Silence can sometimes be the most powerful communication possible, thus the origin of the phrase “deafening silence.” It’s the sort of silence that communicates more powerfully than words ever could. We find something like that in the book of Esther. We find the Jewish people under attack, their very existence as a people threatened. We find a hateful antagonist who will go to any lengths to annihilate them. We find an unconcerned king. What we don’t find is God. Anywhere. No mention of his name, no prayer, no worship, no devotion. Zilch. Nada. Nothing.
This fact is so obvious and so shocking that almost from the earliest history of the book, men tried to rectify it. In the Greek edition of Esther whoever translated it tried to “fix” this glaring problem. In the additions to the book in Greek, we find Esther and Mordecai praying, we find God inserted back into the text. We find the book of Esther “fixed.”
One example: The Greek edition of Esther 10.4 reads: Then Mordecai said, God has done these things. Voila! Problem solved.
The only obvious conclusion we can make about Esther is that the author purposefully left out God for a reason and in so glaring a manner that we couldn’t help to notice (think baseball with no batter; Pride and Prejudice with no Mr. Darcy; makes no sense, right?). Why would he do this? This question is exactly the question that the author of Esther wants us to ask (and the brilliance of the book and what makes it so immediately applicable in our own lives).
Think for a moment about the situation of the Jews in Persia. The Jewish religion was intimately connected to land, to Israel. The temple was in Israel; God’s promises to his people were inextricably entwined with the land of Israel. Many exiles, understanding this, had returned to Israel, however, many had not returned due to governmental duties (Nehemiah) or life was too good in Persia, or lethargy, whatever. Were they still God’s people? Did they still belong to the covenant even though they were far removed from it?
Here is how Karen Jobes puts it: During this postexilic period, the big theological question for God’s people was their status with respect to the covenant they had broken…The book of Esther subtly addresses the question of the covenant from the perspective of those who did not, for whatever reason, return to Jerusalem.
Next consider the events of the book of Esther. Esther mysteriously is chosen as queen. Mordecai happens to save the king’s life. One night at just the right moment, the king can’t sleep, etc. etc. All throughout Esther we find God moving again and again but without ever being seen or acknowledged. He is hidden, yet his providence marches on accomplishing everything needed to save the Jewish people.
What is going on here? Jobes: The Esther story is an example of how at one crucial moment in history the covenant promises God had made were fulfilled, not by his miraculous intervention, but through completely ordinary events. God was moving. God was active, but in such a way that his will was accomplished without extraordinary miracles, but with ordinary events.
Why is that of utmost importance to you, dear reader? Because you live in an age in which God almost never works by extraordinary, obvious miracles. He is working through the daily choices of men and women, some who love and worship him and some who do not. In short, Esther is the book you go to when you want to understand your own time and place; how God works right now.