The Book of Esther

Esther (star, or happiness) was married to the persian Emperor Xerxes (485-465 BCE, ie just before the Jews were permitted to return to Judeah). The book tells of her rise to power, the plot against the Jews by Hamman, his downfall, the revenge of the Jews and the establishment of the Feast of PUrim.

Those part of the Book of Esther which survive in Hebrew text are contained in the 'canonical' part of the Old Testament but the Septuagint Greek version, included in the Apocrypha, contains additional material which has been traditionally placed after the Hebrew text. This makes no sense as the additional passages are intrinsic to the story and add a great deal of vital detail. Not least to be noted is the fact that the Hebrew text does not mention God whereas many passages of the Greek version refer to God. It is therefore not accurate to say, as many do, that Esther is the only book of the Bible not to refer to God.

There is no external evidence to suggest that any of the content of the book is historical and most of its incidents are unlikely; it might be considered promotional material for Purim or, better still, a romance. In literary style it shows a great deal of advance on its diminutive predecessor, Ruth, and forms an interesting transition from the Old Testament Canon to the more colourful books of the Apocrypha.