William Kelly Major Works Commentary
The Book of Esther.
Lecture by the late W. Kelly.
Woolwich, Tuesday Evening, March 18th, 1873
The Book of Esther is one of those few portions here and there of the word of God which are remarkable for the absence of His name. This has often surprised many: the Jews themselves were not able to understand it, and there are many Christians who are not much better; so much so, that it has been the habit, especially in these latter times, for some to treat the book with a certain measure of distrust, as if the absence of the name of the Lord were a just suspicion - as if it could not be of God because God's name was not there. Now, I hope to show that it is a part of the excellence of the book that the name of God is not there; for there are occasions when God veils His glory. There is no occasion where He does not work, but He does not always permit His name to be heard, or His ways to be seen. I shall show that it is precisely what the character of the book requires - that the name of God should not be there; and this, therefore, instead of weakening the claim of Esther to its place in the holy volume, will rather show the perfectness of the ways of God, even in so exceptional a fact as the absence of His name in an entire book.
We must understand, then, what God has in view. And the answer is this: He is here speaking of His ancient people under circumstances where He could not name His name in connection with them as their position was wholly irregular. Properly speaking, in the Book of Esther they have no position at all. We could not say that exactly about those Jews who had gone up from Babylon according to the leave that Cyrus the Persian gave them in fulfilment of the prophets. It is true that, even as to the remnant, God does not call them "my people." In allowing Nebuchadnezzar to sweep the land of the house of David, and the tribes that still continued faithful to their allegiance, God took away from them their title for a short time, and that title is not yet given back to them. Nevertheless, it is in sate keeping. He means to restore them to the land of their inheritance; but the title-deed, for the time, has disappeared. It is not that it is lost, but reserved. It is kept secretly for them by God. When the day comes for Israel to be brought back God will gradually bring them into their proper place, and into their due relationship, and then will come the days of heaven upon earth. But it was far from being so yet, even with the remnant that went up from Jerusalem. There, as we know, the Book of Ezra shows them centring round the altar of God, and building His house; and the Book of Nehemiah presents them marking their distinction. Even though they had lost their title, still they had not lost their God. If God would not call them His people, they, at least, would call Him their God. Faith clung to what God was to them when God could not call them His own. Therefore did they build the walls of Jerusalem that His people might have, even in their feebleness, the sense of their separation to Himself. This has characterised all their life. It was not merely their religious life, but their whole life. Ezra looks at the religious life: Nehemiah looks at all their life consecrated to Jehovah. But the Book of Esther brings out quite a different view. What became of the Jews that did not go up to Jerusalem? What became of those who were deaf to the leave, or valued not the liberty to go up to the land where God's eyes rested, and where yet He means to exalt His name, - His Son the Messiah - as well as the people of His choice, then indeed to be manifestly owned by Him?
The Book of Esther is the answer to that question, and shows us that when God could not own them in any way whatever, - and where, too, they were not owning Him publicly, - when there was no sign on God's part, nor on the people's part - where the name of God, therefore, is now entirely in the secret - is not named once throughout the book - yet where there is all this, there is seen the hand and working of God secretly in favour of His people, even in the most irregular condition in which they can be found. This is the nature of the book, and this, I believe, is the solution of the difficulty as to the name of God not being once named in it. We shall see abundant confirmation of what I have referred to when we look into the book. I just give, so far, a little intimation of its character in order that we may take heed to it the more, as the various incidents come before us.