Summary: The book of Esther provides insight into what God is doing when He chooses to remain silent.

A Study of the Book of Esther

God Is At Work Even When We Do Not Know It!

Esther 1:1-22

Esther is a very unusual book. It almost did not make into the canon of Scripture (become a part of the Bible. It is the only Old Testament book not found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Neither Jesus nor any of the New Testament writers quoted from it. Martin Luther even questioned why it is even in the Bible. God is never mentioned in it nor is there any religious practice (other than Esther appeal to the people “to fast for me” 4:16 before she went into the presence of the king).

Some commentators see the book as an allegory or sort of parable (for example Ian Thomas and Ray Stedman) see the characters as portraying some scriptural truth, but they do agree on what the characters represent. (Ray Stedman says that Esther is in pictorial form the story of the fall of Man and Thomas says it is a picture of the work of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life.) I am very cautious of assigning meaning to characters that is not given in the Bible.

One commentator even suggested the book of Esther is a historical novel, sort of like a Harlequin Romance. He says it didn't really happen this way, but the story is like one of the parables of Jesus – fiction that makes a spiritual point. I prefer to take it as history unless there are really compelling reasons to do otherwise.

I will apologize in advance for the amount of context and historical background I felt needed to understand the book.

The Historical Context.

Civil war had resulted in the Israel being divided into two kingdoms the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah). Because neither kingdom was following God they were allowed to be taken into captivity. Assyria took the Northern Kingdom (Israel) into captivity and Babylon took the Southern Kingdom (Judah) into captivity. Eventually Babylon was over-powered by the Medes and Persians. Then the Jews were allowed to return to their home land. Zerub-babel led the first group, Ezra led the second group and Nehemiah led a third. But there were still Jews who had for whatever reason remained in Persia. A portion perhaps even a great many Jews remained in Persia. Sometimes the fear of the unknown even greater than whatever one is facing at the present. It is this group that remained in Persia that are in consideration in the book of Esther.

Two subtle temptations faced the Jews living in Persia. Assimilation and despair, First, assimil-ation, the challenge is how to continue live as citizens of Persia and yet retain their cultural and religious distinctives. In the science fiction series “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (with apologies to those of you who have no idea what I am talking about) there is particularly nasty opponent of the Federation called “The Borg,” their method of operation is to assimilate any people they conquer and extract whatever is of value. Their slogan is “Resistance is futile; you must be assimi-lated.” In the same way the Persian sought to assimilate the various people they conquer into single entity.

The other temptation facing the Jews in Persia was despair. Despair comes from the feeling that God is not at work in our world. The book of Esther is about knowing God is at work even when we cannot see how. As someone has said, “When you cannot see God’s hand, trust God’s heart.” [With thanks to Iain M. Duguid. “Esther and Ruth.” Reformed Expository Commentary. (Philipsburg: NJ, P& R Pub., 2005) pp. 5-7]

God Is At Work Behind The Scenes.

Someone has said, “God is a lot like my pastor, I don’t see him during the week and I don’t understand him on Sunday!” God does not tend to work through miracles and drama. We would like for him to and even expect him to, because we have seen him do so in the Bible. It is hard when we read about God’s incredible acts not to get discouraged by the fact that He never reacts that way in the crisis points of our lives. But the reality is that even in the Bible God’s work is often subtle.

I believe that the value of the book of Esther is that it is a book of crisis – something that we cer-tainly can relate to – and it provides insight into what God is doing when He chooses to remain silent. We may have a crisis but God never has; nothing that occurs in our lives ever catches God by surprise.

Although God’s name is never mentioned in

The book of Esther, His presence is unmistakable and His control and care for His people is evident even in this distant land.

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