Esther

Esther is a unique book in the Bible. It is one of two books that is named after and centers on a woman. It is also the only book of the Bible in which God is never mentioned.

Introduction

Esther is one of those books that reminds us a woman can accomplish great things. Esther contains the "cinderella"-story of an orphan becoming queen and gives us the origins for the Jewish holiday of Purim. The book has actually been called into question for its inclusion in the cannon due to the facts that (i) God is never mentioned, (ii) it isn't quoted in the New Testament, and (iii) no fragments of it were found in the Dead Sea Scrolls.[3]
Top

Date and Authorship

Most scholar equate the Ahasuerus who ruled Persia during the time of the book was Xerxes. This places the events of the book between 486 and 465bc.[1] Scholars suggest that Esther 10:2 implies the king was dead at the time of authorship, though I don't know why. This would place the date of authorship after Xerxes' death in 465bc.[3]

It is much more difficult, however, to say who authored the book. Mordecai was put forth as the author by early Jewish and Christian writers, while the Jewish Talmud suggest members of the Great Synagogue wrote the book. However, scholars find it unlikely that a religious scholar would author a book with no mention of God in it.[1]

Archeology has confirmed some of the features of the Persian palace mentioned in the book; this tells us that whoever penned the text had true knowledge of the palace. The original text was written in a version of Hebrew that dates to the period after the exile.[3]
Top

Chronology

Despite appearing in the Bible after both Ezra and Nehemiah, the events of Esther occurred between the events of Ezra 6 and 7. Esther gives a glance at what life was like for the Jews who stayed in Persia instead of returning to Jerusalem.
Top

The Name of Esther

Esther always sounded like Easter to me, and it turns out the name Esther might actually be derived from the pagan goddess Ishtar, just like Easter. The name Esther is not her real name, but a Persian name. Her real name was Hadassah. This follows the trend of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abendego, whose names were also changed from their original Hebrew.

I talked about the symbolism of changing someone's name by force in the post discussing Babylon's conquest of Judah, however, I think in the case of exiled Jews such as Esther, this may have been an attempt to fit it when done by Jews or a degradation of Jewish culture when done by Persians. Today, when people move to the United States from other countries, they often adopt English names. Sometimes this is done by choice and other times because people are too lazy to learn the correct pronunciation. A similar effect may have occurred in Persia. This change of names could vary from subtle pronunciation (e.g., Jorge becomes George) or a completely different name altogether. The latter usually occurs when the name is from a language vastly different from English.
Top

The Uniqueness of Esther

Esther is a unique book in the Bible. It is one of two books that is named after and centers on a woman. It is also the only book of the Bible in which God is never mentioned.

Some scholars believe this was done intentionally to call the readers attention to the fact that even in places where God isn't acknowledged, He is still present. When the Israelites were taken captive to Persia, they lost the Temple. Many of them probably believed they had lost their connection to God. On top of that, the ideology of the region was that gods ruled territories; they were stationary and didn't follow people.[?] If the Israelites allowed themselves to latch on to that belief, they would have felt completely abandoned by God. However, only by the grace of God could an orphaned captive become the queen of Persia. Despite not being mentioned in the text, it is obvious that God placed Esther in this position to save the Israelites. This is the underlying message scholars believe was meant to come across, and thus, they believe the absence of references to God in the text was done on purpose.

Personally, I believe that this absence can be attributed to the position of the author in society. Unlike the other books of the Bible, Esther wasn't written by a prophet, priest, or apostle. The author was likely an ordinary citizen, like most of us. Think about a major event in your life. If you were to recount the story, would you mention God? Even though we know that God is in control, we don't alway insert references to Him when giving an account of something. Similarly, this author probably did the same. In fact, the author may not have been religious at all. We know that God can use anyone for His purpose, because He did so with Balaam (Numbers 22).

Interestingly, however, the original text does contain the name of YHWH hidden as an acrostic four times (Esther 1:20; 5:4,13; 7:7).[2][3]
Top

References

  1. Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible, pg. 843-846. 2014
  2. "The Name of Jehovah in the Book of Esther". The Companion Bible; visited April 2017
  3. William MacDonald. Believer's Bible Commentary, pg. 495-497. 1995

Post a Comment

About

Author Image Author Image I love reading the Word of God. With prayer God's Word reveals so much: from comfort to temperance, from perspective to affirmation. Digging into the depths of the Word, cross-referencing history, language and time differences, is a passion of mine. In March of 2015 I decided to go back through the Bible doing an in depth study on each section I read. Eventually I decided to share my journal of notes as I partake in this journey. I hope you are blessed by God and inspired to pursue a deeper relationship with Him. I love reading and learning about God, nature, and science. I am interested in how it all connects. The Creator's fingerprints are all over his creation. We can learn so much about Him and how we came to be by exploring the world around us. Join me as I explore the world and draw closer to the One who created it all.
Distributed by Gooyaabi Templates | Designed by OddThemes