Book Of Esther

From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]

Esther, Book Of

1. Place in the Canon . The Book of Esther belongs to the second group of the third division of the Hebrew Canon the Kethubim , or ‘Writings’ a group which comprises the Megilloth , or ‘Rolls,’ of which there are five, Song of Songs, Ruth, Lam., Eccles., Esther. It was not without much discussion that Esther was admitted into the Canon, for its right to be there was disputed both by the Jewish authorities and by the early Christian Church. As late as the 2nd cent. a.d. the greatest Jewish teacher of his day, Rabbi Jehudah, said, ‘The Book of Esther defileth not the hands’ [the expression ‘to defile the hands’ is the technical Jewish way of saying that a book is canonical; it means that the holiness of the sacred object referred to produces by contact with it a state of Levitical impurity]. In some of the earlier lists of the Biblical books in the Christian Church that of Esther is omitted; Athanasius (d. 373) regarded it as uncanonical, so too Gregory Nazianzen (d. 391); Jacob of Edessa ( c [Note: circa, about.] . 700) reckons it among the apocryphal books. It is clear that Esther was not universally accepted as a book of the Bible until a late date.

2. Date and authorship . The language of Esther points unmistakably to a late date; it shows signs, among other things, of an attempt to assimilate itself to classical Hebrew; the artificiality herein betrayed stamps the writer as one who was more familiar with Aramaic than with Hebrew. Further, the Persian empire is spoken of as belonging to a period of history long since past (cf. ‘in those days,’   Esther 1:2 ); the words, ‘There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of thy kingdom’ (  Esther 3:8 ), show that the ‘Dispersion’ had already for long been an accomplished fact. Moreover, the spirit of the book points to the time when great bitterness and hatred had been engendered between Jew and Gentile. The probability, therefore, is that Esther belongs to the earlier half of the 2nd cent. b.c. Of its authorship we know nothing further than that the writer was a Jew who must have been in some way connected with Persia; the book shows him to have been one whose racial prejudice was much stronger than his religious fervour; it is extraordinary that a book of the Bible should never once mention the sacred name of God; the secular spirit which is so characteristic of the book must have been the main reason of the disinclination to incorporate it into the Scriptures, which has been already referred to.

3. Contents . The book purports to give the history of how the Jewish feast of Purim (‘Lots’) first originated. Xerxes, king of the Medes and Persians, gives a great feast to the nobles and princes of the 127 provinces over which he rules; the description of the decorations in the palace garden on this occasion recalls the language of the Arabian Nights . Vashti , the queen, also gives a feast to her women. On the seventh day of the feast the king commands Vashti to appear before the princes in order that they may see her beauty. Upon her refusing to obey, the king is advised to divorce her. In her place, Esther, one of Vashti’s maidens, becomes queen. Esther is the adopted daughter of a Jew named Mordecai , who had been the means of saving the king from the hands of assassins. But Mordecai falls out with the court favourite, Haman , on account of his refusing to bow down and do reverence to the latter. Haman resolves to avenge himself for this insult; he has lots cast in order to find out which is the most suitable day for presenting a petition to the king; the day being appointed, the petition is presented and granted, the promised payment of ten thousand talents of silver into the royal treasury (  Esther 3:9 ) no doubt contributing towards this. The petition was that a royal decree should be put forth to the effect that all Jews were to be killed, and their belongings treated as spoil. On this becoming known, there is great grief among the Jews. Esther, instructed by Mordecai, undertakes to interpose for her people before the king. She invites both the king and Haman to a banquet, and repeats the invitation for the next day. Haman, believing himself to be in favour with the royal couple, determines to gratify his hatred for Mordecai in a special way, and prepares a gallows on which to hang him (  Esther 5:14 ). In the night after the first banquet, Ahasuerus, being unable to sleep, commands that the book of records of the chronicles be brought; in these he finds the account of Mordecai’s former service, which has never been rewarded. Haman is sent for, and the king asks him what should be done to the man whom the king delights to honour; Haman thinking that it is he himself who is uppermost in the king’s mind, describes how such a man should be honoured. The king thereupon directs that all that Haman has said is to be done to Mordecai. Haman returns in grief to his house. While taking counsel there with his friends, the king’s chamberlains come to escort him to the queen’s second banquet (  Esther 6:1 ff.). During this Esther makes her petition to the king on behalf of her people, as well as for her own life, which is threatened, for the royal decree is directed against all Jews and Jewesses within his domains; she also discloses Haman’s plot against Mordecai. The king, as the result of this, orders Haman to be hanged on the gallows which he had prepared for Mordecai, the latter receiving the honours which had before belonged to Haman (ch. 7). Esther then has letters sent in all directions in order to avert the threatened destruction of her people; but the attempt is yet made by the enemies of the Jews to carry out Haman’s intentions. The Jews defend themselves with success, and a great feast is held on the 14th of Adar, on which the Jews ‘rested, and made it a day of feasting and gladness.’ Moreover, two days of feasting are appointed to be observed for all time; they are called Purim , because of the lot ( pûr ) which Haman cast for the destruction of the Jews (chs. 8, 9). The book concludes with a further reference to the power of Ahasuerus and the greatness of his favourite, Mordecai (ch. 10).

4. Historicity of the book . There are very few modern scholars who are able to regard this book as containing history; at the most it may be said that it is a historical romance, i.e . that a few historical data have been utilized for constructing the tale. The main reasons for this conclusion are, that the book is full of improbabilities; that it is so transparently written for specific purposes, namely, the glorification of the Jewish nation, and as a means of expressing Jewish hatred of and contempt for Gentiles (see also § 5 ); that a ‘strictly historical interpretation of the narrative is beset with difficulties’; that the facts it purports to record receive no substantiation from such books as Chron., Ezr., Neh., Dan., Sirach, or Philo (cf. Hastings’ DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] s.v .). Besides this, there is the artificial way in which the book is put together: the method of presenting the various scenes in the drama is in the style of the writer of fiction, not in that of the historian.

5. Purim . The main purpose for which the book was written was ostensibly to explain the origin of, as well as to give the authority for, the continued observance of the Feast of Purim; though it must be confessed that the book does not really throw any light on the origin of this feast. Some scholars are in favour of a Persian origin, others, with perhaps greater justification, a Babylonian. The names of the chief characters in the book seem certainly to be corrupted forms of Babylonian and Elamite deities, namely, Haman = Hamman, Mordecai = Marduk, Esther = Ishtar; while Vashti is the name of an Elamite god or goddess (so Jensen). Thus we should have the Babylonian Marduk and Ishtar on the one hand, the Elamite Haman and Vashti, on the other. Purim may, in this case, have been, as Jensen suggests, a feast commemorating the victory of Babylonian over Elamite gods which was taken over and adapted by the Jews. In this case the origin of the name Purim would be sought in the Babylonian word puru , which means a ‘small round stone,’ i.e . a lot. But the connexion between the feast and its name is not clear; indeed, it must be confessed that the mystery attaching to the name Purim has not yet been unravelled.

