Composition of the Book of Esther


Approximate date: 460 B.C.E. (Right, conservative-moderate); 330 B.C.E. (Left)

Time period: Jews dispersed throughout the Persian Empire

Author: anonymous (some Right, conservative-moderate, Left)

Location of author: Persia (Right, conservative-moderate); Land of Israel after the exile (most Left)

Target audience and their location: Jewish people in Persian Empire (Right, conservative-moderate); Jewish people having returned from the Babylonian Exile, probably during the time of the Maccabees (Left)

Theological Summary: The Book of Esther is one of the most unique texts in the Tanach, with those who read it demonstrating a wide variety of opinions: from Maimonides who placed it second only to the Torah, Luther who thought it was gaudy and sensual, and the feminist theologian who places it at the center of her theology. In the Christian theological tradition, Esther is placed among the Historical books, whereas Jewish tradition places it among the Five Scrolls or Megillot to be read during holiday times. Esther tells the story of a Jewish girl who becomes the new queen of Persia, and is placed in a position to save the Jewish people from extinction.

The purpose of Esther’s composition was primarily to justify the celebration of Purim as a holiday for the Jewish people during and immediately following the reign of the Persian King Ahasuerus, known in Greek historical works as Xerxes (3:7; 9:26-32). The young Jewess Esther becomes the queen of Persia, and her cousin Mordecai learns about the genocidal plans of the evil Haman toward the Jews. The location of these events is in the Persian city of Susa. The text may easily be described as a Jewish novella, with the term Purim derived from the lot or pur Haman cast to determine the date of execution for the Jews (3:7; 9:24).

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reproduced from A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic

One of the major reasons that today’s Messianic movement has grown in the past decade is a significant interest by Believers in the Torah and the Tanach. In too many cases, the Tanach Scriptures were not probed in that great a detail in a Jewish Believer’s traditional Synagogue upbringing—and perhaps more serious, a non-Jewish Believer’s Christian experience often witnessed the Old Testament taking a back seat to the New Testament in the Church. With many of the ethical and moral controversies the greater Judeo-Christian religious community is experiencing in our age, a need for God’s people to return to a foundational grounding in the Tanach Scriptures is absolutely imperative. The Old Testament cannot simply be disregarded any more.

Many have stayed away from consulting the Tanach not because of a lack of interest, but because few want to have to deal with the controversies it addresses. Unlike the Apostolic Scriptures, constrained to the First Century C.E., the period of the Tanach stretches back all the way to the beginning of the universe itself. Questions like: Who was the Pharaoh of the Exodus? Did God actually condone the genocide of the Canaanites? and Am I the only one who thinks the Prophets are mentally disturbed? are debates that many people do not want to enter into. Even more significant is the effect of critical scholarship which has attempted to divide the Torah into non-Mosaic sources, question the inspiration and historical reliability of the text, and even regard much of the Tanach as Ancient Israel’s mythology. For a Messianic movement that claims to place a high value on the Tanach, it is time that we join in to these conversations.

A Survey of the Tanach for the Practical Messianic takes you through the Old Testament from a distinct Messianic point of view. It presents a theologically conservative perspective of the books of the Tanach, but one that does not avoid some of the controversies that have existed in Biblical scholarship for over one hundred and fifty years. The student, in company with his or her study Bible, is asked to read through each text of the Tanach, jotting down characters, place names, key ideas, and reflective questions. Each book of the Old Testament is then summarized for its compositional data and asks you questions to get a good Messianic feel for the text. This workbook can be used for both personal and group study, and will be a valuable aid for any Messianic Believer wanting to study the whole Bible on a consistent basis.

290 pages