Q&A: Is God in Esther?

Is God in Esther?

Question

God is not mentioned in Esther, so why do Christians regard it as Scripture?

Answer

R. Sproul states:
The question of whether the Book of Esther belongs in the canon of Scripture has been raised from an early period by both Jews and Christians, though the books commendation of the popular festival of Purim argued strongly in favor of its inclusion in the Jewish canon. Objections voiced by some Christians to Esthers canonicity included its absence from some of the earliest lists of canonical books, its lack of citation in the New Testament, its lack of overt references to God and to religious practices, its excessive Jewish nationalism, and its spirit of vengeance. Some of these objections were alleviated when the early church adopted an expanded version of the Book of Esther found in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament). This Septuagint text contains over one hundred verses, not found in the Hebrew text, that made the book more religiously acceptable to some. These additions include a dream of Mordecai about the coming destruction of the Jews and prayers of Mordecai and Esther for deliverance. However, when the Protestant churches judged the shorter Hebrew version of Esther to be the authoritative version, objections to the books canonicity resurfaced.

Whitlock, L. G., Sproul, R. C., Waltke, B. K., & Silva, M. (1995). Reformation study Bible, the : Bringing the light of the Reformation to Scripture : New King James Version (Es 1:1). Nashville: T. Nelson.

Even though the name of God is technically not mentioned in Esther, the Holy Spirit is seen weaving redemptive history thorough its pages (Esth. 4:14). God is seen in his providence; he is always present and always in control directing all things to the good pleasure of his will (Eph. 1:4, 11),

This said, the name YHWH appears in acrostic form four times in the book of Esther; two forward and two reversed. All four acrostics appear in four consecutive words:

Esther 1:20 Then when the kings edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.

Reversed Name by Memucan, a Gentile:
WnT=y] <yv!N`h^-lk*w+ ayh! ;

Esther 5:4 If it pleases the king, replied Esther, let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.

Forward Name by Esther, a Jew:
oYh^ /m*h*w+ El#m#h^ aoby`

Esther 5:13 But all this gives me no satisfaction as long as I see that Jew Mordecai sitting at the kings gate.

Reversed Name by Haman, a Gentile:
yl! ho#V WNnya^ hz#

Esther 7:7 The king got up in a rage, left his wine and went out into the palace garden. But Haman, realizing that the king had already decided his fate, stayed behind to beg Queen Esther for his life.

Forward Name by the author, a Jew:
hu*r`h* wyl*a@ ht*l=k*-yK!

Note that "king" (forward names) or "king's" (reversed names) are also mentioned in each of the verses above. There are only five acrostics in the book of Esther. The above are four of them, and the final one validates the others. It is "I AM" or EHYH in Esther 7:5, spelled backwards and spoken by the king. So, even in the king's decrees the hand of God is weaving his tapestry (Prov. 21:1). God is the author history (Isa. 46:11); even his books (2 Tim. 3:16).

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).