W. O. E. Oesterley.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [2]

In the article on Esther the principal events of the book are glanced at, but a few remarks are needed as to the object of the book. It has been a sad puzzle to Christians. It looks very much like a tale, they say; and how can it be inspired, they ask, without the name of God from beginning to end? How different is Mordecai from Ezra or Nehemiah, captives like him, but who were not content to spend their lives at the gate of a heathen's palace when they had the opportunity of returning to Jerusalem.

That it is a true history is manifest. The great feast with which it opens is just such as a Persian monarch would celebrate with the nobles and princes of the various provinces. If Xerxes was the Ahasuerus of the book, as is generally supposed, it quite agrees with his character, that when elatedwith wine he should send for the queen; and, on her refusal to be thus exposed, to cast her aside, and seek another queen. The way this was accomplished was exactly Persian. The posts also, on horses, mules, camels, and young dromedaries, according to the nature of the country traversed — fromIndia to Ethiopia — was also the method adopted.

The main teaching of the book is that God was watching over and caring for His ancient people during their captivity, altogether apart from their faithfulnessto Him, or their desire to return to the land of promise. They were scattered over the entire kingdom, and it is not revealed what sort of lives they were living: the only two described in the book are Mordecai and Esther. God was their God, and they were His people, and, without His name being mentioned in the book, He was surely secretly watching over them, and making things work together for their protection. The king being unable to sleep on the very night when it was needed he should remember Mordecai is a signal example of His watchfulness. Esther and Mordecai may not have acted well in wishing a second day of vengeance, and in killing the sons of Haman, and petitioning to have them hanged on the gallows: how few can have power over their enemies without abusing it! The good behaviour of the Jews forms no part of the book:they are cared for whether good or bad. God in His government would in duetime set all that right. In fine, we have an illustration of how Godcared providentially for His earthly people, when they were under the Lo-ammi sentence, and He was unable to own them publicly as in relationship with Himself.

Historically Esther comes in between the beginning of Ezra and its close; that is, at the end of  Ezra 6 the Artaxerxes of   Ezra 4:7 being the pseudo-Smerdis; and the Artaxerxes of   Ezra 7:1 , being Artaxerxes Longimanus. The Ahasuerus of Esther (Xerxes) comes in between them. For a list of the kings see PERSIA.

There are several apocryphal additions to the book of Esther in the LXX and the Vulgate. The principal of these are:

1. A preface containing Mordecai's pedigree, his dream of what was about to happen, and his appointment to sit at the king's gate.

2. In chap. 3 a copy of Artaxerxes' decree against the Jews.

3. In chap. 4 a prayer of Mordecai, followed by a prayer of Esther, in which she excuses herself for being the wife of an uncircumcised king.

4. In chap. 8 a copy of the king's letter for reversing the previous decree, in which Haman is called a Macedonian! and the statement made that he had been plotting to betray the kingdom of Persia to the Macedonians!

5. In chap. 10 Mordecai shows how his dream had been fulfilled, and gives glory to God. Some parts of these additions are declared to be 'thorough Greek' in style, and the patchwork is very manifest elsewhere.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [3]

This book is more purely historical than any other book of Scripture; and it has this remarkable peculiarity that the name of God does not occur in it from first to last in any form. It has, however, been well observed that "though the name of God be not in it, his finger is." The book wonderfully exhibits the providential government of God.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [4]

the last of the historical books of the O.T., according to the arrangement in the Auth. Engl. Version. (See Davidson, in Horne's Introd., new ed., 2:697 sq.)

I. Contents, Name, And Place In The Canon. In this book we have an account of certain events in the history of the Jews under the rule of the Persian king Ahasuerus (Achashverosh), doubtless the Xerxes of the Greek historians. (See Ahasuerus) 3. The writer informs us of a severe persecution with which they were threatened at the instigation of Haman, a favorite of the king, that sought in this way to gratify his jealousy and hatred of a Jew, Mordecai, who, though in the service of the king, refused to render to Haman the homage which the king had enjoined, and which his other servants rendered; he describes in detail the means by which this was averted through the influence of a Jewish maiden called "Hadassab, that is, Esther," the cousin of Mordecai, who had been raised to be the wife of the king, along with the destruction of Haman and the advancement of Mordecai; he tells us how the Jews, under the sanction of the king, and with the aid of his officers, rose up against their enemies, and slew them to the number of 75,000; and he concludes by informing us that the festival of Purirn was instituted among the Jews in commemoration of this remarkable passage in their history. From the important part played by Esther in this history, the book bears her name. It is placed among the hagiographa (q.v.) or Kethubiln' ( כְּתוּבַים ) by the Jews, and in that first portion of them which they call the five Megilloth ( מְגַלּוֹת , Rolls), or books read in the synagogue on special festivals; the season appropriate to it being the feast of Purim, held on the 14th and 15th of the month Adar, of the origin of which it contains the account. Hence it stands in the Hebrew Canon after Koheleth or Ecclesiastes, according to the order of time in which the Megilloth are read. By the Jews it is called The Megillab, by way of eminence, either from the importance they attach to its contents, or from the circumstance that from a very early period it came to be written on a special roll ( מְגַלָּה ) for use in the synagogue (Hottinger, Thes. Philippians page 494). In the Sept. it appears with numerous additions, prefixed, interspersed, and appended; many of which betray a later origin, but which are so inwrought with the original story as to make with it a continuous and, on the whole, harmonious narrative. By the Christians it has been variously placed; the Vulgate places it between Tobit and Judith, and appends to it the apocryphal additions [see next article]; the Protestant versions commonly follow Luther in placing it at the end of the historical books.

