Sunday, October 26, 2014

Lecture Eight: The Persian Period - Return and Restoration


Set during the reign of Xerxes I (or Ahasuerus) in the period of Persian dominance over the world.

Xerxes I was the king who battled the 300 Spartans.

A more historically accurate
depiction of Xerxes
300's depiction of Xerxes

He also had a really bad temper.

Once, as he was preparing to fight the Greeks, a flood came and washed away the bridge he had just built over the river.

He had one of his slaves take a whip and strike the river with it hundreds of times as punishment for knocking down his bridge.

This book is the first book to refer to God’s people as “Jews.”

This is because God’s people in this book were mainly made up of the people of Judah.

Benjamin was also grouped in with Judah.

Esther was from the tribe of Benjamin.

Queen Vashti Deposed (1:1-22)

Xerxes held a big wild party for all of his nobles.

He called for Queen Vashti to come out and strip-dance for him and his several hundred drinking buddies.

She refused.

His buddies told him that if he didn't punish her then all women in Persia would follow her example and disobey their husbands.

They recommended Xerxes get a new queen and Xerxes agreed.

Vashti According to Puppets...

Esther Made Queen (2:1-18)

Xerxes needed a new queen, so all the virgin girls of the region were brought to his palace for a beauty contest.

Enter Esther:

She was a Jew.

Her real name was Hadassah.

She was raised by her older cousin Mordecai, who was a palace guard.

Esther was prepped and pampered for a year and made it to the final round.

Xerxes was stunned by her beauty and chose her to be his new queen.

Esther kept her nationality a secret.

Mordecai Uncovers a Conspiracy (2:19-23)

Two men named Teresh and Bigthan tried to assassinate King Xerxes.

Mordecai learned of their plot and reported it to Esther, who reported it to the king.

The two assassins were then executed, and for the time being Mordecai continued on with his normal palace duties.

Introducing Haman (3:1-15)

King’s second-in-command

An Agagite, descendant of Agag

People bow to Haman as he rides through streets

Mordecai refuses to bow

Haman’s grudge against Mordecai

Filled with fury

Brags to his family about his own greatness, depressed when thinks of Mordecai’s defiance

Plot of Haman and his family

Revenge on all Jews, not just Mordecai

Haman petitions Xerxes, tells him about a race of thugs out to assassinate him

Xerxes’ decree

Persians granted permission to slaughter all Jews in the area

Edict will go into effect on February 13th

Haman rolls dice to decide date

Edict signed with irrevocable seal of the Medes and Persians

Mordecai’s Response (4:1-17)

Jews mourn over edict

Mordecai’s message to Esther

Plead with the King to change his mind

His words echo Samuel’s words to Saul

If you don’t do what God has called you to do, God will punish you and replace you with someone willing

Esther and Saul were both from the tribe of Benjamin

“Perhaps you were born for such a time as this.”

Esther’s Request to the King (5:1-8)

Esther appears before Xerxes uninvited.

Death-penalty is usual punishment for this act

Xerxes extends his golden scepter, sign of protection

Esther invites Xerxes and Haman to a dinner party that night.

Xerxes and Haman are pleased to be honored by the queen.

After dinner, Esther invites them both back again tomorrow night for another dinner party.

Haman’s Rage Against Mordecai (5:9-14)

Haman leaves in good spirits, but passes Mordecai on his way home and becomes angry again.

He decides he cannot wait until the edict goes into effect

Goes back to palace to get King’s permission to kill Mordecai early

Tells servants to construct gallows 50 cubits high on which to hang Mordecai

Mordecai Honored (6:1-14)

Xerxes is listening to scribes read the royal records to help him sleep

Reads about Mordecai saving his life

Wonders why Mordecai was never rewarded

Xerxes notices Haman standing outside, sends him in

Xerxes cuts Haman short, asks him how to go about honoring somebody special

Haman’s vanity

Dress this man in royal robes, put a crown on his head, have a prince put him on a royal horse and march him through the streets proclaiming, “This is how the King treats those who please him!”

Xerxes agrees, and tells Haman to do all that for Mordecai

Xerxes chooses Haman to be the prince leading Mordecai’s parade

Haman’s Doom (7:1-10)

After the parade, Haman arrives at the second dinner party.

Esther’s revelation

“I and my people have been sold to be destroyed…”

“It is this vile Haman!”

Xerxes is shocked, goes out to the garden to think

Haman falls upon Esther, begging for mercy

Xerxes returns, sees what appears to be Haman attacking his Queen, guards grab Haman

Servant suddenly reports gallows prepared for Mordecai are now built, Xerxes hangs Haman on them

The King’s Edict in Behalf of the Jews (8:1-14)

Esther asks Xerxes to repeal edict of genocide against her people.

Xerxes instead makes a new edict which provides all Jews with weapons to defend themselves, and gives them special permission to execute any of their enemies in the land.

The Triumph of the Jews (8:15–9:19)

On February 13th the edict goes into effect, and the Jews slaughter all of their enemies who had conspired against them.

Many people from other nationalities decide to become Jews themselves before this takes place.

Purim Established (9:20-32)

On the day of this battle, the Jews were saved from destruction, and established a new festival to be celebrated on February 14th and 15th.

