Esther Overview: Ruler of History

Introduction

1. Name

This book is named after its principal character “Esther,” a Persian name, which means “star.” Some trace it to the name of the Babylonian goddess of love “Ishtar.” Esther’s Hebrew name was “Hadassah” (Esther 2:7) which means “myrtle.”

The book is one of the five Megilloth (“scrolls”) within the larger division known as the Kethubhim (“writings”). In the Septuagint and our English version, the book is the last of the twelve historical books.

2. Theme

The hidden, powerful and gracious providence of God.

3. Purpose

To establish the feast of Purim as a remembrance of God’s deliverance of his people and as a reminder to remain faithful to him even when living under oppression.[footnote]Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 733.[/footnote]

4. Key verse

For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14).

5. Key truths

• The people of God will suffer severely at times at the hands of God’s enemies.
• God will preserve his people in their times of oppression.
• The Lord will reverse the fortunes of those who oppress his people and will exalt his people from their humble state.
• The people of God must seek help from God and remain faithful to him despite the trials of suffering.
• The people of God should regularly commemorate the wonders of God’s deliverances in the past for courage in their present trials.[footnote]Ibid., 733.[/footnote]

 

I. Author

The book is anonymous. However, the writer was clearly familiar with Persian geography, names, customs and Ahasuerus’ royal court. Furthermore the author’s knowledge of and support for the Jews would suggest that the author was Jewish. He seemed to have access to Mordecai’s writings (Esther 9:20) and royal annals (Esther 2:23; Esther 10:2). Some scholars have attributed the book to the author of Ezra/Nehemiah. However, the styles are very different. Others have suggested authorship by the men of the “Great Synagogue” in Ezra’s day. Jewish tradition and Josephus ascribed the book to Mordecai. Certainly, he had both the Persian and Jewish knowledge. However it is questionable whether he would have written Esther 10 in such a self-congratulatory way. Also, Esther 10:2-3 implies that his career was already finished.
 

II. Date

The events described in Esther occurred between 483 and 473 BC. They fit between Ezra 6 (the first return under Zerubbabel) and Ezra 7 (the second return led by Ezra).
Earliest date: The author speaks of King Ahasuerus in the past tense (Esther 1:1), suggesting that he was dead. The book was probably written during the reign of his successor Artarxerxes I (465-424 BC).
Latest date: As there is no evidence of Greek influence on the Hebrew of the book it is unlikely it was written prior to 330BC when the Persian Empire fell to Greece led by Alexander the Great.
 

III. Historical Analysis

1. Historical Background

In order to prevent confusion, we should remember that Ahasuerus is the Hebrew name, and Xerxes the Greek name, of King Khshayarsha of Persia (486-464 B.C.).

538 BC Jews authorized by Cyrus to return to Canaan. While a few thousand went, the majority remained scattered throughout the Persian Empire
515 BC Temple reconstructed in the sixth year of Darius
486-464 BC Reign of Xerxes I / Ahasuerus
483 BC Herodotus reported that in 483 BC Xerxes convened a great Council of War to plan the invasion of Greece. The opening banquet in Esther 1:3 is probably associated with this event.
481-479 BC Ahasuerus away fighting the Greeks.
479 BC Esther made Queen (Esther 2:16)
474 BC Plot to exterminate the Jews was foiled.
458 BC Return of more Jews to the land led by Ezra.

2. Historicity

Most critical scholars date Esther late and regard it as a romantic novella written to bolster Jewish nationalism and morale when facing Gentile opposition in the inter-testamental period. These scholars have cast doubt on the historicity of significant elements in the book. Many of their arguments are based upon the work of the ancient Greek historian, Herodotus (c. 484-424 BC) who wrote The History of the Persian Wars, and devoted a large part of it to the reign of Ahasuerus. The character of Ahasuerus found in Herodotus is very similar to that portrayed by Esther.

a. Esther

Critical scholars have highlighted the absence of Vashti and Queen Esther’s name in secular records. According to Herodotus, Ahasuerus’ queen at the time under consideration (the seventh year of his reign Esther 2:16) was the infamously cruel and brutal Amestris, the daughter of a Persian named Otanes (7.61).

