Background Notes on the Book of Esther

I mentioned in my last post that I am doing the Beth Moore--Book of Esther--Bible study this summer. As I go through this Bible study on the book of Esther, I am taking stock of what I am learning and keeping some notes. I’ll be sharing some of those thoughts and notes here on the blog. Feel free to comment. I’d love to get some feedback.

I found it interesting that Esther is also called the Megillah. As in, ‘you didn’t have to tell me the whole Megillah’. This is the scroll of Esther which would be read on the holiday of Purim. It is long and pulls out showing the entire story. From the dictionary—slang: a long involved story or account megillah> Yiddish megile, from Hebrew mĕgillāh scroll, volume (used especially of the Book of Esther, read aloud at the Purim celebration)

The book of Esther takes place in the kingdom of Persia. This is during the time that has been called the Diaspora with the Jews scattered throughout the known world. What is different here versus in the book of Daniel is that the Jews are no longer under captivity. They had been freed during the reign of Cyrus. And the Jews who remained did so because they had so assimilated into Persian society.

 Being a student of the Holocaust (In college I wrote a paper on Jewish women and their resistance to the Holocaust which won the Jack Chinski Holocaust Memorial Award.), I can't help but see a parallel here. Back in Germany before the Nazi's took over, European Jews were assimilated to secular society in just this same way. It was the reason that when things got bad for them they stayed when they could have escaped. They considered themselves German or Polish first and Jewish second. They had also learned over the years that bad treatment of the Jews cycled through history and thought that eventually this too will pass. In the case of the Nazi's, that wasn't to be. But here in Persia, God had already set in motion a work to save his people before they even knew there was trouble brewing againist them.

Esther is a historical book, and being the historian that I am, I love reading the historical Biblical books. For me, it is fun to read a secular historian such as the ancient Herodotus (and you have to read him with a grain of salt—lots of bias and superstition) and how he records the exploits of the Persians like Cyrus and Xerxes and then read about them here in the Bible. It pulls me into His Word.

Another interesting thing about the book of Esther is that God is never mentioned. Not even once. But God is definitely in this book. Everything that happens is how God planned it—'for such a time as this'. Just like Ephesians 1:11 says: “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will…”

Sneak Peak here: What I have learned after five lessons in the study of Esther is that God places us with specific people in specific places to do specific jobs. We may not like that idea but that is God's plan and who are we to argue with that.

Next time--my take on Xerxes and Vashti

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