Discussion Questions for Esther: A Story of Courage

 

If you read Esther: A Story of Courage as part of a book club or discussion group, you may want to use some of these questions to guide your discussion.  Scripture passages are provided along with the relevant chapters in the book.

 If you are discussing the book in a small-group church setting, you might want to read and discuss it as part of a study on the book of Esther.

 

Chapters 1 – 3; Bible reading Esther 1:1 – 2:7

 

1.      To what extent does Hadassah consider herself Jewish? To what extent is she Persian?

2.      The Bible tells us that Hadassah was “taken” to the King’s palace, but not whether she went willingly or not.  In this story, the author has imagined Esther as unwilling to go.  What do you think would have been the advantages and disadvantages to entering the King’s harem for a young woman at that time? How do you think most women would have felt about it?

3.      What does the treatment of Vashti tell us about the kind of man King Xerxes was?

4.      For most of us, names are important to identity.  How might Hadassah have been affected by changing her name to Esther? Have you ever changed your name – or has anyone close to you changed theirs? Did it go along with a change in identity?

 

Chapters 4 – 7;  Bible reading Esther 2:8-14

 

1.      Does life in the harem, as described in the Bible and in this novel, sound attractive to you? What do you think you’d like most about it? What would you like least?

2.      Esther makes both friends and enemies during her time in the harem.  What do these relationships suggest about the kind of person she is? How might they be significant later in her life?

3.      What qualities in Esther impress Hegai? Why do you think she becomes a “favourite” so quickly?

4.      In what way might the experience of a harem girl be similar to that of a woman who has been a victim of sexual abuse?


Chapters 8 – 10; Bible reading Esther 2:15-22

 

1.      How do you think Esther might have felt as she prepared for her first night with the king?

2.      What is the significance of Esther allowing Hegai choose her clothing and make-up on that important night?

3.      Why do you think the King chose Esther above all the other girls?

4.      How do you think Esther really feels about King Xerxes at this point? Is her decision to tell him about the assassination plot a clue to her feelings?

 

 

Chapters 11 – 14

           

1.      These chapters in the book cover a five-year period (between Esther’s marriage and Haman’s plot) about which nothing is said in the Bible.  Why do you think the author of this book felt it was necessary to invent events to fill these “missing years” in Esther’s life?

2.      How are Esther’s marriage to the King, and her personal and spiritual growth affected by:

a.       the feud between Amestris and Artaynte and its tragic outcome?

b.      the loss of Esther’s first child?

c.       the birth of Damaspia?

d.      the accusation of infidelity brought against her?

3.      The story of Xerxes, Artaynte and Amestris comes from the Greek historian Herodotus.  What purpose does its inclusion in this book serve? What does it tell us about the King, about Esther, and about life in the King’s palace?

4.      How is Esther affected by her friendship with Roxane and Lilaios, and by Lilaios’ execution? How does this event help prepare the way for later events in the story?

 

Chapters 15 – 16; Bible Reading Esther chs. 3 – 9

 

1.      These chapters form the heart of Esther’s story, the moment at which she becomes a heroine.  How have earlier events in her life prepared her for the choice she faces when she learns of Haman’s edict?

2.      How does King Xerxes appear in these chapters? Is he a strong leader? Why or why not?

3.      What motivates Esther’s decision to confront the King despite the risk to her life? How is that choice affected by Esther’s relationships with:

a.       Hathakh?

b.      Ayana?

c.       Damaspia?

d.      Mordecai?

e.       King Xerxes?

4.      Do you think the fate of Haman and his sons is an example of justice, or of vengeance?

 

Chapter 17 - 19; Bible Reading Esther 10

 

1.      What influence did Mordecai and Esther have on King Xerxes, and on the kingdom as a whole, during Mordecai’s lifetime?

2.      How has Esther matured, personally and spiritually, by the time of Mordecai’s death?

3.      The events leading up to and following King Xerxes’ death are not included in the Bible, but are taken from historical accounts.  Does the picture of King Xerxes in his last years fit well with the portrayal of him in the Biblical book of Esther?

4.      How is Esther affected by King Xerxes’ death? How would you sum up their marriage? Do you think Esther’s story has any lessons for women today who are in difficult or challenging marriages?

 

Chapters 20 – 21; Bible Reading Ezra chs 7 – 10, Nehemiah 1:1 - 2:10

 

1.      The Bible makes no mention of what happened to Esther after the events of the Book of Esther, though she could have lived to see the events described in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.  Why do you think the author of this book chose to include Esther in those events? What does it suggest about how God might have continued to use Esther?

2.      Why are Esther’s encounters with Vashti and with young Lilaios significant?

3.      How is Esther’s relationship with Hathakh resolved? Do you think this is a satisfactory resolution for these two characters? How would you describe the impact Hathakh had on Esther’s life?

4.      How do you think Esther feels about her life at its close? Do you think she lived a happy life? A fulfilled life?

 

Epilogue; Bible Reading Nehemiah 12:27-47

 

1.      What is the significance of Ayana and Hathakh making the journey to Jerusalem for the Temple dedication?

2.      Why do you think the passage from Isaiah 56:3-7 is quoted at the end of Chapter 21 and again here at the very end of the Epilogue?

3.      The book of Esther is well-known as being the only book of the Bible that does not mention the name of God.  Where do you see the hand of God at work in Esther’s story?

4.      What relevance does this story have for your life? Are there ways in which you can relate to Esther? Ways in which you feel you can learn from her?