The Book of Esther is the documentation of events that brought about the feast of Purim. In this book, we learn about a Jewish woman who became the queen of Persia and prevented the extermination of her people. The events of Esther took place chronologically between Ezra 6 and 7. This book of the Bible is very different than the others, as it doesn’t mention God even once. This was a brilliant literary device used by the Author. The author uses a lot of “coincidences” to show us God at work behind the scenes instead of making Him the main character. The fact that God isn't mentioned causes readers to look for God’s activity while reading the book. Instead of looking for His name, they're looking for what He is doing. Below are three purposes for the book of Esther.
Historical Purpose: The book of Esther shows us the reason for the feast of Purim.
Doctrinal Purpose: The book of Esther shows us the provincial care that God has for His children.
Christological Purpose: The book of Esther shows us that God did not forget the Jews who didn't return home.
Fun Facts: Throughout the book of Esther, God was never mentioned yet we can see him working in the lives of the people in this time.
The book of Esther seems to have been written by an unknown Persian Jew between 450 and 400 BC. Although there are some that believe the author was Ezra or Nehemiah, the vocabulary is vastly different than the vocabulary used in Ezra-Nehemiah. Others believe the author is Mordecai, but evidence seems to disagree with that theory. Esther 10:2, 3 seems to present Mordecai's career as finished. In addition to that, the fact that he is referred to in third person throughout the book supports the theory that someone else wrote the book of Esther. Though we may not know who wrote the book, we do know that the writer seems to know the Jewish customs, as well as knowing details that only a witness, or someone having access to Persian records, would know.
The book of Esther brings us to a Jewish community living in Susa, the Persian capital, about 100 years after the Babylonian exile. While some Jews returned to their home country, many did not. This book focuses on two of the Jews that did not return to Jerusalem; Mordecai and Esther. This book shows readers that God still cared for these Jews and took care of them just as He took care of those that did return home. The book of Esther was most likely written between 450 and 400 B.C. According to 10:2, king Ahasuerus had already died. In addition to this, according to 9:19, it seems that the feast of Purim had already been observed several times.
It is interesting to note that the events recorded in this book took place because of where Esther and Mordecai were located. Though they did not returned to their homeland, God still took care of them. God did not forget them. We see His hand throughout the entire course of this book.
I. Esther Becomes Queen (1-2:18)
As the story begins, we see the king of Persia throwing two banquets. On the last day of the second banquet, he asks his wife, Vashti, to come before the court so that he could show her off. When she refused, he got rid of her. He quickly began the search for a new wife. This is where Mordecai and Esther enter the story. Mordecai was a gatekeeper for the king, and saw this search as an opportunity. He recommended his cousin Esther, and she was chosen to be the new Queen of Persia.
A. Ahasuerus’s 180 Day Feast (1:1-4) B. Ahasuerus's 7 Day Feast (1:5-9) C. Queen Vashti's Refusal and Dismissal (1:10-22) D. Ahasuerus' Search for a New Queen (2:1-4) E. Esther is Found and Made Ready (2:5-11) F. Esther is Chosen as Queen (2:12-18)
II. Mordecai Saves the King's Life (2:19-23)
Esther was able to tell the king about those that were plotting against his life, and how Mordecai stopped it.
III. Haman's Plot Against the Jews (3)
Readers are introduced to the kings right hand man, Haman. Haman hated the Jewish people, and wanted to obliterate them. He told the king that the Jews were not following his laws, and thus got the king to agree to a plan to destroy them. On December 13th, every single jew throughout the whole kingdom (men, women, and children) were going to be slaughtered.
A. Mordecai Refuses to Bow (3:1-4) B. Haman Creates a Plan to Destroy the Jews (3:4-15)
IV. Esther's Plan (4-5)
Mordecai heard of Haman's plan, and quickly went to Esther. They fasted and prayed, and they made a plan. The plan was for Esther to go before the king uninvited to plea for the lives of her people. The act of going before the king uninvited meant that Esther would die. Esther went before the king and invited him and Haman to a banquet. The king accepted the invitation, and at the banquet told Esther that she could have whatever she wanted, up to half of the kingdom. However, she simply invited both men to another banquet. It is now that we again see Haman and his hatred for the Jews, specifically Mordecai. Haman then had a gallows made for Mordecai that were seventy-five feet high.
A. Mordecai in Mourning (4:1-3) B. Esther and Mordecai Talk (4:4-17) C. Esther Goes Before the King Without Invitation (5:1-7) D. Esther Plans a Banquet (5:8) E. Haman's Hatred for Mordecai (5:9-14)
V. The King Can't Sleep (6)
The king can't sleep, and has someone read the royal records to him. He hears how Mordecai had saved his life and wants to honor him. He asks Haman how he should honor Mordecai, but Haman thinks the king wants to honor him. So, Haman tells the king to parade him through the streets dressed and treated as royalty. So, the king orders Haman to lead Mordecai through the streets and praise him.
A. Ahasuerus Can’t Sleep and has the Royal Records Read (6:1-2) B. Ahasuerus Wishes to Honor Mordecai (6:3-5) C. Haman Gives the King a Plan for “the man whom the king delighteth to honour” (6:6-9) D. Haman honors Mordecai (6:10-14)
VI. Haman's Fall (7)
The king again asked Esther at her second banquet what she wanted. Esther asked him to spare her and her people. She also asked that the perpetrator of this barbaric plan be judged. So, Haman was hanged on the exact gallows he had made for Mordecai.
A. Esthers Second Feast (7:1-5) B. Haman Hanged (7:6-10)
VII. The Jews are Saved (8-9:17)
The King made a new proclamation, and thus the Jews were saved.
VIII. The Feast of Purim (9:18-32)
Instead of being the day of death for the Jews, December 13th became a day of celebration because of the Jew's victory over their adversary. This feast was called the feast of Purim, and it lasted for three days.
VIIII. Mordecai is Praised
For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this? (Esther 4:14)
And Haman told Zeresh his wife and all his friends every thing that had befallen him. Then said his wise men and Zeresh his wife unto him, If Mordecai be of the seed of the Jews, before whom thou hast begun to fall, thou shalt not prevail against him, but shalt surely fall before him. (Esther 6:13)
Then Esther the queen answered and said, If I have found favour in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be given me at my petition, and my people at my request…. (Esther 7:3)
Though there are many applications one could take from this book, I would like to focus on three.
1. God Can and Will Use Anyone for His Purpose- The book of Esther reminds me of I Corinthians 1:27-29 which says, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.” This story is a testament to the fact that God can use anyone to do anything. Past sin does not change that, circumstances do not change that, health issues do not change that. God uses anyone and everyone, if we simply let Him.
2. God is Always Working- Often, difficult situations cause us to want to give up. It seems impossible to see what God is doing. The story of Esther is a reminder of the fact that through even the hardest of situations, God is always working. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose.”
3. Everything Happens for a Reason- I've heard this statement so many times, and honestly it can be frustrating to hear. However, it is packed with truth. Esther 4:14b says, “…and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther was put in a difficult position. She would most likely lose her life, and the Jews would be exterminated. At the time, the situation must have seemed impossible. However, as we can see from this book, God put her in this difficult position for a reason. Because of where she was and the position she held, she was able to save her people.
A Popular Survey of the Old Testament: Pages 171-176