This book is perfect for people who feel that God is somehow hidden and unaware of their desperate circumstances. The name of God and prayer can be found nowhere in this short story. But God is actively working behind the scenes to preserve His covenant people from threatened extinction. The Providence of God is featured in all of the unexpected reversals of fortune that we see played out in the interaction between Mordecai and Haman, between Esther and the powerful king. When things seem the darkest it just might be the backdrop that God has allowed to highlight the brilliance of His saving plan.
J. Sidlow Baxter: Two Main Movements: In the first five chapters everything is leading up to the crisis-point in the drama. Events move quickly toward the threatened disaster, until, at the end of chapter v., the very gallows are prepared for Mordecai, and it seems as though nothing can avert the impending tragedy. Then, with chapter vi., there comes a sudden turn in the story. The crisis has been providentially anticipated, and is now overruled. The tables are turned. God’s people are both saved and avenged. Threatened tragedy gives place to triumph and blessing. The black clouds break apart; the sun bursts through; the earth is green again; and there is a song of prosperity.
THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD PROTECTS HIS PEOPLE AGAINST THREATS OF EXTERMINATION
Esther 4:14 “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews form another place and you and your father’s house will perish.
And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”
I. (1:1 – 2:18) PROVIDENCE CONTROLS WHO IS IN AUTHORITY –
ESTHER PROVIDENTIALLY REPLACES VASHTI AS QUEEN
A. (1:1-22) PROVIDENTIAL REMOVAL OF THE PERSIAN QUEEN —
IMPRESSIVE DISPLAYS OF SECULAR OPULENCE AND DOMINION EXPOSED AS IMPOTENT AND FUTILE
AS GOD’S PROVIDENCE WORKS OUT HIS OWN KINGDOM AGENDA
(:1-4) Prologue – Historical Setting Showcasing the Glorious Kingdom of Xerxes
1. (:5-9) Fancy Party Time Hosted Separately by the Persian King and Queen –
2. (:10-20) Family Tension Blows Up Into Kingdom Crisis and the Removal of the
(:21-22) Epilogue – Reinforcing Male Household Authority –
Mocking the Impotency of the Secular Sovereign
B. (2:1-18) PROVIDENTIAL CROWNING OF ESTHER AS THE NEW QUEEN —
THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD SOVEREIGNLY WORKS BEHIND THE SCENES
DESPITE THE OSTENTATIOUS EXCESSES OF PAGAN DESPOTS AND THE CULTURAL ASSIMILATION OF GOD’S PEOPLE
1. (:1-4) Providential Search for a Replacement Queen
2. (:5-7) Providential Placement of Mordecai and Esther
3. (:8-16) Providential Favor Shown to Esther
4. (:17-18) Providential Elevation of Esther
II. (2:19 – 7:10) PROVIDENCE CONTROLS LIFE AND DEATH – WHO WINS AND WHO LOSES —
MORDECAI PROVIDENTIALLY OVERCOMES HAMAN
A. (2:19-23) PROVIDENCE ORCHESTRATES EVENTS IN THE PRESENT TO PREPARE FOR THE FUTURE —
MORDECAI PROVIDENTIALLY FOILS ASSASSINATION PLOT AND EARNS FUTURE FAVOR FROM THE KING
1. (:19-20) Cover-Up of Jewish Ethnicity Despite Prominent Roles of Mordecai and Esther
2. (:21-23) Providential Intervention of Mordecai to Foil Assassination Plot
B. (3:1-15) PROVIDENCE ALLOWS GOD’S PEOPLE TO COME UNDER SEVERE ATTACK —
SATAN’S GOAL IS NOTHING LESS THAN THE EXTERMINATION OF GOD’S PEOPLE
1. (:1-6) The Conflict Leading to Haman’s Commitment to Exterminate the Jews
2. (:7-11) The Conniving to Develop a Campaign to Exterminate the Jews
3. (:12-15) The Communication of the Campaign to Exterminate the Jews
C. (4:1 – 5:14) PROVIDENCE USES STRATEGICALLY PLACED PEOPLE FOR MOMENTOUS INTERVENTION —
1. (4:1-17) The Providence of God Positions You and Calls You to Make a Difference for God’s People
2. (5:1-14) The Providence of God Prepares the Way for a Reversal of Fortunes
D. (6:1-14) PROVIDENCE WORKING BEHIND THE SCENES –
GOD DEMONSTRATES HIS SOVEREIGN CONTROL EVEN WHEN THE WICKED IMAGINE THAT THEY ARE IN CONTROL.
