The story is a familiar one, made popular by Sunday School teachers, novels, and movies: her people threatened with extinction, Queen Esther must summon the courage to approach the Persian King Xerxes in order to save the Jews. But what is the real message of Esther? In this commentary, Anthony Tomasino closely examines the Hebrew text to explore the motifs of feasting, sovereignty, assertiveness, and reversal in the book of Esther. He also explores its connection with the celebration of Purim, the theme of the invincibility of the Jews, and the conspicuous absence of any mention of God.
Tomasino’s treatment of the book of Esther is discerning, judicious, balanced, nuanced and, because of all that, eminently useful to scholar as well as pastor. All readers will find enlightening and informative observations and analysis that will enhance their study. From detailed treatment of the Hebrew text to attention to the theological and devotional implications of the text, there is something here for everyone. This is now my top pick for an evangelical commentary on Esther.
—John H. Walton, Professor of Old Testament, Wheaton College
Anthony Tomasino has provided here an exegetically sound and deeply thoughtful volume on Esther. The series affords him the luxury of moving from the original text to interpretation, then to theological reflection and pastoral application. We all know that the book of Esther is both fascinating and important, but it often gets relegated to relatively brief treatment for a variety of reason. Tomasino is to be congratulated on a wonderful accomplishment. Readers will benefit from this commentary for years to come.
Bill T. Arnold, Paul S. Amos Professor of Old Testament Interpretation, Asbury Theological Seminary
“Purim is not merely about having a good time. Rather, it becomes a time for remembering that there are enemies surrounding God’s people and that deliverance is not merely a matter of passive trust in God, but of human response to divinely appointed opportunity.” (Page 73)
“more manuscripts exist of the book of Esther than any other biblical book.” (Page 13)
“In this text, we are skillfully directed to contemplate a God who is committed to His people, even when they show little interest in Him. The characters here display little of the pervasive piety typical of biblical heroes; indeed, they are much more like modern people than we may care to admit. Just as we typically do not recognize the providence of God even as we experience it, so, too, do the characters in Esther seem mostly oblivious to the hand that is guiding their fate, making only oblique references to His purposes.” (Page 128)
“In ancient Persia, betrayal of the king meant not only loss of life, but loss of property” (Page 308)
“It is not inaccurate to say that the book of Esther (as it now exists) is about divine providence, veiled in the guise of a ‘fate’ that plays favorites. On the other hand, it is also about human failure—especially the failure to maintain Jewish distinctiveness while living in the context of Diaspora. By removing God from the narrative, our redactor eloquently voiced his disapproval of the compromises the characters made in their Diaspora setting.” (Page 125)
The Evangelical Exegetical Commentary (EEC) series is a premiere biblical commentary rooted in the original text of Scripture. Incorporating the latest in critical biblical scholarship and written from a distinctly evangelical perspective, each comprehensive volume features a remarkable amount of depth, providing historical and literary insights, and addressing exegetical, pastoral, and theological details. Readers will gain a full understanding of the text and how to apply it to everyday life.
Learn more about the other titles in this series.
Tomasino (Ph.D., University of Chicago) is ordained as a minister in the United Methodist church. He currently serves as Director of the Biblical Studies Program and associate professor of Bible, Old Testament and Hebrew studies at Bethel College in Mishawaka, Indiana. A scholar of ancient Judaism, he is also the author of Written Upon the Heart: The Ten Commandments for Christians Today.