I’ve been spending time with my nephews lately. It’s been a struggle to find the time to sit down and write this. I’m actually supposed to be on the road driving home now but I’m sitting at my parent’s house writing this blog because I’ve been looking forwarding to writing this post for a while now.
I want to talk to you about Esther. Yeah, I know you’ve heard the story before but we’re not going to actually talk about the story. We’re going to talk about the book itself.
Esther is considered a great work even in secular circles. Many literary scholars have written about and studied the text because it is so well written. Esther includes all the different literary devices. It has motifs, chiasms, allusions, foreshadowing, metaphors, etc. You name it; it’s in there. There is very little about the book that is obvious or as it seems. The writer, someone that remains a mystery to us, was egregiously talented. There is so much that is hidden in the complexity of the text that I could easily write my next 10 posts about this book and only start to scratch the surface.
What you may not know is that it was actually a controversial book for its time. In fact, it almost wasn’t accepted into the biblical canon. It turns out that there is a list of criteria that had to be met in order for the priests to accept a new addition to the Old Testament canon. Some of the criteria included things like:
1. It needed to agree with the Torah,
2. It needed widespread acceptance
3. It needed to be an inspired work
4. It needed to be written a certain time period
5. It needed to mention the name of God
If it didn’t include all these criteria it couldn’t even be considered for being added to the Bible. This means the book of Esther had a problem because it doesn’t mention the name of God in any form. According to the rules, it couldn’t even be considered for addition to the canon. To add insult to injury the book’s main character was a woman, which was also highly irregular. There’s so much working against this little book, so how did it get to be in our Bibles? What changed the minds of the priests and convinced them to consider it?
It comes down to one word.
Transliterated that’s spelled “checed”. The book of Esther is littered with this word. It’s everywhere. You could actually call it a keyword in the text.
Now I need to tell you something about this word and I promise not to go into a whole word study (even though I would love to). This word cannot be translated into English because there is no English equivalency. Some texts translate it as “loving kindness” others as “favor”.
Regardless of how you want to translate the word, you have to recognize that the word comes from God. All love, all kindness, all favor comes from God. The priests knew this too but this was because they were intimately familiar with the Torah (first five books of the Bible). When they read in the text of Esther about how she was shown favor (חֶסֶד) everywhere she went that made them think of another story.
You might remember that there was another character from the Bible that was shown favor (חֵן or chen) everywhere he went, Joseph. In Genesis chapter 39, Joseph found favor in the eyes of Potiphar and the text tells us this is because the Lord was with Joseph.
This means that as the priests read this story they were thinking about the favor shown on Joseph and then knew that it came from God. The writer of Esther knew this too. It’s what’s called an allusion. And while I wasn’t there while they argued about whether or not to include it, I’m sure that the favor of God played a role.
What is favor to you? Did you know all the love and kindness in your life comes from God? The blessings shown to Esther testified of God’s presences in her life and changed the hearts and minds of those around her. The favor of God preserved a book of the Bible but has it changed you lately?
There are so many hidden blessings from God all around us. May you find favor everywhere you go and may you remember that it is a blessing from God.
Johnathan Coker is one of the founders of Enspire Productions. He is currently a teacher at Chisholm Trail Academy.