The Book of the Bible That's All about God without Mentioning Him
- Beth Ann Baus Crosswalk.com Contributor
- 2016 26 Oct
Countless people have read the book of Esther and questioned why there is no mention of God. Many have tried to answer this question biblically, while others simply dismiss the book, claiming it’s not inspired because God’s name is nowhere to be found. The truth is God doesn’t have to be mentioned in order to be present. And while His name is nowhere to be found in the book of Esther, it’s evident that God was present, active, and bringing to completion His providential plan.
The book of Esther begins with Queen Vashti being publically disrespectful to her husband, causing King Xerxes to remove her as Queen. Queen Vashti’s behavior was no surprise to God. In fact, one could argue that God hardened Vashti’s heart against her husband the same way He hardened Pharaoh's heart (Exodus 9:12). Why would one argue this? Because the removal of Queen Vashti had to happen in order for Esther to be Queen! Vashti had to know there would be severe consequences for such actions, yet she publicly opposed her husband and this set the course for the unfolding of God’s plan to deliver His people.
Vashti is removed as Queen and in chapter 2 we learn of a decree that will gather all the young virgins, bring them before the King, and from them a new Queen would be chosen. Among these young virgins is our heroin, Esther.
We aren’t told how old Esther was when her parents died, but as an orphan, she was raised by her older cousin, Mordecai. At first glance, this seems like a minor detail that can be skimmed over. But, the fact is, the death of Esther’s parents is one of the first pieces to God’s providential plan. Had her parents lived, Esther would not have been with Mordecai when King Xerxes decreed for all young virgins to be gathered for his choosing and she would not have been in place “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).
We are told that many women were gathered for King Xerxes to choose from. But, from all the women, “Esther was winning favor in the eyes of all who saw her” (2:15). Perhaps Esther was just an extremely likable young woman, or perhaps God had softened hearts towards her in order for her to be chosen among the harem.
Starting in verse 19 of chapter 2, we read about Mordecai overhearing a plot to kill King Xerxes. Mordecai has (or is perhaps given by God) the wisdom and discernment to foil this plan. As was the custom of the day, this plan and the foiled outcome were recorded in the book of the chronicles in the presence of the King (2:23). Again, this might seem like a less important part of the overall story, but soon we’ll look at what happened in chapter 6 when God’s involvement is ever so clear.
Chapter 3 tells us that after these events, the King promoted a man named Haman, giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles. The king commanded that the servants who were at the king’s gate should bow down and pay homage to Haman, but Mordecai refused. This outraged Haman and he devised a plan to not only kill Mordecai, but his entire people group, all the Jews throughout the the whole kingdom of Xerxes. During the first month, the men cast lots in order to decide which month they would attack to annihilate the Jewish population. The lot fell on the twelfth month. Proverbs 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” Knowing this truth, it is easy to conclude that the Lord caused the lot to land on the twelfth month, allowing 11 months for deliverance to be worked out according to His plan.
Chapter 3:13 says, “Letters were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with instruction to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all Jews, young and old, women and children, in one day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.” This edict to annihilate the Jewish people was no surprise to God, nor was this something He had become aware of as it was happening. This was something God foreknew and had prepared the way for a victorious outcome.
Let’s go back to the book of the chronicles. Chapter 6 tells us that, “On that night the king could not sleep. And he gave orders to bring the book of memorable deeds, the chronicles, and they were read before the king.” We don’t know how many pages were in this book of chronicles or how many submissions there were to choose from. What we do know is that it was no coincidence that the chosen reading was none other than of Mordecai exposing the plot to assassinate the King. This is a beautiful reminder that God doesn’t always work in obvious ways, like parting the Red Sea, He also works in the common, easy to dismiss occurrences in our lives, like someone not being able to sleep.
Reading this submission from the book of the chronicles reminded the King that honor had not been bestowed on his faithful servant Mordecai for saving his life. The King invites Haman into his presence and asks a series of questions about how such a loyal servant should be honored. Haman thinks the King is speaking of him and gives a grand answer to how he would wish to be honored. Once it’s made known that the King is actually speaking of Mordecai, Haman returns home with his head covered in grief. 6:13 tells us that Haman’s wife and advisors said to him, “Since Mordecai is of Jewish origin, you cannot stand against him, you will surely come to ruin!” Though God’s name is not mentioned, He, His power and His redemptive work through the Jewish people is acknowledged.