II. Canonicist. Among the Jews this book has always been held in the highest esteem. There is some ground for believing that the feast of Purim was by some of the more ancient Jews opposed as an unlicensed novelty (Talm. Hieros. Megilloth, Fol. 70; Lightfoot, Hor. Hebrews ad  Job 10:22); but there is no trace of any doubt being thrown by them on the canonicity of the book. By the more modern Jews it has been elevated to a place beside the law, and above the other hagiographa, and even the prophets (Pfeiffer, Thes. Hermen. page 597 sq.; Carpzov, Introd. page 366 sq.). Indeed, it is a saying of Maimonides that in the days of the Messiah the prophetic and hagiographical books will pass away, except the book of Esther, which will remain with the Pentateuch. This book is read through by the Jews in their synagogues at the feast of Purim, when it was, and is still in some synagogues, the custom at the mention of Haman's name to hiss, and stamp, and clench the fist, and cry, Let his name be blotted out; may the name of the wicked rot. It is said, also, that the names of Haman's ten sons are read in one breath, to signify that they all expired at the same instant of time. Even in writing the names of Haman's sons in the 7th, 8th, and 9th verses of  Esther 9:1-32, the Jewish scribes have contrived to express their abhorrence of the race of Haman; for these ten names are written in three perpendicular columns of 3, 3, 4, as if they were hanging upon three parallel cords, three upon each cord, one above another, to represent the hanging of Raman's sons (Stehelin's Rabbinical Literature, 2:349). The Targum of  Esther 9:1-32, in Walton's Polyglot, inserts a very minute account of the exact position occupied by Haman and his sons on the gallows, the height from the ground, and the interval between each; according to which they all hung in one line, Haman at the top, and his ten sons at intervals of half a cubit under him. It is added that Zeresh and Haman's seventy surviving sons fled, and begged their bread from door to door, in evident allusion to  Psalms 109:9-10. Some of the ancient Jewish teachers were, somewhat staggered at the peculiarity of this book, that the name of God does not once occur in it; but others accounted for it by saying that it was a transcript, under divine inspiration, from the Chronicles of the Medes and Persians, and that, being meant to be read by heathen, the sacred name was wisely omitted. Baxter (Saint'S Rest, part 4, chapter 3) speaks of the Jews using to cast to the ground the book of Esther because the name of God was not in it. (See Pareau's Principles Of Interpretation, and Hottinver's Thes. Philippians page 488.) But Wolf (Bibl. Hebr. Part 2, page 90) denies this, and says that if any such custom prevailed among the Oriental Jews, to whom it is ascribed by Sandys, it must have been rather to express their hatred of Haman. Certain it is that this book was always reckoned in the Jewish canon, and is named or implied in almost every enumeration of the books composing it, from Josephus downwards.

It has been questioned whether Josephus considered the book of Esther as written before or after the close of the canon. Du Pin maintains that, as Josephus asserts (See Deutero-Canonical) that the sacred books were all written between the time of Moses and the reign ( Ἀρχή ) of Artaxerxes, and (Ant. 11) places the history of Esther in that reign, he consequently includes it among those books which he says were of inferior authority, as written under and since the reign of that prince (Complete Hist. Of The Canon, page 6). Eichhorn, on the other hand, favors the opinion that Josephus meant to include the reign of that prince within the prophetical period, and concludes that this historian considered the book of Esther as the latest of the canonical writings.

In the Christian Church the book of Esther has not been so generally received. Jerome mentions it by name in the Prolog. Gal., in his Epistle to Paulinus, and in the preface to Esther; as does Augustine, De Civit. Dei, and De Doctr. Christ., and Origen, as cited by Eusebius (Hist. Ecclesiastes 6:25), and many others. Whilst apparently accepted without question by the churches of the West in the early centuries, the testimony of the Eastern Church concerning it is more fluctuating. It is omitted in the catalogue of Melito, an omission which is shared with Nehemiab, and which some would account of, by supposing that both these books were included by him under Ezra, a supposition that may be admitted in reference to Nehemiah, but is less probable in reference to Esther. Origen inserts it, though not among the historical books, but after Job, which is supposed to indicate some doubt regarding it on his part. In the catalogues of the Council of Laodicea, of the apostolical canons, of Cyrill of Jerusalem, and of Epiphanius, it stands among the canonical books; by Gregory of Nazianzus it is omitted; in the Synopsis Scrip. Sac. it is mentioned as said by some of the ancients to be accepted by the Hebrews as canonical; and by Athanasius it is ranked among the Ἀναγινωσκόμενα , not among the canonical books. These differences undoubtedly indicate that this book did not occupy the same unquestioned place in general confidence as the other canonical books of the O.T.; but the force of this, as evidence, is greatly weakened by the fact that it was not on historical or critical grounds, but rather on grounds of a dogmatical nature, and of subjective feeling, that it was thus treated. On the same grounds, at a later period, it was subjected to doubt, even in the Latin Church (Junilius, De Partibus Leg. Div. C. 3). At the time of the ReformationI, Luther, on the same grounds, pronounced the book more worthy to be placed "extra canonem" than "in canone" (De Servo Arbitrio; comp. his Tischreden, 4:403, Berlin ed. 1848), but in this he stood alone in the Protestant churches of his day; nor was it till a comparatively recent period that his opinion found any advocates. The first who set himself systematically to impugn the claims of the book was Semler, and him Oeder, Corrodi, Augusti, Bertholdt, De Wette, and Bleek have followed. Eichhorn with some qualifications, Jahn and Havernick unreservedly, have defended its claims.

The objections urged against the canonicity of the book resolve themselves principally into these three

1. That it breathes a spirit of narrow, selfish, national pride and vindictiveness, very much akin to that displayed by the later Jews, but wholly alien from the spirit which pervades the acknowledged books of the O.T.; 2. That its untheocratic character is manifested in the total omission in it of the name of God, and of any reference to the divine providence and care of Israel; and,

3. That many parts of it are so incredible as to give it the appearance rather of a fiction or romance than the character of a true history (Bertholdt, De Wette, etc.). In regard to the first of these; whilst it must be admitted that the spirit and conduct of the Jews, of whom the author of this book writes, are not those which the religion of the O.T. sanctions, it remains to be asked whether, in what he narrates of them, he has not simply followed the requirements of historical fidelity; and it remains to be proved that he has in any way indicated that his own sympathies and convictions went along with theirs. There can be little doubt that among the Jews of whom he writes a very different state of religious and moral feeling prevailed from what belonged to their nation in the better days of the theocracy. The mere fact that they preferred remaining in the land of the heathen to going up with their brethren who availed themselves of the permission of Cyrus to return to Judaea, shows how little of the true spirit of their nation remained with them. This being the case, the historian could do nothing else than place before us such a picture as that which this book presents; had he done otherwise he would not have narrated the truth. It does not follow from this, however, that he himself sympathized with those of whom he wrote, in their motives, feelings, and conduct, or that the spirit dominant in them is the spirit of his writing. It is true, occasions may frequently present themselves in the course of his narrative when he might have indulged in reflections of an ethical or didactic character on what he has narrated, but to do this may not have been in the plan and conception of his work, and he may therefore have intentionally avoided it.

