“For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
Esther 4:14 ESV
The book of Esther has an unknown author and is one of two books named after women (Ruth being the other). And unlike almost all of the other books in the Biblical Canon (aside from Song of Solomon) there is no mention of God or of a covenant. This of course leads some to unnecessarily doubt its inclusion as such as well as its authenticity. But to me, Esther is a pretty fascinating book.
On the surface, this book is a dramatic play. The plot of the story is that a Jewish woman becomes queen of Persia and saves her people from destruction. Within the story we see the constant back and forth between Mordecai and Haman and it is quite thrilling. And we see 4 main characters:
Esther is the heroine. She is of Jewish decent but keeps her heritage secret when becoming queen.
Mordecai is Esther’s cousin although he adopts said cousin so she sees him as a father figure. He is constantly advising and informing Esther through the story. Mordecai is also one part of the central conflict of Esther between himself and Haman.
Haman is enemy of the Jews. Haman rises to power in Susa and Mordecai refuses to bow to him. Haman is called an “Agagite,” which is likely a reference to King Agag the Amalekite seen in 1 Samuel 5:18. The Amalekites themselves had opposed Israel for hundreds of years as seen in Deuteronomy 25:17-19.
King Ahasuerus is the final of the four main characters. King of the Persians, King Ahaseurus is seen as an easily swayed character. For example he goes along with Haman’s plot and he allows Esther and Mordecai to write their own counter-laws and enact their own feasts. Quite ironically, the king of such a large nation is easily the weakest of the main characters.
And then of course we have some of the supporting cast: Queen Vasti who King Ahaseurus deposes for not submitting to him, Hege who is the king’s chamberlain and the pair of Bigthan and Teresh who are also chamberlains that plot to kill the king.
After being introduced to the characters, let’s look at the various acts of the drama.
Act 1 is seen in the first two chapters of Esther and is when King Ahasuerus holds a feast, selecting Esther as his queen.
Act 2 is when Haman plots to destroy the Jews and we can break this up into three sub-acts. First King Ahasuerus promotes Haman in chapter 3. Then Esther must risk her life on behalf of her people in chapter 4 all the way to verse 8 of chapter 5. Finally we see Haman plotting to kill Mordecai in the rest of chapter 5.
Act 3 has Esther foiling Haman’s plan. Also with three sub-acts, King Ahasuerus has Haman honor Mordecai instead in the first. This is seen in chapter 6. Chapter 7 is the second where Esther intercedes for the Jews and Haman is killed. Finally in Chapter 8 King Ahasuerus promotes Mordecai and Mordecai saves the Jews.
Act 4, the final act of this drama is seen in the last two chapters of the book when Esther and Mordecai institute the feast of Purim.
It reads quite like a Shakespearean play does it not? But if we take this book in context with the rest of the Old Testament, specifically the theme of God’s covenant love for Israel, we see that Esther is really about a courageous faith. Throughout the book, Esther and Mordecai seem to have a certainty that the Jews will be saved, that someone will intervene for their people. And that type of faith carries the story to completion with the prosperity and deliverance of the Jewish people.
The book of Esther gives us a picture of what a strong faith looks like and should challenge us in our own faith. We cannot help but ask the question: have we been displaying a strong and courageous faith like that of Esther and Mordecai?