It is very interesting that there are two books in the Bible bearing the names of women. The first is the book of Ruth, and the second is the book of Esther. Ruth was a gentile (Moabite) woman who went with Naomi to Bethlehem, and Esther was a Jewish woman who grew up in Babylon, after the period of the captivity of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Both books are very rich in teachings and lessons, and are very different from each other, but in each of these books we see God’s hand in bringing to pass His will and deliverance.
We are looking at the book of Esther, and I encourage you to refer to the two articles I wrote previously on this wonderful book (The Gospel in the book of Esther, and Feasts in the book of Esther.) It is striking that the name of God is absent from the book of Esther, but God Himself is not absent, He is ever present, working His deliverance at the right time. In fact, the book of Esther is the only book in which the name of God is not mentioned, even any name of God is not mentioned. The reading of the Word, or the law is also not mentioned, and direct prayer to God is not mentioned. Why is this the case? We need to know that Cyrus, the king of Persia, had issued a decree for the Jews in captivity to return to Jerusalem (see Ezra 1:1-3) and a few people returned. For whatever reasons, Esther did not return to Jerusalem, and it is not for me to speculate why she, along with the majority of Jews, did not go back to their own land. Being in a foreign land at that time made it difficult to meet together and pray to God, or read from His law, or even think about Him. When we have our own interests and pleasures, we do not give time to God, or even pray to Him or read His word.
The book of Esther opens with a feast; a feast that the gentile king made, which is a worldly feast. It is interesting to notice that there are three feasts in Esther. The first was a worldly one, the second was a feast of judgement (Haman the wicked enemy was exposed and condemned), and the third was a feast of remembrance. The Jews hold this book in very high regard, and it is read each year at the Jewish feast of Purim. We notice that this feast was not one of the feasts prescribed by God as one of the feasts of Jehovah in Leviticus 23, but it plays a part in the fact that the Jews remember their deliverance from the enemy.
There are themes that run through the book of Esther, like for example, God honours those who honour Him (1 Samuel 2:30). We see clearly the fact that Mordecai did not bow to Haman when all the other people bowed in Esther 3, that in chapter 6, God honoured Mordecai through a very embarrassed Haman, the very enemy who wished to kill him and all the Jews. The other theme is a gospel theme, of which the details are in a previous article on this blog (The Gospel in the book of Esther). We also see God’s providential care for His people in a foreign land, even though His name is absent, He is working behind the scenes and is ever present. He has not forgotten His people, even though they seemed to forget Him.
I will now attempt to provide an outline of this book. There are similarities but also some differences to the outlines from Arend Remmers and Arno Gaebelein from www.biblecentre.org.
This book can be divided into two major parts:
- Esther chapters 1 to 4 – the Jews in danger and fearing for their lives.
- Esther chapters 5-10 – God’s work in delivering His people from danger and the exaltation of Mordecai.