This summer we will be going over the book of Esther in short posts that will, Lord-willing, help you understand Esther in an insightful way. We will be reading two chapters every other week, and as we study it here on the blog, I will also be doing a study on it with some younger girls from my church. (In fact, on Tuesday we just started our Bible study over Google Meet.)
But before we actually start studying Esther, we need to look at the who, when, where, and what. (Note: I am getting a lot of this info from the Esther introduction pages of my big, fat ESV Study Bible, which is pretty awesome, FYI.)
Who wrote Esther?
Good question. It’s such a good question, in fact, that even the experts aren’t sure. The book of Esther is an anonymous work.
All we know is that it must have been written by someone who knew what was going on in the royal Persian court and what was recorded in the official court records (Esther 2:23). For that reason, some think it might have been Mordecai. But like I said, we really don’t know.
We do know, however, that the book of Esther was inspired by God. Yes, Esther is different from some of the other books of the Bible. It never mentions God’s name, Esther (a Jew) marries a pagan king, etc., etc., and Martin Luther even criticized it. But we must decide here and now that we believe this book is part of the Bible, God’s Holy Word, before we even open it up.
If you want to put your own standards on every bit of Scripture, just believing what seems right to you, you might as well throw away your Bible. But, as Christians, God’s Word is our foundation.
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)
Any word from man’s mouth can be doubted, but God’s Word is steady and true, reliable to the end. So don’t throw away your Bible. Trust it.
I believe that Esther is just as much inspired by God as the rest of the Bible, and that is how I am going to approach it this summer.
When and where was Esther set?
Now in the days of Ahasuerus, the Ahasuerus who reigned from India to Ethiopia over 127 provinces, in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in Susa, the citadel… – Esther 1:1-2 (ESV)
Esther is set during the reign of King Ahasuerus, 486-464 B.C., in Susa–a city in western Persia and the capital at the time. Susa is now called Shush and is in the southwestern part of modern Iran.
This story happens about one hundred years after the Israelites were exiled into Babylon. You see, Israel and their king had been in sin.
The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy. – 2 Chronicles 36:15-16 (ESV)
Then God punished His people through King Nebuchadnezzar taking them into exile in Babylon. But later the king of Persia overthrew the king of Babylon and took control of a vast empire. And while most had gone back to Jerusalem, there were still a bunch of Jews in Persia–including Esther.
What is Esther about?
Esther is the true story about how God took a young Jewish orphan named Hadassah and made her Esther, the queen of Persia, so she could save all the Jews from a certain evil man. The antagonist here is a dude whose name starts with H and wanted to kill all the Jews. No, not Hitler—he wasn’t born yet. I’m talking about Haman. But God provided rescue for His chosen people, just like He always does.
Here’s the main cast:
Hadassah/Esther: The star of this story. Fun fact: “Esther” actually means “star.” And Hadassah, her Jewish name, means “myrtle,” which is a beautiful flowering type of shrub. Both of these names hint at this girl’s beauty. She was likely a teenager at the time of the story.
Mordecai: The girl’s cousin, guardian, and wise mentor figure. Also possibly the writer of the book of Esther.
Haman: The villain.
King Ahasuerus: Better known as Xerxes I, the pagan king of Persia who marries Esther.
But the book of Esther is really about more than its characters. Like the rest of the Bible, it is about God, even if it doesn’t mention Him by name. It is about God’s providence. It’s about His faithfulness to His chosen people, the Jews. It’s about how God works through insignificant people, like a little girl named Hadassah. It’s about how God brings all things together for good.
Esther Bible Project Video
To conclude, here is a Bible Project video that overviews the book of Esther. If you haven’t watched a Bible Project video before, I would recommend that you watch some of their other videos too!
What do you think?
Have you ever studied Esther before? Did you learn anything new about Esther from this post? Are there any aspects you’d like me to cover in future posts?