First of all, it may simply be noted that Herodotus did not mention Belshazzar either. Although for many years critics used this omission to argue against the existence of Belshazzar, later archaeological excavations verified his historicity. Secondly, Herodotus recounts the defeat of Ahasuerus at Salamis and his seeking consolation in his harem upon his return. The date for this, 479 BC, corresponds with Esther’s being made queen. Thirdly, Ahasuerus’ father Darius I had three wives, all of whom were probably queens. So it is possible that Herodotus only mentioned one of Ahasuerus’ wives.

Herodotus asserted that the Persian king had to choose his queen from one of seven families. Critics have argued that this rules out his choice of Esther. However, even Herodotus noted that two Persian kings, including Ahasuerus, married outside these seven families.

b. Mordecai

Critical scholars have also denied the historicity of Mordecai. However, more recently, Babylonian inscriptions have been found showing that Mardukai was a common name in late Babylonia. This is not surprising given that the name signifies “Man of Marduk” the god of Babylon. Also, in 1901, an inscription was found which recorded that “Marduk-ai-a” was an official in Susa (Shushan) during the reign of Ahasuerus.

Mordecai’s age has also presented a problem. One reading of Esther 2:5-6 suggests that Mordecai was exiled to Babylon with King Jeconiah in 597/6 BC. He would have been another 122 years older when he became Prime Minister in 473 BC. However a more careful reading of the Hebrew will lead to the conclusion that the one who was carried away from Jerusalem was not Mordecai but Kish, Mordecai’s great grand-father. The relative pronoun “who” of vs. 6 refers not to Mordecai but to Kish.

c. Vashti

The problematic absence of Vashti’s name in extra-biblical sources is solved if we accept the possibility that just as Ahasuerus and Xerxes are different names for the same person so Vashti and Amestris may be different names for the same person, Vashti being her Hebrew name and Amestris her Persian.

Also, the lack of extra-biblical documentary support for the Esther narratives may be explained by the palace fire in the reign of Ahasuerus’ successor Artarxerxes I.

Interestingly French archaeologists are now uncovering the remains of this palace and it agrees with Esther’s description of the ground plan and structure.

d. Number of Provinces/Satrapies

Critics allege that there is a discrepancy here between the 127 provinces mentioned by the Bible and the twenty satrapies mentioned by Herodotus. However, it is quite likely that the Hebrew and Greek terms for province/satrapy are different terms for different administrative units and that each satrapy was made up of a number of different provinces. Also, the number of satrapies was never stable but increasing and decreasing continually. In another place Herodotus states that there were about 60 nations under Persian rule.

e. 75,000 killed in one day

Critics argue that the armed Jews could never have killed as many as 75,000 enemies in one day (Esther 9:16-17) and the Persian government would never have allowed this anyway. However, the estimated 2-3 million Jews were fully equipped with arms and the Persian government put a very low premium on human life, especially when one of the royal family had been threatened. The unusual is not the impossible, especially when we are told that no one could withstand the Jews because fear of them fell upon all the people (Esther 9:2)

f. Persian knowledge

Even critics have acknowledged the book’s accurate reporting of Persian names and customs, almost all of which are referred to in Old Persian texts. The unalterable laws of the Medes and Persians (Esther 1:19; Esther 8:8) finds corroboration in a text by Diodorus Siculus. Writing of Darius III, Siculus notes: “It was not possible for what was done by the royal authority to be undone.”

3. The Feast of Purim

It is difficult to explain the existence of the Feast of Purim apart from the existence of a remarkable deliverance such as that narrated in Esther. Would the Jews have manufactured a feast based upon a manufactured story?

The term “puru” meaning “lot” has been discovered in Assyrian inscriptions and referred to Haman’s casting of a lot to help him decide which month to begin the destruction of the Jews (Esther 3:7; Esther 9:26). The name, therefore, represents the reversal and overturning of Haman’s lot.

Purim was not to be a joyous victory celebration, but a celebration of rest or deliverance from persecution (Esther 9:22). Careful instructions regarding the observance of this feast are given. Choice portions of food were to be sent to one another, especially the poor (Esther 9:19,22). Every future generation of Jews was to celebrate Purim on the 14th–15th days of Adar, the last month of the Jewish year (March-April). On this occasion the Book of Esther is read. Traditionally the congregation in the synagogue shouts and boos whenever the name of Haman, the major antagonist in Esther, is read.