This festival came to be known as “Purim” and is still celebrated today.

Purim According to Puppets...

The Greatness of Mordecai (10:1-3)

In the end, Haman was hanged on the gallows prepared for Mordecai.

Mordecai was promoted to the job that had been prepared for Haman.



Ezra 1:1–6:22 – Rebuilding the Temple

Ezra 7:1–10:44 – Reforming the Community

Neh 1:1–7:73 – Rebuilding the city wall

Neh 8:1–10:39 – Hearing and doing the Law

Neh 11:1–13:31 – Further reforms by Nehemiah


According to puppets…

Rebuilding the Temple (1:1–6:22)

Cyrus Helps the Exiles to Return

“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:

“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them.”

Rebuilding the Temple

People build an altar

High Priest Joshua and Governor Zerubbabel begin reconstruction

Opposition to the Rebuilding

Enemies send threats, attempt sabotage, petition Xerxes I

Later petition Artaxerxes, who orders construction halt

Reign of Darius the Great

Prophets Haggai and Zechariah tell people to rebuild God’s House

Joshua and Zerubbabel restart reconstruction

Governor Tattenai of Trans-Euphrates tattles on them

Darius the Great looks into the law records of Cyrus and gives his blessing to the Jews

Jerusalem Temple rebuilt over next four years, people celebrate Passover again

Reforming the Community (7:1-10:44)

Ezra arrives in Jerusalem

Ezra is a scribe and a teacher

Sent by Darius the Great, ordered to instruct the people in God’s laws

Entrusted with silver and gold for the Temple

Returns some of the Holy Items to the Temple

Recruits Levites to serve in Temple

Darius threatens the Jews with death, banishment, or confiscation of property if they do not follow the laws of their God

Intermarriage dilemma

Ezra sees that many Jews married pagan wives, and their children knew nothing of God

Ezra accuses the people of their sin, the people confess, and the men divorce their wives


He was a contemporary of Ezra

He was cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia

Jerusalem had not yet been rebuilt

The Book of Nehemiah focuses mainly on the rebuilding of Jerusalem’s walls.

Nehemiah according puppets…

The opposition

Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite, and Gesham the Arab

Sanballat and Tobiah mock and threaten the builders

Nehemiah posts guards and tells the people to carry a shovel in one hand and in the other hand a spear.

Sanballat, Tobiah, and Gesham invite Nehemiah over for a meal, but Nehemiah knows it’s a trap.

They write a letter to Nehemiah, saying pretty soon the people of Jerusalem will proclaim someone king and Artaxerxes will be jealous.

Nehemiah says, “…you are just making it up out of your head.”

They hire a false prophet to tell Nehemiah to run away and hide.

Nehemiah doesn’t fall for it.

The wall was amazingly completed in only 52 days!

Tobiah keeps threatening Nehemiah after the walls are built.

Nehemiah organizes soldiers to defend Jerusalem, puts his brother Hanani in charge.

Nehemiah helps the poor

The poor cry out to him and he rebukes the officials who had oppressed them.

Nehemiah is appointed governor

Ezra reads the Law

All of the people listen attentively to the whole thing

Summary of God’s faithfulness:

He brought Abraham up out of Ur.

He performed signs and wonders in Egypt and rescued His people from Pharaoh.

He came down on Mount Sinai.

He gave them bread from heaven and water from the rock.

He guided them with cloud and fire in the wilderness even though they worshiped the golden calf.

He led them to the Promised Land.

He sent judges to rescue them from enemies.

He sent prophets to lead them on the right path.

He did not abandon them even when they were exiled by the Babylonians for their sin.

All the people sign a contract promising to be faithful to the Covenant

Nehemiah’s Final Reforms

The Book of Moses was read to the people, and they heard the story about Balaam, and decided they had better send away all the foreigners living in the land.

Nehemiah went back to serve Artaxerxes for awhile, and when he returned he found out that Tobiah was working in the Temple, so he sent him away.

He also discovered that the Levites and Temple musicians had not been adequately paid, so he compensated them.

He rebuked the officials for neglecting the Temple.

He also yelled at and “pulled out the hair” of the men who had married pagan women and whose children knew nothing of their Jewish heritage.

Nehemiah warned the people not to follow in the ways of Solomon, and he asked God to remember him with favor.

1st-2nd Chronicles

These books revisit all of Biblical Jewish history, and are placed at the very end of the Jewish canon for this very reason.

These books provide a new perspective on the history of God’s people.

Much of the content sounds very similar to the books of Samuel and Kings.

The Deuteronomistic History was mostly written before Jerusalem was destroyed by Babylon.

The Books of Chronicles were written after God’s people had returned to Jerusalem and the walls were rebuilt.

Some scholars believe that Ezra wrote the Chronicles.

Structure of 1st and 2nd Chronicles

1 Chr 1:1–9:44 – Israel’s family tree

1 Chr 10:1–29:30 – David and the Temple

2 Chr 1:1–9:31 – Solomon and the Temple

2 Chr 10:1–36:23 – Kings of the Temple Community

1st Chronicles according to puppets…

2nd Chronicles according to puppets…

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