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by Donald C. Fleming
The book of Esther belongs to that period of Israel’s history known as the post-exilic. The story recorded in the book took place in Persia during the reign of the Persian king Xerxes I, also known as Ahasuerus, who reigned from 486 to 465 BC. (For further details of the post-exilic era see background notes to the book of Ezra.)
Persia had become ruler of the Jews more than half a century before the time of Ahasuerus, when Cyrus conquered Babylon (in 539 BC). Although Cyrus gave permission to the captive Jews to return to their homeland, many preferred to remain in Babylon (or Persia, as it now was). They felt assured of reasonable security and freedom in the land of their captivity, and did not want to face the risks and hardships of a new life in Jerusalem. They and their descendants continued to increase in prosperity, but showed little interest in re-establishing their religion as a spiritual force in their national life.
God, however, was still guarding his people. The book of Esther does not mention the name of God or the religious activities that should have been the main feature of Jewish life. But it shows that God was still ruling in their affairs, whether they acknowledged him or not. He still had a purpose for his people and he would not allow them to be destroyed.
Esther becomes queen
Plan to destroy the Jews
The Jews triumphant
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18