The “Purim Appendix” emphasizes the abiding religious significance of the festival. The word “keep, establish” (Heb. qwm) is used at Esther 9:21,27,29,31(twice),32) indicating that the festival is thus binding on all successive generations. Second, the appointed time for the festival is set (Esther 9:21,31) – the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar (February/March) – establishing it as a regular part of the calendar of festivals. Third, Mordecai’s and Esther’s letters establish the exact manner in which the festival is to be celebrated. Rather than merely being a vindictive victory celebration, it is to be more generous: the people are to exchange fine gifts and send gifts to the poor (Esther 9:22; cf. Esther 9:19). In this way, the “secularity” of the festival is placed into a religious context much more in keeping with the letter and spirit of the law. (This generosity picks up on the motif of gift-giving introduced earlier [see Esther 2:18 ].) Fourth, the festival was fixed “in writing” (Esther 9:26,27,32). In this way, the festival acquired an authoritative status akin to that of the law (comparable to the law’s status in Ezra and Nehemiah, from a similar time). This forms the basis for the Talmudic elevation of Esther to the level of the Torah, since these are the only two portions of Scripture that establish and give instructions for biblical festivals.[footnote]D M Howard, An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1993), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

4. Saul v Amalek

The genealogy of Mordecai allows us to trace him to King Saul (Esther 2:5). Haman is described as the Agagite (Esther 3:1) which takes us back to Saul’s enemy Agag in 1 Samuel 15, and perhaps even further to the earlier conflict between Israel and the Amalekites (Ex. 17:16).

There Saul failed to obey God and exterminate the Amalekites and instead allowed their covetousness to prevail. This time there is no failure – Haman dies, his ten sons are put to death, thus cutting off his line forever, and at least three times the author emphasizes that they laid not their hands on the spoils (Esther 9:10,15,16). Mordecai got right what Saul got wrong.

This conflict between the descendants of Saul and Agag is a continuation of the age-old antipathy between Israel and the Amalekites. Numerous details of the story of Esther can be understood on this background. It is this long-standing enmity between Israel and the Amalekites that accounts for Mordecai’s unwillingness to bow before Haman. This same enmity also explains why Haman, whose anger was originally directed only at Mordecai, would broaden the object of his wrath and seek to destroy all the Jews once he had learned that Mordecai was a Jew (Esther 3:5-6). Haman’s decree for the total destruction of all Jews (Esther 3:13) is in effect his effort to do to Israel what Saul had failed to do to Amalek (1 Sam. 15:3). When the tables are turned in Esther and the Jews are authorized to take vengeance on their enemies, the Jews do not plunder the wealth of their victims (Esther 9:10,15); the Jews at the time of Mordecai would not make the same mistake as Saul (1 Sam. 15:9-19). Israel’s having rest from her enemies is tied up with the destruction of the Amalekites (Deut. 25:19); with this task completed, the Jews enjoy rest from their enemies” (Esther 9:22).[footnote]R Dillard and T Longman III, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 197.[/footnote]

5. Septuagint additions

Although the Septuagint was a generally good Greek translation of the Old Testament, there are six major additions totaling 107 verses to the Hebrew text of Esther. Unlike the 167 verses in the original Hebrew the Greek additions seem to be far more religious. It is likely that the Jews in the inter-testamental period considered the book’s lack of reference to God or prayer as a weakness. The additions mention God’s name forty-two times. These unwarranted additions also allude to such standard Old Testament themes as the law, covenant, prayer, sacrifice, the temple, and Jerusalem.

 

IV. Literary Analysis

1. Comparative Outlines

Nelson Smith Dillard/Longman

Threat to the Jews
(Esther 1-4)

Triumph of the Jews
(Esther 5-10)

Crisis anticipated
(Esther 1-5)
Vashti deposed
Esther elevated

Crisis alleviated
(Esther 6-10)
Haman deposed
Mordecai elevated

The Feasts of Xerxes
(Esther 1:1-2:18)

The Feasts of Esther (Esther 2:19-7:10)

The Feasts of Purim
(Esther 8-10)

The theme of feasting is very prominent in Esther. A total of ten banquets are mentioned and crucial developments in the story typically happen at feasts (e.g., the disobedience of Vashti, Esther’s attempt to save her people, the unmasking and condemnation of Haman). This banquet theme serves to highlight one important purpose of the book: an explanation of the origin of the Jewish Feast of Purim (Esther 9:18–32 ).[footnote]Nelson’s complete book of Bible maps and charts (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1997), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

Feasting or banqueting sets the scene for each primary action in the narrative, leading up to the ultimate celebration of Purim and contrasting with the theme of fasting (Esther 4:3,16; Esther 9:31).[footnote]Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 734.[/footnote]

2. Original Audience/Message

The book may have been addressed to the exiles in Persia to encourage loyalty to the God of Israel who was still looking after them in Persia.

