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Book of Esther

Book of Esther
by Timothy Kenney, PhD

In the Hebrew Bible and the Septuagint the Book of Esther bears only the word "Esther" as title. But the Jewish rabbis called it also the "volume of Esther", or simply "the volume" (megillah) to distinguish it from the other four volumes (megilloth), written on separate rolls, which were read in the synagogues on certain feast days.

The story begins when King Ahasuerus of Persia hosts a great festival, but when queen Vashti refuses to obey him, the king seeks a new wife. His new queen is Esther, a beautiful Jewish woman. A wicked royal official named Haman is offended when Esther's foster father Mordecai refuses to bow down to him. Haman plans a massive persecution of the Jews and devises to have Mordecai hanged. Mordecai, however, is honored by the king for reporting a plot against the king's life and the wicked Haman is executed instead. Esther then intercedes on behalf of the Jewish people. The king gives the Jews the right of self-defense. When the persecution begins, the Jews defeat their enemies. The festival of Purim commemorates this victory.

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A detailed chapter outline of the Book of Esther is listed below.

Chapter 1. King Assuerus makes a great feast, but his wife, Queen Vasthi, refuses to come. For her disobedience she is deposed.

Chapter 2. Esther is advanced to be queen. Mardochai, Esther's father, detects a plot against the king.

Chapter 3. Aman, advanced by the king, is offended at Mardochai, and therefore obtains the king's decree to destroy the whole nation of the Jews.

Chapter 4. Mardochai desires Esther to petition the king for the Jews. They join in fasting and prayer.

Chapter 5. Esther is graciously received, whereby she invites the king and Aman to dinner. Aman prepares a gibbet for Mardochai.

Chapter 6. The king, hearing of the good service done him by Mardochai, commands Aman to honour him next to the king, which he does.

Chapter 7. Esther petitions the king for herself and her people. Aman is hanged upon the gibbet he had prepared for Mardochai.

Chapter 8. Mardochai is advanced and Aman's letters are reversed.

Chapter 9. The Jews kill their enemies that would have killed them. The days of Purim are appointed to be kept holy.

Chapter 10. Assuerus's greatness. Mardochai's dignity.

Chapter 11. The dream of Mardochai.

Chapter 12. Mardochai detects the conspiracy of the two eunuchs.

Chapter 13. A copy of a letter sent by Aman to destroy the Jews. Mardochai's prayer for the people.

Chapter 14. The prayer of Esther for herself and her people.

Chapter 15. Esther comes into the king's presence and although she is terrified, God turns his heart.

Chapter 16. A copy of the king's letter in favour of the Jews.

We now turn to the four Books of Maccabees.

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