According To Recent Research The Book Of Esther Was Written In The Middle Of The 4th Century Bce During The Reign Of Artaxerxes Iii
Purim is undoubtedly one of the most boisterous, cheerful and joyous festivals in the Jewish calendar. It takes place in early spring on 14th of Adar, which this year starts at sundown on March 11. Purim celebrates the salvation of the Jews of Persia during the reign of King Ahasuerus. The moving and dramatic story of Esther and her uncle Mordecai is told in the Book of Esther, known in Hebrew as Megilat Ester .
The Book of Esther belongs to Ketuvim , which is the third division of the Tanakh . Haman, the conniving chief minister at Ahasuerus court, decreed to kill all the Jews in the kings vast empire that stretched from India to Ethiopia and included 127 provinces. Lots were cast to determine the date when the Jews would be exterminated, hence the festivals appellation. Esther, the Kings Jewish consort, was warned in time by Mordecai, and they both managed to thwart the annihilation of their people. The King punished Haman and rewarded Mordecai who sent letters throughout the kingdom, urging Jews to observe Purim every year with merrymaking and gift offerings.
According to recent research, the Book of Esther was written in the middle of the 4th century BCE during the reign of Artaxerxes III , however the absence in Persian sources of any references to a king that had a Jewish consort created a new problem.
This article first appeared on British Librarys Asian and African studies blog.
The Search For A Beautiful Virgin
A nation-wide search for a new queen began the first recorded beauty contest.
A young Jewess was among the candidates. Her beauty was so extraordinary that she pleased even the chief eunuch Hegai, who had been castrated while still a boy there is a note of irony here.
One wonders too at the back story to all this: did Hegai play some part in deposing Vashti?
Gold torque with lion heads, circa 350BC, excavated at the palace at Susa
For Such A Time As This Chapter 4
Mordecai and the Jews began to mourn and fast. They knew their time was limited. Mordecai mourned in sackcloth and ashes. He refused to accept the clothing that Queen Esther sent to him. However, she had apparently been shielded from the news of the coming destruction. When she sent a servant to find out from Mordecai what the trouble was, he returned with the news of the decree.
Mordecai asked that Esther go into the presence of the king to plead for the Hebrew nation. Esther told him that she could not speak with the king without an appointment. An attempt to do so could result in death. The king had not called Esther into his presence in the previous month. Mordecai said that Esther would not escape from the death sentence even though she was queen. He proposed that Esther may have been chosen as queen for such a time as this to be a champion for her people.
With great fear and resolve, Esther determined to approach the king. She asked that her people pray and fast for her over the following three days. Knowing the seriousness of requesting an audience with the king without an invitation she said, If I perish, I perish.
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The Search For A Queen
When Queen Vashti refused to come before King Xerxes and his drunken friends at a feast, she was banished. In search of a new queen, King Xerxes ordered all the beautiful women in the royal precinct of Susa to be brought to the palace so he could choose a wife.
During this time, there lived in Susa a Jewish man named Mordecai, who took care of his orphaned niece Esther, a girl of exceptional beauty. Esther was brought to the palace, and out of all the young women, she was selected as the kings favorite and declared queen. As Mordecai had advised her, she told no one of her Jewish heritage.
Received Hamans House And Implored The King To Change Edict
After the death of Haman Esther was given the house of Haman by the king . After all, this happened she told the king that Mordecai brought her up while she lost her parents. And the king gave Mordecai the signet ring that he had taken from Haman.
Again Esther came to the kings inner court to implore him to save his people from the evil plan of Haman. She fell down before the king and cried with tears to save his own people from the decree that was issued by the scheme of Haman.
As the king loved Esther more than anything, he gave an idea to bring another decree where the Jews would withstand their enemies . Very soon a new decree was issued throughout the provinces of Shushan and all the Jews were glad and they defeated many of their enemies.
Because of Esther the king Ahasuerus and all the officials were on the side of the Jews and they helped them to survive in the land of Shushan.