Alternatively, the book may have been addressed to those who returned to Canaan to show the importance of maintaining connection and unity with the non-returnees. Both faced enemies who sought their destruction but both remained loyal to their Jewish heritage and experienced the deliverance of God.

The book had a message that was to be relevant to Israel through all the years of oppression and opposition by Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome.

In the face of a history of anti-Semitic pogroms, persecution, and the Holocaust, the book of Esther voices the confidence that “deliverance for the Jews will arise” (Esther 4:14) and that the nation will endure because the electing purpose of God will not fail.[footnote]R Dillard and T Longman III, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 197.[/footnote]

3. Genre

The genre would seem to be obvious – historical narrative. However, some scholars have highlighted some characteristics of wisdom literature.

a. The anthropocentric concerns of the book and the lack of much attention paid to God, covenant, or cult.

b. The orientation to practical issues here and now as opposed to recitations of the past or eschatological expectation more characteristic of other biblical literature.

c. The lack of specific concern with distinctively national motifs such as the land and the particularities of Jewish law.

d. Some motifs in the story (such as the danger of alcohol abuse by kings, proper conduct in the presence of kings, or the danger of pride) also reflect themes dear to Proverbs (Prov.14:35; Prov. 16:14-15,18; Prov. 19:12; Prov. 20:2; Prov. 24:21; Prov. 25:o; Prov. 29:4; Prov. 31:4).

e. In the Hebrew Bible, Esther is found in the writings, the third and final part of the Old Testament, which contains primarily the poetic and wisdom books; Esther’s place in this group could reflect an awareness in antiquity of its proximity to wisdom literature.

This narrator clearly presents himself as chronicling actual events (Esther 2:23; Esther 10:2-3); while appreciating the wisdom motifs within the narrative, it would probably be wrong to view Esther as a kind of extended parable or as a “historicized wisdom tale”.[footnote]R Dillard and T Longman III, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 193.[/footnote]

4. Ironic reversals

The author used ironic reversals of fortune in constructing his narrative. Human aims and intentions result in the opposite of what was expected (cf. Esther 9:1,22,25). Haman set out to destroy Mordecai and is destroyed himself. Haman built gallows for Mordecai and was hung on them himself. Haman set out to glorify himself and humiliate Mordecai, but the result was Haman humiliated and Mordecai exalted. Haman intended the murder of Mordecai and the Jews but the result was the death of Haman and all his family.

5. Canonical Context

Before considering the canonical context of the book we shall briefly defend its canonicity. Because God’s name does not appear and because the setting is largely secular, both Jewish and Christian scholars (including Martin Luther) have questioned its place in the canon.

Its canonicity has been defended on the following grounds:

a. It shows a great triumph of the Jews, and it speaks of the survival of the Jewish people.

b. It is the only inspired Jewish history of the Jews who chose to remain in Persia rather than return to Palestine.

c. It displays God’s providence, albeit in a low-key manner.

d. It contains instructions for the only biblical festival (Purim) outside the Pentateuch.

Regarding its canonical context, Esther is the last of the five “scrolls” in the Hebrew Bible and comes after Lamentations. Thus the mourning of Lamentations is turned into the glad celebrations of Esther and the final note is of cheerfulness.

Thus, it offers hope after the gloomy situation depicted in Lamentations, which speaks of the Jews’ enemies devastating Jerusalem. Esther, on the other hand, shows the Jews’ enemies being routed. Esther’s place before Daniel is logical as well, since these are the only two OT books that take place entirely in exile. They both show Jews rising high in foreign courts and depict God’s providence in the lives of His people. In the Protestant canon, its appearance after Nehemiah, as the last “historical” book, reflects a rough (but not exact) chronological ordering.[footnote]D M Howard, An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1993), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

 

V. Thematic Analysis

1. God’s Providence

As Matthew Henry said, though God’s name is absent from the book, His finger is on every page. The theme of the book is the powerful overruling providence of God as He delivers and preserves His people from those who would destroy them.

