Introduction

Esther

Introduction to Esther

The book of Esther is unique in at least two respects. It is one of only two Biblical books centered around a woman (the other is Ruth). It is the only book with no mention of God anywhere in its ten chapters, although the providential hand of God is marvelously evident throughout the book.

The setting is in the court of the great Persian emperor Xerxes (same as the Biblical Ahasuerus), where Esther had been made queen, despite her Jewish background. The events described apparently took place partially before and partially after the time of Xerxes’ ill-fated attempted invasion of Greece.

The authorship of Esther is uncertain. A number of scholars think Ezra may have written it since the time corresponds to that of Ezra, and both were associated with the Persian court. Many others ascribe it to Mordecai, Esther’s older cousin and mentor. For some unclear reason, the author made considerable effort to keep his account free of any mention of God, prayer or other religious matters. Presumably, this was because there was considerable anti-Semitic feeling in Persia at the time, very likely because of the attempted Haman genocide and the Jews’ bloody vengeance in return. Nevertheless, one senses the strong faith of both Esther and Mordecai, as well as the remarkable sequence of providential ways in which God, behind the scenes, was preserving His chosen people.

Although no direct confirmation has been found of Haman’s attempted genocide and the other events described in the book of Esther, all that is known about the times, places and people in the book is consistent with all known data from ancient history and archaeology. There is no valid reason to doubt the complete historicity of the book of Esther.

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