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She Was Led By The Spirit
Whether Esther knew it or not, she was being led by the Spirit of the Lord. Romans 8:14 says, For all those who are led by Gods spirit, these are Gods sons. One of the greatest gifts God offers us is the privilege of being led by the Spirit of God. As children of God, we can expect to be led by the Holy Spirit which will provide us with the wisdom of God to make the right decisions. Our ability to tap into our calling is much easier when we make decisions based on the leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit. This wisdom will allow us to make decisions today based on knowing what will happen tomorrow. What many people fail to realize is that you can develop a personal relationship with the Holy Spirit just like you already have with God and Jesus. John 14:26 says, But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you . The Holy Spirit is not only a personal guide but also a teacher in this life. As a result of this, Esther was able to set an action plan in place. As a result of her leadership, Esther was able to save her people.
Who Is Esther In The Bible And Why Is She Important
Esthers story is one of courage and strength.
Esther, in the book of Esther, was a biblical heroine who saved the Jewish people. She is recognized mostly for her strength, bravery and dignity. She was chosen by the Persian King Ahasuerus to be his wife in a contest, not knowing she was a Jew. When the kings right-hand man, Haman, came up with a plan to kill the Jews, Esthers uncle found her and pleaded with her to spare Israel. Even though she was his wife, she knew she was not allowed to approach him without invitation, and if she did, it could end in death. But she believed she was chosen by God to save her own people and agreed to go in front of the king anyway and won his favor and her people were saved. She didnt let her fear or position stand in her way. Esther is also an incredible example of helping people in need, particularly those who are going through extremely tough and uncertain circumstances. Here are a few lessons from Esthers story.
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Esther Saves The Jews From The Plot Against Them
At this point in the story, Esthers character comes to the fore. When she first learns of Hamans plot and the threat to the Jews, her reaction is one of helplessness. On pain of death she cannot approach the king without being summoned, and the king has not summoned her in thirty days, implying that she has fallen out of favor . However, following Mordecais insistent prodding, she resolves to do what she can to save her people, ending with the ringing declaration After that I will go to the king, though it is against the law and if I perish, I perish . The pliant and obedient Esther has become a woman of action.
Who Was Esther In The Bible: Esther’s Beauty Did Not Make Her Prideful
Esther Chapter 2 confirms she was indeed a beautiful woman. Along with all of the other lovely virgins, she was given access to 12 months of pampering and treatments to enhance her beauty.
I can only imagine what cattiness would have occurred amidst the harem of virgins awaiting their one night with the king. But Esthers humble spirit shined brightly and she won favor in the eyes of all who saw her, including Hegai the kings eunuch who had been put in charge of the virgins .
When the king summoned a virgin she was allowed to bring in with her whatever she thought would make her most attractive to the king. However when Esther was summoned she took with her nothing except what Hegai advisedresulting in a positive response from the king.
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Esther Revealed Hamans Plan To The King
The next day Esther had arranged another banquet for the king and Haman where she decided to reveal the petition. When Haman and the king came to the banquet, the king again asked for her petition.
Esther requested the king to save her life from her enemy and when the king got to know that Haman was the one who plotted to kill all the Jews along with her beloved queen, he left the banquet with anger.
Haman knew that he would face a dire consequence so, he asked the help of Esther, and when the king saw him fallen across the couch where Esther was standing the king ordered his servants to hang him on the gallows that he made for Mordecai .
Esther Was A Victim Of Child Trafficking
When we initially read her story, we may not think that Esther was a victim of trafficking. Child trafficking is defined as the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of a child for the purpose of exploitation.
So, if we look a bit closer at Esther chapter 2 and consider the reason why she was brought to the king, we understand that she was victimized in this way.
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Lessons From The Book Of Esther
The book of Esther may not have Gods name stated directly, but His involvement is felt in many ways throughout the story, especially when Esther implored the people to seek help through fasting . Students of the Bible know that fasting was done to draw closer to God and was accompanied by heartfelt prayers .
Esther is clearly a story of Gods intervention and deliverance. Even in pagan Persia, even when His people were facing genocide, God is in control. Like in the book of Ruth, Gods hand is visible throughout, even when His name is not.
Many other lessons can be learn from the character and growth of the heroine of the story.
