Lesson 45: “If I Perish, I Perish”
The stories of Daniel and Esther are used in this year’s manual as examples of courage “in living gospel standards.” The following pair of lessons, from a 1937 seminary text (J.A. Washburn, Story of the Old Testament) will not, I’m afraid, be particularly helpful to teachers preparing this year’s lesson because these old lessons merely retell the narratives and ask the obvious questions.
But come to think of it, that’s pretty much all this year’s lesson does, too.
The Hebrew Boys
Character of the Hebrew Boys.
By “Hebrew Boys” we mean Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. We have already learned something of them. They were carried to Babylon among the first captives. They are spoken of as princes and were physically without blemish. Because of their intelligence and high type of manhood they were selected to attend the king’s school and later rose to high governmental positions. Daniel held positions of influence in three kingdoms, Babylonia, Media, and Persia.
But it was not always easy sailing for these young men. Because of their success other officers became jealous and caused Daniel and his friends many trials and much unnecessary suffering. Two of these incidents will be considered in this lesson. When Daniel, through the power of the Lord, interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, the king exclaimed, ‘Of a truth it is, that your god is a god of gods,” but he turned not from his idolatry.
Daniel’s Friends in the Fiery Furnace. (Dan. 3:1, 3-30)
Jealous accusers. “Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was threescore cubits, and the breadth thereof six cubits; he set it up in the plain of dura, in the province of Babylon. then the princes, the governors, and captains, the judges, the treasurers, the counsellors, the sheriffs, and all the rulers of the provinces, were gathered together unto the dedication of the image that Nebuchadnezzar the king had set up; and they stood before the image that Nebuchadnezzar had set up. Then an herald cried aloud: ‘to you it is commanded, O people, nations, and languages, that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the golden image that Nebuchadnezzar the king hath set up: and whoso falleth not down and worshipeth shall the same hour be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. Therefore at that time, when all the people heard the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, prattern, and all the people, the nations, and the languages, fell down and worshiped the golden image. … Wherefore at that time certain Chaldeans came near, and accused the Jews.
They spake and said to the king Nebuchadnezzar: O king, live for ever. Thou, O king, hast made a decree, that every man that shall hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, shall fall down and worship the golden image: and whoso falleth not down and worshipeth, that he should be cast into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. there are certain Jews whom thou hast set over the affairs of the province of Babylon, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; these men, O king, have not regarded thee: they serve not thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
Then Nebuchadnezzar in his rage and fury commanded to bring shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Then they brought these men before the king. Nebuchadnezzar spake and said unto them: Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, do not ye serve my gods, nor worship the golden image which I have set up?
True to Their Standards. Now if ye be ready that at what time ye hear the sound of the cornet, flute, harp, sackbut, psaltery, and dulcimer, and all kinds of music, ye fall down and worship the image which I have made; well: but if ye worship not, ye shall be cast the same hour into the midst of a burning fiery furnace; and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king: O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. but if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.
Then was Nebuchadnezzar full of fury, and the form of his visage was changed against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; therefore he spake, and commanded that they should heat the furnace one seven times more than it was wont to be heated. And he commanded certain mighty men that were in his army to bind Shadrach, meshach, and Abednego, and to cast them into the burning fiery furnace. Then these men were bound in their coats, their hosen, and their hats, and their other garments, and were cast into the midst of the burning fiery furnace. Therefore because the king’s commandment was urgent, and the furnace exceeding hot, the flame of the fire slew those men that took up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.
Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors: Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said, unto the king, True, O King. he answered and said, lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.
Then Nebuchadnezzar came near to the mouth of the burning fiery furnace, and spake, and said: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, ye servants of the most high God, come forth, and come hither. Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, came forth of the midst of the fire. And the princes, governors, and captains, and the king’s counsellors, being gathered together saw these men, upon whose bodies the fire had no power, nor was an hair of their head singed, neither were their coats changed, nor the smell of fire had passed on them.
