Podcast: The Book of Esther
Check out the So We Speak podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.
This is a re-publication of a podcast from around two years ago that cycled out of Spotify. For a complete list of all the podcasts, visit the Podbean website.
The Babylonians came in and deported the Jews in Babylon (modern-day Iraq). In 539 BC, the Persians conquered the Babylonians. Daniel is in Babylon throughout this time. The Babylonians allow many Jews to return to Jerusalem, which is where the books of Nehemiah and Ezra come in.
Esther is based in Persia during the reign of King Xerxes (486-465BC). These Jews stayed in Persia rather than going back to Israel.
The Jews that settled in Persia had learned to be comfortable in that country’s culture. Even the names of Mordecai and Esther demonstrate this. Mordecai means “Servant of Marduk,” a Persian god. Esther is a connotation of the goddess “Astrid”. The Jews reading the book of Esther would have been left wondering, “What is God going to do with these Jews?”
The book of Esther is written in a style that is “fairytale-like.” Like Jonah, it reads like a storybook story. This is important to understand what is going on in the story.
For example, Haman, being an Aggagite, is a descendent of King Agag who Saul was supposed to put to death in the book of 1 Samuel. Because Saul spared King Agag (contrary to God’s command), Agag’s descendants were a constant nuisance and threat to the people of Israel. This is still seen in the book of Esther as Haman plots and almost succeeds in putting an end to the Jews in Persia. If this isn’t coincidental enough, Mordecai is from the tribe of Benjamin and shares relatives with King Saul.
Xerxes is very much an over-blown character in this story. Everythihng is over the top, from his reaction to Vashti and banning her from the kingdom to his collecting all the young ladies in Persia and having them go through a year of beauty treatments.. This is seen especially in the fact that once a girl had been with the king, she was forced to live out all her days in the harem, never to be married or be with anyone else. Their lives were forfeited.
Esther is put in the position of speaking to the king on behalf of the Jews and to thwart Haman’s plot – ultimately risking her life for the good of her people. The most famous line in this book is from Mordecai telling Esther, “Perhaps God has put you here for such a time as this (Esther 4:14).
This book is arranged as a Chiasm – where there are various layers to the text and the climax is what is found in the middle. This pattern is found throughout Scripture and also in the book of Esther.
Example of a Chiasm:
The middle of the book of Esther (Esther 6:1), is when the King Xerxes realizes Mordecai had never been rewarded for saving the king. On the way up to Chapter 6, Haman’s plot succeeds. After Esther 6:1, Haman’s plot is unraveled, and he is put to death on the same gallows which he built to hang Mordecai.
Eyes of Faith
Even though God is not mentioned in this book, he is intricately weaving this story together through people and emotions and seeming “happenstance” to bring about salvation for his people. God is working throughout history whether we see it or not – his divine sovereignty and foreordaining works for the good of his people.
Brittany Proffitt lives in Dallas and is a writer and content manager for So We Speak.