Who is Esther?
(star), called also in Hebrew HADAS'SAH (the myrtle), an eminent Jewess, wife of Xerxes. She was an orphan child of the tribe of Benjamin, and cousin to Mordecai, who adopted her and brought her up very tenderly. When Ahasuerus -- who was Xerxes -- put away Queen Vashti, he chose Esther, who had already been selected, on account of her beauty and her worth, to fill the vacant place, b.c. 479. Having learned through her cousin, Mordecai, who held some office in the palace of Shushan, or Susa, the winter and favorite palace of the Persian kings, that Haman, the prime minister, had procured the royal permission to kill all the Jews in the kingdom, Esther had the faith and the courage to carry out the plan suggested by Mordecai, and succeeded not only in executing the author of the infamous plot, but in getting permission for the Jews, upon the appointed day of slaughter, to defend themselves and take vengeance upon all who dared molest them, and for the Jews in Shushan to repeat the slaughter on the next day. Esther, Book of, a narrative of the startling deliverance of the Jews through the agency of Esther and her cousin, Mordecai, and of the origin of the Purim festival. Haman, prime minister of Ahasuerus, had formed the wicked design to extirpate the Jews in the empire in revenge upon Mordecai, who refused to pay him the customary homage, and whom he had been compelled by the king to lead through the streets in recognition of Mordecai's services in saving the king's life. But his design was frustrated by the bravery of Esther, and the day fixed for the Jews' slaughter was for them a day of revenge. In memory of this deliverance the festival of Purim ("lots") was instituted, and so called in remembrance of Haman's casting of lots. Esth 3:7; Dan 9:24, Jer 9:26. It is annually observed on the 14th and 15th Adar, which month begins with the new moon of February and lasts till the new moon in March. At this festival the book is read, and it is the custom, in "some synagogues, whenever the name of Haman is pronounced, 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 sons are all read in one breath, to signify that they all expired at the same instant of time." The book is written upon a single roll. It is greatly admired by the Jews. This saying is attributed to one of their greatest men: "In the days of the Messiah the prophetical books and the Hagiographa will be done away with, excepting only Esther, which will endure together with the Pentateuch." Its literary character is fully equal to the best of the other historical books of the canon. The style is lively, and almost dramatic. But the peculiarity of the book is that the name of God does not occur in any form. The omission was probably intentional, and in order to permit the reading of Esther at the joyous, even hilarious, festival of Purim, without irreverence. It is worthy of notice, in this connection, that in Solomon's Song the name of God occurs only once in the Hebrew, Song of Solomon 8:6, where the A.V. translates "a most vehement flame." The book of Esther is full of a most intense Judaism, and incidentally exhibits great familiarity with Persian manners and customs. Its incidents are thoroughly in keeping with the known character of Xerxes. The book furnishes a striking illustration of an all-ruling Providence in controlling human passions, frustrating wicked designs, punishing sinners, and delivering God's people from their enemies even in a foreign land. This is the chief practical value of the book. It is likewise a divine sanction to the virtue of patriotism. The language of the book contains several Persian words, translated "satrap," "post," "edict," "royal" (not "camel;" Esth 8:10 and Am 8:14 read: "coursers of the royal stud"), "cotton," "crown," "nobles," "a copy," and "lot." The circumstantial minuteness of detail, the vividness of the portraits, the Persian words, and the whole tone of the book indicate that the author was a Jew who lived about the time of the events recorded, at the court of Persia, where he had access to the official documents of the kingdom. Professor Rawlinson assigns the book to a period from 20 to 30 years after Xerxes's death, b.c. 444-434.