You’d think that the Author of the most famous book of all time would take center stage on every single page, from Genesis to Revelation. Remarkably, he doesn’t!
Did you know that mention of God is completely missing from one book in the Bible?
True story! The book of Esther—an often-overlooked book nestled between the better-known books of Nehemiah and Job—makes zero mention of him. No Lord, no God; he’s completely absent!
Or is he?
Esther’s story shows us that even when God seems absent and totally missing from life, he isn’t.
The Story Behind God’s MIA Status
So what’s the deal with the book of Esther? Why does God seem to be missing in action? Let’s begin with a look at the backstory of this fascinating book of the Bible.
The story of Esther is set in Susa (modern-day Iran). A century before Esther’s story begins, the Jews had been exiled from Judah and Jerusalem when Babylon sacked their cities in 586 BC. A few decades later, Babylon had been conquered in turn by Cyrus, king of Persia, who later released the Jewish exiles and encouraged them to return to their homeland.
Both events—exile and then restoration—were pivotal moments in Jewish history, shaping Israel for generations. Up until this point, the Jews had enjoyed a long, glorious, and prosperous history as God’s people—they’d been redeemed from slavery in Egypt, adopted as the Lord’s chosen people through a covenantal relationship, and given their own land in promise. A glorious temple in Jerusalem symbolized their prosperity.
The destruction of that temple and the exile under pagan superpowers brought a bitter end to this long period of glory and prosperity. This calamity was God’s judgment on their wickedness—a judgment he’d warned about generations earlier when he established his covenant with them:
However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you…. Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. — Deuteronomy 28:15,64 (NIV)
And yet, despite this warning, despite his judgment, and despite his seeming absence—God wasn’t through with his people.
Where Is God? What Is He Up to?
Esther’s story begins when King Xerxes hosts a banquet for the royal and military leaders of Persia and Media. During the festivities, the king’s wife snubs him—so he hosts a beauty contest to have her replaced.
Guess who happens to win the Xerxes’ affections? A young Jewish woman by the name of Esther—although at the urging of her uncle Morecai, she carefully hides her family background and nationality. The plot thickens when Mordecai hears of a plot “to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children” (3:13).
One commentator on this story calls out the “genius” of God’s complete absence, noting that the author of the book of Esther seems to almost deliberately avoid mentioning him. The story is a microcosm of the larger Jewish one at the time, when they would have been asking themselves, “Are we still God’s people? Are we still in relationship with him?”
We find the answer to this question in a tiny, seemingly insignificant detail of the story.
One Tiny Detail, One Big God
The main antagonist of the story is one bad dude named Haman. He’s the one who wanted to wipe out God’s people—simply because Mordecai refused to kneel down before him and pay him honor.
Now, there’s a two-word descriptive detail mentioned in chapter 3—and it’s an important one: Haman is described as “the Agagite.” Most readers move right past this piece of information, missing its significance. Yet in many ways the story hinges on it!
The word “Agagite”—meaning a descendant of Agag, the king of the Amalekites—provides a link between the plight of the exiled Jews and the ancient covenant God made with their ancestors at Sinai (back in the book of Exodus). These the Amalekites had the distinction of being the first people who attacked Israel on their way to the Promised Land. God said to Moses that Israel would be at war with these people for generations until the Lord blotted out their name.
And here is a descendant of these ancient people squaring off with Israel again! Haman seems to have the upper hand; will he finally wipe them out? He convinces the king to issue an edict to permit the destruction of God’s people.
While all hope seemed lost for Israel, Mordecai recognized that God was still in control—for he believed God had strategically placed Esther in the king’s court for this moment:
“Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” — Esther 4:12–14 (NIV)
In a remarkable reversal, it was Haman who was wiped out—all because God used one of his own to save his people.
God Is Here and Is Not Silent
God answered his people’s groaning and questions. He also fulfilled his promises—not with miraculous intervention, but through very ordinary means. The story is a striking biblical statement on the providence of God—the way God moves through history invisibly, yet deliberately, to bring about his will, benefit his people, and glorify his name.
You know what? He still does!
Though God may seem missing from your own story, you can be sure that he is working behind the scenes to provide relief and deliverance. Through seemingly normal and everyday events, God still fulfills his covenantal promises.
He is neither absent nor silent in your story!