Introduction to the Book of Esther

“Introduction to the Book of Esther,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)


Why study this book?

The book of Esther provides an excellent illustration of the power and influence for good that one person can have. As an exiled Jew in Persia, Esther rose to the position of the queen of Persia and then faced the possibility of being executed along with the rest of her people. As students study this book, they can learn the importance of acting courageously in frightening situations, and they can learn how to develop trust in the Lord.

Who wrote this book?

We do not know who wrote the book of Esther.

When and where was it written?

We do not know when or where the book of Esther was written. However, the events of this book occurred while many of the Jews were living in Persia after being deported from Jerusalem. “Most scholars place the events recorded in the book of Esther between about 482 B.C. and 478 B.C.” (Old Testament Student Manual: 1 Kings–Malachi, 3rd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 329).

What are some distinctive features of this book?

The book of Esther is one of only two books in the Old Testament that is named for a woman. Additionally, “the book [of Esther] contains no direct reference to God, but He is everywhere taken for granted, as the book infers a providential destiny (Esth. 4:13–16) and speaks of fasting for deliverance” (Bible Dictionary, “Esther, book of”). Although the book of Esther comes after the book of Nehemiah in the Bible, according to some scholars the events recorded in Esther may have occurred about 30 or more years before the events recorded in Nehemiah.

Outline

Esther 1–2 King Ahasuerus is displeased by the conduct of Queen Vashti and deposes her. Many of the beautiful young virgins in the empire are presented to the king so he can choose a new queen. Ahasuerus selects Esther as his new queen.

Esther 3–5 Mordecai, Esther’s cousin and adoptive father, refuses to bow down to Haman. In response, Haman crafts a plan to destroy all of the Jews in the kingdom. The Jews mourn, weep, and fast for deliverance. Esther risks her life by going to see the king uninvited. The king receives her kindly and agrees to attend a banquet with Haman.

Esther 6–8 On the second day of the banquet, Esther tells the king about Haman’s plot to kill the Jews. The king has Haman hanged on the gallows Haman had intended to use for Mordecai. The king honors Mordecai and allows him and Esther to reverse the edict to kill the Jews.

Esther 9–10 The Jews receive authority from the king to kill their enemies in the kingdom. They institute the Feast of Purim to commemorate their miraculous deliverance from Haman’s plan.