Although there is no explicit mention of the name of God, in this book, nothing could be clearer than the irresistible power of His omnipotent rule, watching over His covenant people, preserving them from the malignity of Satan in his vain attempt to work through Haman and accomplish the annihilation of the Jewish nation.[footnote]G L Archer, A Survey of Old Testament Introduction (Chicago: Moody Press, 1998), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

The most direct statement of a belief in providence is in Mordecai’s words to Esther in Esther 4:14a : “For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place,” meaning another human agent.

Then there is the series of remarkable “coincidences” which should really be called “providences.” Esther “happens” to be chosen queen; her cousin Mordecai “happens” to foil an assassination plot against the king; the king “happens” to have a sleepless night and reads of Mordecai’s deed at just the right time; Haman “happens” to be in the court when the King wanted to honor Mordecai. The book implies that none of this is accidental, that God is firmly in control and is determined to keep His covenant promises to the children of Abraham.

The unforeseen reversal of fortunes is so continuous that it is impossible to conclude anything other than that it is God who is continually “turning the tables.”

First, the theme of God’s providence is emphasized when the narrative starts in prosperity and then descends into potentially tragic events, and quickly rises to a happy ending. Tension is built up and released. . . . The plot unfolds in three stages . . . prelude, struggle, and aftermath, with the ascending action describing an account of how various obstacles to the deliverance of the Jews are overcome. Likewise, the Bible begins in Genesis perfection (“and God saw that it was good”), goes on to depict the descent into the chaos of sin, and then ends with Revelation’s picture of the Garden of Eden restored. Plot analysis, then, reveals how the story of Esther becomes a microcosm of the whole plan of redemption, a revelation that might help answer some objections to its being in the canon.[footnote]L Ryken and T Longman III (Editors), The Complete Literary Guide to the Bible (Grand Rapids; Zondervan, 1993), 218.[/footnote]

2. God’s Invisibility

The “background” presentation of God and the absence of his name has perplexed scholars. A number of theories have been proposed as to why God’s name was not mentioned.

a. Because Esther was meant to be read at Purim which was a time of uninhibited drinking and merry-making and so God’s name would be profaned if the book was read in that atmosphere. However, this theory assumes that the book was written long after the original institution of the festival when such behavior developed.

b. Because it is a secular nationalistic tract. If, so then it would never have been accepted into the canon.

c. Because it is wisdom literature, and so the most “secular” of Bible genres. However, while the book has some wisdom features (see above), it is not “classic” wisdom literature.

d. To show God’s displeasure with:

(i) Esther disobeying Pentateuchal injunctions against deceiving (Lev. 19:11) by hiding her Jewish identity (contrast with Daniel)

(ii) Esther losing her virginity to an unbelieving Gentile king (Deut. 7:3; Ez. 10).

(iii) Mordecai’s proud refusal to bow to Haman, which not only threatened the Jews but also led to the deaths of 75,000 Persians.

(iv) Those Jews who stayed in captivity and refused to return to the land.

This theory proposes that God is distancing himself from the events in the book and that the message is essentially negative: look at the trouble you will get into when you do not rely on God.

However, why would the condemnation be so oblique and subtle rather than clear and direct as in the rest of Scripture. Also, if the author was trying to show how badly things would turn out for the Jews if they disobeyed God, we would have expected 75,000 Jews dead and not 75,000 Persians.

Most likely it is to show that human responsibility and action is important. Esther and Mordecai are not passive bystanders waiting for God to act but are actively involved seeking solutions at every stage and taking initiatives at every turn. It is also to show that God’s involvement in providence is not always obvious, clear and easy to discern.

In the end, then, this book is a very realistic commentary upon life, and its author wants to make his readers ponder carefully God’s involvement in it. Perhaps readers of Scripture can get inured to God’s presence in the lives of its characters by the constant and very obvious references to it on almost every page. The book of Esther, by its radical difference in this regard, makes the reader sit up and take notice and peer deeply into its pages to detect the presence of God there. And, by extension, the author is telling us that we must also sometimes look for God in our lives in this way.[footnote]D M Howard, An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books (Chicago: Moody Press, 1993), Electronic Edition.[/footnote]

3. Human Responsibility

As mentioned above, there is a stress on human responsibility in the book. Esther showed how the faithfulness and courage of one single lady Jew made a difference in a secular and hostile environment. Mordecai refused to give up his relationship with God, even to save himself and his people.

