Plot Structure in the Book of Esther -- By: Forrest S. Weiland

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 159:635 (Jul 2002)
Article: Plot Structure in the Book of Esther
Author: Forrest S. Weiland

Plot Structure in the
Book of Esther*

Forrest S. Weiland

* This is the second of four articles in the series “Literary Art in the Book of Esther.”

Forrest S. Weiland is a Greater Europe Mission missionary and an adjunct faculty member, Christian Heritage College, El Cajon, California.

The first article in this series investigated the literary genre and narrative design of the Book of Esther, showing how they support the book’s historicity and aid in clarifying the type of message the reader can expect.1 This article analyzes the plot structure of the book. The setting, major conflicts, and resolutions provide the literary framework on which the author builds his message.

Plot Structure

At least as early as Aristotle literary critics recognized the main components of a plot. Aristotle believed that a plot contains three foundational elements: a beginning, a middle, and an end.2 Modern scholars cite the same elements. For example Wilcoxen identifies the beginning, middle, and end as the ingredients that constitute a plot and says that they “contribute to the buildup and release of dramatic tension.”3 Similarly others speak of setting, conflict, and resolution, or setting, plot complication, and denouement. These plot elements can be observed in the story of Esther.


The word “setting” refers to “the temporal and spatial environment of the action of a narrative.”4 Ryken indicates that a setting usually refers to the physical, temporal, and cultural environment that provides the necessary background to the action in the story.5 The author of Esther did not specify the date in the way a modern historiographer might do; but he did identify the location, the empire, the king, and years of his reign, all of which are relevant to the story (Esth. 1:1–3; 2:16; 3:7).6

In the opening verses the narrator carefully described the geographical extent and cultural environment of Ahasuerus’s kingdom (1:1–9). The lavish description of the 180-day banquet at the palace presents this king’s pomp, vast wealth, and po...

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