Observations to the same effect may be made on the second objection. If the purpose of the author was to relate faithfully and without comment the actions and words of persons who were living without any vital recognition of God, the omission of all reference to God in the narrative will be sufficiently accounted for by this circumstance. If it be said, But a pious mat would have spontaneously introduced some such reference, even though those of whom he wrote gave him no occasion to do so by their own modes of speech or acting, it may suffice to reply that, as we are ignorant of the reasons which moved the author to abstain from all remarks of his own on what he narrates, it is not competent for us to conclude from the omission in question that he was not himself a pious man. If again it be said, How can a book which simply narrates the conduct of Jews who had to a great extent forgotten, if they had not renounced the worship of Jehovah, without teaching any moral lessons in connection with this, be supposed to have proceeded from a man under God's direction in what he wrote, it may be replied that a book may have a most excellent moral tendency, and be full of important moral lessons, even though these are not formally announced in it. That it is so with the book of Esther may be seen from such a work as M'Crie's Lectures on this book, where the great lessons of the book are expounded with the skill of one whose mind had been long and deeply versed in historical research. As the third objection above noticed rests on the alleged unhistorical character of the book, its force will be best estimated after we have considered the next head.

III. Credibility. In relation to this point three opinions have been advanced:

1. That the book is wholly unhistorical, a mere legend or romance;

2. That it has a historical basis, and contains some true statements, but that with these much of a fabulous kind is intermixed;

3. That the narrative is throughout true history. Of these opinions the first has not found many supporters: it is obviously incompatible with the reception of the book into the Jewish canon; for, however late be the date assigned to the closing of the canon, it is incredible that what must have been known to be a mere fable, if it is one, could have found a place there; it is incompatible with the early observance by the Jews of the feast of Purim, instituted to commemorate the events recorded here (comp.  2 Maccabees 15:36); and it is rendered improbable by the minuteness of some of the details, such as the names of the seven eunuchs ( Esther 1:10), the seven officers of the king ( Esther 1:14), the ten sons of Haman ( Esther 9:7-10), and the general accurate acquaintance with the manners, habits, and contemporary history of the Persian court which to author exhibits. (See the ample details on this head collected by Eichhorn and Havernick, Einleit. II, 1:338-357). The reception of the book into the canan. places a serious difficulty in the way of the second opinion; for if those who determined this would not have inserted a book wholly fabulous, they would as little have inserted one in which fable and truth were indiscriminately mixed. It may be proper, however to notice the parts which are alleged to be fabulous, for only thus can the objection be satisfactorily refuted. First, then, it is asked, How can it be believed that if the king had issued a decree that all the Jews should be put to death, he would have published this twelve months before it was to take effect ( Esther 3:12-13)? But, if this seem incredible to us, it must, if untrue, have appeared no less incredible to those for whom the book was written; and nothing can be more improbable than that a writer of any intelligence should by Mistake have made a statement of this kind; indeed, a fiction of this sort is exactly what a fabulist would have been most certain to have avoided; for, knowing it not to be in accordance with fact and usage, he must have been sure that its falsehood would be at once detected. Secondly, It is said to be incredible that the king, when he repented of having issued such an edict, should, as it could not be recalled, have granted permission to the Jews to defend themselves by the slaughter of their enemies, and that they should have been permitted to do this to such an extent as to destroy 75,000 of his own subjects.

To our habits of thinking this certainly appears strange; but we must not measure the conduct of a monarch like Xerxes by such a standard: the caprices of Oriental despots are proverbially startling, their indifference to human life appalling; and Xerxes, as we know from other sources, was apt even to exceed the limits of ordinary Oriental despotism in these respects (comp. Herod. 1:183; 7:35, 39, 238; 9:108-113; Justin, 2:10, 11). Now if it be true, as Diodorus Siculus relates, that Xerxes put the Medians foremost at Thermopylse on purpose that they might all be killed, because he thought they were not thoroughly reconciled to the loss of their national supremacy, it is surely not incredible that he should have given permission to Haman to destroy a few thousand strange people like the Jews, who were represented to be injurious to his empire, and disobedient to his laws. Nor, again, when we remember what Herodotus relates of Xerxes in respect to promises made at banquets, can we deem it incredible that he should perform his promise to Esther to reverse the decree in the only way that seemed practicable. It is likely, too, that the secret friends and adherents of Haman would be the persons to attack the Jews, which would be a reason why Ahasuerus would rather rejoice at their destruction. Thirdly, it is asked how can we believe that the king would issue an edict to all his subjects that every man should bear rule in his own house (1:22)? We reply that, as the edicts of Oriental despots are not all models of wisdom and dignity, here seems to us nothing improbable in the statement that such an edict was, under the circumstances, issued by Ahasuerus. Fourthly, Is it credible, it is asked, that Esther should have been so long a time in the palace of the king without her descent being known to the king or to Haman, as appears to have been the case? We reply that it does not appear certain that her Jewish descent was unknown; and, if it were, we are too little acquainted with the usages of the Persian royal harem to be able to judge whether this was an unlikely thing to occur or not: we may suggest, however, that the writer of the history was somewhat more likely to know the truth on such points than German professors in the 19th century.

The casual way in which the author of  2 Maccabees 15:36 alludes to the feast of Purim, under the name of "Mardochaeus's day," as kept by the Jews in the time of Nicanor, is another strong testimony in its favor, and tends to justify the strong expression of Dr. Lee (quoted in Whiston's Josephus, xi, chapter 6), that "the truth of this history is demonstrated by the feast of Purim, kept up from that time to this very day."

The style of writing is remarkably chaste and simple, and the narrative of the struggle in Esther's mind between fear and the desire to save her people, and of the final resolve made in the strength of that help which was to be sought in prayer and fasting, is very touching and beautiful, and without any exaggeration. Even De Wette observes that the book is simple in its style, free from declamation, and thus advantageously distinguished from the similar stories in the Apocrypha (Introduction, Parker's translation, Boston, 1843).

