free web hit counter Overview of the book of Esther


Title & Time Period

The Book of Esther is named after one of its central figures, a Jewish orphan girl living in the capital city of the Persian empire, whose Hebrew name was Hadassah. Similar to Daniel and his friends, Hadassah was given the Persian name Esther, by which she is best known to readers of the Old Testament. In the Hebrew Bible, the Book of Esther appears as the last book of the last section, among what is called the Megilloth (Five Scrolls), and it is considered by many Jews to be very important in the history of their people.

The events of the book took place at the Persian capital city of Susa during the reign of Ahasuerus: “Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus (this was the Ahasuerus who reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from India to Ethiopia)” (Esther 1:1). The title Ahasuerus is a general one, the Hebrew equivalent to the Greek word Xerxes, and because of this there has been some debate as to which of the Persian kings is the Ahasuerus of the Book of Esther. Most commonly, the Ahasuerus of Esther is taken to be Xerxes who ruled Persia from 486-465 B.C.

The Holy Writer & Time of Writing

The Book of Esther does not indicate who the holy writer was. While the identity of the writer is unknown, it is apparent from the book that the writer was an eyewitness of the events which are depicted in the book. There is a large amount of detail given to decorations in the king’s palace (1:5-7); there is mention of certain Persian customs of the day (1:13; 2:12), and to the governing bodies throughout the Persian kingdom (3:12; 8:9); and reference is given to Persian court records (2:23; 6:1; 10:2). Some have pointed to Mordecai as the writer based on 9:20, “And Mordecai wrote these things...”, but that is by no means conclusive, and is once again a reminder to us that knowledge of who the writer was is not necessary.


The Book opens with king Ahasuerus giving a banquet to display the greatness of his wealth and kingdom. During this banquet the king asks the queen to display herself for his guests. When she refuses, the king’s advisors suggest that she be replaced. A “beauty contest” is then held to determine who the next queen would be. Esther, a foster child of Mordecai wins the favor of the king and is crowned queen. During this time Mordecai discovers a plot against the king’s life and reports it so that the king’s life is spared.

Later, a man named Haman is elevated to a high position in the kingdom, but Mordecai refuses to bow to him. When Haman finds out Mordecai is a Jew, he plots to have all the Jews killed, and talks the king into allowing it. Mordecai persuades Esther to come to the aid of her people. Esther risks her life by going to the king uninvited, and there invites the king and Haman to a banquet. At the banquet Esther pleads for her people and reveals that it is her people that Haman has plotted to destroy. The king is so upset the he has Haman hung on the same gallows that Haman had built to hang Mordecai on.

Since the law of the Persians and Medes could not be revoked, the king issued a new law permitting the Jews to defend themselves against those who would try to harm them. Following this day, the feast of Purim is established to celebrate the deliverance of the Jews. Mordecai is exalted to the highest ranking official in Persia, second only to the king himself.


In the Book of Esther we learn how God used a young woman to save her people from destruction. In this way God preserved His people so that they could return to the promised land and await the birth of the Savior of the world. This book records how the Feast of Purim, a feast which is still celebrated by Jews today, came to be observed. More importantly for Christians today, it also serves to remind us of the providence of the LORD as He watches over and controls History for the welfare of His people and in the interest of the salvation of souls.

As you read through the book of Esther, you may notice that the name of God is never mentioned in the book. This has caused many people (Jews and Gentiles alike) to question the authenticity of the book. Many additions were put into the book of Esther over the years with the intent of making it look more religious in nature. These later additions can still be found in Roman Catholic versions of the Bible and in the Apocrypha. Yet the hand of the LORD is clearly seen throughout the book, directing the course of events to save His people.

The words of Mordecai to Esther have been used as the theme of the book, “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (4:14). The Book of Esther is so meaningful to us today because it reminds us that God also works among us at this time in history.

Many Christians can relate to the way God worked in the Book of Esther, because it is similar to how He works among us today. While many of the Old Testament books demonstrate God’s power through a pillar of fire or various miracles through His servants, here He shows how He works silently through common believers as well. Today God works much the same way, silently through us as individuals. But the power and the result is the same. God continues to work through His people and bring about His will for His people, regardless of the current political situation at the time, fulfilling His promise that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).


I. The LORD placed Esther in the Persian Court to Serve. (1-4)

II. The LORD placed Esther in the Persian Court to Save. (5-10)

Note: This study was prepared for the Bible Class at Zion Lutheran Church, Lawrenceville, GA by Pastor Nathanael Mayhew