Search for page by title (auto-completes)
Advanced search
Translate into

The Bible

OT Overview

NT Overview

OT Books

NT Books

OT History

NT History

OT Studies

Pentateuch Studies

History Books Studies

Studies in the Prophets

NT Studies

Studies in the Gospels

Acts and Letters Studies

Revelation Studies

Inductive Study

Types of Literature


Early Church

British Museum


Historical Documents

Life Questions

How to Preach


SBS Staff

Advanced Search
Search for word or phrase within each page
Search by OT book and chapter
Search by NT book and chapter

Introduction to the Book of Esther

Julian Spriggs M.A.

Related articles

The Persian Empire Post-exilic chronology

Historical background

There were three returns from exile in Babylon

536 BC First return led by Zerubbabel Temple rebuilt
457 BC Second return led by Ezra Reforms
444 BC Third return led by Nehemiah Walls rebuilt

Chronology of Esther

539 Fall of Babylon & decree of Cyrus, Jews allowed to return
536 First return led by Zerubbabel, Temple started. Altar built, sacrifices within ruins of temple
535 Temple reconstruction started, then stopped
520 Haggai and Zechariah encourage temple building
516 Temple completed
482 Vashti deposed
478 Esther became queen
473 Jews saved by Esther
457 Second return led by Ezra
444 Third return led by Nehemiah

Position of Esther in Hebrew Bible

The Hebrew Bible has three parts: the law, prophets and writings. Esther is in the Writings (Hagiographa), the third part of Hebrew scriptures. The Writings also had three parts

Book of truth Psalms, Job, Proverbs
Megilloth Song of Solomon, Ruth, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Lamentations
Historical books Daniel, Ezra/Nehemiah, Chronicles

Esther was in the Megilloth, which consisted of five scrolls, used in Hebrew worship. Each scroll was connected with one of the Jewish festivals

Song of Solomon (canticles) Passover
Ruth Pentecost
Ecclesiastes Tabernacles
Esther Purim
Lamentations Destruction of Jerusalem

Greek additions to the book of Esther

The version of Esther in the Hebrew Bible has 163 verses, but in the Greek translation, there are an extra 107 verses, making a total of 270 verses. The extra verses were added when Greek Septuagint (LXX) translation was made. A footnote to addition F dates the translation into Greek in the fourth year Ptolemy & Cleopatra (114 BC). In the Latin Vulgate translation, all the extra sections were collected together at the end of the book, and at the Reformation they were removed to the Apocrypha.

Addition LXX & Apocrypha Vulgate
A. Dream of Mordeca Prologue 11:2 - 12:6
B. Edict of Artaxerxes against Jews after 3:13 13:1-7
C. Prayers of Mordecai and Esther after 4:17 13:8 - 14:9
D. Esther before King Xerxes after 4:17 15:1-16
E. The Edict of Defence after 8:12 16:1-24
F. Meaning of Mordecai’s dream after 10:3 10:4 - 11:1

Main characters

Ahasuerus - King of Persia

In Greek, his name is Xerxes, normally identified as Xerxes I (485-465). In the Septuagint (LXX) he is called Artaxerxes, which is probably not correct. Herodotus, the Persian historian describes Ahasuerus as an ambitious, bold warrior with vision and confidence, but suffering from superstitious fears. He often sought advice from others and followed it, and was known for his exploits with women.

His court was at Susa (200 miles east of Babylon), the winter residence of the Persian kings, the ancient capital of Elam, a beautiful palace complex has been dug up by archaeologists, much gold, colour and marble. The throne room, harem and garden have all been identified from the ruins. Even one of the dice for casting lots has been found.

In 484 BC, his second year, he attacked Egypt and subjugated it

In 483 BC, his third year, he called an assembly together to consider a military expedition against Greece. This was probably the great feast of Esther (ch 1). He deposed Vashti before he left.

From 483 to 480 he made a disastrous invasion of Greece, which was a great failure. Battles of Thermopylae and Salamis in 480 BC. His sons accompanied him on this trip (from a previous marriage before Esther). He married Esther on his return.

This accounts for the chronological gap in the book
1:3 third year of reign (483) - the banquet and Vashti's refusal
2:16 seventh year of reign (478) - king marries Esther

Herodotus says that the unhappy king consoled himself with members of his harem on his return from battle against Greece. This would match the period when Esther was chosen to be queen (2:16ff)

Ahasuerus is also mentioned in Ezra 4:6. This part of the book is later than the rest of Ezra as an example of opposition to the rebuilding of the walls.

