What is the…
Book of Esther
Hebrew: מגילת אסתר
This book is more purely historical than any other book of Scripture; and it has this remarkable peculiarity that the name of God does not occur in it from first to last in any form. However, it is clear that though the name of Jehovah is not in it, His finger of Divine providence and sovereignty is certainly clearly present. The book wonderfully exhibits the providential government of God.
An astonishing series of events quickly brought a complete reversal to the threatened fate of all Jews of the Persian empire.
The idolatrous Queen Vashti, the first wife of King Ahasuerus (aka Xerxes) was unexpectedly replaced with a beautiful orphan Jewess named Hadassah, renamed Esther, her ethnic origin unknown in the palace. An assassination plot against the king was then foiled due to the observance and wise action of her adoptive father and cousin Mordecai, a man of seemingly no importance who sits at the palace gates and refuses to bow down to Haman.
Soon, a swiftly moving mass genocide plot against Mordecai and all Jews in every province of Persia becomes alarmingly apparent—and seemingly unstoppable. Having obtained the king’s permission and funding for this, Haman joyfully casts lots to chose the great execution day when he will exterminate all Jews (young and old), and plunder all their property. The day selected is Adar 14th.
Esther, realizing that God must have placed her into this unexpected royal position to save her people, decides to risk her own life. She will intercede by very tactfully approaching the king, despite the fact that it is not lawfully permitted, under penalty of death. Will she too become a victim?
In preparation, she asks Mordecai and all Jews to pray and fast for 3 days with her. Afterward, Esther takes action, speaking with the king and scheduling 2 royal banquets. After the first feast, the king has a sleepless night and feels a need to review “the book of records, the chronicles.” In doing so, he discovers that a man named Mordecai saved his life and has never been recognized for it. Later the next day at the evening banquet, Esther reveals that she too is a Jew.
Amazingly, the whole disaster is quickly and decisively halted, and the vulnerability of the Jews completely reversed at the king’s command. Their fragile situation and minority status turns into strength.
The Jews’ hundreds of enemies in Persia are preemptively executed on Adar 13, including the revengeful king’s new vizier (viceroy), Haman the Agagite. He is hung on the nearly 8 stories tall gallows he specially built to publicly hang the Jew Mordecai who refused to bow to him (height about 75 feet / 23 meters).
Furthermore, Mordecai is greatly honored by the king and fully replaces Haman as viceroy of the Persian empire. Now the Hebrews have the prestige and protection of the presence of a fellow Jew as the empire’s 2nd most powerful man, and a Jewess as queen.
…And many among the peoples of the land became Jews… —Esther 8:17 NASB excerpt
To this day, Jews throughout the world annually celebrate what God did for their ancestors. The holiday was instituted by Mordecai himself (Esther 8:15-17; 9:19-32).
It is called Purim, a day of rejoicing, feasting, gifts, donations to charity, reading of the Book of Esther (kriat ha-megillah), prayers (Al HaNissim) and public celebrations and even parades. For most Jews, the date on the Jewish calendar is the 14th day and 15th of the Hebrew month of Adar.
Therefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur [lots]. And because of the instructions in this letter, both what they had seen in this regard and what had happened to them, the Jews established and made a custom for themselves, their descendants, and for all those who allied themselves with them, so that they would not fail to celebrate these two days according to their regulation and according to their appointed time annually. So these days were to be remembered and celebrated throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; and these days of Purim were not to be neglected by the Jews, or their memory fade from their descendants. —Esther 9:26-28 NASB
Authorship and date
The authorship of this book is unknown. It must have been obviously written after the death of King Ahasuerus of Persia (the Xerxes of the Greeks), which took place B.C. 465. The minute and particular account also given of many historical details makes it probable that the writer was contemporary with Mordecai and Esther.
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