5 Reasons All Christians Should Read Queen Esther’s Story
- Britt Mooney Contributing Writer
- 2020 29 Dec
The massive doors opened, and Queen Esther approached the King of Persia, her husband. But he hadn’t summoned her. She faced execution if her presence angered him. Or he could show her mercy by extending his scepter to her.
Her people, the Jews, faced extinction. Esther needed to bring her concern before the King. For their salvation.
Summoning her courage, she stepped forward. What would he do? After a frightening hesitation, the King smiled and stretched the scepter toward her (Esther 5:1-2).
With that brave act, Esther fought for the lives of her people from Haman, a high royal official who hated the Jews and paid 10,000 talents of silver (370 tons of silver; today worth over $3 billion) for the King to sign a law allowing the death and plunder of God’s people (Esther 3:8-9).
Haman cast lots (like flipping coins) to choose the violent day. It landed on the 13th of Adar (Esther 3:7).
The story of Esther is full of drama, irony, violence, and strong characters. In the end, Queen Esther and her Uncle Mordecai succeed in saving their people from destruction. Esther is the basis for the Jewish festival of Purim (Purim means “to cast lots”) and refers to how Haman decided what day to slaughter a whole group of people (Esther 9:23-26).
Even though this is one of two in the Old or New Testament without a specific mention of God (Song of Solomon the other), His sovereignty is evident in the whole narrative, a stark contrast to Haman’s use of random chance.
What Is the Context of Queen Esther’s Story?
Jerusalem had fallen to Babylon and the Jews exiled around 605 BC. Babylon had subsequently given way to the much larger and more powerful Persian Empire in 539 BC. The legendary Daniel survived the transition to the new empire, maintaining a primary administrative role (Daniel 6:28).
By the time of King Ahasuerus, also known as Xerxes in Esther, Daniel was gone and Haman had become the Prime Minister of Persia (Esther 3:1).
Haman is mentioned as an Agagite. Agag had been the King of the Amalekites, whom God had commanded Israel’s King Saul to kill because of the sins of Amalek against His people. Saul conquered Amalek but didn’t kill Agag. Old Samuel the prophet showed up and hacked Agag to pieces (1 Samuel 15).
With such a history between Amalek and Israel and Agag in particular, Haman had plenty of motivation to hate the Jews.
In the context of other biblical writings, Esther would have fallen somewhere between Ezra 6-7, when Jews were beginning to travel back to Jerusalem (Ezra 7:1). As Queen Esther and Mordecai were contemporaries of Ezra and Nehemiah, it isn’t a stretch to connect why Ahasuerus was favorable to the Jewish people and their return to Jerusalem.
What Were the Characteristics of Queen Esther?
Initially, Esther is noted in the story for her beauty (Esther 2:7). When King Ahasuerus’ wife Vashti refused his summons, he first exiled her and later holds a contest for who will be her replacement (Esther 1:19;2:1-4). The most beautiful women of the Empire were chosen. Esther makes the cut (Esther 2:8).
Esther was raised by her uncle as if she were a daughter (Esther 2:7). In the narrative, Mordecai’s love for her is obvious – he checks on her when she comes to the palace (Esther 2:11) and he gives her wisdom and direction (Esther 2:10).
As the story progresses, Esther’s character shines, even more than her beauty. She begins fairly passive but becomes a more active and strong character by the end. She was brave, risking her life with the King; honest in identifying as a Jew (Esther 7:3-6); wise in how she deals with the King (5:7-8); a leader as she inspires her people to fast (Esther 4:15-17) and fight back (Esther 8:7-11).
What Is She Known for?
Queen Esther is known for her beauty and saving the Jewish people during the Persian oppression from the plans of Haman to totally wipe them all from the face of the Earth. This not only saved the lives of thousands of human beings but also preserved the Jewish line, from which the Messiah – Jesus – would be born.
How Did She Die?
Scripture is silent on when and how Queen Esther died, and history is also silent on her life, as well. The short answer is that we’ll never know.
The best historical guess is that when Ahasuerus met his bloody end at the hand of assassins in 464 BC, then Esther and Mordecai likely were killed, too. Especially considering the assassination was on behalf of Ahasuerus’ son, the child of a queen before Esther (Vashti?) and probably not favorable to Esther and Mordecai.
Without biblical or historical evidence, that’s only a theory.
5 Reasons Christians Should Read Esther
As stated before, the book doesn’t use God’s name, and the conflict on the surface is political and racial. God’s character and even the Gospel are evident throughout the story, though. And Esther has a great deal to teach Christians.
Besides being a phenomenal narrative, here are five reasons why every Christian should read and study the amazing book of Esther.
The feast of Purim was a tradition by the time of Jesus, over 400 years later
An unnamed festival is mentioned in Jerusalem at the beginning of John 5 and could be Purim, but Scripture doesn’t say for sure. Either way, Jesus would have celebrated Purim growing up, a literal story of God’s faithfulness in preserving his ancestors.
Esther is a picture of the Gospel. First, Esther gives her life for the sake of others, as a type of Christ. Greater love has no one than to lay down their life for others.
