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The Book of Esther (1 of 6)
Introduction and Chapter 1
Dr. Harley Howard
A historical book of the Old Testament that shows how God preserved His Chosen People. The book is named for its main personality, Queen Esther of Persia, whose courage and quick thinking saved the Jewish people from disaster.
Structure of the Book.
The Book of Esther reports on actual events, but it is written like a short story. The main characters in this powerful drama are King Xerxes of Persia; his wife Queen Esther, a Jewish woman; his second in command, Haman, recently promoted by the king; and Mordecai, a leader among the Jewish people who are scattered throughout the Persian Empire. In an attempt to stamp out the Jews, Haman manipulates the king into issuing an order calling for their execution. But Esther uses her royal favor to intervene and expose Haman’s plot. Ironically, in a dramatic twist of plot, Haman is hanged on the gallows he built for Mordecai’s execution, and Mordecai is promoted to prime minister. The Jewish people are granted revenge against their enemies. They also celebrate by instituting the Feast of PURIM to mark their miraculous deliverance.
Authorship and Date.
For centuries scholars have debated the question of who wrote the Book of Esther. The Jewish historian Josephus claimed it was written by Mordecai. But many modern scholars dispute this because Mordecai is mentioned in the past tense in the final chapter of the book. Until new evidence emerges, the author must remain unknown. The question of date can be answered with greater certainty. The reign of the Persian king Ahasuerus, (Xerxes) lasted for about 20 years, beginning about 485 B. C. So Esther must have been written some time shortly after 465 B. C.
The Book of Esther is valuable historically because it gives us a view of the Jewish people who were scattered throughout the ancient world about 475 B. C. The events in the book occurred about 100 years after the leading citizens of the Jewish nation were carried into exile by Babylon in 587 B. C. Shortly after the Persians overthrew the Babylonians, they allowed the Jewish exiles to return to their native land. Many did return to Jerusalem, but thousands of Jewish citizens chose to remain in Persia, probably because this had become home to them during their long separation from their native land. Thus, this book shows clearly that God protects His Chosen People, even when they are scattered among the nations of the world.
The Book of Esther is a major chapter in the struggle of the people of God to survive in the midst of a hostile world. Beginning with the Book of Genesis, God had made it clear that he would bless His Covenant People and bring a curse upon those who tried to do them harm. The Book of Esther shows how God has kept this promise at every stage of history. Just as Haman met his death on the gallows, we can trust God to protect us from the enemy, Satan, and to work out His ...
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