IV. Authorship And Date. Augustine (De Civitate Dei) ascribes the book to Ezra. Eusebius (Chronic. 47, d. 4), who observes that the facts of the history are posterior to the time of Ezra, ascribes it to some later but unknown author. Clemens Alexandrinus (Stromata, lib. 1, page 329) assigns it and the book of Maccabees to Mordecai. The pseudo-Philo (Chronographia) and Rabbi Azarias maintain that it was written at the desire of Mordecai by Jehoiakim, son of Joshua; who was high-priest in the 12th year of the reign of Artaxerxes. The subscription to the Alexandrian version states that the epistle regarding the feast of Purim was brought by Dositheus into Egypt, under Ptolemy and Cleopatra (B.C. cir. 160); but it is well known that these subscriptions are of little authority. The authors of the Talmud say that it was written by the members of the Great Synagogue (q.v.), who also wrote Ezekiel and the twelve Prophets. But the whole account of the Great Synagogue, said to have been instituted by Ezra, and concluded by Simon the Just, who is said to have closed the canon, and whose death took place B.C. 292, is by some looked upon as a rabbinical romance. Of all these suppositions, the ascription to Mordecai seems the most probable. The minute details given of the great banquet, of the names of the chamberlains and eunuchs, and Haman's wife and sons, and of the customs and regulations of the palace, betoken that the author lived at Shushan, and probably at court, while his no less intimate acquaintance with the private affairs both of Esther and Mordecai well suits the hypothesis of the latter being himself the writer. It is also in itself probable that as Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, who held high offices under the Persian kings, wrote an account of the affairs of the nation, in which they took a leading part, so Mordecai should have recorded the transactions of the book of Esther likewise. The termination of the book with the mention of Mordecai's elevation and government agrees also with this view, which has the further sanction of many great names, as Aben Ezra, and most of the Jews, Vatablus, Carpzov, and many others. Those who ascribe it to Ezra, or the men of the Great Synagogue, may have merely meant that Ezra edited and added it to the canon of Scripture, which lee prob. ably did, bringing it, and perhaps the book of Daniel, with him from Babylon to Jerusalem. (See Mordecai).

That the book was written after the downfall of the Persian monarchy in the time of the Maccabees is the conclusion of Bertholdt, De Wette, and Bleek. The reasons, however, which they assign for this are very feeble, and have been thoroughly nullified by Havernick. The latter supposes it to have been written at a much earlier date, and the reasons he urges for this are

1. The statement in  Esther 9:32, compared with  Esther 10:2, where the author places what he himself has written on a par in point of authenticity with what is recorded in the Persian annals, as if contemporary productions;

2. The vividness, accuracy, and minuteness of his details respecting the Persian court;

3. The language of the book, as presenting, with some Persianisms, and some words of Chaldaic affinity, which do not occur in older Hebrew (such as מִאֲמִר , מִזָּיוֹן , פִּתְשֶׁגֶן , שִׁרְבּיט ), those idioms which characterize the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Chronicles; and, 4. The fact that the closing of the canon cannot be placed later than the reign of Artaxerxes, so that an earlier date must be assigned to this book, which is included in it. (See Ezra). Whether the book was written in Palestine or in Persia is uncertain, but probability inclines to the latter supposition.

VI. Commentaries . The following are separate exegetical works on the canonical potion of the book of Esther, in addition to the formal Introductions to that portion of Scripture, and exclusive of the purely rabbinical treatises on the Jewish usages referred to in the book; the most important have an asterisk (*) prefixed: Raban Maurus, Commentarii (in Opp.); Arama, פֵּרוּשׁ (Constantinople, 1518, 4to); Bafiolas, פֵּרוּשׁ (Riva di Trento, 1560, 4to); Strigel, Scholia (Lips. 1571, 1572, 8vo); Brentius, C(ommentarii (Tubing. 1575, 4to; in Engl. by Stockwood, Lond. 1584, 8vo); Askenz, יוֹסַ Š לֶקִח (Cremona, 1576, 4to, etc.); Feuardent, Commentaria (Par. 1585, 8vo, etc.); Melammed, מִאֲמִר מָרְדְּכִי (Constantpl. 1585, 4to); *Drusius, Annotationes (Leyd. 1586, 8vo); *Senarius, Commentarii (Mogunt.1590, fol., etc.); Zahalon, יִִֵשׁ ָאלֵהַים (Ven. 1594, 4to); Alsheich, מִשְׂאִת משֶׁה (Ven. 1601, 4to); Cooper, Notes (London, 1609, 4to); D'Aquine, Raschii Scholia (Par. 1622, 4to); Wolder, Dispositiones (Dantz. 1625, 4to); *Sanctius, Commentarii (Leyd. 1628, fol.); Conzio, Commento (Chieri. 1628, 4to); Duran, סֵפֶר מְגַלִּת (Ven. 1632, 4to); Crommius, Theses (Lovan. 1632, 4to); Merkel, מַירָא דָכְיָא (Lublin, 1637, 4to); *Bonart, Commentarius (Colossians Agr. 1647, fol.); Montanus, Commentarius (Madr. 1648,. fol.); Trapp, Commentary (London, 1656, fol.); De Celada, Commentarii (Lugd. 1658, fol.); Jackson, Explanation (London, 1658, 4to); Barnes, Paraphrasis poetica (Lond. 1679, 8vo); Adam, Observationes (Groningen, 1710, 4to); Rambach, Notce (in his Adnot. V.T. 2:1043); Heumann, Estherae auctoritas (Gotting. 1736, 4to); Meir, מַשְׁתֵּה יִיַן (F Ü rth, 1737, 8vo); Nestorides, Annotazioni (Ven. 1746, 4to); Aucher. De auctoritate Estherae (Havn. 1772, 4to); Crusins, Nktzl. Gebrauch der B. Esther (from the Latin, Lpz. 1773, 4to); *Vos, Oratio (Ultr. 1775, 4to); Zinck, Commentarius (Augsb. 1780, 4to); De Rossi, Var. Lect. (Rome, 1782, 8vo); Pereles, גֻּלּת הִכֹּתֶרֶת (Prague, 1784, 4to); Tolfssohn, אֶסְתֵּר (Benl. 1788, 87vo); Lamson, Discourses (Edinb. 1804, 12mo); Lowe, אוֹר הָרָשׁ (Nouydwor, 1804, 4to); *Schirmer, Observationes (Vratislav. 1820, 8vo); *Kele, Vindiciae (Freib. 1820, 4to); *Calmberg, Commentarius (Hamb. 1837, 4to) *M'Crie Lectures (Works, 1838, 8vo); *Baumgarten, De fide Esthere (Hal. 1839, 8vo); Morgan, Esther typical (London, 1855, 8vo); Crosthwaite, Lectures (London, 1858, 12mo); Davidson, Lectures (Edinb. 1859, 8vo); *Bertheau (in the Kurzgef. exeg. fandb. Lpz. 1862, 8vo); Oppert, Commentaire d'apris les inscriptions Perses (Par. 1864, 8vo). (See Old Testament).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [5]

1. The Canonicity of Esther

2. Its Authorship

3. Its Date

4. Its Contents

5. The Greek Additions

6. The Attacks Upon the Book

7. Some of the Objections

8. Confirmations of the Book

This book completes the historical books of the Old Testament. The conjunction "ו , w" ( waw = and), with which it begins, is significant. It shows that the book was designed for a place in a series, the waw linking it on to a book immediately preceding, and that the present arrangement of the Hebrew Bible differs widely from what must have been the original order. At present Esther follows Ecclesiastes, with which it has no connection whatever; and this tell-tale "and," like a body-mark on a lost child, proves that the book has been wrenched away from its original connection. There is no reason to doubt that the order in the Septuagint follows that of the Hebrew Bible of the 3rd or the 4th century bc, and this is the order of the Vulgate, of the English Bible, and other Vss : The initial waw is absent from Genesis, Deuteronomy, 1 Chronicles and Nehemiah. The historical books are consequently arranged, by the insertion and the omission of waw , into these four divisions: Genesis to Numbers; Deuteronomy to 2 Kings; 1 Chronicles to Ezra; Nehemiah and Esther.

