Friday, October 4, 2013

Esther -- an introduction

Esther tells the story of a plot to exterminate the entire Jewish nation by the chief minister of the Persian king, Haman, and how it was thwarted by a young Jewish girl, Esther, who has become queen and acts on the advice of her relative Mordecai. Haman’s plot is reversed and the Jews are able to take revenge on their enemies. The writer is unknown, but the author’s nationalism and accurate knowledge of Persian ways make it likely to have been written by a Jew who lived in Persia before the days of Alexander the Great. The book was probably written in the 5th century BC.

Esther is unique in that it is the only book of the Bible that does not mention God by name. However, God is clearly present and active in the book. This presence can be seen in the trust in divine guidance of the main characters (see Esther 4:13-17.) There have been several apocryphal attempts to modify the secular tone of the book (one such attempt is an additional chapter that “explains everything.”). Esther’s place in Jewish history is that this scroll is read during the Jewish festival of Purim. Purim is celebrated by the reading of Esther and involves the consumption of wine and the playing of games. This minor festival is in the fall of the year.

Esther can be outlined as follows:

·         Esther 1:1-2:4  Ahasuerus dethrones his queen
·         Esther 2           Esther becomes queen and Mordecai saves the king’s life
·         Esther 3:1-5:14Haman’s plot against the Jews and consequences
·         Esther 6:1-14  Haman’s downfall and Mordecai’s triumph
·         Esther 7:1-10  Haman’s end
·         Esther 8:1-17  Calamity averted
·         Esther 9:1-32  Inauguration of the feast of Purim
·         Esther 10         Conclusion

            Vital lesson: Esther is willing to lay her life down for the protection of her people. Mordecai suggests to Esther (Esther 4:14): “Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.” Esther’s response in 4:16 indicates that she will take the risk with the King and concludes “and if I perish, I perish.”

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