Book of the Week 17: Esther

Hebrew Name: Hadasah

Human Author: Unknown                                                   

OT or NT: Old Testament

Number of Chapters: 10

Basic Facts

  1. Esther is the seventeenth book of the Bible.
  2. Esther is the only book of the Old Testament not found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
  3. The Hebrew name for the Esther is Hadasah, which means “Myrtle Tree.”
  4. The term Esther is a name, possibly of Babylonian origin, meaning “a star.”
  5. Esther is one of the few books of the Bible which never explicitly mention God.

Story of the Book

Esther is a story of providence and deliverance. The book begins in the Persian period in which the Medo-Persian empire controls the Middle East. King Xerxes of Persia commands his queen to dance before a crowd at a banquet. When she refuses, the king has the queen deposed. Xerxes then seeks a new queen, and Esther (a Jewish woman) essentially wins a beauty contest which puts her in the favor of the king Xerxes. Xerxes makes Esther the queen of Persia.

The rest of the book tells of how a high-ranking official named Haman has a continual feud with Mordecai the Jew. Because of this feud, Haman plots to have all of the Jews throughout the Persian empire put to death. Queen Esther learns of this plot to kill the Jews from Mordecai, who is her uncle. Esther exposes Haman’s plot against the Jews to king Xerxes, who in turn executes Haman. Then the Jews take revenge against their enemies who participated in Haman’s plot to kill the Jews. The Jews throughout the Persian empire kill their enemies rather than being slaughtered themselves. This event of the Jews' revenge upon their enemies is celebrated in an annual Jewish festival known as Purim (Esther 9:20-32).

Jesus Foreshadowed in Esther

It is probable, if not proven, that the story of Esther takes place after Ezra and Nehemiah return with waves of Jewish exiles to the promised land. The story of Esther tells of how the Jewish people are spared from Haman’s plot to commit genocide against the Jews (Esther 3:6). If the events of Esther had not occurred, Haman would have succeeded in his plot to kill the Jews throughout the provinces of the Persian empire. If this had happened, the royal line of king David would have been wiped out along with all of the Jews who survived the exile. Jesus Christ, the descendant of king David, might never have been born.* God’s promise to establish David’s royal line forever in II Samuel 7:16 would not have been fulfilled, and the Messiah would not have come. Therefore, even though the book of Esther never mentions God or Jesus specifically, the events told in the book of Esther are essential to the survival of the Jews and the coming of the Messiah. Without the brave actions of Esther, who risked her life to save her people, the plan of God to establish a royal descendant of king David on the throne of Israel forever would not have been fulfilled. God’s providence provided a way for the coming of the Messiah through the deliverance of the Jews as a result of queen Esther's brave actions. Mordecai summarizes God's deliverance of the Jews well when he says to Esther, “who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).

*Mordecai acknowledges that if Esther was silent, deliverance for the Jews would have come from another place (Esther 4:14).