Esther - the heroine of the story

Esther was the orphaned cousin of Mordecai. Her name in Hebrew was 'Hadassah' (2:7), which means 'myrtle'. Her Persian name was Esther, either from the Babylonian goddess Isthar, or from 'Sitar', meaning 'star'. The use of her Persian name helped keep her Jewish nationality secret. Esther's son was probably king Artaxerxes I, Esther may be the queen referred to in Neh 2:6.

Herodotus describes Xerxes's wife as being Amestris (7:61), the daughter of a Persian general renowned for her cruelty, who accompanied the king on the campaign to Greece. He divorced her because she attacked the mother of one of the king's mistresses and nearly started a revolution. This could be a discrepancy, but there are three possible ways of explaining it:

The first is that Amestris is Esther, the names sound similar. However the son of Amestris and Xerxes (Artaxerxes I) was born before 483 BC and accompanied the king on the battle against Greece. He must have been born at least twenty years before Esther became queen. The second is that Amestris is Vashti. This is more possible, but Amestris went to Greece after the events of chapter one, when Vashti was deposed. The third, and most likely suggestion, is that the king had more than one wife. Amestris was not described as a queen by Herodotus so probably, Vashti, then Esther, were queens, and Amestris was the concubine currently in favour.

Herodotus also wrote that the wife of the king was required to be chosen from one of the seven noble families (3:84). These are the seven princes of the Medes and Persians (1:14). Ahasuerus seemed to have quite a reputation with women, so this regulation was almost certainly ignored.

Mordecai - the hero of the story

Mordecai was great-grandson of Kish. He was a Benjamite, the same tribe as Saul. Someone called Kish had been taken to exile with king Jeconiah (Jehoiachin) in 597 BC (2:6). This was 124 years earlier, so could have been Mordecai's great-grandfather.

Some inscriptions from Persia mention a certain Markukaya (a Babylonian name similar to Mordecai) who was a high official in the royal court of Susa during the reign of Xerxes I. There is another Mordecai mentioned in Ezra 2:2 and Neh 7:7, one of the leaders of the exiles who returned with Zerubbabel in 536 BC. He is also mentioned in 1 Esdras 5:8.

Haman - the villain of the story

He was a very superstitous man, chosing the day of the massacre of the Jews by casting lots to find a 'lucky day' (3:7). He is described as an Agagite (3:1). This could possibly mean that he was a descendent of king Agag of the Amalekites, spared by Saul in disobedience to God (1 Sam 15:9). If that is true, then this story is a continuation of the conflict with the Amalekites started in Ex 17. Josephus describes Haman as an Amalekite. Otherwise Agag may describe a district in the Persian empire, which is mentioned in an Assyrian inscription of Sargon. Haman's father's name Hammedatha is a Persian name.

The Feast of Purim - 13-15th Adar

In Jewish synagogues the book of Esther is read during this feast, there are boos and shouts from the congregation when Haman's name is mentioned. The word 'pur' (Est 3:7, 9:24,26) means 'lot'. It is not a Hebrew word, but is from the Assyrian 'Puru', meaning 'pebble', which were used for casting lots.

The feast of Purim is not mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. After the Maccabean revolt, a decree was made to celebrate Judas Maccabeaus defeating Nicanor on 13th of 12th month (Adar) in 161 BC. This was the day before Mordecai's day, or Purim, on 14th Adar (2 Macc 15:36). In the parallel passage in 1 Maccabees, Nicanor's day was on 13th Adar, but Purim is not mentioned (1 Macc 7:49). Josephus wrote that Nicanor's day was on 13th Adar, and Purim on 14th Adar. After the seventh century AD, Nicanor's day not celebrated, and 13th Adar became part of Purim:
13th - day of fasting (Esther's fast)
14-15th - days of feasting


The author is unknown, but could perhaps be Mordecai himself (9:20, 32). Much of the material was written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Media and Persia (10:2, 6:1). This would explain the omission of the name of God and prayer, although God's influence is alluded to.

Date of writing

The book must have been written sometime shortly after the end of the reign of Ahasuerus, after 465 BC, as his reign is referred to in the past tense (1:1).

Theology of the book of Esther

Although God’s name is never mentioned, there is a veiled reference to God (4:14), and others places. Although fasting is mentioned, there is no mention of prayer, worship or praise. The Greek translators added passages to make God's work more explicit: guidance by dreams, prayers and prayers answered, giving it an increased religious content. Other people excluded it from the canon, even though it was (always accepted in Hebrew canon and by Josephus. Luther rejected it as being too Jewish. Others ignored it. No Christian commentary was written on it until the seventh century.

