuerus (Xerxes) have been found many details of the story of Esther.
4. King Ahasuerus of the Medes and Persians was having a great feast for his lords and princes at his palace at Shushan, and "the king's heart being merry with wine," he called his wife Vashti to appear before his guests‚ "wearing only her crown...to show the lords her beauty." (Esther 1:1-11) This means she was to be nude! (ML 694:91)
5. When Vashti refused, Ahasuerus deposed her and sought a new wife.
6. "Let the maiden which pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti ... so Esther was taken unto King Ahasuerus into his royal house.... And the king loved Esther above all the women." (Esther 2:4-17)
All through history the good women married very important men and were a tremendous influence on them, the powers behind the thrones!—Ruth did it‚ Esther did it! (From ML 552:46)
The Gypsies had to give their women to their conquerors just to stay alive, preserve the community, preserve the family.... Abraham did it! He gave his wife Sara to two different kings to save his life! (ML 561:15,16)
7. Esther obtained grace and favour in King Ahasuerus' sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head‚ and made her queen instead of Vashti. (Esther 2:17)
8. Two of the king's chamberlains sought to kill the king, but Mordecai, Esther's uncle, learned of it and told Esther who reported it to the king in Mordecai's name. (Esther 2:21–23)
9. King Ahasuerus promoted Haman above all the princes and commanded everyone to bow to him and reverence him. But Mordecai who sat in the king's gate did not bow to Haman nor reverence him.... then was Haman full of wrath...wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus‚ even the people of Mordecai. Haman offered the king 10,000 talents of silver if he would allow him to destroy "a certain people" who didn't keep the king's laws and were "unprofitable." The king agreed, and Haman had letters sent out "to destroy, kill‚ and to cause to perish, all Jews...in one day" (March 13), and to take all of their property and belongings as a reward for killing them. (Esther 3:8-15)
10. Mordecai ripped his clothes and put on sackcloth and stood in vigil in front of the king's gate. (Esther 4:1-4)
11. Esther's maids and helpers came and told her that her uncle Mordecai was in sackcloth. Esther was grieved and sent nice clothes for him to wear, but when Mordecai refused them, Esther sent a messenger to find out what was wrong. Mordecai sent word to Esther of Haman's plot to kill all of the Jews and asked her to go to the king.
Esther was very much afraid because no one was allowed to go before the king unless they were called. The punishment was death for anyone who attempted it unless the king held up his sceptre. But Mordecai sent a message to Esther, saying, "Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews.... Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" So Esther and her servants and the Jews in Shushan fasted and prayed, and Esther said, "If I perish, I perish." (Esther 4:13-17)
So it was that "when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand." (Esther 5:1,2)
Esther wisely only invited the king and Haman to come to a banquet that she prepared for them on the next day—leaving it a mystery just what she had really come to ask him.
12. The king couldn't sleep that night, so he commanded that the book of records be read to him. When they came to the place where it was recorded that Mordecai had saved his life, the king discovered that nothing had been done to reward Mordecai. At this moment evil Haman arrived, planning to ask the king for permission to hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had just built. But the king asked Haman, "What shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour?"
Haman, thinking that the king wanted to honour him, suggested that the man be put on the king's horse, wear the king's robe and the crown, and have a great noble go before the horse shouting, "Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honour." (Esther 6:1-9)
13. Then the king said to Haman, "Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse‚ as thou hast said, and do even to Mordecai the Jew‚ that sitteth at the king's gate: let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken." (Esther 6:11,12)
14. Queen Esther's palace. After a humiliating day of leading Mordecai through the streets, Haman now had to go to the banquet at Esther's palace. (Esther 6:11-14)
15. On the second day of the banquet‚ when the king asked Esther what it was that she wanted‚ Esther asked the king to spare her life and the lives of her people, "For we are sold, I and my people‚ to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish."
When the king asked who would dare do such a thing, Esther answered, "The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman." (Esther 7:1-6)
16. The king was so angry that he went out into the palace garden‚ but when he returned, he found Haman had fallen upon Esther's bed. This made the king even more angry, "Will he force the queen also before me in the house?" (Esther 7:7,8)
17. Haman was hanged the same day that he had planned to hang Mordecai—on the 75-feet–tall gallows that he had built for Mordecai. (Esther 7:9,10)
But Esther had to risk her life and go before the king once more to keep Haman's law from going into effect, and in the end the Jews were allowed to defend themselves from their enemies.
