Series: Best Book In the BibleEvery Christian knows the importance of reading their Bible, but many are overwhelmed with the task of devouring such a monstrous book! Often times, when Christians lose steam in their yearly reading plans, they can become frustrated and feel defeated. It is for this reason that individual book studies can be a lifesaver. In the Best Book in the Bible series, we will provide entry points into faithful study through “selling” you on why you should fall in love with the various books of the Bible.
What do you do when a book of the Bible doesn’t even mention the name of God? Do you write it off? Is it somehow less valuable? Believers throughout history have struggled to understand the purpose of book of Esther, but with the right perspective, this powerful story can be rightly seen as nothing less than the inspired Word of God.
Main themes: God’s providence
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14)
(1:1—3:15) The book of Esther takes place during the Medo-Persian occupation under King Xerxes in the early years of the fifth century B.C. Immediately, we are dropped into the middle of an elaborate party thrown by the Persian king and find ourselves witnessing a nasty marital dispute. His wife, Queen Vashti, refuses to make an appearance, disobeying and shaming the king. He banishes her and sets out to find a new queen. We soon meet Esther—a Jewish maiden, who is under the care of her cousin, Mordecai—who soon becomes the Queen. Simultaneously, the king’s advisor, Haman, is plotting to exterminate all Jews from Persia based on his hatred of Mordecai, who refuses to honor him.
(4:1—5:14) After discovering Haman’s evil plot and Xerxes’ decree to allow the destruction of the Jews, Mordecai laments their fate, entreating Esther to approach her husband, the king. She defies a royal decree punishable by death, and approaches the king. He grants her an audience and she makes her request for Xerxes and Haman to attend a banquet in their honor.
(6:1—10:3) One night, when the king can’t sleep, he summons his servants to read to him from the book of the records, when he remembers an act of service performed by Mordecai (2:21-23) which resulted in saving the king’s life. Xerxes seeks to honor Mordecai and appoints Haman to the task, which humiliates him. In the midst of his misery, Haman is summoned to the palace for the banquet, where Esther reveals her identity as a Jew and Haman’s desire to kill all the Jews. Haman is then hanged on the gallows that he had built for Mordecai. However, because the king cannot go back on his word, he issues a decree which permits the Jews to defend themselves against the coming attacks. On the day, they strike their opponents, kill many of them, and celebrate their salvation by instituting the feast of Purim.
What Makes This Book So Great:
While it’s true that God is not mentioned in the book, His presence is pervasive. What we would normally attribute to “coincidence” is clearly providence, from the dismissal of Vashti, to the marriage of Xerxes and Esther, to the saving act of Mordecai, to the building of Haman’s gallows, etc. Every step and turn is carefully ordained by God in order to save His people from destruction. The pivotal theological statement regarding God’s sovereignty comes in (4:14) where Mordecai tells Esther that the Jews will be saved. It becomes obvious that the promises of God to preserve Israel are evident, and Mordecai is confident of this. Esther has the choice of taking a stand and allowing God to use her, or she can default, lose her life, but God will use another to accomplish His means.
The book is short enough to be read in one sitting and it helps to do so for the sake of getting the context. Familiarize yourself with the narrative, as there are a lot of moving parts. Then look for examples of providence in the narrative. How is God working to accomplish His purposes with Israel? Examine your own life: How has God used events to providentially bring about His purposes? The book of Esther serves as a sample biography that can help us think about the workings of God in history.
Note: Find the rest of the Best Book in the Bible series here: EntreatingFavor.com/BestBookSeries