1. The Canonicity of Esther

Of the canonicity of the book there is no question. That there was a distinct guardianship of the Canon by the Jewish priesthood has figured less in recent discussions than it should. Josephus shows that there was a Temple copy which was carried among the Temple spoils in the triumph of Vespasian. The peculiarities of the Hebrew text also prove that all our manuscripts are representatives of one standard copy. In the Jewish Canon Esther had not only a recognized, but also a distinguished, place. The statement of Junilius in the 6th century ad that the canonicity of Esther was doubted by some in his time has no bearing on the question. The high estimation of the book current among the ancient Jews is evident from its titles. It is usually headed "Megillath Esther" (the volume of Esther), and sometimes " Megillāh " (the volume). Maimonides says that the wise men among the Jews affirm that the book was dictated by the Holy Spirit, and adds: "All the books of the Prophets, and all the Hagiographa shall cease in the days of the Messiah, except the volume of Esther; and, lo, that shall be as stable as the Pentateuch, and as the constitutions of the oral law which shall never cease."

2. Its Authorship

By whom was the book written? This is a point in regard to which no help is afforded us either by the contents of the book or by any reliable tradition. Mordecai, whose claims have been strongly urged by some, is excluded by the closing words ( Esther 10:3 ), which sum up his life work and the blessings of which he had been the recipient. The words imply that when the book was written, that great Israelite had passed away.

3. Its Date

Light is thrown upon the date of the book by the closing references to Ahasuerus ( Esther 10:2 ): "And all the acts of his power and of his might,... are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia?" The entire history, therefore, of Xerxes was to be found in the state records when the book was written. In other words, Xerxes had passed away before it saw the light. That monarch was assassinated by Artabanus in 465 bc. This gives us, say 460 bc, as the highest possible date. The lowest possible date is the overthrow of the Persian empire by Alexander in 332 bc; for the royal records of the Median and Persian kings are plainly in existence and accessible, which they would not have been had the empire been overthrown. The book must have been written, therefore, some time within this interval of 128 years. There is another fact which narrows that interval. The initial waw shows that Esther was written after Neh, that is, after 430 bc. The interval is consequently reduced to 98 years; and, seeing that the Persian dominion was plainly in its pristine vigor when Esther was written, we cannot be far wrong if we regard its date as about 400 bc.

4. Its Contents

The book is characterized by supreme dramatic power. The scene is "Shushan the palace," that portion of the ancient Elamitic capital which formed the fortified residence of the Persian kings. The book opens with the description of a high festival. All the notabilities of the kingdom are present, together with their retainers, both small and great. To grace the occasion, Vashti is summoned to appear before the king's guests; and, to the dismay of the great assembly, the queen refuses to obey. A council is immediately summoned. Vashti is degraded; and a decree is issued that every man bear rule in his own house (Est 1). To find a successor to Vashti, the fairest damsels in the empire are brought to Shushan; and Hadassah, the cousin and adopted daughter of Mordecai, is of the number. Esther (2) closes with a notice of two incidents: (1) The coronation of Hadassah (now and henceforth named "Esther") as queen; (2) Mordecai's discovery of a palace plot to assassinate the king.  Esther 3:1-15 introduces another leading personage, Haman, the son of Hammedatha, whose seat the king had set "above all the princes that were with him." All the king's servants who are at the king's gates prostrate themselves before the powerful favorite. Mordecai, who is not a trained courtier but a God-fearing Jew, refrains. Though expostulated with, he will not conform. The matter is brought to Haman's notice for whose offended dignity Mordecai is too small a sacrifice. The whole Jewish people must perish. Lots are cast to find a lucky day for their extermination. The king's consent is obtained, and the royal decree is sent into all the provinces fixing the slaughter for the 13th day of the 12th month.

The publication of the decree is followed by universal mourning among the Jews (Est 4). News of Mordecai's mourning is brought to Esther, who, through the messengers she sends to him, is informed of her own and her people's danger. She is urged to save herself and them. She eventually decides to seek the king s presence at the risk of her life. She presents herself ( Esther 5:1-14 ) before the king and is graciously received. Here we breathe atmosphere of the place and time. Everything depends upon the decision of one will - the king's. Esther does not attempt too much at first: she invites the king and Haman to a banquet. Here the king asks Esther what her petition is, assuring her that it shall be granted. In reply she requests his and Haman's presence at a banquet the following day. Haman goes forth in high elation. On his way home he passes Mordecai, who "stood not up nor moved for him." Haman passes on filled with rage, and unbosoms himself to his wife and all his friends. They advise that a stake, fifty cubits high, be prepared for Mordecai's impalement; that on the morrow he obtain the royal permission for Mordecai's execution; and that he then proceed with a merry heart to banquet with the queen. The stake is made ready.

But ( Esther 6:1-14 ) that night Xerxes cannot sleep. The chronicles of the kingdom are read before him. The reader has come to Mordecai's discovery of the plot, when the king asks what reward was given him. He is informed that the service had received no acknowledgment. It is now early morn, and Haman is waiting in the court for an audience to request Mordecai's life. He is summoned to the king's presence and asked what should be done to the man whom the king desires to honor. Believing that the king can be thinking only of him, he suggests that royal honors be paid him. He is appalled by the command to do so to Mordecai. Hurrying home from his lowly attendance upon the hated Jew, he has hardly time to tell the mournful story to his wife and friends when he is summoned to Esther's banquet. There, at the king's renewed request to be told her desire, she begs life for herself and for her people ( Esther 7:1-10 ). The king asks in astonishment, who he is, and where he is, who dared to injure her and them. The reply is that Haman is the adversary. Xerxes, filled with indignation, rises from the banquet and passes into the palace garden. He returns and discovers that Haman, in the madness of his fear, has thrown himself on the queen's couch, begging for his life. That act seals his doom. He is led away to be impaled upon the very stake he had prepared for the Jew. The seal of the kingdom is transferred to Mordecai (Est 8). Measures are immediately taken to avert the consequence of Haman's plot (Est 9 through 10). The result is deliverance and honor for the Jews. These resolve that the festival of Purim should be instituted and be ever after observed by Jews and proselytes. The decision was confirmed by letters from Esther and Mordecai.

