I. Title, Content, Canonical Placement
The book is named for Queen Esther, who dominates the story. Her Hebrew name was Hadassah, which means “myrtle.” The name Esther is based on the Persian word stara, which means “star.”
This narrative is beautifully constructed and is filled with suspense and surprising turns of events.
The story begins with a feast attended by the military leaders of the empire. Queen Vashti was demoted because of disobedience, and Esther was chosen to replace her.
A struggle for power developed with Esther and her uncle Mordecai against Haman, the new grand vizier. Haman hated Jews and persuaded the king to issue a decree that would lead to their destruction. With great courage, Esther succeeded in exposing Haman's plot, and he was executed. Mordecai was made the new grand vizier, and, with the aid of Queen Esther, gained permission from the king to issue a new decree that granted the Jews the right to protect themselves. The Jews successfully overcame their enemies, so Mordecai and Esther proclaimed the Feast of Purim to celebrate the victory.
In the Hebrew arrangement of the OT, the book of Esther has been grouped with Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, and Lamentations. In the oldest Greek translations of the OT, about a.d. 430, Esther is placed before the Minor Prophets. In English versions the book comes after Nehemiah.