"If it had not been the Lord who was on our side, when men rose up against us: then they had swallowed us up quick....Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers: the snare is broken, and we are escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord (Jesus!) Who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 124:2,7,8)
18. An oriental Jew. The Devil's plot to prevent the coming of Christ by killing off all of the Jews failed because of one little flirty fish's courage and obedience, and the Jews became wealthy and powerful enough to restore and build Jerusalem in preparation for the coming of Jesus.
REVIEW OF EVENTS
19. The reign of Nebuchadnezzar actually signified the beginning of the times of the Gentiles, with the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. (ML 146:16) Jeremiah prophesied that the Jews would remain in captivity 70 years. In 516 B.C., exactly 70 years from the time that Jerusalem and the temple were totally destroyed, the new temple at Jerusalem was completed. However, permission had not been given to rebuild Jerusalem, only the temple. The actual commandment to restore and build Jerusalem was not given until 453 B.C. by King Artaxerxes. (Nehemiah 2:5)
The prophet Daniel received a prophecy about the exact year that Jesus would be crucified from the year of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem (7 sevens & 62 sevens = 483 years), or 30 A.D.! Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed again, until a covenant at the beginning of the last seven years of the world was confirmed allowing the temple to open again and sacrifice be made. However, after three and a half years, the anti–Christ ruler of the World breaks this covenant and places "the abomination of desolation" in the holy place. Then begins three and a half years of terrible persecution and tribulation in all the World such as has never been in all of history. Those that keep the testimony of Jesus have to flee into the wilderness. (Dan.9:25-27; 8:13,14; Mt.24:21)
TIME LINE CHARTS of the 70 WEEKS OF DANIEL
"Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people...Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore & to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary...And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate." (Daniel 9:25-27)
*Daniel 8:13,14 says that the "daily sacrifice and the transgression of desolation" shall be "two thousand and three hundred days." Daniel 9:27 says that the daily sacrifice ceases in the midst of the week and that the abomination of desolation continues for the rest of the week, or 1260 days—the length of time for the "transgression of desolation." Subtracting 1260 from 2300 gives us the length of time for the daily sacrifice—1040 days, which is 220 days short of 3-1/2 years. Since the daily sacrifice ceases in the midst of the 7 years, this 220 days without sacrifice must occur at the beginning of the 7 years. After the covenant is confirmed, the Jews have 220 days to rebuild their Temple in preparation for resuming sacrificial worship.
20. The fall of the Babylonian Empire. Despite handwriting on the wall, the Babylonians ate, drank, and made merry while the Medes and Persians were crawling under the wall to capture Babylon. That night Belshazzar‚ the king of the Chaldeans‚ was slain and Darius the Mede took the kingdom.
The Median army diverted...the water of the Euphrates flowing under the walls of Babylon, and sent men into the city who swam under the walls with their heads just above the water. These men then ran in and opened the great brass gates and the Medo-Persian army marched in without any great battle.
Daniel was made one of the rulers in the Medo-Persian government over the city of Babylon‚ perhaps because he had foretold the victory of the Medes. A couple of years later, Cyrus arrived to be the king of Babylon, about 536 B.C. (ML 693:84,85)
21. Medo-Persia was a dual kingdom‚ and Cyrus and Darius were the kings. Medo–Persia had one very good king—Cyrus—but it had some bad kings, too. Later on the husband of Esther was the king.—He married Esther, took her as the most beautiful woman in the kingdom when he divorced Vashti. Ahasuerus, or Xerxes....nearly wiped out the Jews, God's people of the day‚ at the instigation of Haman‚ remember? The Devil was certainly in control at first, until Esther came along and rescued them—which was not necessarily to Xerxes' credit, it was God's doing. (ML 961:27,35)
22. This ancient tablet shows Cyrus the Great, who helped conquer the Babylonian Empire and helped the Jews return to build Jerusalem.