This book has great significance to Jews, as it describes the origin and reason for the Feast of Purim, but what significance does it have to us today? It gives assurance of God's protection over his people, however severe the threat to their existence, as well as demonstrating that God directs events even when unseen and unmentioned.

Esther shows us two conflicting world views: Haman represents the atheist, believing in fate and chance, someone who uses power to his own ends, being petty minded and self-important. Mordecai represents someone who takes initiative, but is involved in the pattern of history that God is directing. Esther becoming queen was not a random chance event, but this was through the work of God, the unseen ruler of world affairs (4:14)


Esther has a chiastic structure set around the turning point of the king's sleepless night (6:1)

A. Power of Ahasuerus (1:1-3)

    B. Ahasuerus's feast (1:4-6)

        C. Ring given to Haman (3:10)
        C. First decree of king - to destroy Jews (3:14)

            D. Esther's first banquet, Haman builds gallows (ch 5)

               E. King's sleepless night (6:1) TURNING POINT

            D. Esther's second banquet, Haman swings from gallows (ch 7)

        C. Ring given to Mordecai (8:2)
        C. Second decree of king - Jews to defend themselves (8:13)

    B. Jews' feast of Purim (ch 9)

A. Power of Mordecai (ch 10)

Related articles

The Persian Empire Post-exilic chronology

The Bible

Pages which look at issues relevant to the whole Bible, such as the Canon of Scripture, as well as doctrinal and theological issues. There are also pages about the Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha and 'lost books' of the Old Testament.

Also included are lists of the quotations of the OT in the NT, and passages of the OT quoted in the NT.

Why These 66 Books?
Books in the Hebrew Scriptures
Quotations in NT From OT
OT Passages Quoted in NT
History of the English Bible
Twelve Books of the Apocrypha
The Pseudepigrapha - False Writings
Lost Books Referenced in OT

Old Testament Overview

This is a series of six pages which give a historical overview through the Old Testament and the inter-testamental period, showing where each OT book fits into the history of Israel.

OT 1: Creation and Patriarchs
OT 2: Exodus and Wilderness
OT 3: Conquest and Monarchy
OT 4: Divided kingdom and Exile
OT 5: Return from Exile
OT 6: 400 Silent Years

New Testament Overview

This is a series of five pages which give a historical overview through the New Testament, focusing on the Ministry of Jesus, Paul's missionary journeys, and the later first century. Again, it shows where each book of the NT fits into the history of the first century.

NT 1: Life and Ministry of Jesus
NT 2: Birth of the Church
NT 3: Paul's Missionary Journeys
NT 4: Paul's Imprisonment
NT 5: John and Later NT

Introductions to Old Testament Books

This is an almost complete collection of introductions to each of the books in the Old Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Genesis Exodus Leviticus
Numbers Deuteronomy

Joshua Judges Ruth
1 & 2 Samuel 1 & 2 Kings Chronicles
Ezra & Nehemiah Esther

Job Psalms Proverbs

Isaiah Jeremiah Lamentations
Ezekiel Daniel

Hosea Joel Amos
Obadiah Jonah Micah
Nahum Habakkuk Zephaniah
Haggai Zechariah Malachi

Introductions to New Testament Books

This is a collection of introductions to each of the 27 books in the New Testament. Each contains information about the authorship, date, historical setting and main themes of the book.

Matthew's Gospel Mark's Gospel Luke's Gospel
John's Gospel

Book of Acts

Romans 1 Corinthians 2 Corinthians
Galatians Ephesians Philippians
Colossians 1 & 2 Thessalonians 1 Timothy
2 Timothy Titus Philemon

Hebrews James 1 Peter
2 Peter 1 John 2 & 3 John


Old Testament History

Information about the different nations surrounding Israel, and other articles concerning Old Testament history and the inter-testamental period.

Canaanite Religion
Israel's Enemies During the Conquest
Syria / Aram
The Assyrian Empire
Babylon and its History
The Persian Empire
The Greek Empire
The 400 Silent Years
The Ptolemies and Seleucids
Antiochus IV - Epiphanes

Old Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for OT studies. These include a list of the people named in the OT and confirmed by archaeology. There are also pages to convert the different units of measure in the OT, such as the talent, cubit and ephah into modern units.

More theological topics include warfare in the ancient world, the Holy Spirit in the OT, and types of Jesus in the OT.