5. The Greek Additions

The Septuagint, as we now have it, makes large additions to the original text. Jerome, keeping to the Hebrew text in his own translation, has added these at the end. They amount to nearly seven chapters. There is nothing in them to reward perusal. Their age has been assigned to 100 bc, and their only value consists in the indication they afford of the antiquity of the book. That had been long enough in existence to perplex the Hebrew mind with the absence of the name of God and the omissions of any reference to Divine worship. Full amends are made in the additions.

6. The Attacks upon the Book

The opponents of the Book of Esther may undoubtedly boast that Martin Luther headed the attack. In his Table-Talk he declared that he was so hostile "to the Book of Esther that I would it did not exist; for it Judaizes too much, and has in it a great deal of heathenish naughtiness." His remark in his reply to Erasmus shows that this was his deliberate judgment. Referring to Esther, he says that, though the Jews have it in their Canon, "it is more worthy than all" the apocryphal books "of being excluded from the Canon." That repudiation was founded, however, on no historical or critical grounds. It rested solely upon an entirely mistaken judgment as to the tone and the intention of the book. Luther's judgment has been carried farther by Ewald, who says: "We fall here as if from heaven to earth; and, looking among the new forms surrounding us, we seem to behold the Jews, or indeed the small men of the present day in general, acting just as they now do." Nothing of all this, however, touches the historicity of Esther.

The modern attack has quite another objective. Semler, who is its real fons et origo , believed Esther to be a work of pure imagination, and as establishing little more than the pride and arrogance of the Jews. DeWette says: "It violates all historical probability, and contains striking difficulties and many errors with regard to Persian manners, as well as just references to them." Dr. Driver modifies that judgment. "The writer," he says, "shows himself well informed on Persian manners and institutions; he does not commit anachronisms such as occur in Tobit or Judith; and the character of Xerxes as drawn by him is in agreement with history." The controversy shows, however, no sign of approaching settlement. Th. Nöldeke ( Encyclopedia Biblica ) is more violent than De Wette. "The story," he writes, "is in fact a tissue of improbabilities and impossibilities." We shall look first of all at the main objections urged by him and others and then at the recent confirmations of the historicity of Esther.

7. Some of the Objections

(1) "There is something fantastic, but not altogether unskillful," says Nöldeke, "in the touch whereby Mordecai and Haman are made to inherit an ancient feud, the former being a member of the family of King Saul, the latter a descendant of Agag, king of Amalek." It is surely unworthy of a scholar to make the book responsible for a Jewish fable. There is absolutely no mention in it of either King Saul or Agag, king of Amalek, and not the most distant allusion to any inherited feud. "Kish, a Benjamite" is certainly mentioned ( Esther 2:5 ) as the great-grandfather of Mordecai; but if this was also the father of Saul, then the first of the Israelite kings was a sharer in the experiences of the Babylonian captivity, a conception which is certainly fantastic enough. One might ask also how an Amalekite came to be described as an Agagite; and how a childless king, who was cut in pieces, became the founder of a tribe. But any semblance of a foundation which that rabbinic conceit ever had was swept away years ago by Oppert's discovery of "Agag" in one of Sargon's inscriptions as the name of a district in the Persian empire. "Haman the son of Hammedatha the Agagite" means simply that Haman or his father had come from the district of Agag. (2) The statement that  Esther 2:5 ,  Esther 2:6 represents Mordecai as having been carried away with Jeconiah from Jerusalem, and as being therefore of an impossible age, is unworthy of notice. The relative "who" (  Esther 2:6 ) refers to Kish, his great-grandfather. (3) "Between the 7th and the 12th years of his reign, Xerxes' queen was Amestris, a superstitious and cruel woman (Herod. vii.114; ix.112), who cannot be identified with Esther, and who leaves no place for Esther beside her" (Driver). Scaliger long ago identified Esther with Amestris, an identification which Prideaux rejected on account of the cruelty which Herodotus has attributed to that queen. Dr. Driver has failed to take full account of one thing - the striking fact that critics have leveled this very charge of cruelty against the heroine of our book. It is quite possible that Esther, moving in a world of merciless intrigue, may have had to take measures which would form a foundation for the tales recorded by the Greek historian. (4) The aim of the book is said to be the glorification of the Jews. But, on the contrary, it is merely a record of their being saved from a skillfully planned extirpation. (5) The description of the Jews ( Esther 3:8 ) as "dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of" the kingdom is said to be inapplicable to the Persian period. That argument is based upon an ignorance of the ancient world which investigation is daily correcting. We now know that before the time of Est Jews were settled both in Eastern and in Southern Egypt, that is, in the extreme west of the Persian empire. In the troubles at the end of the 7th and of the 6th centuries bc, multitudes must have been dispersed, and when, at the latter period, the ties of the fatherland were dissolved, Jewish migrations must have vastly increased. (6) The Hebrew of the book is said to belong to a much later period than that of Xerxes. But it is admitted that it is earlier than the Hebrew of Chronicles; and recent discoveries have shown decisively that the book belongs to the pers period. (7) The suggestion is made (Driver) "that the danger which threatened the Jews was a local one," and consequently, that the book, though possessed of a historical basis, is a romance. But against that are the facts that the observance of the feast has from the first been universal, and that it has not been observed more fully or more enthusiastically in any one place than in the others. (8) There is no reference to it, it is urged, by Chronicles, Ezra or Ben Sira (Ecclesiasticus). But Chronicles ends with the proclamation of Cyrus, granting permission to the Jews to return and to rebuild the Temple. There is little to be wondered at that it contains no reference to events which happened 60 years afterward. In Ezra, which certainly covers the period of Esther, reference to the events with which she was connected is excluded by the plan of the work. It gives the history of the return, the first part under Zerubbabel in 536 bc, the second under Ezra himself, 458 bc. The events in Esther (which were embraced within a period of a few months) fell in the interval and were connected with neither the first return nor the second. Here again the objector is singularly oblivious of the purpose of the book to which he refers. There is quite as little force in the citation of Ecclesiasticus. In dealing with this time Ben Sira's eye is upon Jerusalem. He magnifies Zerubbabel, "Jesus the son of Josedek," and Nehemiah (49:11-13). Even Ezra, to whom Jerusalem and the new Jewish state owed so much, finds no mention. Why, then, should Esther and Mordecai be named who seem to have had no part whatever in rebuilding the sacred city? (9) The book is said to display ignorance of the Persian empire in the statement that it was divided into 127 provinces, whereas Herodotus tells us that it was partitioned into 20 satrapies. But there was no such finality in the number, even of these great divisions of the empire. Darius in his Behistun inscriptions gives the number as 21, afterward as 23, and in a third enumeration as 29. Herodotus himself, quoting from a document of the time of Xerxes, shows that there were then about 60 nations under the dominion of Persia. The objector has also omitted to notice that the medhı̄nāh ("province") mentioned in Est ( Esther 1:1 ) is not a satrapy but a subdivision of it. Judea is called a medhı̄nāh in  Ezra 2:1 , and that was only a small portion of the 5th satrapy, that, namely, of Syria. But the time is past for objections of this character. Recent discoveries have proved the marvelous accuracy of the book. "We find in the Book of Esther," says Lenormant ( Ancient History of the East , II, 113), "a most animated picture of the court of the Persian kings, which enables us, better than anything contained in the classical writers, to penetrate the internal life and the details of the organization of the central government established by Darius."

