Esther: an allegory
By Johnny Tatum
The primary purpose of this overview of the book of Esther is to present the inner workings of, and the relationship between, Holy Spirit, our new nature, our flesh, and our will.
PART 1: "IT TOOK PLACE IN THE DAYS OF "
SPIRITUALLY EMPTY or SPIRITUALLY RICH?
Esther is the classic book about the sovereignty of God, even though the name God does not appear anywhere in the book. Outwardly there does not appear to be a discussion of anything spiritual except on one occasion when fasting [and prayer] is cited.
For this reason, some students of the Bible have doubted whether it was part of the canon. However, the Hebrews never questioned whether it was part of the Holy Scriptures, even though the name God is not mentioned. Actually:
The book of Esther has one of the richest spiritual messages of any book in the Old Testament.
The book of Esther is a picture of two truths, as follows:
One:When we are faithless, God is faithful
This is an account of people what they did, what they thought, and what they said. And since God's name does not appear in the book, we know the people were oblivious to Him.
Two:God is sovereign
THE PROVIDENCE OF GOD
In many ways, the book of Esther reminds me of the book of Ruth, the only other book in the Bible named after a woman. Ruth was a Gentile (non-Jewess) who married a Jew; Esther was a Jewess who married a Gentile (non-Jew). Importantly, both books focus on:
This is where many of us part company with deists, including some of the founding fathers of North America. Deists grant there is a God of creation, meaning that God created the world whereby the needs of creation are already provided for, and now the world goes its own way.
Some individuals also grant there is a God of preservation, meaning that God continues to hold the universe together.
Many of us go one step further and say that there is a God of providence, meaning God intervenes in the universe even in ways appearing to be coincidences (chance occurrences). Though it can seem as though God is hiding in the shadows, there are no coincidences, because He is always controlling things.
When I was in high school, I disliked reading the literary works of Charles Dickens, because his stories were too full of coincidences. The coincidences kept piling up, until I felt it was just too much. Later, I changed my opinion about his works, because I learned coincidences, which I now know as God's providence, do occur in history.
COINCIDENCES OF GOD'S PROVIDENCE
While studying the book of Esther, I reflected on so-called coincidences that prove God's providence.
Daniel shows us God's plan was for the world power to proceed from the east to the west Babylon to Medo-Persia to Greece [and further west] to Rome. And God used so-called coincidences to do just that: coincidences of His providence!
Consider the following events, proving God's providence:
The Battle of Thermopylae King Ahasuerus had 300 ships in the Aegean Sea. Greece was doomed, because there was no way they could beat the heavily armed Persians. But it just so happens, a freak storm arose and forced the Persian ships into a different path. The Persians were overcome; the weather sunk half of the ships. Of course, the upset brought the world power from the east to the west.
The Spanish Armada It was impossible for the British to defeat the Spanish Armada; Great Britain was doomed. The Spanish ships were ringing the North Sea coastline, and there was no way for the British to be victorious. However, remember that God said the world power would move from the east to the west. What happened that early morning? The British sent one flaming ship through, ready to throw out fire (brogans). Once the Spaniards saw this ship, they opened their sails to maneuver themselves. However, when they did so, guess what happened? A strong, freakish wind blew in against the contrary wind patterns, and drove the Spanish Armada up and around England and to the top of Ireland and Scotland. Another storm blew in and finished them off. I am sure that was God's providence; otherwise, the story would have ended differently.
My favorite coincidence-providence:A Voyage of Christopher Columbus He was headed to the North American continent on a course taking him to what is now Virginia/North Carolina, USA. If he had landed, what religion would he have brought to the United States? The same religion he took to other countries: Catholicism. Columbus was a master sailor and navigator, and he skillfully navigated a direct line. But then something happened. The sailors saw a lot of pigeons, and Columbus thought The pigeons must be going to land. He turned south and took Catholicism away from what is now known as the United States. Was that just a coincidence? No, it was God's providence.
The American Revolutionary War Benedict Arnold (American General) gave war secrets to Major Andrea (British officer), who was attempting to take secrets back to the British lines. Major Andrea generally knew where the British lines were, but not exactly. He came to a fork in the road, and he did not know which direction to turn. If Major Andrea had gone to the right, he would have made it to the British lines. Instead, he flipped a coin, he went to the left, and whom do you think he encountered? The American Colonists. Clearly, it was God's providence.
That is what we are going to see in the book of Esther; specifically:
God is caring for His people even when they are indifferent to Him
THE BOOK OF ESTHER: AN ALLEGORY
Since the beginning, Jewish Rabbis knew the book of Esther was a true story and that it held deep symbolism; therefore, they knew it was an allegory. How did they know it? Because the opening words of Esther are:
Now it took place in the days of Ahasuerus. (Esther 1:1)
What is striking about that phrase It took place in the days of ? It is a stylistic device indicating the story that followed was to be taken as an allegory. In this instance, the book recounts a true story. However, an allegory means we are to search for spiritual application by interpreting the book as an allegory.
Although most Jewish Rabbis and scholars have recognized the allegorical nature of the book of Esther, they are only able to partially interpret the symbols. To this day, the book of Esther is a mystery to them, because some of the symbols they can identify (they can plug in some of the symbols), but others they cannot (they cannot plug in all of the symbols).
Why do you think they cannot? They are missing Messiah Jesus.
If you cannot plug in the witness to Messiah, it is not comprehensible
Before We Go Any Further:
WHAT IS AN ALLEGORY?
An allegory is a written work with a deeper meaning underlying the literal meaning (speaking of one thing under the guise of another). An allegory is extended symbolism something concrete (for example, a character or an object) representing something intangible (for example, a spiritual being, a quality, or a process) to create in the mind of the reader the exact equivalent.
Another reason the Rabbis knew the events in the book of Esther actually happened is that there is probably no other Old Testament book whose events and people are as well documented in history.
King Ahasuerus was well known; the decrees he issued, which are referred to in the book of Esther, are still preserved. Haman and Mordecai, two other well-known characters, and the events described in the book of Esther are also preserved in secular history.
The historical context of the book of Esther overlaps slightly with the book of Daniel.
We know the book of Esther began just before the Decree of Cyrus, which allowed the Hebrews to return to their Land, was issued. However, most of the book takes place after the decree was issued, showing that most of the Hebrews stayed in Persia instead of returning even when they had the chance to return. Many stayed in Babylon (place to where the Hebrews had been exiled) and in Susa (Persian capital where the events of the book of Esther occurred).
Why did the Hebrews not return to their Land? They did not want to. They were totally secular (worldly comforts and pleasures were of greater importance than enduring untold sacrifices), and they had no desire for eternal, spiritual matters. Regardless of their lack of response to God, God's providence continued to uphold His people.
Application:This is a great lesson for us:
God's faithfulness does not depend on our behavior!
And that is a good thing, correct?
If God's people are in tune with Him, then they are in tune with Holy Spirit, who guides them. How does God guide His people?
Alternatively, if God's people are not in tune with Him, will He stop guiding them? No! How does God guide His people then?
That is what the book of Esther proves.
Esther: An Allegory, PART 2: PARTY TIME!
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We want to express our deepest appreciation to Mitchell and Dawn Kolodin for their excellent work in transcribing and editing this entire Esther study.
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