• CUMC

[September 2020] Book of Esther

By Gordon Hall


(Picture above) Ernest Normand, Esther Denouncing Haman to King Ahaseurus, 1888.


The Book of Esther, is a woman’s heroic story based in historical facts is also referred to as The Scroll to Jews who celebrate a minor holiday called Purim, is merrily read, recounting the rescue of the Persian Jews in 357 BCE from genocide. Like Song of Solomon, Obadiah, and Nahum, the New Testament does not quote or allude to Esther.


“Hadassah” (2:7), meaning “myrtle,” was the Hebrew name of Esther, which came either from the Persian word “star” or possibly from the name of the Babylonian love goddess, Ishtar. As the orphaned daughter of her father Abihail, Esther grew up in Persia with her older cousin, Mordecai, who raised her as if she were his own daughter.

Even though the name of God is nowhere mentioned in the book, His sovereignty and providence are evident throughout. Vashti’s dismissal, Esther’s regal position, Xerxes’ indebtedness to Mordecai discovered during a sleepless night, and the miraculous deliverance of the Jews all demonstrate God’s control and care for His people (Psalm 121:4). Esther and Exodus both chronicle how vigorously foreign powers tried to eliminate the Jewish race and how God sovereignly preserved His people in accordance with His covenant promise to Abraham (ca. 2100-2075 B.C.; Gen. 12:1-3; 17:1-8). As a result of God’s prevailing, Esther (chapters 9 and 10), records the beginning of Purim, a new annual festival in the 12th month (Feb. / Mar.), to celebrate the nation’s survival. Purim became one of two festivals given outside of the Mosaic legislation to still be celebrated in Israel (Hanukkah), or the Festival of Lights is the other (compare John 10:22).


A third theme is evident, that of anti-Semitism. When fully developed, animosity toward Jews results in genocide: the attempt to exterminate a race. This satanic scheme is probably much older that the time of Haman. In Moses’ day, Pharaoh attempted to exterminate the Hebrew slaves.


There are the beloved Five Scrolls in the Hebrew Scripture, including Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, Lamentations and two named for valiant women: Ruth and Esther.

Ruth was the consummate loyalist, paradigmatic convert to Judaism—a maternal ancestor to the Davidic line. Christians link her spiritually to Jesus. Esther, an unlikely Jewish royal chosen to the throne of Persia by a classically sexist king at the apex of Hebrew exile, turned heads and won minds because she had the savvy and the guts to stand up against wanton ethnic cleansing.