God’s hand of providence and protection on behalf of His people is evident throughout the Book of Esther, though His name does not appear once. Haman’s plot brings grave danger to the Jews and is countered by the courage of beautiful Esther and the counsel of her wise cousin Mordecai, resulting in a great deliverance. The Feast of Purim becomes an annual reminder of God’s faithfulness on behalf of His people.
Ahasuerus is the Hebrew name and Xerxes the Greek name of Khshayarsh, king of Persia in 486 – 464 b.c. According to Esther 1:3, the feast of Xerxes took place in his third year, or 483 b.c. The historian Herodotus refers to this banquet as the occasion of Xerxes’ planning for a military campaign against Greece. But in 479 b.c. he was defeated by the Greeks at Salamis, and Herodotus tells us that he sought consolation in his harem. This corresponds to the time when he held a “contest” and crowned Esther queen of Persia (Esther 2:16, 17). Since the events of the rest of the book took place in 473 b.c. (Esther 3:7 – 12), the chronological span is ten years (483 – 473 b.c.). The probable time of authorship was between 464 b.c. (the end of Xerxes’ reign; see Esther 10:2, 3) and about 435 b.c. (the palace at Susa was destroyed by fire during that period, and such an event would probably have been mentioned). The historical and linguistic features of Esther do not support a date later than 400 b.c., as there is no trace of Greek influence.
Xerxes was a boisterous man of emotional extremes, whose actions were often strange and contradictory. This fact sheds light on his ability to sign a decree for the annihilation of the Jews, and two months later to sign a second decree allowing them to overthrow their enemies.
Esther was addressed to the many Jews who did not return to their homeland. Not all the godly people left—some did not return for legitimate reasons. Most were disobedient in staying in Persia. Nevertheless, God continued to care for His people in voluntary exile.
Esther, like Christ, puts herself in the place of death for her people but receives the approval of the king. She also portrays Christ’s work as Advocate on our behalf. This book reveals another satanic threat to destroy the Jewish people and thus, the messianic line. God continues to preserve His people in spite of opposition and danger, and nothing can prevent the coming of the Messiah.
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