Their Reward. Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said: Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any God, except their own God. therefore I make a decree, That every people, nation, and language, which speak any thing amiss against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, shall be cut in pieces, and their houses shall be made a dunghill: because there is no other God that can deliver after this sort. Then the king promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the province of Babylon.
Daniel’s Experience. (Dan. 6:1-23, 25-28).
Jealous Accusers. Years passed. The Babylonians had been conquered, and Darius of Media ruled, but Daniel held power and influence in the new kingdom.
It pleased Darius to set over the kingdom an hundred and twenty princes, which should be over the whole kingdom; and over these three presidents, of whom Daniel was one, that the princes might give account unto them, and the king should have no damage. Then this Daniel was preferred above the presidents and princes, because an excellent spirit was in him; and the king thought to set him over the whole realm. then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel; except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.
Then these presidents and princes assembled together to the king, and said thus unto him: King Darius, live for ever. all the presidents of the kingdom, the governors, and the princes, the counselors, and the captains, have consulted together to establish a royal statute, and to make a firm decree, that whosoever shall ask a petition of any god or man for thirty days, save of thee, O king, he shall be cast into the den of lions. now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. Wherefore king Darius signed the writing and the decree.
True to His Standards. Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.
In the Lion’s Den. Then these men assembled, and found Daniel praying and making supplication before his God. Then they came near, and spake before the king concerning the king’s decree, Hast thou not signed a decree, that every man that shall ask a petition of any God or man within thirty days, save of thee, O king, shall be cast into the den of lions? the king answered and said: The thing is true, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not. then answered they and said before the king: That Daniel, which is of the children of the captivity of Judah, regardeth not thee, O king, nor the decree that thou hast signed, but maketh his petition three times a day.
Then the king, when he heard these words, was sore displeased, with himself, and set his heart on Daniel to deliver him: and he labored till the going down of the sun to deliver him. Then these men assembled unto the king, and said unto the king: Know, O king, that the law of the Medes and Persians is, that no decree nor statute which the king establisheth may be changed.
Then the king commanded, and they brought Daniel, and cast him into the den of lions. Now the king spake and said unto Daniel: Thy God whom thou servest continually, he will deliver thee. And a stone was brought, and laid upon the mouth of the den; and the king sealed it with his own signet, and with the signet of his lords; that the purpose might not be changed concerning Daniel.
Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting: neither were instruments of music brought before him: and his sleep went from him. Then the king arose very early in the morning, and went in haste unto the den of lions.
Daniel’s Reward. And when he came to the den, he cried with a lamentable voice unto Daniel: and the king spake and said to Daniel: O Daniel, servant of the living God, is thy God, whom thou servest continually, able to deliver thee from the lions? Then said Daniel unto the king: O king, live for ever. My God hath sent his angel, and hath shut the lions’ mouths that they have not hurt me: forasmuch as before him innocency was found in me; and also before thee, O king, have I done no hurt.
Then was the king exceeding glad for him, and commanded that they should take Daniel up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no manner of hurt was found upon him, because he believed in his God. … Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied unto you. I make a decree, that in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and steadfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in hearth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions. So this Daniel prospered in the reign of Darius, and in the reign of Cyrus the Persian.”
1. In the fiery furnace story what suggests moral courage? physical courage?
2. Can one be morally strong and physically a weakling? Can one be just the opposite? May one be strong both morally and physically? Explain and try to give illustrations.’
3. Explain the nature of each musical instrument mentioned in the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s image. (Special assignment.)
4. What evidences had now been given to nebuchadnezzar that Israel’s God was the true God?
5. Quote the boys’ answer to Nebuchadnezzar, when he commanded them to worship his idol.
6. Pick out the similarities between the fiery furnace and the lion stories.
7. What governmental change took place between the two events?
8. What experience shows that other rulers were jealous of these four boys?
How a Jewish Girl Became Queen of Persia (Esther 1:1-3, 7, 9-13, 15-16, 1, 21; 2:12-, 4-5, 7-8, 16-17, 20).