8. Confirmations of the Book

These discoveries have removed the discussion to quite another plane - or rather they have ended it. Since Grotefend in 1802 read the name of Xerxes in a Persian inscription and found it to be, letter for letter, the Ahasuerus of Est, research has heaped up confirmation of the historical character of the book. It has proved, to begin with that the late date suggested for the book cannot be maintained. The language belongs to the time of the Persian dominion. It is marked by the presence of old Persian words, the knowledge of which had passed away by the 2nd century bc, and has been recovered only through the decipherment of the Persian monuments. The Septuagint translators were unacquainted with them, and consequently made blunders which have been repeated in our own the King James Version and in other translations. We read ( Esther 1:5 ,  Esther 1:6 the King James Version) that "in the court of the garden of the king's palace," "were white, green, and blue hangings, fastened with cords of fine linen and purple," etc. As seen in the ruins of Persepolis, a marked feature in the Persian palace of the period was a large space occupied by pillars which were covered with awnings. It may be noted in passing that these were situated, as the book says, in the court of the palace garden. But our knowledge of the recovered Persian compels us now to read: "where was an awning of fine white cotton and violet, fastened with cords of fine white linen and purple." White and blue (or violet) were the royal Persian colors. In accord with this we are told that Mordecai (  Esther 8:15 ) "went forth from the presence of the king in royal apparel of blue and white." The highly organized postal system, the king's scribes, the keeping of the chronicles of the kingdom, the rigid and elaborate court customs, are all characteristic of the Persia of the period. We are told of the decree obtained by Haman that "in the name of King Ahasuerus was it written, and sealed with the king's ring" (or signet). It was not signed but sealed. That was the Persian custom. The seal of Darius, Xerxes' father, has been found, and is now in the British Museum. It bears the figure of the king shooting arrows at a lion, and is accompanied by an inscription in Persian, Susian and Assyrian: "I, Darius, Great King." The identification of Ahasuerus, made by Grotefend and which subsequent discoveries amply confirmed, placed the book in an entirely new light. As soon as that identification was assured, previous objections were changed into confirmations. In the alleged extravagances of the monarch, scholars saw then the Xerxes of history. The gathering of the nobles of the empire in "the third year of his reign" ( Esther 1:3 ) was plainly the historical assembly in which the Grecian campaign was discussed; and "the seventh year," in which Esther was made queen, was that of his return from Greece. The book implies that Susa was the residence of the Persian kings, and this was so. The proper form of the name as shown by the inscriptions was "Shushan"; "Shushan the Palace" indicates that there were two Susas, which was the fact, and bı̄rāh ("palace") is a Persian word meaning fortress. The surprisingly rigid etiquette of the palace, to which we have referred, and the danger of entering unbidden the presence of the king have been urged as proof that the book is a romance. The contrary, however, is the truth. "The palace among the Persians," says Lenormant, "was quite inaccessible to the multitude. A most rigid etiquette guarded all access to the king, and made it very difficult to approach him.... He who entered the presence of the king, without having previously obtained permission, was punished with death" ( Ancient History of the East , II, 113-14; compare Herodotus i.99). But a further, and peculiarly conclusive, testimony to the historical character of the book is afforded by the recovery of the palace of Xerxes and Esther. An inscription of Artaxerxes Mnemon found at Susa tells us that it was destroyed by fire in the days of Artaxerxes Longimanus, the son and successor of Xerxes. Within some 30 years, therefore, from the time of Esther, that palace passed from the knowledge of men. Nevertheless, the references in the book are in perfect accord with the plan of the great structure as laid bare by the recent French excavations. We read (Est 4) that Mordecai, clad in sackcloth, walked in "the broad palace of the city, which was before the king's gate." The ruins show that the House of the Women was on the East side of the palace next to the city, and that a gate led from it into "the street of the city." In  Esther 5:1 , we read that Esther "stood in the inner court of the king's house, over against the king's house." "The king," we also read, "sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the entrance of the house," and that from the throne he "saw Esther the queen standing in the court." Every detail is exact. A corridor led from the House of the Women to the inner court; and at the side of the court opposite to the corridor was the hall, or throne-room of the palace. Exactly in the center of the farther wall the throne was placed and from that lofty seat the king, overlooking an intervening screen, saw the queen waiting for an audience. Other details, such as that of the king's passing from the queen's banqueting-house into the garden, show a similarly exact acquaintance with the palace as it then was. That is a confirmation the force of which it is hard to overestimate. It shows that the writer was well informed and that his work is characterized by minute exactitude.

The utter absence of the Divine name in Esther has formed a difficulty even where it has not been urged as an objection. But that is plainly part of some Divine design. The same silence is strictly maintained throughout in regard to prayer, praise and every approach toward God. That silence was an offense to the early Jews; for, in the Septuagint additions to the book, there is profuse acknowledgment of God both in prayer and in praise. But it must have struck the Jews of the time and the official custodians of the canonical books quite as painfully; and we can only explain the admission of Esther by the latter on the ground that there was overwhelming evidence of its Divine origin and authority. Can this rigid suppression be explained? In the original arrangement of the Old Testament canonical books (the present Hebrew arrangement is post-Christian), Esther is joined to Nehemiah. In 1895 I made a suggestion which I still think worthy of consideration: More than 60 years had passed since Cyrus had given the Jews permission to return. The vast majority of the people remained, nevertheless, where they were. Some, like Nehemiah, were restrained by official and other ties. The rest were indifferent or declined to make the necessary sacrifices of property and of rest. With such as these last the history of God's work in the earth can never be associated. In His providence He will watch over and deliver them: but their names and His will not be bound together in the record of the labor and the waiting for the earth's salvation.