OT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Jewish Calendar
The Importance of Paradox
Talent Converter (weights)
Cubit Converter (lengths)
OT People Search
Ephah Converter (volumes)
Holy War in the Ancient World
The Holy Spirit in the OT
Types of Jesus in the OT

Studies in the Pentateuch (Gen - Deut)

A series of articles covering studies in the five books of Moses. Studies in the Book of Genesis look at the historical nature of the early chapters of Genesis, the Tower of Babel and the Table of the Nations.

There are also pages about covenants, the sacrifices and offerings, the Jewish festivals and the tabernacle, as well as the issue of tithing.

Are chapters 1-11 of Genesis historical?
Chronology of the Flood
Genealogies of the Patriarchs
Table of the Nations (Gen 10)
Tower of Babel (Gen 11:1-9)

Authorship of the Pentateuch
Chronology of the Wilderness Years
Names of God in the OT
Covenants in the OT
The Ten Commandments
The Tabernacle and its Theology
Sacrifices and Offerings
The Jewish Festivals
Balaam and Balak
Highlights from Deuteronomy
Overview of Deuteronomy

Studies in the Old Testament History Books (Josh - Esther)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the history books. These include a list of the dates of the kings of Israel and Judah, a summary of the kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and studies of Solomon, Jeroboam and Josiah.

There are also pages describing some of the historical events of the period, including the Syro-Ephraimite War, and the Assyrian invasion of Judah in 701 BC.

Dates of the Kings of Judah and Israel
King Solomon
The Kings of Israel
King Jeroboam I of Israel
The Syro-Ephraimite War (735 BC)
Sennacherib's Invasion of Judah (701 BC)
King Josiah of Judah
Differences Between Kings and Chronicles
Chronology of the post-exilic period

Studies in the Old Testament Prophets (Is - Mal)

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the OT prophets. These include a page looking at the way the prophets look ahead into their future, a page looking at the question of whether Satan is a fallen angel, and a page studying the seventy weeks of Daniel.

There are also a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of two of the books:
Isaiah (13 pages) and Daniel (10 pages).

Prophets and the Future
The Call of Jeremiah (Jer 1)
The Fall of Satan? (Is 14, Ezek 28)
Daniel Commentary (10 pages)
Isaiah Commentary (13 pages)
Formation of the Book of Jeremiah

Daniel's Seventy Weeks (Dan 9:24-27)

New Testament Studies

A series of articles covering more general topics for NT studies. These include a list of the people in the NT confirmed by archaeology.

More theological topics include the Kingdom of God and the Coming of Christ.

NT People Confirmed by Archaeology
The Kingdom of God / Heaven
Parousia (Coming of Christ)
The Importance of Paradox

Studies in the Four Gospels (Matt - John)

A series of articles covering various studies in the four gospels. These include a list of the unique passages in each of the Synoptic Gospels and helpful information about the parables and how to interpret them.

Some articles look at the life and ministry of Jesus, including his genealogy, birth narratives, transfiguration, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, and the seating arrangements at the Last Supper.

More theological topics include the teaching about the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete and whether John the Baptist fulfilled the predictions of the coming of Elijah.

Unique Passages in the Synoptic Gospels
The SynopticProblem
Genealogy of Jesus (Matt 1)
Birth Narratives of Jesus
Understanding the Parables
Peter's Confession and the Transfiguration
Was John the Baptist Elijah?
The Triumphal Entry
The Olivet Discourse (Mark 13)
Important themes in John's Gospel
John's Gospel Prologue (John 1)
Jesus Fulfilling Jewish Festivals
Reclining at Table at the Last Supper
The Holy Spirit as the Paraclete

Studies in the Book of Acts and the New Testament Letters

A series of articles covering various studies in the Book of Acts and the Letters, including Paul's letters. These include a page studying the messages given by the apostles in the Book of Acts, and the information about the financial collection that Paul made during his third missionary journey. More theological topics include Paul's teaching on Jesus as the last Adam, and descriptions of the church such as the body of Christ and the temple, as well as a look at redemption and the issue of fallen angels.

