An Investigation of Esther As An Episode of Covenant History in a Foreign Court -- By: John F. Klem
JMAT 7:1 (Spr 03) p. 69
An Investigation of Esther As An Episode of Covenant History in a Foreign Court
Central Baptist Theological Seminary
Virginia Beach, Virginia
“And who knows but that you have come … for such a time as this” (Esth 4:14). The book of Esther presents to any serious interpreter a number of hermeneutical challenges regarding its historical accuracy, its historical intention, its theological message, and its literary nature. The latter is the interest of this study: to address the matter of the book’s genre. This article will attempt to reach three goals. First, it will briefly and concisely introduce the reader to some of the more significant conclusions regarding the book’s genre. Included in this discussion will be a description of the methodology used to analyze Esther’s literary form. Second, this study will attempt to relate the book of Esther to the macro-genre of historical narrative and then describe it in terms of covenant history by focusing on the abstraction levels of the covenant people, the warfare of the covenant people, and the divine purpose of the covenant Lord. Finally, this article will compare the narrative of Esther to other royal court historical narratives, particularly, the Joseph narrative (Gen 37–50) and the narrative episodes of Daniel 1–6. This article seeks to describe Esther as an episode of covenant history in a foreign court. This study will investigate the canonical text of Esther as preserved in the Masoretic Text.
Toward an Understanding of Esther’s Genre
The various attempts to describe Esther’s genre could be classified into three categories. The first category of narrative is certainly broad and yields diverse conclusions regarding the truth claim of the text. Esther manifests the literary quality of prose narrative texts distinguished by the use of a narrator, the inclusion of characters, the development of a plot within a defined time period and space dimension, and the incorporation of many of the stylistic devices normally associated with
JMAT 7:1 (Spr 03) p. 70
prose narrative (i.e., irony, repetition, omission, and dialogue).1
The classification of Esther as prose narrative divides with respect to the truth claim of the book’s contents. Many affirm the historical intention of Esther and consider it a selective re-presentation of what actually happened in the Persian court. Those holding this position, according to Robert Gordis, emphasize the adjective in the description “historica...
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