Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther are three books pertaining to the return of the Jews from captivity, the rebuilding of the Temple and the rebuilding of the Wall of Jerusalem. The Jews had been taken captive by Assyria (2Kings 17) then by Babylon (2Kings 25). The Babylonians had been conquered by the Medes and Persians. It was the policy of the Assyrian and Babylonian kings to deport conquered peoples – to take them out of their own lands and catter them to other lands. The policy of Persian kings was just the opposite – to send the people back to their own lands, they were much more humane. The Jews were restored to their own land under the Persian empire.
The first exodus for the captive Israel was out of Egypt led by Moses.
The second exodus out of Babylon fell basically into three periods of returns:
536BC led by Zerubbabel
457BC led by Ezra
444BC led by Nehemiah with an army escort
536BC King Cyrus conquered Babylon and permitted the Jews to return. Zerubbabel led the Jews to Jerusalem.
535BC Work on the temple began
520BC Work on the temple renewed by Haggai
536-516BC Temple is completed
478BC Esther becomes Queen of Persia
473BC Esther saves the Jews
457BC Ezra leads the Jews from Babylon to Jerusalem, during a second expedition which only lasted 4 months
444BC Nehemiah rebuilds the Wall with permission from Artaxerxus(Esthers stepson)
432BC Nehemiah returns from Babylon
Esther became Queen of Persia about sixty years after the Jews had returned to Jerusalem. She appeared about forty years after the Temple was rebuilt and about thirty years before the Wall of Jerusalem was rebuilt. She was an influential personage in the palace when both Ezra and Nehemiah went to Jerusalem.
Artaxus was king of Persia (465-423 bc), son of Xerxes and therefore tepson of Queen Esther, the Jewess.
SHORT SUMMARY OF ESTHER
Esther was a Jewess. She was adopted as a young girl by her cousin Mordecai, and grew to become a very beautiful girl.
King Xerxus of Persia deposed of Vashti for disobedience and then had all the virgins assembled. They went through a twelve month beauty program before going in front of the King. He fell in love right away with Esther and married her. She never revealed her nationality because Mordecai had told her not to.
Mordecai had been outside the courtyard and heard the two gatesmen plotting to kill the King. He told Queen Esther. It was looked into, found to be true, and both the men were hanged.
Now there was an evil man named Haman who the King had appointed to a seat of higher authority than other nobles. All royal officials at the gate had to kneel down before him. Mordecai refused to do this. Haman decided to kill him and after finding out he was a Jew, decided to kill the whole Jew people. Haman told the King a group of people were disobedient and dishonorable to the King and his court and pleaded with the King to do away with them. The King let Haman do as he pleased and gave him his signet ring. Dispatches were sent to all the province with orders to kill, destroy and annihilate all the Jews.
When Mordecai found out about this, he mourned and cried, tearing his cloak. The maids and eunichs told Esther about Mordecai’s behavior. She summoned Hathack to call on Mordecai. He gave Hathack a copy of the text of the edict for annihilation and urged him to beg for mercy to the Queen.
She sent the message back that all the king’s officials and people of the royal province know that for any man or woman to approach the King in the inner court without being summoned would be put to death unless the King extended the gold cepter to him and spared his life.
Mordecai’s message back was not to think that because she was in the Kings house she alone of all Jews would escape. For if she remained silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews would arise from another place but she and her family would perish. And who knows but that she came to the royal position for such a time as this.
Esther then sent another message telling Mordecai to gather all the Jews and fast for three days, then she would go before the King. She said “If I perish, I perish.”
So Esther went in front of the King and his court. The King extended cepter and offered her anything she wanted even as much as half the kingdom. She invited the King and Hainan to a banquet the next night. Then at the banquet the King asked Esther what it is she wanted. She replied she would reveal it the next night at another banquet she would prepare.
That night, Haman went home and bragged to his wife and friends of his wealth, his many sons, and of all the ways the King had honored him and elevated him above other nobles and officials. Then he bragged of his invitation by the Queen. Haman said he could not be happy, even with all this until Mordecai was dead.
The King could not sleep that night and ordered the chronicles to be read to him. He realized Mordecai had never received recognition for exposing the gatesmen and saving the King. He ordered Haman in and asked him what he should do for a man he very much delighted in. Thinking it was he the King was referring to, he said to dress the man in a royal robe worn by the King, set him upon a horse with a royal crown upon his head and parade the man through the town for all the people to see. Then the King ordered Haman to do just that for Mordecai.
Haman was furious that night. He told his family what had happened that day. Just as they were explaining to him Mordecai would be his death, the nobles came to bring him to the banquet.
At the banquet when the King asked Esther what it is she wanted, she pleaded for her life and for her peoples life. She told him they had been old for destruction and slaughter and annihilation. The King demanded to know who it was that threatened her. Esther turned to Haman and pointed him out. The King left in a -rage. Haman, scared for his life, stayed behind to beg the Queen. Just as the King re-entered the room, Haman had fallen upon the couch Esther was reclining on. This really infuriated the King. The King had Haman hanged on the very gallows Haman had built for Mordecai.
Esther one more time went in front of the King and he once again extended his scepter. Since a decree could not be changed, the Jewish massacre could not be reversed. Esther therefore persuaded another decree be authorized to let the Jews resist any attacks. The King granted this to Esther, gave Haman’s position to Mordecai, and Haman’s estate to Esther who left it in charge to Mordecai. The Jews fought fourteen days. They were very feared among the people. The Jews now had some prestige with Esther as their Queen and Mordecai second in rank to the King himself. The two were the brains and the heart of the palace.
This book of Esther is about a very important historical event, not just
a story to point a moral: The Hebrew nations deliverance from annihilation
in the days following the Babylonian captivity. If the Hebrew nation had been
entirely wiped out of existence 500 years before it brought Christ into the
world, that might have made some difference in the destiny of mankind; no
Hebrew nation, no Messiah: no Messiah, a lost world. This beautiful Jewish
girl of long ago, though she herself may not have known it, yet played
a part in paving the way for the coming of the world's Saviour.
(Halley’s Bible Handbook)