The Book of Esther at a Glance – Talking Christianity

Book of Esther:

Book Of EstherThe book of Esther – This exhilarating account has all the elements of a great novel. There is the beautiful young orphan girl who rises from obscurity to become queen. She even hides a secret that could bring about her demise. Then there is the ambitious villain whose passion is to destroy the innocent. Finally the story line involves a power struggle, romantic love and startling expose. But in the end, the point of this true story is clear. Once the Israelites’ God had miraculously saved them from certain destruction.

Book Of Esther – Author And Date:

The identity of the author of Esther is unknown. However, the writer was probably Jewish and lived in Persia. A strong Jewish spirit pervades the book, particularly evident in the account of the establishment of the Jewish festival Purim. Moreover, the author was acquainted with Persian culture, as the extensive descriptions of the palace complex at Shushan (also called Susa). And the domestic details about the reign of King Ahasuerus indicate. For these reasons, some have ascribed the authorship of the book to Mordecai, one of its principal characters. Whoever the author was, the Book of Esther was probably written shortly after he reign of Ahasuerus, no earlier than 465BC.

The author writes of the rule of Ahasuerus and the deeds of Mordecai (10:2) in the past tense. This is indicating the book was not composed during Ahasuerus’s reign. Yet the fact that Greek words do not appear in the book rules out a date after about 300BC. When the Greek language became more prominent in the ancient Middle East. On the other hand the numerous words of Persian origin in the book point to its being composed during the latter half of the fifth century BC. For example, the book called Xerxes by the Hebrew name Ahasuerus, its spelling derived from Persian Khshayarsha. If it had been written after 300BC a spelling closer to Greek form Xerxes would be expected.

Book of Esther – Historical Background:

The events of Esther span a decade during the reign of Ahasuerus, or Xerxes, who succeeded his father Darius as ruler of the Persian Empire in 486BC. During his reign (485 – 465BC), Xerxes continued his father’s campaign against Greece for its role in the Ionian revolt. After suffering defeat, he retired to Shushan, one of the four capitals of the Persian Empire. Around 483BC he threw an extravagant feast in Shushan to celebrate his achievements. And ten years later he executed Haman for his evil schemes (1:3, 7:9).

Historical Accuracy Book Of Esther:

Some critical scholars question the historical accuracy of Esther on various counts. One difficulty is that neither Vashti nor Esther is mentioned outside the Bible. However, historians do note that following his unsuccessful campaign against Greece (482 – 479BC), Xerxes sought refuge in harem. This coincides with the elevation of Esther (2:17). Furthermore, the word translated queen (1:9; 2:22) may refer merely to a principal wife. Rather than to a woman who ruled beside the King. Thus the obscurity of Esther and Vashti would be understandable. Even so, some still balk at the idea that a Persian ruler will marry a Jewish woman rather than chosen someone from the aristocratic Persian families.

However, the book of Esther makes it clear that Esther initially hid her Jewish identity. She used her Persian name Ishtar or Esther instead of her Hebrew name Hadassah. The climax of the story involves her revelation that she was a Jew.

The Book Of Esther – Importance in the Canon:

The book of Esther has held an important place in the Canon due its strong testimony to God’s providence and protection of His people. However, the book has been challenged by some. One of the main points in the dispute is the remarkable fact that neither the word for God nor God’s name Yahweh is found in the book. There are two explanations that may account for this. First, it may be a result of the author’s chosen point of view. The author might have viewed the Jewish people who remained Persia and did not return to the land of Israel (Ezra 1:1) as a people cut off from the principal blessings of God.

Thus, the absence of God’s name in the book might be a way of expressing God’s distance from exiles. At the same time, the book clearly reveals God’s surprising protection of them. Second, the author may on the form of a Persian state chronicle in order to explain to the Persians the Jewish celebration of Purim. In accordance with this style, the author emphasizes the King’s name, titles, and lists. But writes about the Jewish people in detached tone. This could help explain why the book of Esther is the only book in the bible that does not directly mention God.

Themes Of Book Of Esther:

Through the twist and turns of the book Esther’s story line, the author weaves an underline about God’s character. The narrative demonstrates God’s providence and sovereignty in a situation that seemed hopeless. The Israelites were living among foreigners who did not fear God and who did not care about them. And implacable enemy of the Israelites had gained power at court and was laying a plan to destroy the Jews. But at a time when God seemed so distant, He was actually preparing to deliver His people. God was in control of every event – even the sleeplessness of a foreign King (6:1).

Thus in the Persian capital, God demonstrated His covenant loyalty to the Israelites. Long ago, God had promised Abraham that He would curse any individual who cursed the Israelites (Genesis 12:2, 3). The downfall of Haman dramatically illustrated God’s faithfulness to His promise. Even to the Israelites who remained in a foreign land, God remained true to His word, for they were still His people. Thus, the author of Esther clearly illustrates what the Israelite were celebrating at the feast of Purim: God faithful protection of His people.

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