Esther
אסתר
10 Chapters, 167 verses, 5,637 words.

    



Vital Statistics

 Purpose:  To demonstrate God's sovereignty and his loving care for his people
 Author:  Unknow. Possibly Mordecai (9:29). Some have suggested Ezra or Nehemiah because of the similarity of the writing style 
 Original Audience:  The people of Israel
 Date of written:  Approximately 470 B.C. (Esther became queen in 479)
 Setting:  Although Esther  follows Nehemiah in the Bible, its events are about 30 years prior to those recorded in Nehemiah. The story is set in the Persian Empire, and most of the action takes places in the king's palace in Susa, the Persian capital  
 Key verse:  "For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (4:14)
 Key People:  Esther, Mordecai, King Xerxes I, Haman 
 Key Place:  The king's palace in Susa. Persia
 Special Features:  Esther is one of only books named for women (Ruth is the other). The book is unusual in that in the original version no name, title, or pronoun for God appears. This caused some church fathers to question the book's inclusion in Scripture. But God's presence is clear throughout the book   


Author and Date

    Although we do not know who wrote the book of Esther, from internal evidence it is possible to make some inferences about the author and the date of composition. It is clear that the author was a Jew, both from his emphasis on the origin of a Jewish festival and from the Jewish nationalism that permeates the story. The author's knowledge of Persian custom, the setting of the story in the city of Susa and the absence of any reference to conditions or circumstances in the land of Judah suggest that he was a resident of a Persian city. The earliest date for the book would be shortly after the events narrated, ie., c. 460 B.C. (before Ezra's return to Jerusalem; 8:12). Internal evidence also suggests that the festival of Purim had been observed for some time prior to the actual writing of the book (9:19) and that Xerxes had already died (10:2). Several scholars have dated the book later than 330 B.C.; the absence of Greek words and the style of the author's Hebrew  dialect, however, suggest that the book must have been written before the Persian empire fell to Greece in 331.     



Purpose, Themes and Literary Features

    The author's central purpose was to record the instruction of the annual festival of Purim and to keep alive for later generations the memory of the great deliverance of the Jewish people during the reign of Xerxes. The book accounts for both the initiation of that observance and the obligation for its perpetual commemoration (3:7; 9:26-32).

    Throughout much of the story the author calls to mind the ongoing conflict between Israel and he Amalekites (2:5; 3:1-6; 9:5-10), a conflict that began during the exodus (Ex 17:8-16; Dt 25:17-19) and continued through Israel's history (1Sa 15; 1Ch 4:43; and, of course, Esther). As the first to attack Israel after their deliverances from Egypt, the Amalekites were viewed - and the author of Esther views them - as the epitome of all the power of the world arrayed against God's people (Nu 24:20; 1Sa 15:2-3; 28:18). Now that Israel has been released from captivity, Haman's edict is the final major effort in the OT period to destroy them.

    Closely associated with the conflict with the Amalekite is the rest that is promised to the people of God (Dt 25:19). With Haman's defeat the Jews enjoy rest from their enemies (9:16,22).

    The author also draws upon the remnant motif that recurs throughout the Bible (natural disasters, disease, warfare or other calamities threaten God's people; those who survive constitute a remnant). Events is the Persian city of Susa threatened the continuity of God's purposes in redemptive history. The future existence of God's chosen people, and ultimately the appearance of the Redeemer-Messiah, were jeopardized by Haman's edict to destroy the Jews. The author of Esther patterned much of his material on the events of the Joseph story (2:3-4:9,21-23; 3:4; 4:14; 6:1,8,14; 8:6), in which the remnant motif is also central to the narrative (Ge 45:7).

    Feasting is another prominent theme in Esther, as shown in the outline below. Banquets provide the setting for important plot developments. There are ten banquets: (1) 1:3-4, (2) 1:5-8, (3) 1:9, (4) 2:18, (5) 3:15, (6) 7:1-10, (8) 8:17, (9) 9:17, (10) 9:18. The three pairs of banquets that mark the beginning, middle and end of the story are particularly prominent: the two reference to the irrevocability of the Persian laws (1:19; 8:8), two days for the Jews to take vengeance (9:5-12,13-15) and two letters instituting the commemoration of Purim (9:20-28,29-32).     

    An outstanding feature of this book - one that has given rise to considerable discussion - is the complete absence of any explicit reference to God, worship, prayer, or sacrifice. This "secularity" has produced many detractors who have judged the book to be of little religious value. However, it appears that the author has deliberately refrained from mentioning God or any religious activity as a literary device to heighten the fact that it is God who controls and directs all the seemingly insignificant coincidences (6:1) that make up the plot and issue in deliverance for the Jews. God's sovereign rule is assumed at every point (4:12-16), an assumption made all the more effective by the total absence of reference to him. It becomes clear to the careful reader that Israel's Great King exercises his providential and sovereign control over all the vicissitudes of his beleaguered covenant people.     


Outline


 I. The Feasts of Xerxes (1:1-2:18) A. Vashti Deposed (ch. 1)
 B. Esther Made Queen (2:1-18)
 II. The Feasts of Esther (2:19-7:10) A. Mordecai Uncovers a Plot (2:19-23)
 B. Haman's Plot (ch. 3)
 C. Mordecai Persuades Esther to Help (cg. 4)
 D. Esther's Request to the King: Her First Banquet (5:1-8)
 E. A Sleepless Night (5:9-6:14)
 F. Haman Hanged: Esther's Second Banquet (ch. 7)
 III. The Feasts of Purim (chs. 8-10) A. The King's Edict in Behalf of the Jews (ch. 8)
 B. The Institution of Purim (ch. 9)
 C. The Promotion of Mordecai (ch. 10)



The Times of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther 


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Kings of

Persia

Cyrus    

539-530

 Darius I Hystaspes   

521-486

Ahasuerus(Xerxes)             486  - 464

Artaxerxes 1

464                       423

 
 
539 Darius the Mede 525   
 530 Cambyses 521  483 Vashti deposed458 Ezra returns 2  
  Smerdis  478 Esther Queen 445 Nehemiah returns to Jerusalem and rebuilds walls in 52 days 3
   539 Fall of Babylon   473 Feast of Purim

Three Returns

from Exile

536 Zerubbabel returns, begins  1    
 534 TEMPLE work stopped         
  520 TEMPLE work resumed        
  516 TEMPLE work resumed        
                 
   

Book of EZRA

538 - 516

       

Book of NEHEMIAH       

445 -  415

 
      

Book of ESTHER

483 - 473

   
         
         
   

Chapter 1 - 6

     457 Ezra Chapters 7-10  
                 

Daniel and 70-years Jewish Captivity

605                       536

 

520      Zecharia    489

     

Malachi  

435?- 415?

 
       
 

Haggai     520 505

          
           
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Notes