Esther - Introduction
This book tells how Esther, a young Jewish girl, delivers the Jews in Persia when they are threatened with extermination by Haman, the chief minister of the Persian king. Esther, who has become queen, acts on the advice of her cousin, Mordecai, the principal object of Haman's anger. A complete reversal of positions results; Haman is hanged, Mordecai assumes his office, and the Jews massacre their enemies. To commemorate this victory, the annual feast of Purim is instituted.
Esther is often considered to have been written in the Persian period (538–333 B.C.E.), though some view it as much later, perhaps even in the Maccabean period. Although Persian customs are familiar to the author and details about the city of Susa and the palace are confirmed by archaeology, it is impossible to find historical confirmation of the events recounted. However, an official at Susa under King Xerxes I is named Marduka, which is close to Mordecai. In the Hebrew Bible, Esther is the last of the five Megilloth, or Scrolls, for reading at the great festivals; it is read on Purim.
Although God's name is not mentioned, there is an obvious implicit trust in divine guidance, as 4.13–17 makes clear. Because religious themes are not explicitly stressed, some ancient rabbis opposed the book's reception into Scripture. In the Greek some additions are found which modify the secular tone of the Hebrew; see “The Rest of the Chapters of the Book of Esther” in the Apocrypha.