Lessing, R. Reed & Andrew E. Steinmann. Prepare the Way of the Lord: An Introduction to the Old Testament. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2014. Chapter 15, “Esther” pp. 267-278.
Esther is a challenging book. Lessing notes that it is not uniformly part of early Old Testament canons, that the text seems secular in some ways, and that the Septuagint adds instances of prayers (Lessing 2014, 267). The book is formally anonymous. It shows knowledge consistent with that of “a Judean living in Persia” and seems to have been written long enough after the events of 473 that they were established customs (Lessing 2014, 267). The events date from 483-473 B.C. It is centered in Susa, wher Persian kings spent the winter (Lessing 2014, 268). Lessing explains the names Xerxes and Ahasuaerus as attempts at the Persian Khshayarshan (Lessing 2014, 268). The events revolve around Esther, her cousin Mordecai, and the Persian court.
The text speaks to the troubles endured by Judeans who are living in Persia. Those who are observant, such as Esther and Mordecai, are secretive about their background and religion (Lessing 2014, 269). God is working in Esther, but he works behind the scenes (Lessing 2014, 270).
There are two Greek versions of Esther. One is significantly longer than the other. Lessing does not suggest which might be older (Lessing 2014, 371). He does summarize the additional material.
Lessing notes that there is scholarly debate over whether Esther is an historical account. Names and records are incomplete and varied (Lessing 2014, 272). While it is not clear that Esther was a real queen of Persia during the period, Lessing does not find it as a difficulty. She quite well could be entirely historical (Lessing 2014, 273).
In the book of Esther there are many different celebrations. Lessing notes that God is using each of the celebrations to move events along (Lessing 2014, 274). The veryday events of life may be used by God. Lessing also notes a recurring theme of the conflict between Israel and the Amalekites. Haman, the enemy of the Jews, was related to the Amalekite king Agag. Mordecai was related to king Saul of Israel (Lessing 2014, 274).
In Esther, Christ is seen as God delivers his people from genocide (Lessing 2014, 275). God shows his ongoing plan to bring a savior through Judah. Haman’s plan would have prevented this. There are signs of piety, but Lessing says the rhetoric of Esther stood in the way of specific prayers. The author seems to want us to see God at work even when he is not recognized (Lessing 2014, 275). Sin of the pagans and the Jews is seen. It has consequences. Yet God preserves his people (Lessing 2014, 276).