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Book of Esther

General Information

Esther is a book in the Old Testament of the Bible. It recounts the deliverance of the Jews from persecution in the Persian Empire, a deliverance accomplished by the timely actions of two Jewish members of the foreign court: Queen Esther and her cousin and foster father, Mordecai. Popular tales from Persian times about a recalcitrant native queen, a Jewess who became queen of a foreign nation, and deadly rivalry among courtiers were worked into the account. The book was intended to strengthen Jews under persecution during the Maccabean wars and, in particular, to authorize celebration in Palestine of the Feast of Purim, otherwise unknown in the Old Testament. Jews in the Diaspora may earlier have observed this festival of deliverance from foreign persecutors.

The anti - Semitic temper, the murder of many Gentiles, and the apparently forced conversion of others described in the book indicate that it was written during the reign of John Hyrcanus, the Hasmonean Jewish king (c.135 - 105 BC; see Maccabees). The absence of the name of God, which led to religiously motivated additions of 107 verses to the Greek version of the book (forming a separate book in the Apocrypha), may be the result of wisdom influence or of a secularizing trend in the Hasmonean circles that introduced the Feast of Purim to Palestine.

Norman K Gottwald

Book of Esther

Brief Outline

  1. Esther becomes queen (1-2:17)
  2. Jewish danger (2:18-3:15)
  3. Jews saved (4-10)

The Apocrypha includes several insertions into this Book.


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