You will find an introduction and outline to Esther, here.
A prayer to use before reading.
May your Spirit, O Christ, lead me in the right way, keeping me safe from all forces of evil and destruction. And, free from all malice, may I search diligently in your Holy Word to discover with the eyes of my mind your commandments. Finally, give me the strength of will to put those commandments into practice through all the days of my life. Amen.
A prayer of Bede (c. 673-735) an English monk and scholar. From The HarperCollins Book of Prayers: A Treasury of Prayers through the Ages (Edison, N.J.: Castle Books, 1997).
Outline of Esther (Based on Clines)
I. 1:1-2:23 Exposition
II. 3:1-8:17 Complication
G. 6:1-14 Mordecai is Rewarded by the King: Irony and coincidence. A sleepless king has the royal chronicles read to him and discovers what Mordecai had done. Mordecai has not been properly rewarded and who is given the opportunity to decide the reward and then tell the recipient? None other than Haman who has come to court to try to have Mordecai hanged. In chapter 3 Haman instigates his plot against the Jews without telling the king who he wishes to destroy. Now the king sets rewards in motion without telling Haman who is to be rewarded.
H. 7:1-10 The Fall of Haman:Esther gives her second banquet and makes her request to the king. Haman is named as the person responsible for the proposed destruction. There is no mention of the fact that the king is also responsible. The king is angry and takes a walk. Why do you think he takes a walk? Upon returning the king sees Haman at the queens feet and assumes the worst. Haman is hanged on the gallows he had made for Mordecai.
I. 8:1-17 Haman is Replaced and His Plot Overturned: In the king’s court, Haman is replaced by Mordecai but the edict against the Jews still exists. Recall it is an irreversible act. The king allows Mordecai and Esther to “write as you please with regard to the Jews” (v8). Their solution is to allow the Jews to defend themselves against anyone who tries to enforce the earlier decree of Haman. Based on what the text tells us, what sort of person is the king? Esther is the only woman in the Bible who establishes a religious celebration.
III. 9:1-10:3 Resolution
A. 9:1-19 What Actually Happened on Afar 13? The Jews defend themselves but the text notes they did not plunder.
B. 9:20-32 The Institution of the Festival of Purim: Mordecai institutes the feast of Purim. Why do you think the text talks about commemorating “relief” from enemies rather than victory over enemies? Why do you think the celebration is held on and comemmorates the day after the military victory? Mordecai and Esther both send out letters about the celebration. Verses 24-26 offer a plot summary that is a little different than the rest of the book.
C. 10:1-3 Mordecai as a Symbol of Jewish Success: The book ends with a glowing assessment of Mordecai and not Esther. Why do you think that is?
Read More About It:
Here are several good sources to aid your reading of Ruth.
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
Clines, David J.A. “Esther” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.
Winn Leith, Mary Joan “Esther”, in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, Fully Revised 4 th Edition, Michael Cougan, ed. (New York:Oxford University Press) 2010.