New Book: Esther

by Katie Allen

The events of the book of Esther occur during the reign of the Persian Empire- the time after the Babylonians ruled, about thirty years before the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem (as recorded in the book of Nehemiah). By this time some Jews had returned to Jerusalem, but the book of Esther records the lives of those exiled Jews still living in the Persian city of Susa. They were very much still a minority and not well-liked.  

The book contains all the ingredients needed for a blockbuster movie: a petulant Persian King, a beautiful Jewish Queen, a power-hungry adviser, a murder plot, feasting, courage, bravery and justice. However where is God in it all? Nowhere within it is God mentioned. This has lead some scholars to call it a secular text, concerned with nationalistic themes such as the power of the Jewish nation. However it is so much more than this. Even the book’s structure points to a deeper meaning.

The anonymously authored book was written using a symmetrical structure called a ‘chiasm’. This means that each event in the first half of the story is mirrored by a similar event in the second. However at the story’s halfway point there stands alone a single un-mirrored event, signalling it as the story’s turning point. In Esther, this is the death of Haman (the baddy), who until then, has been plotting against the Jewish people. Henceforth, Queen Esther and her uncle Mordecai set about liberating the Jews from the death threats that they have been under, securing their eventual victory.

It seems that through the highly structured chiasmic narrative, the writer wished to demonstrate that the unfolding of events was not simply random. There was something, or someone greater at work behind the scenes; all the ‘coincidences’ that helped the Jewish people on their way to victory, were purposefully engineered by God.   

Therefore as we read the book of Esther, marvel at a God who works behind the scenes of everyday life to enable his plans and purposes to be carried out, and marvel at a God who  who cares and works for his people. Through the lens of the New Testament, we also have the added advantage of seeing how God was at work not only for the Jewish people back then, but for the rest of humanity! If God had not intervened, the people from which Christ descended would have been terminated, and then where would we be?!