How the Book of Esther is Unique in the Bible
The idea that there is a book in the Old Testament that does not contain the word “Jehovah” would be puzzling to the average person. How can the name of God not appear in the Bible, and how can such a book be recognized as the Bible?
However, even if the name Jehovah does not appear, it must be Jehovah who is behind the history recorded in the book. The book is Esther, which is related to Persian history. The name Esther means star.
Persia as a backdrop for the Book of Esther
Esther was the daughter of Abihail, originally from the tribe of Benjamin in Israel. One of Abihail’s nephews was named Mordecai, and when Abihail died, he took Esther in as his foster daughter and raised her. Abihail and Mordecai were captured together when Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, invaded Jerusalem and took the Jews captive.
When the Persian Empire rose up to defeat Babylon and return the Jewish captives to their homeland, Jews like Mordecai remained in the Babylonian region.
The name Persia comes from “Fars”, the former name of the southwestern province of Iran. Around 815 B.C., a tribe of Iranians traveled south from Lake Urmia across the Zagros Mountains and settled in Parsumash, northeast of Susa. Around 700 BC, Achaemenes rose to power and became the founder of the Achaemenid dynasty. His grandson, Cyrus II, captured the Median capital of Ekbatana in 550 BC and succeeded in founding the Persian Empire.
In 538 B.C., he captured Babylon without bloodshed, freed the Jews held captive in Babylon, returned them to their homeland, and authorized the rebuilding of the temple of Jehovah. As such, it was the policy of the Persian dynasty not to interfere with the religions or practices of the various peoples within the empire. The national religion of Persia was Zoroastrianism, whose chief deity was Ahura Mazda.
After several rebellions, Darius I stabilized the country and expanded its territory to the northwest of India. He divided the country into 20 provinces, each with its own ministerial satrap, who imposed taxes and military service, the “Eye of the King” to monitor their actions and liaise with the center, and the “Ear of the King” to advise them.
Darius I’s son, Xerxes I, wielded great power and enjoyed great wealth based on his father’s accomplishments. Xerxes I is the King Ahasuerus of the book of Esther. Ahasuerus ruled over the entire land from India to the Goose, or northern Sudan in Africa, divided into 127 degrees.
Vashti, the queen who defied the king’s orders and was exiled
On his third anniversary, Ahasuerus celebrated for 180 days with a great feast, showing off the greatness of the Persian Empire to all. In the last seven days, he opened the royal courtyard for the people of the capital city of Susa to eat, drink, and be merry. White-green-blue insignia were tied to the silver rings of marble pillars with purple ropes, and chairs of gold and silver were placed on the ground, which was paved with granite, white stone, mica stone, and black stone. The people drank from golden goblets of various colors and filled their stomachs with food from an inexhaustible supply.
At this time, the queen, Vashti, also made a feast for her women in the royal palace. On the seventh day, Ahasuerus commanded his eunuchs to bring the queen to him, crowned and dressed in splendor. The king wanted to show off her beauty in front of the ministers, princes, and people he had invited.
But the queen, Vashti, would not listen to the king’s orders from the eunuchs. If the king himself had come and taken her away, she might have complied, but when the eunuchs came to take her away, her pride was hurt. Above all, he must have hated being the center of attention.
The king was furious with her for not listening to him, so he called together seven of his advisors to discuss how to handle the matter. In other words, the queen’s impeachment trial was held. In, the names of the seven counselors are listed in detail, signifying their participation in such an important historical decision.
Menucan, the head of the entourage, speaks up in favor of the queen’s impeachment.
“According to the law, what is to be done to Queen Vashti, because she has not performed the command of King Ahasuerus delivered by the eunuchs?” 16 Then Memucan said in the presence of the king and the officials, “Not only against the king has Queen Vashti done wrong, but also against all the officials and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. 17 For the queen’s behavior will be made known to all women, causing them to look at their husbands with contempt,[c] since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.’ 18 This very day the noble women of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s behavior will say the same to all the king’s officials, and there will be contempt and wrath in plenty. 19 If it please the king, let a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so that it may not be repealed, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus. And let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. 20 So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, for it is vast, all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.”Esther 1:15~20, NIV
So the queen, Vashti, was impeached and driven out because she had once failed to answer the king’s call. The queen was in a position of great influence over all the people, so even a seemingly minor offense was grounds for impeachment.
Esther is chosen as the new queen
A new queen was then elected. Officials from all over the country selected beautiful maidens from their provinces and sent them to Hegai, the eunuch in charge of the court ladies of Susa the citadel. Esther, Mordecai’s adopted daughter, was also chosen as a candidate for queen and brought into the palace. The eunuch Hegai looked especially favorably on Esther among the young maidens who came from all the provinces, and he granted her many favors.
The virgins spent twelve months under Hegai’s tutelage purifying their bodies. In today’s terms, they took care of their skin and bodies. For the first six months, they used myrrh oil, and for the remaining six months, they used other perfumes. Even back then, there were step-by-step instructions on how to care for a woman’s skin to make it glow.
After twelve months of training and grooming, the virgins went to the king one by one. It is said that they went to the king in the evening and returned in the morning, so we can safely assume what happened between that evening and morning.
The virgins who were candidates for Ahasuerus’ queen would also have received sufficient sexual education before entering the king’s bedchamber so that they would not be confused. After returning from the king’s bedchamber in the morning, the queen candidates were placed under the charge of the eunuch Shaashgaz to await their acceptance.
After all these procedures, Esther was chosen to be queen and help her fellow Jews.