Survey of Esther
Book Type: Book of Wisdom; the seventeenth book of the Old Testament; the seventeenth book of the Bible.
Author: The author is unknown. Mordecai, Ezra, or Nehemiah are the most common traditional possibilities.
Audience: Esther was written for the Jewish people, to display the providence of God, in relation to the Feast of Purim. This book was to be read by the Jewish people during this Feast as a remembrance of the great deliverance from their enemies, which God provided through Esther. Observant Jews continue to read the book of Esther during Purim, celebrated on Adar 14 on the Jewish calendar, and usually occurring in March.
Date: Most likely between 465 and 425 BC.
Overview: This book consists of 10 chapters and includes three main sections. The first section includes the narrative of Queen Vashti's fall from her position (Esther 1) and Esther's promotion to queen in Vashti's place (Esther 2:1–18).
The second section focuses on Mordecai's struggle with wicked Haman (Esther 2:19—7:10). Mordecai's loyalty is noted (Esther 2:19–23), in contrast to Haman's actions (Esther 3). In chapters 4—5, Esther fasts and prepares to intervene on behalf of the Jewish people, whom Haman had conspired against to destroy. In a providential event, the king has his historical records read to him and is reminded of Mordecai's loyalty to save his life. The king rewards Mordecai in a way that shames Haman, and Haman is ultimately hanged on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai (chapters 6—7).
The third section then emphasizes Israel's efforts to overcome Haman's attempt at genocide (Esther 8—10). Esther and Mordecai manage to provide a means for the Jews to defend themselves (Esther 8). The king's scribes are summoned to write an edict allowing the Jews the right to self-defense against their enemies. This leads to the victory of the Jews against those who would wipe them out (Esther 9:1–19).
As a result, Purim is instituted, as an ongoing feast of celebration and remembrance (Esther 9:20–23). The book concludes with a brief note on Mordecai's fame (Esther 10). Mordecai is described as second in rank to the King, as "great" among the Jews, and one who sought the welfare of the people, speaking peace to them (Esther 10:1–3).
Key Verses (ESV):
Esther 2:15: "When the turn came for Esther the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her as his own daughter, to go in to the king, she asked for nothing except what Hegai the king's eunuch, who had charge of the women, advised. Now Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her."
Esther 4:14: "For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father's house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"
Esther 6:13: "And Haman told his wife Zeresh and all his friends everything that had happened to him. Then his wise men and his wife Zeresh said to him, 'If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him.'"
Esther 7:3: "Then Queen Esther answered, 'If I have found favor in your sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me for my wish, and my people for my request.'"