The book of Esther takes place during the Persian Empire at the time of Xerxes (485-465 BCE). It is one of the most neglected books in the bible and very few people have ever heard a sermon on it. In fact, Ray C. Stedman reports that “Esther is a different kind of literature” and “because it is a different kind of literature, I think perhaps we are a bit frightened by it” (np). The book never mentions the name of God, the prophecy of Christ, and the words heaven or hell never even appear in it. It is a parable, so that God may illustrate a point (Stedman np). The Layman’s Bible Commentary states that “there is no doubt that it is God’s hand that determines the course of affairs” (Kelly et al. 43). God’s does this by allowing a Jewish girl, Esther, to become queen of the Persian Empire, using her influence to destroy their enemies in order to save his people and allowing his people to rejoice in their glory (NJB Esther 1:1-10:3).
Esther rises to power when King Ahasuerus, another name for Xerxes, calls upon Queen Vashti to show the people, at Ahasuerus’s feast, her beauty. She refused and Ahasuerus divorced her. Soon after Ahasuerus calls all the fair young virgins, that live in his empire, to come and stand before him. He is to marry one of them and he chooses a Jewish girl, Esther, because she has great beauty. The Bible states “And the king loved Esther above all the women”(NJB Esther 2:1-16). Mordecai, Esther’s uncle, forbids Esther to revel her race, for he fears of what might happen if Ahasuerus was to find out. Because of his fear, he would walk up and down the courtyard in hopes of finding out her treatment.
Mordecai soon comes to know two officers, Bightan and Teresh, in the king’s service. At this time Mordecai learns of their plot to assassinate Ahasuerus. Mordecai informs Esther of their plot, who in return, informs Ahasuerus. Mordecai accusation’s proved to be true and the two officers went to prison. (NIV Esther 2:19-23)
Haman comes into the story as one of Ahasuerus’s favorites. The Catholic Encyclopedia informs us that Haman is “A royal favorite before whom the king has ordered all to bow”(np). When Haman walks pass the palace’s gate, he notices that Mordecai sitting their (McMahon np). This is where the story turns from the introduction of Queen Esther to the plot of massacring the Jewish people. Haman is angered by Mordecai rudeness and wishes to hang him and destroy the Jews (NIV Esther 3:5-7).
Haman bribes Ahasuerus with silver in hopes of him signing a document. The document is for the destruction of the Jews. Ahasuerus tells Haman to do whatever he wishes with the Jews. Copies of the signed document are sent out to all of Ahasuerus provinces, by the order of Haman. The documents contain the orders of Ahasuerus to annihilate the Jews, no matter the age or gender, and then take their possessions. Mordecai soon learns of Haman’s plot and asks Esther to use her influence to save him and Jews (NJB Esther 3:7-4:14).
Mordecai is the most important character in the story. He is God’s link between him and his people. God uses Mordecai to contact Esther in order that she may save the Jews, God’s people (McMahon np).
At the same time of Haman’s plotting, Ahasuerus wishes to reward the man who showed favor for the king. He sends for Haman and asks Haman what he should do for the man that showed the king favor. Haman thinking it was he gave his ideas. Ahasuerus liked Haman’s ideas and sent Haman to retrieve Mordeai, for he is the man the king wishes to honor. Haman became even more angered as he did as he was told. Haman is so angered that he gives the exact specifications of the gallows to be built for Mordecai public execution (NIV Esther 6:3-14).
The saving of the Jews begins when Esther approaches Ahasuerus and invites him and Haman to banquet she has prepared the next day. Ahasuerus accepts and he and Haman go to the banquet. At the banquet Ahasuerus asks Esther “What is your request, Queen Esther? It shall be granted to you. And what is your petition? Ask for half the kingdom, and it shall be done!” Esther asks for Mordecai and her people, the Jews, to be saved from destruction, slaughter and annihilation. Ahasuerus states “Who is he? Where is the man who has dared to do such a thing”(Esther 7:5)? Esther tells Ahasuerus that it is man sitting beside you, the evil Haman. Ahasuerus is terribly angered by Haman’s plot. Haman jumps up and starts begging Esther for his forgiveness. Haman knows this will be his death. Haman is hung on the same gallows that he built for Mordecai (NIV Esther 7:1-7:10).
Mordecai takes Haman’s position as the king’s favorite and wishes to celebrate the triumph of the Jewish people. He sends letters out to all Jews in the one hundred and twenty-seven provinces of the Persian Empire. He invites all the Jews to come out and celebrate the day the Jews rid themselves of their enemies. Thus, the day came to be known as “The Feast of Purim”(NIV Esther 9:18-22).
Unquestionably, the book of Esther illustrates a parable. The parable is that, it is God who chooses his people, the Jews, courses of affairs (Kelly et al. 43). God does this by allowing a Jewish virgin, Esther, to become Queen, using her influence to destroy their enemies in order to save the Jews and allowing the Jewish people to rejoice in their glory (NJB 1:1-10:3).
- The Holly Bible, New International Version. Kelly, Balmer H. The Layman’s Bible Commentary. Volume 8., Richmond, Virginia: John Knox Press, 1962.
- McMahon, A.L. The Catholic Encyclopedia. 10 May 2000. Available http://newadvent.org/cathen/05549a.htm
- The New Jerusalem Bible, Pocket Edition. Stedman, Ray C. A Pair of Queens. 10 May 2000. Available http://pbc.org/dp/stedman/esther/0032.htm1