Thursday, October 13, 2011

God in the Book of Esther?

Which book in the Old Testament does not mention the name of God? Esther

Many have questioned whether the book of Esther should be included n the Bible. Of all the books of the Old Testament, it was the only one not found amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls. Esther is the story of a woman who plays political power games, uses her feminine wiles and conceals her faith and heritage. She even abandons her Jewish name, Hadassah, in favor of the Persian name by which she is remembered (Esther 2:7).

Esther is also the only one of the Bible’s 66 books that does not directly reference the name of God. In contrast the king of Persia, Ahasuerus, is mentioned 29 times by name in the book. Some have claimed that though the name of God does not appear as a single word in the book, it is encoded into the text as the first letters of four consecutive words in Esther 5:4 reveal the Tetragrammaton, the name of God (יבוא המלך והמן היום).

Not only is God not mentioned in Esther, neither is prayer. The titular character never mentions God nor is said to have prayed throughout any of her trials.

Regarding the absence of God’s name, Jon D. Levenson (b. 1949) summarizes:

Though various explanations to mitigate this anomaly have been proposed, they are all apologetic and unconvincing. As a result, many scholars have pronounced the book to be irredeemably secular. Cornhill, for example, terms it “an entirely profane history” and Bernhard Anderson finds it a “ complete indifference to God.” (Levenson, Esther: A Commentary (Old Testament Library), 17)
Do you feel that the absence of the name of God and the book’s secular premise should have disqualified Esther from inclusion in the Bible? Why would the author of Esther not directly reference God?

Many commentators through the centuries have seen the absence of God’s name as a literary device that underscores the theme of providence. Matthew Henry (1662-1714) wrote, “Though the name of God be not in it, the finger of God is, directing many minute events for the bringing about of his people’s deliverance.”

Esther’s guardian, Mordecai even alludes to providence in advising her:

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14 NASB)
Some claim that though not mentioned directly, God is the main character in Esther, the story’s prime mover. Mark Dever (b. 1960) concludes, “He may not be named, but this book is one of the longest sustained meditations on the sovereignty and providence of God in the whole Bible (The Message of the Old Testament: Promises Made, 454).”

How active was God in the events of Esther? How much do you think God interacts in your life? Do you look for ways God has intervened in your life?

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