Literary Clues to God’s Providence in the Book of Esther -- By: Forrest S. Weiland

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 160:637 (Jan 2003)
Article: Literary Clues to God’s Providence in the Book of Esther
Author: Forrest S. Weiland

Literary Clues to God’s Providence in the Book of Esthera

Forrest S. Weiland

Since God Himself moved the authors of Scripture to write, one should expect to find evidences of purposeful intelligent design woven into the fabric of biblical narratives.1 This series of articles has argued that the narrative design of Esther provides “a clarifying lens” through which its author’s message can be viewed.2 Since the narrator of Esther did not explicitly identify his message, literary features become all the more important.3 In fact the scarcity of overt theological statements in the book suggests that the author wanted his readership to deduce his message, at least in part, through his literary presentation. As Berg has observed, “The author’s method of presentation indicates his narrative’s message.”4 The first three articles in this series investigated

the genre type, plot structure, and selected literary conventions in the Book of Esther. This article seeks to ascertain how those features, along with the portrayal of the main characters in the book, contribute to understanding the book’s overall message.

The Heroic-Comic Genre Form and the Message in the Book of Esther

The narrator of the Book of Esther recorded historical events but clothed them in a heroic-comic literary framework.5 This narrative framework does not in itself identify the message, but it does begin to point the interpreter in the general direction. For example from the historical narrative genre in the Bible the reader anticipates a sequence of historical episodes which have a theological significance and were recorded to instruct, correct, and challenge readers in their faith. But the way in which events were recorded—the literary design—gives accent to the narrator’s message.

The story evidences heroic features in that Esther and Mordecai, by taking greats risks, rescued their people from annihilation. Also the narrative has a comic plot structure in that it moves from the initial happy situation of Esther’s accession to royalty into a major conflict consisting of the genocide plot against the Jewish people and culminates in the joyful victory of the Jews over their enemies.6 Disaster was averted (9:1); mourning and fasting...

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