Queen Vasthi Disobeys the King. Now it came to pass that King Ahasuerus made a feast to all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace; and they gave them drink in vessels of gold, … and royal wine in abundance, according to the state of the king. Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house. On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of the king, to bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on. But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s commandment: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him. Then the king said to the wise men, What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to law, because she hath not performed the commandment of the king?
And Memucan answered before the king and the princes: If it please the king, let there go a royal commandment from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she.
And the saying pleased the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan.
How Esther Was Chosen. After these things, when the wrath of king Ahasuerus was appeased, he remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her. Then said the king’s servants, Let there be fair young virgins south fro the king: … and let the maiden which pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti. And the thing pleased the king; and he did so.
Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai … And he brought up … Esther, his uncle’s daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter.
So it came to pass, when the king’s commandment and his decree was heard, and when many maidens were gathered together unto Shushan the palace, that Esther was taken unto king Ahasuerus into his house royal. And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti. Esther had not yet shewed her kindred nor her people; as Mordecai had charged her: for Esther did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was brought up with him.
Haman’s Plot to Destroy the Jews (3:1-2, 5-6, 8-13, 4:1-5, 7-17)
Haman’s Hatred for the Jews. After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman, … and advance him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him. And all the king’s servants, that were in the king’s gate, bowed, and reverenced Haman: for the king had so commanded concerning him. But Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence. And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath. And he thought to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai.
And Man said unto king Ahasuerus, There is a certain people scattered abroad and separated among the peoples in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from all people; neither keep they the king’s laws: therefore it is not for the king’s profit to suffer them. If it please the king, let it be written that they may be destroyed. And the king took his ring from his hand, and gave it unto Haman. And the king said unto Haman: The people are given to thee to do with them as it seemeth good to thee.
Then were the king’s scribes called on the thirteenth day of the first month, and there was written according to all that Haman had commanded. And the letters were sent by posts into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey.
Mordecai’s Appeal to Esther for Help. When Mordecai perceived all that was done, Mordecai rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth with ashes, and went out into the midst of the city, and cried with a loud and a bitter cry; and came even before the king’s gate: for none might enter into the king’s gate clothed with sackcloth. And in every province, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes. So Esther’s maids and her chamberlains came and told it her. Then was the queen exceedingly grieved; and she sent one of the king’s chamberlains, and gave him a commandment to Mordecai, to know what it was, and why it was. And Mordecai told him of all that had happened. Also he gave him the cop of the writing of the decree that was given at Shushan to destroy them, to shew it unto Esther, and to declare it unto her, and to charge her that she should go in unto the king, to make supplication unto him. And he came and told Esther the words of Mordecai.
Again Esther spake and gave him commandment unto Mordecai: all the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces, do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days. And they told to Mordecai Esther’s words.
Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther: Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king’s house, more than all the Jews. for if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer: Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish. So Mordecai went his way, and did according to all that Esther had commanded him.
Esther’s Courage (5:1-5, 4-5, 9, 13-14; 6:1-11; 7:1-6, 9-10).
Haman Invited to the Queen’s feast. Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house, over against the king’s house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of the house. And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favor in his sight: and the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre. Then said the king unto her: What wilt thou, queen Esther? and what is thy request? it shall be even given thee to the half of the kingdom. And Esther answered, If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him. Then the king said, Cause Haman to make haste, that he may do as Esther hath said.
Then went Haman forth that day joyful and with a glad heart: but when Haman saw Mordecai in the king’s gate, that he stood not up, nor trembled before him, he was full of indignation against Mordecai. nevertheless Haman refrained himself: and when he came home, he sent and called for his friends, and Zeresh his wife. And he said unto them, All this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate. Then said Zeresh his wife and all his friends unto him: Let a gallows be made fifty cubits high, and to-morrow speak thou unto the king that Mordecai may be hanged thereon: then go thou in merrily with the king unto the banquet. And the thing pleased Haman; and he caused the gallows to be made.
