Book of Esther

Notes.. .

. ..Introduction. Authorship is unknown. The purpose was to demonstrate God’s sovereignty and His loving care for His people. People include Esther, Mordecai, King Ahasuerus (or Xerxes), and Haman. Place is the king’s palace in Susa. God is not mentioned in this book.
. ..Themes. God’s Sovereignty, Racial Hatred, Deliverance, Action, and Wisdom.
. ..Outline. “The book of Esther addresses God’s people at one of the lowest points of their history. Persia had replaced Babylon as the dominant world power. Different groups of Jews had returned from Babylon to Palestine and the temple had been rebuilt. Still, great expectations for Jewish return to political power and a major new redemptive act of God for His people remained dreams unrelated to reality” (William Seay 2019, L7 29:42–30:14).
. ..Application. “Esther stands as a beacon to a people tempted to trade success in a secular society for the faith of their fathers” (Seay 2019, L7 42:52–43:00)
. ..Timeline. Haman plots to destroy the Jews in 480. Esther intercedes for her people, the king orders Haman to be hanged, and the Feast of Purim was instituted in 480.

Introduction. 25:45 – The purpose was to demonstrate God’s sovereignty and His loving care for His people. The author is unknown. However, many biblical scholars believe Mordecai could have possibly written it. Others have even suggested Ezra and/or Nehemiah. The key people are Esther, Mordecai, King Ahasuerus (or Xerxes), and Haman. The key place is the king’s palace in Susa.

Themes. 27:00 – There are five major theological themes. (i) God’s Sovereignty. The book of Esther tells of the circumstances that are central to the survival of God’s people in Persia. These circumstances were not the result of chance but of God’s grand design. God is sovereign over every area of life. (ii) Racial Hatred. The Jews in Persia had been a minority since their deportation from Judah about 100 years earlier. Haman was a descendant of King Agag, an enemy of the Jews. Lust for power and pride and drove Haman to hate Mordecai, Esther’s uncle. Haman convinced the king to kill all the Jews. (iii) Deliverance. The Jews on the 28th of February celebrate the feast of Purim, which symbolizes God’s deliverance. Purim means [ ] such as those used by Haman to set the date for the extermination of all Jews from Persia, but God overrules using Queen Esther to intercede on behalf of the Jews. (iv) Action. Faced with death, Esther and Mordecai set aside their own fear and acted. Esther risked her own life for asking king [ ] to save the Jews. They were not paralyzed by fear. (v) Wisdom. The Jews were a minority in a world hostile to them. It took great wisdom for Mordecai to survive. Serving as a faithful official of the king Mordecai took steps to understand and work within the Persian law and yet he did not compromise his integrity.

Outline. 29:36 – The book of Esther addresses God’s people at one of the lowest points of their history. Persia had replaced Babylon as the dominant world power. Different groups of Jews had returned from Babylon to Palestine and the temple had been rebuilt. Still, great expectations for Jewish return to political power and a major new redemptive act of God for His people remained dreams unrelated to reality. The Jews lived scattered all over the known world. Each group began to develop their own ways of maintaining their religious traditions of the people. Political and social conditions threatened to destroy the unity of God’s people. Geographic distance. Ongoing generations without memories of Palestine. Social integration into the Persian culture lessened Jewish ties to Palestine and the new temple in Jerusalem. For some Jews remaining in Babylon and Persia was economically feasible and prosperity there made life too comfortable to worry about faithfulness to a homeland and to any other religious traditions. The ancient festival seemed far removed from their life and worshiping at the temple seemed to be distant in their life. They wondered if the ancient faith had any meaning for their modern living.

Original readers of Esther faced many options in their spiritual life. They could ignore the religious traditions of their fathers and become integrated into modern progressive society of the Persian rulers or they could develop a special kind of Jewish religious practice suitable to life in Persia without regards to continuity with traditional Israelite life. Or they could retreat into a secular Judaism in Persia and completely avoid contract with Persian life as much as possible. They could turn religious practice into a constant act of self-pitying, lamenting, and wailing. Another option was to pursue economic goals within the Persian international world of trade and ignore the consequences of religious teaching. Another avenue for them was to center their life on apocalyptic expectations on the Day of the Lord then they would be withdrawing from society and waiting on God’s final acts of salvation. Another thing they could do was recognize God’s continuing actions on their behalf even in the midst of political control and they could develop appropriate ways to celebrate these actions and maintain the continuity of relevant contemporary faith with the religious traditions of Scripture.

The writer of Esther whose name we are unsure of skillfully formulated the story of Esther to provide Israelites living under Persian rule a model for faith in life and a way to celebrate God’s work in their day. Esther was written about c. 400 BC. This inspired writer would use language and scenes that would biblically remind educated readers of God’s work in the dark days of Joseph and Moses to describe God’s work in an orphaned Jewish teenager. The book of Esther described God’s new deliverance of His people from the threat of foreign domination and extinction. The book gave God’s people in exile a special festival to celebrate God’s actions for them and to let them remember annually the joy of living and serving the God who acted for His people no matter where they were living.