From actual history, the Lord called Cyrus by name 200 years before he was born! The Lord says in the Book of Isaiah (45:1–4): "Thus saith the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him.... I have surnamed thee though thou hast not known Me." (Read ML 694:88)
So over 200 years before, Isaiah had prophesied who was going to liberate them. God said, to show you that I'm God and I can tell the future, I'll even give you his name, his name is Cyrus! After you have been in captivity for 70 years, this king by that name is going to liberate you! (Father David, Intro. to Daniel 9 Flannelgraph, par.12; Isaiah 44:28; 45:1)
23. On the tomb of Cyrus the Great is written, "I am Cyrus, who gave the Persians their empire, do not grudge me this patch of earth that covers my body."
24. A group of modern Jews. But—He is not a Jew which is one outwardly, but he is a Jew which is one inwardly, that circumcision is of the heart. For flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God—only the children of God by His Spirit. The true Kingdom of God, of course, cannot come until the Messiah comes. The fanatical sects of the orthodox Jews even refuse to speak Hebrew, saying it is a holy language, and saying it is blasphemous for Jews to establish a Jewish state, because only the Messiah can restore the Kingdom! (ML 8:5,6) Any looking for any more literal Promised Land, or Kingdom of Heaven on earth‚ will have to await the Millennial Kingdom of Jesus Christ! I didn't find it in Israel‚ I'll assure you!.... It's no refuge for Christians‚ that's for sure.... (ML 46:17)
25. Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the Word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled‚ (Jer.25:12‚13) the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation....The Lord God of heaven...charged me to build Him an house at Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:1,2)
Cyrus charged those who didn't want to go themselves and restore the temple to at least help with gold and silver and animals to do the job.
26. Cyrus not only made a proclamation to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem‚ but also returned 5400 vessels of gold and silver that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem. (Ezra 1:7-11)
27. Return of the Jews to Jerusalem. How long is it from 586 B.C. (the fall of Jerusalem) to 516 B.C., when the temple was completed?—Exactly 70 years! (Edited‚ ML 694:89)
28. "Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem." (Psalm 122:2) The Jews repented in their bondage, and God forgave them and brought them back, like He did from Egypt. Now...[in 1948] for the third time He has brought them back again. But they don't seem to be thinking any more about God or the Bible, much less Jesus—so it's obvious from prophecy that it's going to be the last time! God's fed up! (ML 66:37)
29. The journey back to Jerusalem was a long and weary one, over 1200 miles. Some 50,000 people made the voyage but no deaths were reported.
30. & 31. The people were so disappointed when they saw what little remained of the Jerusalem they had once known. The chief
fathers, who had seen the first house of the Lord, wept with a loud voice when they saw the second foundation beginning to be laid. (Ezra 3:12) However, many shouted aloud for joy, so that some were happy, praising God and full of joy, while others were all sad and crying. (Ezra 3:13)
32. The prophet Haggai comforted them, "Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? And how do ye see it now? Is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? Yet now be strong...all ye people of the land‚ saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts: ... The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace....(Jesus!)" (Haggai 2:1-9)
33. The alter was the first thing they restored. Hebrews 13:10,15 says, "We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. By (Jesus) therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His Name." (Heb.13:10,15)
34. Laying the plan—the Tabernacle, the Ark, animal sacrifices, the blood of beasts.—Types and shadows, mere pictures of the spiritual realities and eternal verities He was trying to lead them into—almost ridiculous little analogies, like flannelgraphs and motion songs designed to show spiritual truths to little children. But the types and shadows, pictures of the Old Testament, are a whole study in themselves. (ML 45:21,22)
