The Book of Esther

I. Title

       The book is named after the principle character in the story; Haddassah was her Hebrew name. She was also know as Esther, the Hebraised form of the name "Ishtar", the pagan goddess of fertility, sexual love, and war.

II. Author and Setting

       The author of the book of Esther is unknown. The story is set during the time of Xerxes, the king of Persia from 486 to 464 BC. Esther begins in the third year of Xerxes rule (Esther 1:3). Obviously the story was written some time after the events that are described, but how long after is unclear.
       Later, Xerxes lead his army into battle against Greece, after three years of planning, intending to punish them for the way they had humiliated his father Darius I when the Athenians defeated him at the battle of Marathon (490 BC). Xerxes accompanied his forces on their march through Thrace, Thessaly, and Locris, only to witness his own defeat; although at first successful at the battle of Thermopylae, his hopes were dashed at Salamis (480) and Plataea (479). Defeated, he returned to Asia in 480 BC and stayed there for the rest of his life. Chapters two through the end of the book may take place after this defeat, while the banquet of chapter one may have taken place just before Xerxes lead his army off to defeat. He was ultimately murdered in 465 by Artabanus. Xerxes' son, Artaxerxes succeeded him to the throne.

III. An Outline of Esther

I. Xerxes and Vashti 1:1-22
II. Xerxes and Esther 2:1-18
III. Mordecai and Haman 2:19-3:15
IV. Mordecai and Esther 4:1-17
V. Esther and Xerxes 5:1-8
VI. Haman and Mordecai 5:9-6:14
VII. Esther and Haman 7:1-10
VIII. Xerxes and Esther 8:1-6
IX. The Jews and Their Enemies 8:7-9:17
X. Purim and Mordecai 9:18-10:3

Questions on Esther

1. When did the story of Esther occur?
2. What is a pur?
3. What modern Jewish holiday originated from the incidents recorded in Esther?
4. How is that holiday celebrated?
5. Identify the following people:

a. Memucan
b. Vashti
c. Xerxes (or Ahasuerus)
d. Haman
e. Bigthana (or Bigthan)
f. Teresh
g. Hegai
h. Shaashgaz
i. Hadassah
j. Mordecai
k. Zeresh
l. Hathach