Jun 13, 2014

The Purpose of the Book of Esther

The purpose of Esther seems twofold. On a theological level, it serves to remind the reader of God’s providence and sovereignty. This message would be particularly appropriate for a post-exilic Israel still wrestling with their covenantal relationship with the Lord, a relationship that had been strained but not broken. Some would dispute this purpose since the book is not overtly religious. Furthermore, it is common knowledge that Esther is the only book in the Bible in which the name of God is not mentioned and one of only a handful of Old Testament books not quoted in the New Testament. Nonetheless, its place in the canon insures that it has spiritual value (cf. 2 Tim 3:16) and its focus on the preservation of God’s chosen nation Israel has implications for the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants, and therefore, for the Messiah himself. On a historical level, Esther serves to provide an explanation for the origin of the Feast of Purim.[1] Most commentators agree with this purpose although some would deny the historical veracity of this account.[2]

[1] Huey notes that, “Many exegetes take the position that the major purpose of the Book of Esther was to explain the historical origin of Purim, to justify its celebration (since it is not mentioned in the Torah), and to regulate its manner of observance”( F.B. Huey, “Esther,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 4, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988], 779).
[2] Ironically, “Purim is not central to the narrative” (Sandra Beth Berg, The Book of Esther: Motifs, Themes, and Structure, Society of Biblical Literature and Dissertation Series 44 [Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1979], 3). Similarly Edwin Yamauchi has observed “It is mentioned only in Esther 9:28-32 with allusions to it in 3:7 and 9:24” (“The Archaeological Background of Esther,” Bibliotheca Sacra 137 [April-June 1980], 101).

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