Old Testament Survey
- Cyrus conquers Babylon 539 B.C.
- First Jews return 538 B.C.
- Temple construction begins 536 B.C.
- Darius reigns 521 B.C.
- Haggai & Zechariah 520 B.C.
- Temple finished 515 B.C.
- Esther 486-465 B.C.
- Ezra - 458 B.C.
Thoughts for Reading
God works His purposes,
even when we aren’t in step with His desires.
Can you think of an example of this in your life?
Esther is unique among the books of the Bible. We will consider this uniqueness as we review this last book of the history division.
The book is named after the character "Esther." The name probably comes from a Hebrew word derived from the Persian word for star. The author is unknown, although Mordecai and Nehemiah are two names frequently suggested.
The book is written around the Mid-to-Late Fifth Century B.C. (464-415 B.C.). The Hebrew "Ahasuerus" is usually identified with Xerxes I (486-465/64 B.C.). The book reflects the Jewish background of the dispersion in Babylon and reflects a knowledge of both Persian customs and geography. Persian names and loan-words throughout the book. As was mentioned previously, the events of Esther occur between Ezra chapters 6 and 7. The events of Esther appear to cover about a decade of time.
Purim is the plural of “pur,” the Persian word for “lot.” The feast reflects the casting of the lot by Haman to pick the day of destruction. Proverb 16:33 tells us it is God who controls the way the “lot” falls.
Esther is written to provide a continuity for the Jewish community remaining in Babylon following the return of Israelites to the Promised Land. There is an emphasis to the religious significance of the Jewish people. The account would act as an encouragement to both those who returned to Palestine and to those who remained behind. The book further explains the historical basis for the feast of Purim, a feast still celebrated today.
Esther is written to demonstrate God’s continuing loving care and concern for His people. Yet, the book is unique in that the Name of God is not mentioned a single time, in any form, in this book. This is the only book of the Bible which does not use God’s Name. The book does, however, demonstrate God’s control over situations of life for the Jewish nation, whether in their home land or in exile. Matthew Henry writes, “If the name of God is not here, His finger is.”
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.
Without addressing several of the practical theological concerns raised by this book, the story is simple. Esther, a young Jewish girl, becomes queen of Persia. The king’s advisor, Haman, plots to kill all of the Jews. The lot is cast to pick the date. Esther’ cousin, Mordecai persuades Esther to try and save her people. At the risk of her own life, Esther goes to the king and foils Haman’s plot. Haman is hung on the gallows designed for Mordecai. The Jews are warned of the pending attacked and legally allowed to defend themselves. They achieve a great victory which becomes the basis for the feast of Purim.
Another uniqueness of this book is the inference of prayer, without prayer ever being mentioned. Esther talks of fasting, which would normally be accompanied by prayer, but there is no mentioned of prayer in the book.
Jesus in Esther
Esther provides a picture of Christ as she willingly puts herself in harms way for her people’s salvation. Likewise, her appearance before the king is a picture of Christ’s advocacy for His people. Further, the work of the Messiah in providentially protecting His chosen people is seen in this book.
At the same time, one may see Esther as a type of church in her beauty, exaltation, and intercession, while Haman is a type of the “man of sin,” and Mordecai is a type of the Jewish remnant during the Tribulation.
A simple outline of Esther is:
- Danger to the Jews - Chps 1-3
- Deliverance of the Jews - Chps 4-10
The displaced queen, Vashti’s name means “beautiful woman.”
For our modern applications, one must remember that the picture to take home with us is the spiritual applications of Esther and not her outward actions. For example, the story of Esther’s rise to queen ship is not a pattern to be followed by our daughters. Consider that in the day and age of Esther, the queen was chosen for her beauty and her bedroom abilities. Essentially, the king ran a beauty contest, sleeping with each contestant. The losers were doomed to the harem, perhaps, never to see the king again. Esther entered this contest at the urging of her cousin Mordecai. Esther won the contest. Is this a pattern to follow?
“pro” – before
“video” – I see
God sees what His people will do, even out of His will. God takes steps to use those who call upon His name. Esther is an application of Romans 8:28 in action.
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
The history books of the Old Testament ends with the Ezra-Nehemiah-Esther unit. The message of these books is applicable to all of us. God is always with His people. His Word should lead us to greater faith and spiritual blessings. At the same time, His laws affect all of life, not just our’s, but everyone’s. God will help His people accomplish their God-given goals, even when we occasionally fall away and have to be brought back onto the path. But, like Esther, we need to pray for God’s revealed purposes in our lives. We need to want to walk with Him on a daily basis. As Jesus tells us,
And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Have you seen God’s Providence at work in your life?
Do you follow God’s rules, or use the “best worldly” means available to accomplish your goals?