The Story of Esther Study Guide

Discover the courageous story of a beautiful young queen in the book of Esther

Esther Feasts with the King
Esther Feasts with the King by James Tissot. Culture Club / Contributor / Getty Images

The book of Esther is one of only two books in the Bible named for women. The other is the book of Ruth. In the story of Esther, you'll meet a beautiful young queen who risked her life to serve God and save her people.

The Book of Esther

  • Author: The author of the book of Esther is unknown. Some scholars suggest Mordecai (see Esther 9:20-22 and Esther 9:29-31). Others propose Ezra or possibly Nehemiah because the books share similar literary styles.
  • Date Written: Most likely written between B.C. 460 and 331, after the reign of Xerxes I but prior to Alexander the Great's rise to power.
  • Written To: The book was written to the Jewish people to record the origins of the Feast of Lots, or Purim. This annual festival commemorates God's salvation of the Jewish people, similar to their deliverance from slavery in Egypt.
  • Key Characters: Esther, King Xerxes, Mordecai, Haman.
  • Historical Significance: The story of Esther forms the origin of the Jewish festival of Purim. The name Purim, or "lots," was likely given in a sense of irony, because Haman, the enemy of the Jews, had plotted to completely destroy them by casting the lot (Esther 9:24). Queen Esther used her position as queen to rescue the Jewish people from destruction.

The Bible's Story of Esther

Esther lived in ancient Persia about 100 years after the Babylonian captivity. Her Hebrew name was Haddassah, which means "myrtle." When Esther's parents died, the orphaned child was adopted and raised by her older cousin Mordecai.

One day the king of the Persian Empire, Xerxes I, threw a lavish party. On the final day of the festivities, he called for his queen, Vashti, eager to flaunt her beauty to his guests. But the queen refused to appear before Xerxes. Filled with anger, he deposed Queen Vashti, and forever removed her from his presence.

To find his new queen, Xerxes hosted a royal beauty pageant and Esther was chosen for the throne. Her cousin Mordecai became a minor official in the Persian government of Susa.

Soon Mordecai uncovered a plot to assassinate the king. He told Esther about the conspiracy, and she reported it to Xerxes, giving credit to Mordecai. The plot was thwarted and Mordecai's act of kindness was preserved in the chronicles of the king.

At this time, the king's highest official was a wicked man named Haman. He hated the Jews, especially Mordecai, who had refused to bow down to him.

Haman devised a scheme to have every Jew in Persia killed. The king agreed to his plan to annihilate the Jewish people on a specific day. Meanwhile, Mordecai learned of the plot and shared it with Esther, challenging her with these famous words:

"Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?" (Esther 4:13-14, NIV)

Esther urged all of the Jews to fast and pray for deliverance. Then, risking her own life, brave young Esther approached the king with a request.

She invited Xerxes and Haman to a banquet where eventually she revealed her Jewish heritage to the king, as well as Haman's diabolical plot to have her and her people killed. In a rage, the king ordered Haman to be hung on the gallows—the very same gallows Haman had built for Mordecai.

Mordecai was promoted to Haman's high position and Jews were granted protection throughout the land. The people celebrated God's tremendous deliverance, and the joyous festival of Purim was instituted.


The story of Esther takes place during the reign of King Xerxes I of Persia, primarily in the king's palace in Susa, the capital of the Persian Empire.

By this time (486-465 B.C.), more than 100 years after the Babylonian captivity under Nebuchadnezzar, and just over 50 years after Zerubbabel led the first group of exiles back to Jerusalem, many Jews still remained in Persia. They were part of the diaspora, or "scattering" of exiles among the nations. Although they were free to return to Jerusalem by decree of Cyrus, many had become established and probably did not wish to risk the dangerous journey back to their homeland. Esther and her family were among the Jews who stayed behind in Persia.

Themes in the Story of Esther

There are many themes in the book of Esther. We see God's interaction with man's will, his hatred of racial prejudice, his power to give wisdom and help in times of danger. But there are two overriding themes:

God's Sovereignty - The hand of God is at work in the lives of his people. He used the circumstances in Esther's life, as he uses the decisions and actions of all humans to providentially work out his divine plans and purposes. We can trust in the Lord's sovereign care over every aspect of our lives.

God's Deliverance - The Lord raised up Esther as he raised up Moses, Joshua, Joseph, and many others to deliver his people from destruction. Through Jesus Christ, we are delivered from death and hell. God is able to save his children.

Key Bible Verses

Esther 4:13-14
Mordecai sent this reply to Esther: “Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all other Jews are killed.If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” (NLT)

Esther 4:16
“Go and gather together all the Jews of Susa and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. My maids and I will do the same. And then, though it is against the law, I will go in to see the king. If I must die, I must die.” (NLT)

Outline of the Book of Esther

  • Esther becomes queen - 1:1-2:18.
  • Haman plots to kill the Jews - Esther 2:19 - 3:15.
  • Esther and Mordecai take action - Esther 4:1 - 5:14.
  • Mordecai is honored; Haman is executed - Esther 6:1 - 7:10.
  • The Jewish people are rescued and delivered - Esther 8:1 - 9:19.
  • The Feast of Lots is instituted - Esther 9:30-32.
  • Mordecai and King Xerxes are revered - Esther 9:30-32.
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Your Citation
Fairchild, Mary. "The Story of Esther Study Guide." Learn Religions, Apr. 5, 2023, Fairchild, Mary. (2023, April 5). The Story of Esther Study Guide. Retrieved from Fairchild, Mary. "The Story of Esther Study Guide." Learn Religions. (accessed May 29, 2023).