35. Singing praises to the Lord. God's church is going through stages of growth, like children—but the trouble with some people, like Judaism and Old Testament Christianity, and modern Christianity, is some get stuck in one stage, and never get out of it, like retarded children. (ML 45:26) The trouble with too many Christians today is that they're still living in the Old Testament, and making of it a works religion. Too many religions and religionists are still living in the past...with its love of buildings, temple worship (ML 45:19,20)...(but) we enter a new World of freedom from the shackles of the flesh, into the vast and boundless universe of the Spirit! We are free, free, free! There's no stopping us now with some earthly destination! Heaven is my home! (ML 46:22,23)
36. Rebuilding the temple.—We have behind us now the shattered materialistic dream of a literal Promised Land and are moving on into the heavenly reality of the Kingdom of God in the hearts of men! (ML 46:20) We are the Children of God! We have a Heaven on earth in our hearts, the Promised Land of His Kingdom within!... The Bride of Christ, the one and only Israel of God!! (ML 46:21) How could we have been so carnal as to have longed for an earthly home? "Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth! For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from Heaven!" (ML 46:27)
37. When the Jews refused the questionable help of the "people of the land," they began to be persecuted, troubled and hindered in their work. It may have looked like Judah was getting too powerful again and there was a growing jealousy. And after receiving certain letters of complaint about the Jews the king commanded that the work cease. (Ezra 4)
38. When King Darius I (not Darius the Mede) came to power in 521 B.C., Haggai & Zechariah prophesied that the work should continue. (Haggai 1:1; Zechariah 1-16) Tatnai reported their activity to the king, but after searching the records‚ Darius found the promises made by Cyrus and ordered that the Jews be helped to build the temple—and anyone who tried to "alter" his word to stop the work‚ would be put to death. Darius asked them to "pray for the life of the king & his sons." (Ezra 5:6–15)
Darius and Xerxes. This relief from Persepolis shows King Darius on the throne and crown prince Xerxes behind him. A very powerful Persian king, Darius compiled a code of laws‚ quelled revolutions within the empire, and established Susa as its new capital. The Jews prospered under the reign of Darius. The Book of Esther refers to his son, Xerxes, by the name "Ahasuerus."
39. & 40. In the sixth year of Darius I's reign the temple started by Zerubbabel was completed.
41. The dedication of the temple.
A time-line of events [chart]
(taken from Halley's Bible Handbook)
607 B.C.Nineveh destroyed by Babylon.
606 B.C.Daniel taken to Babylon.
597 B.C.Ezekiel taken to Babylon.
586 B.C.*Nebuchadnezzar totally destroys Jerusalem.
536 B.C.Cyrus conquered Babylon.
536 B.C.Zerubbabel and 50‚000 return from Babylon to Jerusalem.
536 B.C.The altar is built; sacrifice is begun.
535 B.C.Work on the temple is stopped by King Artaxerxes (Cambyses?) after local complaints.
534 B.C.Daniel still alive (after 72 years in Babylon)!
520 B.C.The work begins again after Haggai & Zechariah prophesy that it should continue.
516 B.C.*The temple is completed.
478 B.C.Esther becomes Queen of Persia.
473 B.C.Esther saved the Jews from being killed.
453 B.C.Artaxerxes commandment to restore & build Jerusalem. Nehemiah, as governor‚ with an army escort, went to rebuild & fortify Jerusalem—to rebuild the wall.
(*586-516 B.C.=70 years)—the captivity had lasted 70 years as God said! (Jer.25:11.)
42. After the captivity, the Medo-Persian king permitted the Jews to go back.... The king let them go because they repented and were forgiven of the Lord. It was not long after that that the Messiah came. Under the heathen kings there was a period of great confession and repentance, they were studying the Word, and had rebuilt the temple and were beginning to prosper again. (ML D:7)
43. Ezra the priest greatly helped this revival. Here we see Ezra praying desperately for the Lord's help in putting away all the strange wives of the people of the land that the people had married. (Ezra 9, 10)
44. "Separate yourselves from the people of the land, and from the strange wives. Then all the congregation answered and said with a loud voice, As thou hast said‚ so must we do." (Ezra 10:11,12)
45. When Nehemiah, the king's cupbearer, heard about the sad condition of Jerusalem and the reproach and affliction of his fellow Jews in Judah, he wept and prayed to the Lord, claiming promises that God had made in His Word. When the king noticed his sad face, Nehemiah asked permission to go and help restore Jerusalem. (Neh.1-2:8)
46. In 453 B.C. Artaxerxes Longimanus, king of the Medes and Persians, gave Nehemiah the commandment to go forth and rebuild Jerusalem. There were several proclamations made to release the Jews and let them return to Israel to rebuild the temple, but the principal proclamation to rebuild the city of Jerusalem itself, was made by Artaxerxes the Great in 453 B.C. (ML 694:92) (Dan.9:25.)