But let’s not forget Esther! While all these other details are unfolding, Esther has found favor with King Xerxes and has been crowned as the new Queen (2:17). Chapter 4 tells us that when Mordecai learned of the plans to annihilate the Jewish population, he went to the King’s gate to mourn. He was then able to relay this information to Queen Esther through one of the King’s eunuchs, Hathach. Deeply grieved by Haman’s plans, Esther was persuaded by Mordecai to risk her own life in order to save the Jewish population in their territory.
Queen Esther bravely entered the court of King Xerxes without being summoned. If the King extended his scepter to Esther, she could approach the King. If he did not extend his scepter, she would be punished by death. We don’t get stressed as we read this, we assume the king will extend his scepter to her; afterall, this is the woman in whom he found favor and made Queen! But remember, Esther shows her own concern about this in 4:11, “All the king’s servants and the people of the king’s provinces know that if any man or woman goes to the king inside the inner court without being called, there is but one law - to be put to death, except the one to whom the king holds out the golden scepter so that he may live.”
We could easily say that our suspicions are correct and King Xerxes is pleased to extend his scepter to his new Queen. But, we could just as easily conclude that after the disrespect shown by Queen Vashti, that the king wouldn’t appreciate his new queen acting in a manner that was punishable by death. This thought leads me to believe that on this day, God softened the king’s heart towards Esther, causing him to extend his scepter in order that he might later hear Esther’s plea for the lives of the Jewish people.
In the end, Haman was hanged on the same gallows that he himself had prepared for Mordecai (8:7). Mordecai was honored (8:15) and Esther was given the signet ring from the King himself and given permission to write an edict in order to protect the Jews. (8:8)
Esther is fearful of approaching King Xerxes to plead for the Jewish people. If we look back to 4:14, Mordecai reminds her, “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?” Mordecai is certain the Jewish people will be saved, even if Esther does nothing. Through this statement, Mordecai not only shows he believes in God’s providence, but that he had an understanding of the Hebrew Scriptures. Mordecai knows that God has always promised to preserve the Jewish people. But this statement also implies that Mordecai recognized God moving in their current circumstances and that perhaps God would bring deliverance through Esther.
Mordecai was right. God’s plan would not have been foiled had Esther not pleaded for her people. But, Esther was obedient. While God’s name is not mentioned, it is clearly God’s wisdom and direction she sought during her three days of fasting before approaching the king (4:15-16). Through her obedience, a new edict was distributed allowing all Jewish people to defend themselves when attacked. Chapter 9 tells us that “on the very day when the enemies of the Jews hoped to gain the mastery over them, the reverse occurred: the Jews gained mastery over those who hated them. The Jews gathered in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Xerxes to lay hands on those who sought their harm. And no one could stand against them, for the fear of them had fallen on all peoples.”
God’s hand was in many more of the details than I mentioned here, but hopefully after reading these highlights, you can revisit the book of Esther and see for yourself the undeniable presence of God! This should also serve as a reminder that God is ever present and active in our lives today.
When facing tragedy, it’s easy to assume that God is just as shocked as we are. But the truth is nothing about our circumstances come as a surprise to Him. It’s easy to think that when we’re mistreated He isn’t paying attention. But the truth is none of the sins committed by us or against us go unnoticed by Him. It’s easy to look at places in our society where God isn’t allowed to be mentioned, such as our public schools, and assume God is absent. But just as we’ve seen in the book of Esther, God doesn’t have to be mentioned in order to be present.
Beth Ann Baus is a wife and homeschooling mom of two boys. She is a writer and blogger who pulls from her own experiences of abuse, anxiety, depression and Tourettic OCD. Beth is an advocate for women struggling with sexual sin and strives to encourage young wives and mothers by pointing them to the grace offered only by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You can read more about her at www.bethannbaus.com.
Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com
Publication date: October 26, 2016