Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Introduction to the Book of Esther
An unfolding of Divine Providence.
I. Unseen power behind human affairs.
II. Ultimate just awards both to evil and to good.
III. Prosperity of the wicked ending in adversity.
IV. Adversity of the righteous ending in prosperity.
V. Poetic exactness of retribution, e.g. Haman and the gallows.
VI. Minutest matters woven by God's shuttle into the fabric of His design (chap. 6:1).
VII. Yet there is no fatalism taught here, but prayer, resolve, and independent action.
VIII. The name of God is not found in the book, perhaps to hint that the hand which regulates all these things is a hidden hand.
—Arthur T. Pierson, Seed Thoughts, p. 10.
Esther—God Amid the Shadows
The events recorded in the book of Esther occurred between the completion of the temple and the mission of Ezra. In all likelihood the narrative, as we have it, was taken directly from the Persian records. The principal value of the book is not its revelation of God's care for individuals, it is rather that of His preservation of the people as a whole, in an hour when they were threatened with wholesale slaughter. The book is preeminently dramatic, and is best analysed around the scenes.
I. The King's Court, Ahasuerus.—The first scene is that of a great feast in the palace of the king. In the midst of it the king commanded his queen, Vashti, to his presence. The one redeeming feature in the revelation of the conditions at the court of Ahasuerus was that of Vashti's refusal to obey the command of the king. Mordecai's action in the case of Esther is open to question. His advice that she should not betray her nationality was questionable, as her position at the court of the king was one of peril for a daughter of the covenant. Haman is now introduced, His malice was stirred against Mordecai, and also, therefore, against all his people, and he made use of his influence with the king to obtain authority practically to exterminate the whole of them.
II. The Country, Mordecai, and the Mourning Jews.—The intention of Haman became known to Mordecai, who at once took up his position outside the king's gate, and there raised a loud and bitter cry. The royal proclamation filled the people through the provinces with sorrow, and they mourned with fasting and weeping and wailing.
III. The King's Court, the Unnamed God.—The news of this mourning reached Esther in the royal palace, and she sent to make inquiries. The custom and law of the court forbade her approach to her lord save at his command. The urgency of the case appealed to her, however, and with splendid heroism she ventured. Her request was at first of the simplest. She invited the king and Haman to a banquet Acting upon the advice of wife and friends, Haman committed the folly of making the time of the banquet merry by first erecting a gallows for Mordecai. To while away the hours of a sleepless night, the records were read to the king, and a deed of Mordecai therein recorded led to the hasty and strange happenings which filled the heart of Haman with anger and terror. Mordecai was lifted from obscurity to the most conspicuous position in the kingdom. By the way of the banquet Haman passed to the gallows.
IV. The Country, Purim, the Rejoicing Jews.—The peril of the Hebrew people was not yet averted however. The royal proclamation had gone forth that on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month they should be exterminated. By the constitution no royal proclamation could be reversed. The king granted Mordecai to write and sign letters to his people permitting them to arm and defend themselves. The fateful day arrived, but it was one in which the changed conditions in the case of Haman and Mordecai were repeated throughout the whole of the provinces. In memory of the deliverance the feast of Purim was established.
—G. Campbell Morgan, The Analysed Bible, p. 249.
References.—I. 1-9.—A. Raleigh, Penny Pulpit, No. 614. I. 1-10.—Ibid. The Book of Esther, p. 1. I. 1-12.—A. D. Davidson, Lectures on Esther, p. 9.