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Esther -- 7:36 - 7:43

The book of Esther is, during the period of the Exile, what Ruth was in the time of the Judges:  a personal drama of a woman's faith and marriage amidst unfavorable historical events.  In a sense, Esther is Ruth in reverse, for where Ruth came from among foreigners and joined herself to Israel, Esther joined the Gentiles by marrying the King of Persia.  It is instructive that the same faith led both women in different directions.


In the Jewish canon, Esther and Ruth are both part of the Ketuvim (Writings).  As with most other Biblical books from the Exilic and post-Exilic period, there is considerable scholarly controversy about the date of writing and the historicity of the events covered in the book.  The opinion that the book was a work of fiction, a pious historical romance, received a jolt when a cuneiform inscription was discovered bearing the name of one of Xerxes' officials -- Marduka , a possible variant of Mordecai (Intl Standard Bible Encyc, vol 2, 1987, p. 159).  Similarly, the familiarity with Persian government and customs, and the absence of any Greek loan words, suggest a date of authorship prior to the defeat of Persia by Alexander the Great in 331 BC (ISBE, p. 158).  


One of the primary consequences of the book was to establish the annual celebration of Purim (in March).  This festival has been a popular family observance among Jews since at least the time of Josephus (1st Century).  


Esther's experience of exile was different than that of Ezekiel and Daniel.  She lived a century later, when Persia had succeeded Babylon.  She never knew Jerusalem, since she was born in Persia.   The Book of Esther begins in the 3rd year of Xerxes' reign (most likely) -- 482 BC. By this time, the first return of the Exiles from Babylon had occurred and the Temple had been rebuilt (see the Book of Ezra). However, Ezra himself had not yet left Babylon for Judah, and Nehemiah emigrated even later.


Like Daniel, this book addresses the question of the place of the Jews in  a hostile alien culture.  Issues of assimilation, identity, persecution and steadfastness are covered, not by teaching but by example.

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