…where God’s actions and purposes are not transparent, the importance of human obedience and faithfulness becomes the more apparent. In this respect Esther 4:13-14 joins a number of other biblical texts that wonderfully integrate human responsibility and divine providence (for example, Joel 2:32; Matt. 26:24; Acts 2:23; Acts 3:18-19).[footnote]R Dillard and T Longman III, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 196.[/footnote]

4. Hope of future blessings

The Jewish people were still to play an important role in God’s program and so the preservation of them was extremely important. The inviolability of the Jews is seen in even Haman’s wife and friends telling Haman that he could not prevail against a Jew (Esther 6:13), which evidences a knowledge of Israel’s past history and the ultimate triumph of the Jews’ cause through their God.

5. Faithfulness in the midst of pluralism

While Ezra and Nehemiah described the conditions of the Jews who returned to Canaan from exile, Esther described the life of the Jews who remained and flourished in Persia. It showed their relationship with the pagan environment in which they live – how they remained faithful to their Jewish heritage and how the Lord preserved them. They are God’s people although not in the Promised Land. We may contrast the books like this:

Ezra/Nehemiah Esther
Historical facts: lists, records, edicts Artful narrative: dialogue, plot, characterization
Religious atmosphere Secular atmosphere
Located in Canaan Located in Persia

As we saw in the discussion of Ezra and Nehemiah, the question of Jewish distinctiveness and the exclusive worship of Yahweh was the critical question for God’s people in Jerusalem during the rule of the Persian Empire. Those Jews who still lived in exile, like Esther and Mordecai, struggled with the same issue. The worship of Yahweh could never be one religion among many, as the Persians insisted. Exclusive monotheism was not compatible with Persian pluralism. To the Persians, who valued inclusiveness, the Jews seemed unreasonably intolerant, which led to hostility. The Book of Esther demonstrates how God’s people should respond to a pluralistic and multi-religious society. In the worst of circumstances, God is looking for people who will trust him and him alone. The book tells the story of a beautiful woman and her uncle who risked their lives to save the Jews from destruction. The story is one of danger, intrigue, and suspense. The book also explains the historical origins of the Jewish Feast of Purim.[footnote]B Arnold and B Beyer, Encountering the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999), 272.[/footnote]

 

VI. New Testament Analysis

Although Esther is not cited in the New Testament, and there are no direct prophecies, theophanies or types, the book does have an important place in the flow of redemptive history which culminated in the New Testament. Especially prominent is the theme of the two seeds at enmity with one another. Haman was not just out to destroy Mordecai but the Jewish people, and so represented another threat to the appearance of Messiah.

Events in Susa threatened the continuity of God’s purposes in redemptive history. For Christian readers what is at stake in the book of Esther is not only the continued existence of the Jewish people, but also the appearance of the redeemer Messiah. Here in a distant city hundreds of miles and several centuries removed from events in Bethlehem, God still providentially ruled the course of history and brought it steadily to the appearance of his own Son who would break down that barrier between Jew and Gentile (Gal. 3:28).[footnote]R Dillard and T Longman III, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1995), 197.[/footnote]

The final victory of Christ over the devil is also foreshadowed in the victory of Mordecai and the Jews over Haman. Mordecai’s exaltation through the death of Haman foreshadows the time when the kingdom of this world will become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.

The story of Esther is a literary entity in itself. Nevertheless its theme of divine providence puts it into the mainstream of the Bible in general – the ultimate victory of God’s people, then and in the future. It becomes a mini-narrative of the Greatest Story Ever Told![footnote]L Ryken and T Longman III (Editors), The Complete Literary Guide to the Bible (Grand Rapids; Zondervan, 1993), 228.[/footnote]

Christians are also able to use Esther and Mordecai as examples of faith, wisdom and courage in a pluralistic society.

VII. The Message of Esther

Original Message: God’s invisible though powerful and gracious hand will defeat Israel’s enemies and deliver her to festal joy.
Present Message: The Lord’s invisible though powerful and gracious hand will defeat the Church’s enemies and deliver her to festal joy.