Our commemoration today is for Esther, and we take our devotional reading from God’s Word for Today: Esther.
Throughout Scripture, we are reminded that the Lord is faithful to His promises and His people. As God delivered the Jews from the threats of Haman through His servant Esther, so also He delivers us through the work of Christ in the saving waters of Baptism. Thanks be to God for working in all circumstances for our good—even situations that seem impossible, like Esther’s did.
Esther is the Persian name of a beautiful, young, orphaned Jewish girl named Hadassah (huh-DASS-uh), who lived in Susa (SOOS-uh), in modern-day Iran. Before the Northern and Southern Kingdoms were overtaken by the Assyrians and Babylonians, the prophet Isaiah (740–681 BC) foretold a ruler who would deliver God’s people. Isaiah even named this deliverer: Cyrus. In 587 BC, the Southern Kingdom of Judah fell to the Babylonians, led by King Nebuchadnezzar (neb-yoo-kuhd-NEZ-er). In 539 BC, God allowed Cyrus the Great, king of Persia, to defeat the Babylonians. Within a year, Cyrus released foreigners captured by the Babylonians and allowed them to return to their homelands throughout the ancient Near East. Among the foreigners were Esther’s relatives, the Judahites. With Cyrus’s decree of release, this period has come to be known as the postexilic period.
In the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, we read about several groups of Judahites who returned to the land God had given to their forefathers. According to the decree of Cyrus, they took back with them the gold, silver, and other items that Nebuchadnezzar’s armies had pilfered from the Jerusalem temple in 587 BC. (The Babylonians razed the temple and torched the city of Jerusalem.) These people went home to begin anew: to rebuild the temple, their homes, and their lives. Their task was difficult, and they met great resistance from those who inhabited the land in their absence. What we know of them from the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah is supplemented by the prophets Haggai and Zechariah.
But some of the Judahites, who were beginning to be called Jews, chose not to return. There were likely many reasons for them to stay in the land of their exile. If they traveled back to their homeland and tried to reestablish their lives there, they would face certain hardships and dangers. Among the Jews choosing to remain in Persia were the ancestors of Esther and her cousin, Mordecai. At some point, and for an unknown reason, the ancestors of Esther and Mordecai moved even further east to Susa, the winter capital of the Persian kings. It is there, in Susa, that the majority of the Book of Esther takes place.
The Book of Esther is a wonderful, true story of God watching over His people and delivering them from certain death. This He did through His faithful servants Esther and Mordecai. Although God is never mentioned in the book, He is not hard to find in the many “coincidences,” ironic twists, and reversals recorded therein. Some interpreters have gone so far as to say that God, even in His apparent absence, is the book’s main character.
The Book of Esther is a powerful reminder that God is faithful to His promises and raises up deliverers for His people.
Devotional reading is from God’s Word for Today: Esther, pages 7–8 © 2008 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Lord God, You have issued a decree of deliverance for me. Cause the joy and gladness in my heart to shine forth every day in my words and actions as I share this good news with others. Amen.
Prayer is from The Lutheran Study Bible, page 771 © 2009 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.