To fully understand and appreciate the book of Esther, we need to understand the historical context in which the events were recorded.
The book of Esther chronicled the life of this remarkable young woman during the Persian reign of Israel. The book covers approximately ten years of her life, from 483 BC to 473 BC. With this timeframe in mind, we see that the book of Esther was one of the last books of the Old Testament to be recorded. The only Old Testament writings occurring after Esther were Ezra chapters 7-10, Nehemiah, and Malachi.
The story takes place in the ancient city of Susa, located in modern-day Iran. This city was part of the first Persian empire, which covered multiple modern-day countries of the Middle East (Israel, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Afghanistan, Turkey, Pakistan, part of India, part of Egypt, to name just a few of the larger countries).
The events in the book of Esther occurred during the reign of Ahasuerus, also known as Xerxes in some history books. Recalling your history again, remember that the Jews were captured by the Babylonians, and the freed after 70 years in captivity. During this free timespan, Jews were allowed to return to Jerusalem. It was in the timeframe of this first return to Jerusalem that the book of Esther captured events.
We don’t know why Esther did not return to Jerusalem with the rest of the Jews; we just know that Esther and her guardian-cousin Mordecai were living in Susa as part of the exile of Jews from Israel. Times were likely hard, and they may not have had the economic means to travel. They also may have been scared to return, knowing the dangers that lay in both the travel and in the actual city after they arrived. In any case, the story takes place in and around the fortress-city of Susa, one of the capitals of the Persian empire.
We do know that the majority of the inhabitants of the Persian kingdom hated the Jews, and would just a soon see them wiped off the face of the earth as have to live by them. But yet, God preserved them throughout history as His people.
With that historical context in mind, tomorrow (Lord willing) we’ll dive into the book of Esther and see what the Lord has to say to us through this young woman’s story and God’s Providence working behind the scenes.