For Such A Time As This
In chapter 4 Mordecai implored Esther to intervene on behalf of her people or they would all be killed. Esther reminded Mordecai that anyone who came before the king without being called, even the queen, would be subject to death. The only exception to this would be if the king extended mercy by holding out the golden scepter .
For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your fathers house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?Mordecai then uttered the most famous line from the book when he said, For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your fathers house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this? .
Esther then agreed to risk her life for her people. She asked Mordecai to have her people fast for her success, and she put her life on the line by going to the king for help .
Chapter 5 tells us that the king not only held out the golden scepter to save her life, he also said that he would grant anything she asked of him, even to half the kingdom . She invited the king and Haman to a banquet that day.
At that banquet, she told the king that she would inform him of her desire at another banquet the next day, and she again asked that Haman should be invited to hear her request .
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Who Was Esther In The Bible
Esthers story is chronicled in the book of Esther in the Bible. Makes sense, right? You will not find her mentioned in each chapter, but if you want a good idea of how the Lord used her life in light of the culture and times she lived, you should definitely read the entire book of Esther.
Here are a few of the main points and events of her story.
A New Queen Chapter 2
A young lady in the kingdom, Esther, was compelled to participate in a contest to choose a new queen. Her uncle took her in as his own daughter when Esthers parents died. Uncle Mordecai was a Jew who was taken from Israel during the Babylonian captivity. However, it was not known to the Persian leaders that Esther was also a Jew.
Esther entered the kings harem because all the beautiful young virgins were gathered in for the search for a new queen. She was chosen to become the successor to Vashti.
An interesting, and seemingly insignificant story appears in the last few verses of chapter 2. Mordecai learned of a plot to harm the king. He informed the new queen who then passed the news along to the authorities. The men involved in the plot were hanged. This becomes important in the middle of the story.
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Extra Snippets About Esther
Ahasaurus, Haman and Esther at the banquet, Rembrandt
The book of Esther reflects the situation of the diaspora, and one of the reasons it was produced was certainly to address the needs of the Jewish community living outside Palestine.
The story is set after the Exile and is part of the postexilic period of Israelite history, when many Jews were living away from the homeland of Judah. As is often observed, there is no concern for items and ideas that feature prominently in other Israelite literature: land promised to the ancestors, the Jerusalem cult, Torah observation, or an autonomous Israelite state under a divinely appointed monarch.
The book of Esther does not suggest that the goal of proper Jewish living is to return to Judah instead, it promotes the idea that Jews can live personally fulfilling, and even socially successful, lives in exile from Palestine.
It asks who are we, if we not only do not live in Judah, but also do not even want to?Esther, Linda M Day, p.12
Although it seems that the young women had no choice about the length and nature of their preparation, when their turn arrived and they were moved from the harem to the kings private quarters, they had some say about how they presented themselves.
Whatever the girl asked for may have included items of clothing or jewelry or aphrodisiac foods . The writer does not supply the details but leaves that to the readers imagination.
A tomb in Iran, said to belong to Esther and her uncle Mordecai
Esther Began As Hadassah
Esthers birth name was Hadassah. She was of the tribe of Benjamin and lived during the time Israel was exiled. Tragically, Hadassah was orphaned at an early age.
After her parents died, she was adopted by her cousin, a man named Mordecai.
This is quite fortunate for Hadassah because Mordecai was a God-fearing man who loved her dearly and raised her well in the face of dreadful circumstances.
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Appeared Before The King And Invited Haman To Banquet
After the three days of fasting, Esther went to meet the king in his inner court knowing that she might be sentenced to death as it was against the law. But as soon as the king noticed her, he immediately held out the golden scepter. And Esther found grace in the sight of the king and she delayed to tell the reason for her sudden entrance into that court .
She offered a banquet and also asked Haman to be present at that meal. But she did not expose her petition at that banquet and she requested them to come again the next day where she will reveal her plea at that banquet .
Meaning Of The Name Esther
Esther is a Persian name meaning Star. Like the name of her cousin Mordecai, the name Esther was related to that of a local deity, the goddess Ishtar. Jewish people in antiquity customarily had two names when they lived in regions distant from Israel. One would be their secular name, a name understandable in their adopted culture, and the other would be their sacred name given in Hebrew .
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