Look Closer: Esther is a hero of the faith! Her story is full of intrigue and suspense and bravery. Her story is a welcome addition to the other hero tales that often get told in church settings, like David and Goliath. Esther uses her position and relationships to save her people and to bring about justice. The various characters are easy to caricature – like the bumbling king and the villainous Haman. It is meant to be told and played with and acted out, so have some fun with it!
This story is kind of the biblical equivalent of a tall tale. Rooted in real experiences and a historical context, it’s a heroic folk story. As you read it, notice the elements of the story that remind you of other legends and tall tales you’ve read.
- As you read the book of Esther, notice how many times God is mentioned. What do you think of that?
- This is a story of reversals, many of them comedic (like when Haman dreams up a triumphal parade for himself, only to realize the recipient of his plans will be his enemy).
- Esther is the only book in the Hebrew Bible that was not found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, and it is not mentioned in the New Testament. Its inclusion was controversial among rabbis and among early Christians. Yet the book won out and was included. Why do you think that might have been?
- Rules are a theme in this story. “Their rules are different from our rules.” This difference in rules is the cause of a lot of the conflict. Rules here seem to be the outward way (religion) that values and beliefs (faith) are lived out.
Read It: Book of Esther
To really know Esther’s story, you have to read a whole book of the Bible – which is a lot for young children. Here are some ideas of ways to read the story together:
- Read it from a story Bible, like is found in Shine On (pg 123).
- Read it yourself, then retell it to the children in your care.
- Read selected passages that can tell the story. Here’s our suggestion: Esther 1:1-5, 10-12, 16-20; 2:1-2, 4-12, 15-18, 21-23; 3:1-6, 8-11; 4:1-2, 5-17; 5:1-9, 12-14; 6:1-11; 7:2-6, 9-10; 8:3-6, 8, 17; 9:24-26, 32
- Read the whole book, one chapter per day (or all of it in one sitting, if you’re feeling ambitious). We did this with our children when they were 3 and 6. It remains our older child’s favorite Bible story!
Carnival Celebration! This story is the inspiration for the Jewish festival of Purim. Purim is a celebration of the end of winter, and comes at a similar time as Mardi Gras. It has a carnival feel to it, and is focused on telling the story in various ways. Choose one or two of these Purim traditions to try your own way for your carnival at your house. Depending on how much you want to invest, consider inviting friends to come join you.
- Play dress-up! This is probably the most common way to celebrate this story. Choose what characters you want to dress up as and have fun creating! Dressing up might be enough, but if you want to do more with it you might keep the costumes for one of these ideas:
- Act out the story.
- Eat a feast together (here are some traditional food ideas, but you can also just make a feast!)
- Bake Hamantaschen, symbolizing the villain Haman’s hat. There are loads of recipes to choose from – here’s one.
- Make a joyful noise! Purim is a joyful, noisy festival, so create instruments or grab some pots and pans and get loud.
- There are lots of other good ideas on this website.
Explore It: Notes from Tami
Queen Esther showed immense courage to stand up for what she believed in. Children as well as we adults have many opportunities to develop and act with our own courage and bravery. Being afraid at times is natural, not a sign of weakness. I like this quote from Edward Vernon Rickenbacker: “Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.” Sometimes it is difficult for us to understand a child’s fear, but their fear is real and needs to be treated as being valid. Many things that we take for granted actually take courage for a child to do.
- You may want to watch A Little Spot of Courage together and help them make “courage cards” as they experience the many little ways that they gain and express courage in their lives.
- Listen and watch Brave Little Owl by Penny Little together.
Several online resources for your own perusal:
- Bravery and Courage; PBS Kids
- 5 Tips for Teaching Children How to Be Brave
- How to help your child develop courage
Here is another way to share the story of Esther – The Purim Story for Kids Podcast
The story is told starting at 3:34 through 14 minutes.
Building Faith is a website ministry of Mennonite Early Childhood Network (MECN). Visit the site at https://www.buildingfaithfamily.com/.