The new law signed by King Ahasuerus is a picture of God’s New Covenant
Under Persian law, once the King signed a law, even he couldn’t revoke it. Instead, he signed a new law that allowed the Jews to fight back (Esther 8:7-8), all with his authority and obvious desire behind it (Ahasuerus impaled Haman on the sharpened pole built for Mordecai (Esther 7:9-10). When Adam and Eve sinned, death entered the world (Romans 5:12). Now we are under the power of sin and the threat from an enemy that desires to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). God can’t go back on His Word (Hebrews 6:18). Instead, he provided a new way to be reconciled to life (and breaking the power of sin and death) through the death and resurrection of His Son (Romans 5:20-21). God also empowers us to fight and stand against the Devil through His armor (Eph 6:10-18).
Esther identified with the oppressed and used her position to fight for them
Obviously, Esther was a Jew. However, based on Mordecai’s advice, she had hidden her racial identity for years through the harem process (Esther 2:10). When learning of Haman’s plot, Mordecai gives the Queen a speech that argues that if Jews are being targeted, then her life is also in danger (Esther 4:13-14). She couldn’t simply identify with the Jews “in her heart.” She had to do it publicly and then use her privileged position as Queen to fight for their lives. Her actions threatened her life of luxury and even her life.
As disciples of Christ, we must identify with those in need and the lost, since we were once like them (Titus 3:1-3). No matter the racial or cultural background, God loves all people and values them. Jesus himself left Heaven, entered our world, and identified with us as a human (John 1), becoming an eternal High Priest that understands our weakness and experience (Hebrews 4:14-16).
We are called to the same (Philippians 2:5-11), loving our neighbor as Christ loved us, using our material and spiritual resources to fight for their good, preaching the Gospel through our actions along with our words (1 Cor 9:27).
Esther used compassion and respect to make her appeal to the King
When King Ahasuerus extends the scepter to Esther, showing favor and sparing her life, she didn’t immediately launch into her desperate situation, even though he told her she could ask for anything. Instead, she asked the King and Haman to her house for dinner.
The King pressed her at the dinner to make her request, anything up to half the kingdom; she requested his presence again the next day, along with Haman.
While Queen Esther commanded her people to fast, she feasted with the King and Haman (Esther 5:4). At the second dinner, she revealed her Jewish heritage and appealed to Ahasuerus’ compassion for her life and the lives of her people. She made it personal (Esther 7:3).
The historian Herodotus commented that the Persian King was something of a hothead, notably in military campaigns and choice of advisors. Esther reveals this, as well, with his choice of Haman as second in command of the whole Empire. He exiled one wife for not answering his summons (Esther 1:19-21) and was ready to wipe out a whole race of people based on Haman’s accusation (Esther 3:8-10).
And yet Esther requested his presence and appeals to his compassion.
For Christians, we can learn from this. First, as we deal with people of the world, even if they are human and flawed, relationship should be our priority, and we should appeal to their compassion. That dignifies people at the outset instead of assuming an enemy. The Bible says they aren’t our enemy (Ephesians 6:12).
In dealing with God, He is perfect in all of His ways. Relationship is His priority. We are to cast our cares upon Him, for He cares for us (1 Peter 5:7), but we would do well to remember to first be thankful for His mercy and the simple, amazing joy of His presence (Psalm 100:4-5).
We then make our requests to Him, appealing to His vast love as our Father (Matt 6:9-13).
We see God’s hand in Esther, even in exile, to preserve His promise and purpose
The narrative doesn’t tell us anything about Esther and Mordecai’s spiritual condition. But God had made a covenant with David that there would always be a king in his direct line (2 Samuel 7). The prophecies later clarified that the Messiah, the eternal Son of God and Savior, would be born in David’s line (Micah 5:2).
God’s authority backs up His word. Even through extremely difficult times, God would see His purposes come to pass.
Even Mordecai believes this to some degree. He tells Esther that she came to being Queen for a greater purpose, for “such a time as this,” and that if she didn’t act, deliverance would occur through another.
This should encourage us. Scripture is full of God’s word and His promises. There are difficult times. The world is corrupt, evil, and we have enemies that seek to steal, kill, and destroy us.
Despite all this, Christ has overcome the world (John 16:33). God’s Word will come to pass. It does not return as nothing (Isaiah 55:11). We can stand on His promises, even in great darkness, knowing the dawn will come and He will prove faithful if we remain in His love and purpose (Romans 8:28).
Esther is a phenomenal book, a story filled with twists, turns, courage in the face of evil, and most importantly, an invisible God who will always keep His promises.
Photo credit: ©Sight & Sound
Britt Mooney (with his amazing wife, Becca) has lived as a missionary in Korea, traveled for missions to several countries, and now lives in Suwanee GA as a church planter that works bi-vocationally with Phoenix Roasters, a missional coffee company. He has a podcast about the Kingdom of God called Kingdom Over Coffee and is a published author with Say Yes: How God-Sized Dreams Take Flight.
This article is part of our People from the Bible Series featuring the most well-known historical names and figures from Scripture. We have compiled these articles to help you study those whom God chose to set before us as examples in His Word. May their lives and walks with God strengthen your faith and encourage your soul.
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