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Getting to Know the Bible: Esther Overview

Updated: Jan 27, 2023

Peace & Blessings Beloved,

TGBTG for allowing us to see another day. I pray all is well with you and yours, and that your week has been fruitful & blessed thus far.


Today we are going to visit our Getting to Know the Bible Series. In this series, our goal is to come to a comprehensive understanding of each book of the bible. At this point of the series we're going to focus on Esther. But before we get to Esther 1, I want to ensure we have a baseline understanding of the book of Esther. This way we can have a full appreciation for the exquisiteness of the entire book, as well as each individual chapter.


And so, in that spirit, see below for a comprehensive overview of the book of Esther, as we prepare to behold and discern Esther, beginning with Esther 1 in our next installment of this series.





Book Type: Book of Wisdom; the seventeenth book of the Old Testament


Authors: The author is unknown. Mordecai, Ezra, or Nehemiah are the most common traditional possibilities. Esther was written for the Jewish people, to display the providence of God, in relation to the Feast of Purim. This book was to be read by the Jewish people during this Feast as a remembrance of the great deliverance from their enemies, which God provided through Esther. Observant Jews continue to read the book of Esther during Purim, celebrated on Adar 14 on the Jewish calendar, and usually occurring in March.


Date of Writing: Most likely between 465 and 425 BC.


Audience: Jews


Theme: The book of Esther describes how the Jews of Persia are saved from certain destruction through divine providence.


Original Language: Hebrew


Genre: Narrative


Timeline: The book takes place during the reign of Persian king Xerxes before his death in 465 BC.


Purpose of Writing:

The purpose of the Book of Esther is to display the providence of God, especially in regard to His chosen people, Israel. The Book of Esther records the institution of the Feast of Purim and the obligation of its perpetual observation. The Book of Esther was read at the Feast of Purim to commemorate the great deliverance of the Jewish nation brought about by God through Esther. Jews today still read Esther during Purim.


Summary: The Book of Esther can be divided into three main sections. Chapters 1:1-2:18 " Esther replaces Vashti; 2:19-7:10 " Mordecai overcomes Haman; 8:1-10:3 " Israel survives Haman's attempt to destroy them. The noble Esther risked her own death as she realized what was at stake. She willingly did what could have been a deadly maneuver and took on the second-in-command of her husband's kingdom, Haman. She proved a wise and most worthy opponent, all the while remaining humble and respectful of the position of her husband-king.


Esther's story is much like the story of Joseph in Genesis 41. Both stories involve foreign monarchs who control the destiny of the Jews. Both accounts show the heroism of Israelite individuals who provide the means for the salvation of their people and nation. The hand of God is evident, in that what appears to be a bad situation is indeed very much under the control of the Almighty God, who ultimately has the good of the people at heart. At the center of this story is the ongoing division between the Jews and the Amalakites, which was recorded to have begun in the Book of Exodus. Haman's goal is the final effort recorded in the Old Testament period of the complete eradication of the Jews. His plans eventually end up with his own demise, and the elevation of his enemy Mordecai to his own position, as well as the salvation of the Jews.


Feasting is a major theme of this book: there are seven recorded banquets (Esther 1:3, 9; 2:18; 5:4–5; 7:1–2; 8:17; and 9:17–22), and many of the events were planned, plotted, or exposed at these banquets. Although the name of God is never mentioned in this book, it is apparent that the Jews of Susa sought His intervention when they fasted and prayed for three days (Esther 4:16). In spite of the fact that the law allowing their destruction was written according to the laws of the Medes and Persians, rendering it unchangeable, the way was cleared for their prayers to be answered. Esther risked her life by going not once uninvited before the king but twice, (Esther 4:1–2; 8:3). She was not content with the destruction of Haman; she was intent on saving her people. The institution of the Feast of Purim is written and preserved for all to see and is still observed today. God's chosen people, without any direct mention of His name, were granted a stay of execution through the wisdom and humility of Esther.



Overview: This book consists of 10 chapters and includes three main sections. The first section includes the narrative of Queen Vashti's fall from her position (Esther 1) and Esther's promotion to queen in Vashti's place (Esther 2:1-18).


The second section focuses on Mordecai's struggle with wicked Haman (Esther 2:19-7:10). Mordecai's loyalty is noted (Esther 2:19-23), in contrast to Haman's actions (Esther 3). In chapters 4-5, Esther fasts and prepares to intervene on behalf of the Jewish people, whom Haman had conspired against to destroy. In a providential event, the king has his historical records read to him and is reminded of Mordecai's loyalty to save his life. The king rewards Mordecai in a way that shames Haman, and Haman is ultimately hanged on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai (chapters 6-7).