1. (:1-3) Providence Unexpectedly Brings the Past to Bear on the Present –
2. (:4-11) Providence Transforms Expected Honor into Intolerable Humiliation –
Haman Put in a Bind and Forced to Honor Mordecai
3, (:12-14) Providence Sets in Motion Events that Rapidly Escalate Out of Control –
Haman Headed for His Certain Demise
E. (7:1-10) THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD LEVERAGES DIVINE APPOINTMENTS, PROTECTS GOD’S PEOPLE AND DESTROYS GOD’S FOES
1. (:1-4) Providence Leverages Divine Appointments on a Grand Scale
2. (:5-7) Providence Protects God’s People in Surprising Ways
3. (:8-10) Providence Destroys God’s Foes in Ironic Fashion
III. (8:1 – 9:32) PROVIDENCE CONTROLS THE DESTINY OF GOD’S PEOPLE —
ISRAEL PROVIDENTIALLY ESCAPES HAMAN’S ATTEMPT AT EXTERMINATION
A. (8:1-17) PROVIDENCE TRANSFORMS DESPERATION INTO DELIGHT IN SURPRISING WAYS
1. (:1-2) The Surprising Rewards Bestowed by the King
2. (:3-8) The Surprising Request Granted by the King
3. (:9-14) The Surprising Reversals of the Previous Edict
4. (:15-17) The Surprising Responses of Exaltation, Joy and Fear
B. (9:1-32) PROVIDENCE LEADS US TO VICTORY OVER OUR ENEMIES AND CAUSES US TO CELEBRATE AS WE MEMORIALIZE GOD’S FAITHFULNESS
1. (:1-4) Power in the Persian Kingdom for the Jews and Mordecai
2. (:5-17) Purging the Enemy
3. (:20-32) Purim Celebration Memorialized
(10:1-3) EPILOGUE – PROVIDENCE CONTROLS ONE’S ULTIMATE LEGACY —
GREATNESS OF MORDECAI EXTOLLED
A. (:1) GREATNESS OF THE PERSIAN KINGDOM
1. Dominion on the Land
2. Dominion on the Coastlands
B. (:2) GREATNESS OF MORDECAI’S ACCOMPLISHMENTS
1. Renowned for His Authority and Strength
2. Rewarded by the Respect from the King
3. Recorded for Posterity
C. (:3) GREATNESS OF MORDECAI’S REPUTATION
1. Great as Measured by His Boundless Popularity
2. Great as Measured by His Beneficial Policies
WHY STUDY THIS BOOK?
To learn important lessons about the Providence of God – especially His ability to preserve His people, despite the severity of threats from formidable adversaries.
To encourage us to continue to trust in God and His Providence when circumstances around us seem darkest and don’t make any sense.
To see the interplay between the sovereignty of God and human responsibility play itself out in critical ways.
To appreciate the importance to God of the ongoing existence of the Jewish people as fundamental to His program for history and as essential to the fulfillment of covenantal promises made to the patriarchs.
To expose the evils of pride and malice as reflected by the scheming Haman and to delight in the reversal that causes him to reap what he has sown.
To witness the partnership between Esther and Mordecai as it develops over time and is used effectively by God.
To develop a heightened sense of the importance of identifying with the community of God’s people.
To understand the historical background of the Feast of Purim.
J. Sidlow Baxter: The purpose of the book is to demonstrate the providential care of God over His people. It is vital to see this, for herein lies theliving significance and permanent value of the book. The great thing here is the fact of providential preservation – “providential” as distinct from what we call the “miraculous.” We are meant to see providential overruling as distinct from supernatural intervening.
Tomasino: In this text, we are skillfully directed to contemplate a God who is committed to His people, even when they show little interest in Him. The characters here display little of the pervasive piety typical of biblical heroes; indeed, they are much more like modern people than we may care to admit. Just as we typically do not recognize the providence of God even as we experience it, so, too, do the characters in Esther seem mostly oblivious to the hand that is guiding their fate, making only oblique references to His purposes.
Laniak: Esther provides a message of hope to Jews in the Diaspora. If an orphaned, exiled, foreign woman could rise to royalty in the center of the world’s greatest power, who couldn’t take heart in the most marginal of circumstances? Who couldn’t believe that the Jewish people (i.e., the people of YHWH) were still, even in the state of “exile,” able to find protection and prosperity? This message of hope is close to the surface of the story. . . Esther, then, is an affirmation of Jewish hope apart from returning to Jerusalem. Exile is not just a temporary state of punishment; it is a legitimate place in which to anticipate prosperity and (divine) blessing.
Breneman: The genre of the Book of Esther is historical narrative. As such, biblical narrative is characterized by the cooperation of three components: ideology (socioreligious perspective), historiography (use of historical persons and events in a narrative), and aesthetic appeal (its influence and persuasion of the reader).37 Each of these three elements can be readily seen in Esther. The ideology is the orthodox faith of ancient Israel. The book is theological in that its primary purpose is to teach about God and his continuing relationship with his people. It is historiographical in that it is an account of historical persons and historical events as they occurred. It is aesthetic because it is full of drama and suspense and draws its readers to anticipate happenings and events that often are the reverse of what the reader expects.
A “chiastic” structure in the whole book, indicating a fine degree of literary art, has been observed. The pivotal point is the king’s sleepless night (6:1–3), around which the chiastic structure is built.
A Opening and background (chap. 1)
B The king’s first decree (chaps. 2–3)
C The clash between Haman and Mordecai (chaps. 4–5)
D “On that night the king could not sleep” (6:1)
C´ Mordecai’s triumph over Haman (chaps. 6–7)
B´ The king’s second decree (chaps. 8–9)
A´ Epilogue (chap. 10)