34:35 – The book of Esther was inspired by God even though the name of God or even the word ‘God’ does not appear in the book. 34:47. This shows that God can teach His people through entertaining historical literature as well as through strongly appealing theological writing. Theological teaching is not limited to any one form of writing. God chose many forms of literature to ensure His people understand the many aspects of His working for them and of their proper response to Him. Theological lessons that we can learn from Esther are (i) that God works in all history even when His actions are not obvious and when He does not raise up a prophet to interpret His actions. (ii) Positions of influence are opportunities to show loyalty to God and His purpose for His people. Social station at birth does not determine ones potential for ministry. God’s people do not have to exercise political power to have reasons for celebration. Celebration of God’s victories is not limited to one time or one location or one race. No age gives sufficient reason to forget or forsake the faith of our fathers.

We must always remember that history stands under God’s control. Outward conditions may indicate that God has suffered defeat and pagan powers serving pagan gods that gain total control. As such is only a limited range of history. The historical festival of God’s people reminds us of God’s control of history under Egyptian, Persian, or Roman rule as well as under the political domination of God’s people. Xerxes vanquished in the treatment of his first queen showed his immoral side and his economic and political power. The triumphs of Ester and Mordecai show God’s faithfulness to restore historical deliverance when His people prove faithful. Understanding God’s working in history does not necessarily come through a prophetic leader like Moses or Isaiah announcing what God has done and what response God expects. Understanding can come through literature that precisely refers to God only in oblique language. God’s people are expected to be wise enough to know such language as a confession of faith even without explicit religious references. Positions of influence may come to God’s people when they least expect them. Such positions may be in the service of a pagan empire and may bring attention and crises in one’s loyalty to God is tested to the loyalty of the ruler served. As long as service to the ruler does not contradict God’s values such service may bring righteous influence into an otherwise pagan environment. When service to the empire violates God’s teaching then loyalty to God must come before loyalty to the empire. Service to the empire itself may be regarded as a gift from God with responsibility to look for opportunities to serve God’s purpose and to help His people.

Birth does not set limits a person can never overcome. Esther’s opportunities seemed nil. She was young, orphaned, poor, female, and foreign in a society dominated by upper class Persian males. Humble obedience to God entrusted to her pious under Mordecai doors of opportunity to influence and service. Heroes of faith are often surprised in the world’s value system. God’s work is not done according to worldly values and expectations. He works through committed people willing to do His will, fulfill His purpose for His people, and give Him the praise and honor. God’s people do not have to have political power to accelerate God’s power. Persian Jews who did not participate in the exiled return to the holy land seemed the least likely to find reasons to celebrate God’s historical deliverance. Mordecai sitting at the palace gate seemed to have little opportunity for honor over Haman sitting at the king’s right hand. The Jews without any military power seemed doomed under Haman’s decree. Still, God used the unlikely Esther to open doors of opportunity.

Faithful Jews under Mordecai’s leadership did not credit human integrity with their victory, they celebrated God’s festival seeing deliverance as a miniature exodus. God’s power to deliver is greater than any danger we will face. Our challenge is to depend on God and to celebrate His deliverance. Celebration to God’s victories are open to every generation everywhere without exclusion of any persons. Generations of Jews after Esther could not actively participate in God’s miraculous deliverance. They did participate in the Feast of Purim celebrating the victory in Esther’s day. Such celebration kept alive hopes for a new victories God and strengthen faith to face daily situations without immediate victory. They could tell the story of Esther without mentioning the name of God and center their attention on God’s chosen people. And so, doing, they celebrated in worship God without religious language.

Persia offered the perfect opportunity for Jews to become part of the culture. To add to their life those things made of material success and ignore or give up their religious tradition or heritage. Through the skillful framing of the entire book of Esther Persian Jews were reminded of God’s great victories in their history can called to remember their religious traditions even when serving a foreign emperor and while not telling their stories in such a way as to offend or alienate the people in their host’s culture. Indeed, told in the literary art of Esther the story of the Jews in Persia has become an evangelistic tool to invite other nationalities to join the Jewish people in maintaining their religious heritage and celebrating God’s deliverance of His people.

Application. 42:40 – Esther stands as a beacon to a people tempted to trade success in a secular society for the faith of their fathers. It causes our society to be aware of God’s work in our day even though prophetic leaders; even when they do not point out specific events where God has delivered His people. Trust God even in the darkest moments of life. Not to underestimate our own skills and opportunities for ministry nor those of other people because of the wrong race, class, or sex or educational level and find ways to communicate God’s news that will speak to people of our day rather than alienate and to make worship celebration in a moment that attracts the attention and participation of people outside our religious service; and maintain continuity of the traditions of our faith or find ways to exercise that faith under new social conditions.

Timeline. Haman’s plot to destroy the Jews in c. 480 BC. And then Esther intercedes for her people in c. 480 BC. The king orders Haman to be hanged in c. 480 BC. The Feast of Purim was instituted in c. 480 BC. The book of Esther has 10 chapters, 167 verses, and 5637 words. The most unusual feature about Esther is that never once throughout the whole book is God mentioned.


Seay, William. 2019. Old Testament Theology [MP3]. Andersonville Theological Seminary (ATS). Camilla, GA: ATS

All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

Agere Sequitur Esse