The third section then emphasizes Israel's efforts to overcome Haman's attempt at genocide (Esther 8-10). Esther and Mordecai manage to provide a means for the Jews to defend themselves (Esther 8). The king's scribes are summoned to write an edict allowing the Jews the right to self-defense against their enemies. This leads to the victory of the Jews against those who would wipe them out (Esther 9:1-19).


As a result, Purim is instituted, as an ongoing feast of celebration and remembrance (Esther 9:20–23). The book concludes with a brief note on Mordecai's fame (Esther 10). Mordecai is described as second in rank to the King, as great among the Jews, and one who sought the welfare of the people, speaking peace to them (Esther 10:1-3).


Foreshadowing: In Esther, we are given a behind-the-scenes look at the ongoing struggle of Satan against the purposes of God and especially against His promised Messiah. The entrance of Christ into the human race was predicated upon the existence of the Jewish race. Just as Haman plotted against the Jews in order to destroy them, so has Satan set himself against Christ and God's people. Just as Haman is defeated on the gallows he built for Mordecai, so does Christ use the very weapon that his enemy devised to destroy Him and His spiritual seed. For the cross, by which Satan planned to destroy the Messiah, was the very means through which Christ "having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross" (Colossians 2:14-15). Just as Haman was hanged on the gallows he built for Mordecai, so the devil was crushed by the cross he erected to destroy Christ.


Application: The Book of Esther shows the choice we make between seeing the hand of God in our circumstances in life and seeing things as merely coincidence. God is the sovereign Ruler of the universe and we can be assured that His plans will not be moved by the actions of mere evil men. Although His name is not mentioned in the book, His providential care for His people, both individuals and the nation, is evident throughout. For instance, we cannot fail to see the Almighty exerting influence over King Xerxes's timely insomnia. Through the example of Mordecai and Esther, the silent love language our Father often uses to communicate directly to our spirits is shown in this book. Esther proved to have a godly and teachable spirit that also showed great strength and willing obedience. Esther's humility was markedly different from those around her, and this caused her to be elevated into the position of queen. She shows us that remaining respectful and humble, even in difficult if not humanly impossible circumstances, often sets us up to be the vessel of untold blessing for both ourselves and others. We would do well to emulate her godly attitudes in all areas of life, but especially in trials. Many times we read she won the favor of those around her. Such favor is what ultimately saved her people. The very same can be ours, as we're called to endure unfair persecution and follow Esther's example of maintaining a positive attitude, coupled with humility and the determination to lean on God.


Key Verses (ESV):


Esther 2:15: "When the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abigail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his own daughter, to go in to the king, she asked for nothing except what Hegai the king's eunuch, who had charge of the women, advised. Now Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her."

Esther 4:14: "For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" Esther 6:13: "And Haman told his wife Zeresh and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then his wise men and his wife Zeresh said to him, 'If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him.'" Esther 7:3: "Then Queen Esther answered, 'If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request.'"


*Note:

Esther is the only book in the Bible not to mention the name of God. But that is not to say that God was absent. His presence permeates much of the story, as though He were behind the scenes coordinating “coincidences” and circumstances to make His will happen.


Much like the book of Ruth, this book stands as one of the most skillfully written biblical books. Using eight feasts to systematically build and resolve suspense, the author constructed the story chiastically—using a Hebrew literary device in which events mirror each other inversely. Early listeners to the story would have recognized significant events and followed the rising tension with understanding.


Haman, the king’s evil second-in-command, was a descendant of Agag, king of the Amalekites, who were ancient enemies of God’s people (Numbers 24:7; 1 Samuel 15:8). He cast the lot, called pur, in order to determine the day that the Jews would be exterminated (Esther 3:7–9). The feast of Purim, still celebrated by Jews today, commemorates the Jews’ deliverance from Haman’s plot (9:24–32).


I pray you receive this with the love intended, and apply it to wisdom.

May the joy of the Lord continue to be your strength.


Love you much.


Stay Safe, Stay Healthy, Stay Blessed!


-Humble Servant


P.S- If you have not given your life to Jesus Christ, I implore you to take the time to do so right now. Use John 3:16 & Romans 10:9-10 as a foundation for making your confession of faith. And use Ephesians 2:1-10 to provide proper context for your salvation.

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