Mordecai Honored. On that night could not the king sleep, and he commanded to bring the book of records of the chronicles; and they were read before the king. And it was found written, that Mordecai had told of Bigthana and Teresh, two of the king’s chamberlains, the keepers of the door, who sought to lay hand on the king Ahasuerus. And the king said: What honor and dignity hath been done to Mordecai for this? Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him, There is nothing done for him. and the king said, Who is in the court? Now Haman was come into the outward court of the king’s house, to speak unto the king to hang Mordecai on the gallows that he had prepared for him. And the king’s servants said unto him: behold, Haman standeth in the court. And the king said, let him come in. So Haman came in. And the king said unto him, what shall be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honor? Now Haman thought in his heart, To whom would the king delight to do honor more than to myself? And Haman answered the king, For the man whom the king delighteth to honor, let royal apparel be brought which the king useth to wear, and the horse that the king rideth upon, and the crown royal which is set upon his head. And let this apparel and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes, that they may array the man withal whom the king delighteth to honor, and bring him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaim before him, Thus shall it be done to the man whom the king delighteth to honor.
Then the king said to Haman, Make haste, and take the apparel and the horse, as thou hast said, and do even so to Mordecai the Jew, that sitteth at the king’s gate; let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken. then took Haman the apparel and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and brought him on horseback through the street of the city, and proclaimed before him, Thus shall it be done unto the man whom the king delighteth to honor.
Haman’s Punishment. So the king and Haman came to banquet with Esther the queen. And the king said again unto Esther on the second day at the banquet of wine: What is thy petition, queen Esther? Then Esther the queen answered and said, O king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request: for we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, and to perish.
Then the king Ahasuerus answered and said unto Esther: Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so? And Esther said, The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman. Then Haman was afraid before the king and the queen. and Harbonah, one of the chamberlains said before the king, Behold, the gallows fifty cubits high, which Haman had made for Mordecai, who had spoken good for the king, standeth in the house of Haman. Then the king said, hang him thereon, So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then was the king’s wrath pacified.
Deliverance of the Jews. (8:1-3, 5-7, 8-12, 15-17; 9:1-2, 20-23).
On that day did the king Ahasuerus give the house of Haman the Jews’ enemy unto Esther the queen. And Mordecai came before the king; for Esther had told what he was unto her. And the king took off his ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it unto Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman. And Esther spake yet again before the king, and said: If it please the king, and if I have found favor in his sight, and the thing seem right before the king, and I be pleasing in his eyes, let it be written to reverse the letters devised by Haman, which he wrote to destroy the Jews which are in all the king’s provinces: for how can I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people? or how can I endure to see the destruction of my kindred?
Then the king Ahasuerus said unto Esther: … The writing which I written in the king’s name, and sealed with the king’s ring, may no man reverse.
Then were the king’s scribes called. And he wrote in the king Ahasuerus’ name, and sealed it with the king’s ring, and sent letters by posts on horseback, and riders on mules, camels, and young dromedaries; wherein the king granted the Jews which were in every city to gather themselves together, and to stand for their life, to destroy, to slay, and to cause to perish, all the power of the people and province that would assault them, both little ones and women, and to take the spoil of them for a prey, upon one day in all the provinces of king Ahasuerus, namely, upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar.
And Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a garment of fine linen and purple: and the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad. The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honor. And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them.
Now in the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar, on the thirteenth day of the same, when the king’s commandment and his decree drew near to be put in execution, the Jews gathered themselves together in their cities throughout all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, to lay hand on such as sought their hurt; and no man could withstand them; for the fear of them fell upon all people.
And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, both nigh and far, to establish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly as the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day; that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor. And the Jews undertook to do as they had begun, and as Mordecai had written unto them. And so was introduced the Feast of Purim.
Questions and Exercises to be prepared by the teacher.