47. Nehemiah came in and spied out the land in the middle of the night to see the situation! (ML D:11; Neh.2:12-16)
48. Then Nehemiah said to the elders and the leaders of Jerusalem, "Ye see the distress that we are in, how Jerusalem lieth waste, and the gates thereof are burned with fire: come, and let us build up the wall of Jerusalem, that we be no more a reproach." And when Nehemiah told them about the king's words to him‚ the people said, "Let us rise up and build." (Neh.2:17,18)
49. The gates of Jerusalem were the first to be repaired. One of them still standing is the Dung Gate. (Neh.3:14)
50. The people had to work with a tool in one hand and a weapon in the other. (ML D:10) The enemy (the Ammonites and the Edomites) got mad when they saw Jerusalem was established and taunted them, "Even what they're rebuilding is just about to fall over. Do they think they're going to revive the work again?"
Nehemiah cried to the Lord and asked Him to take care of it; half of them worked and half stood guard. The enemy found out that it was too late to attack en masse from outside so they tried to trick Nehemiah to come out and meet them. (Neh.6:2-4)
They're always trying to get the leader because they know he's in touch with God, and the Devil thinks if he can get the leader, he can get the whole work. The enemy can never stop the message or the move of God or the Word of God, but they can sometimes delay, hinder, and persecute. (ML D:6,10)
The enemy in all this, not once did they actually openly attack. It was all in words, lies, tales, and stories...trying to trick Nehemiah into actually doing something wrong, coming down and meeting them on their ground. The main purpose of their words was to cause fear.—Do not be afraid of the enemy, because once you're scared you'll get excited and do the wrong thing. The Devil was ordained to see if he could get you not to believe God ...to doubt God's Word. (ML D:18) A false prophet even told Nehemiah to go hide in the temple (probably where only priests were allowed). (Neh.6:10-14)
51. "And so the walls were finished" and the enemy and the heathen "perceived that this work was wrought of our God". (Neh.6:15,16)
52. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the congregation both of men and women, and all that could hear with understanding...and all the people were attentive unto the book of the law...and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.... And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, with lifting up their hands: and they bowed their heads, and worshipped the Lord with their faces to the ground. (Neh.8:2-8)
REVIEW QUESTIONS FOR CHAPTER 30
(The numbers in parentheses are paragraph numbers where the answers may be found.)
1. What great dual kingdom conquered Babylon? (Introduction)
2. Why did King Ahasuerus divorce Vashti the queen? (4,5)
3. Who became queen in place of Vashti? (6)
4. Do godly women sometimes have to marry powerful men just to protect their own people? (6)
5. Who saved King Ahasuerus from being killed? (8)
6. Would you say that Haman and Mordecai were good friends? (9)
7. What did Haman plan to do to the Jews? (9)
8. What would happen to anyone who went before the king without permission? (11)
9. Why was it better for Esther not to tell the king immediately everything? (11)
10. Why wouldn't God let the king go to sleep one night? (12)
11. Grandmother said that the evil we do in life can be like a boomerang that comes back on us. How was Haman's evil plan like a boomerang to him? (17)
12. Do you think that Haman was really happy to walk through the streets telling everyone how wonderful Mordecai was?
13. What did the reign of Nebuchadnezzar and the fall of Jerusalem signify? (19)
14. Study over the time charts of the 70 Weeks of Daniel.
15. How did the Medes get into the city of Babylon? (20)
16. What king did God call by name 200 years before he was born? (22)
17. Were the Jews happy or disappointed when they at last got back to Jerusalem? (30,31)
18. Where is the city and the Promised Land we are looking for? (35,36)
19. Why did God let the Jews go back? (42)
20. The local people were a great help in restoring and building Jerusalem. True or false? (50)
—What lessons did you learn from this chapter?
—Now you have been through the entire story of the Old Testament in Pictures! Did you enjoy it? Explain how it helped you understand the Bible better. Now that you've read this brief summary in chronological order & picture, you can read the details for yourself in your own Bible.—Happy Reading!