There are a series of pages giving a commentary through the text of five of the books:
Romans (7 pages), 1 Corinthians (7 pages), Galatians (3 pages), Philemon (1 page) and Hebrews (7 pages)

Apostolic Messages in the Book of Acts
Paul and His Apostleship
Collection for the Saints
The Church Described as a Temple
Church as the Body of Christ
Jesus as the Last Adam
Food Offered to Idols
Paul's Teaching on Headcoverings
Who are the Fallen Angels
The Meaning of Redemption
What is the Church?
Paul and the Greek Games

Romans Commentary (7 pages)

1 Corinthians Commentary (7 pages)

Galatians Commentary (3 pages)

Philemon Commentary (1 page)

Hebrews Commentary (7 pages)

Studies in the Book of Revelation

Articles containing studies and helpful information for the study of the Book of Revelation and topics concerning Eschatology (the study of end-times).

These include a description of the structure of the book, a comparison and contrast between the good and evil characters in the book and a list of the many allusions to the OT. For the seven churches, there is a page which gives links to their location on Google maps.

There is a page studying the important theme of Jesus as the Lamb, which forms the central theological truth of the book. There are pages looking at the major views of the Millennium, as well as the rapture and tribulation, as well as a list of dates of the second coming that have been mistakenly predicted through history.

There is also a series of ten pages giving a detailed commentry through the text of the Book of Revelation.

Introduction to the Book of Revelation
Characters Introduced in the Book
Structure of Revelation
List of Allusions to OT
The Description of Jesus as the Lamb
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
The Nero Redivius Myth
The Millennium (1000 years)
The Rapture and the Tribulation
Different Approaches to Revelation
Predicted Dates of the Second Coming

Revelation Commentary (10 pages)

How to do Inductive Bible Study

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study the Bible inductively, by asking a series of simple questions. There are lists of observation and interpretation questions, as well as information about the structure and historical background of biblical books, as well as a list of the different types of figures of speech used in the Bible. There is also a page giving helpful tips on how to apply the Scriptures personally.

How to Study the Bible Inductively
I. The Inductive Study Method
II. Observation Questions
III. Interpretation Questions
IV. Structure of Books
V. Determining the Historical background
VI. Identifying Figures of Speech
VII. Personal Application
VIII. Text Layout

Types of Literature in the Bible

These are a series of pages giving practical help showing how to study each of the different types of book in the Bible by appreciating the type of literature being used. These include historical narrative, law, wisdom, prophets, Gospels, Acts, letters and Revelation.

It is most important that when reading the Bible we are taking note of the type of literature we are reading. Each type needs to be considered and interpreted differently as they have different purposes.

How to Understand OT Narratives
How to Understand OT Law
Hebrew Poetry
OT Wisdom Literature
Understanding the OT Prophets
The Four Gospels
The Parables of Jesus
The Book of Acts
How to Understand the NT Letters
Studying End Times (Eschatology)
The Book of Revelation

Geography and Archaeology

These are a series of pages giving geographical and archaeological information relevant to the study of the Bible. There is a page where you can search for a particular geographical location and locate it on Google maps, as well as viewing photographs on other sites.

There are also pages with photographs from Ephesus and Corinth.

Search for Geographical Locations
Major Archaeological Sites in Israel
Archaeological Sites in Assyria, Babylon and Persia
Virtual Paul's Missionary Journeys
Virtual Seven Churches of Revelation
Photos of the City of Corinth
Photos of the City of Ephesus

Biblical Archaeology in Museums around the world

A page with a facility to search for artifacts held in museums around the world which have a connection with the Bible. These give information about each artifact, as well as links to the museum's collection website where available showing high resolution photographs of the artifact.

There is also page of photographs from the Israel Museum in Jerusalem of important artifacts.

Search Museums for Biblical Archaeology
Israel Museum Photos

Difficult Theological and Ethical Questions

These are a series of pages looking at some of the more difficult questions of Christian theology, including war, suffering, disappointment and what happens to those who have never heard the Gospel.

Christian Ethics
Never Heard the Gospel
Is there Ever a Just War?
Why Does God Allow Suffering
Handling Disappointment

How to Preach

These are a series of pages giving a practical step-by-step explanation of the process of preparing a message for preaching, and how to lead a small group Bible study.

What is Preaching?
I. Two Approaches to Preaching
II. Study a Passage for Preaching
III. Creating a Message Outline
IV. Making Preaching Relevant
V. Presentation and Public Speaking
VI. Preaching Feedback and Critique
Leading a Small Group Bible Study

Information for SBS staff members

Two pages particularly relevant for people serving as staff on the School of Biblical Studies (SBS) in YWAM. One gives helpful instruction about how to prepare to teach on a book in the SBS. The other gives a list of recommended topics which can be taught about for each book of the Bible.

Teaching on SBS Book Topics for SBS