EstherPaperback Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries Debra Reid
First volume in the new TOTC replacement programme. In the fifth century BC, the Jews were threatened with genocide. The book of Esther describes how this crisis was averted through Esther's bravery, her stepfather's wisdom and the unity of the Jewish people, under the sovereignty of God.(more...) Part of a series: Tyndale Commentary Old Testament Series Part of these promotions:
The place: Persia. The time: fifth century BC. The Jews were threatened with genocide. A decree ordered the extermination of young and old, women and children. The book of Esther describes how this crisis was averted through the bravery of Esther, the wisdom of her stepfather and the unity of the Jewish people. It also reveals the God who quietly - and sometimes unexpectedly - works behind the scenes to order the events of our lives.
Following the complete revision of the Tyndale New Testament series, the Old Testament series is now also being fully revised with new volumes, allowing the series to relevantly engage with current scholarship.
These commentaries are designed to help the reader of the Bible understand what the text says and what it means. The Introduction to each book gives a concise but thorough treatment of its authorship, date, original setting and purpose. Following a structural Analysis, the Commentary takes the book section-by-section, drawing out its main themes, and also comments on individual verses and problems of interpretation. Additional Notes provide fuller discussion of particular difficulties. The format of the new Old Testament volumes reflects a key emphasis from linguistics, which is that texts communicate in larger blocks rather than in shorter segments such as individual verses. The commentary on each section of the text is structured under three headings. A note on Context places the passage in its literary setting within the book as well as noting any crucial historical issues. The Comment offers exegesis of the passage. The Meaning section shows how the passage communicates within the book, highlighting its significant theological themes. The aim throughout is to explain the true meaning of the Bible and make its message plain.
Extent: 176 pages
Publication Date: 15/02/2008
Published by: IVP
1. The nature of the book of Esther
2. Origin and date
3. Historical background and setting
4. Canonical status
5. Literary issues
6. Textual issues
7. Theology and purpose
Appendix: The Greek Additions
The text of the Greek Additions
Persia and Media
The Palace of Susa
Feminist interpretations of Esther 1
The decision to completely revise the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries is an indication of the important role that the series has played since its opening volumes were released in the mid-1960s. They represented at that time, and have continued to represent, commentary writing that was committed both to the importance of the text of the Bible as Scripture and a desire to engage with as full a range of interpretative issues as possible without being lost in the minutiae of scholarly debate.
The commentaries aimed to explain the biblical text to a generation of readers confronting models of critical scholarship and new discoveries from the Ancient Near East, while remembering that the Old Testament is not simply another text from the ancient world. Although no uniform process of exegesis was required, all the original contributors were united in their conviction that the Old Testament remains the word of God for us today. That the original volumes fulfilled this role is evident from the way in which they continue to be used in so many parts of the world.
A crucial element of the original series was that it should offer an up-to-date reading of the text, and it is precisely for this reason that new volumes are required. The questions confronting readers in the first half of the twenty-first century are not necessarily those from the second half of the twentieth. Discoveries from the Ancient Near East continue to shed new light on the Old Testament, and emphases in exegesis have changed markedly.
Whilst remaining true to the goals of the initial volumes, the need for contemporary study of the text requires that the series as a whole be updated. This updating is not simply a matter of commissioning new volumes to replace the old. We have also taken the opportunity to update the format of the series to reflect a key emphasis from linguistics, which is that texts communicate in larger blocks rather than in shorter segments such as individual verses. Because of this, the treatment of each section of the text includes three segments. First, a short note on Context is offered, placing the passage under consideration in its literary setting within the book, as well as noting any historical issues crucial to interpretation. The Comment segment then follows the traditional structure of the commentary, offering exegesis of the various components of a passage. Finally, a brief comment is made on Meaning, by which is meant the message that the passage seeks to communicate within the book, highlighting its key theological themes. This section brings together the detail of the Comment to show how the passage under consideration seeks to communicate as a whole.
Our prayer is that these new volumes will continue the rich heritage of the Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries and that they will continue to witness to the God who is made known in the text.
David G. Firth, Series Editor
Tremper Longman III, Consulting Editor
AUTHOR’S PREFACE (Extract)
In June 2006, I was privileged to hear the Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks, deliver a lecture entitled ‘Living as a biblical people in a secular age’. In his lecture, the Chief Rabbi took the following themes: the importance of rest, learning, community, trust in times of insecurity and uncertainty, and maintaining a sense of destination (our part in the eternal narrative). What an apt summary of the challenge that the book of Esther presents to us today! In the course of this project,
I have been surprised again by the present relevance of this ancient story. It is a story written to inspire and challenge us, and to move us to celebrate the moments in our own life stories for which we are truly grateful. I hope you will find time to sit down and read the story of Esther in one sitting. Its meaning is to be found most clearly in its wholeness, although there are significant pointers to that meaning in its individual units. This commentary attempts to give due credit both to the story’s literary finesse and to its didactic purpose (hence the introductory section and, in the commentary itself, the employment of the headings ‘context’, ‘comment’ and ‘meaning’). But, like all stories, its impact remains personal as you relate it to your own unique story. Wherever appropriate, I have used section headings that employ the wording of the biblical text (in inverted commas) in order to emphasize the way in which the divisions I have used rely on emphases within the text itself. Due to its widespread use in churches today, I have used the New International Version as the basic English translation, quotations from which are given in italics. Other versions have been consulted, and I have indicated where I found their renditions particularly interesting. I should perhaps stress that in a book like Esther, with its careful literary design, many of its design features are hidden in translation, hence the frequent comment on the Hebrew text itself. ...
Extract from INTRODUCTION
1. The nature of the book of Esther
What kind of book is Esther? It is this question that taunts us as we try to understand the significance of this short OT book. On the one hand it appears to be a simple historical account. On the other it is a carefully crafted piece of literary genius. From one perspective, its main focus is upon the individual who gives the book its name; from another the spotlight is on a whole nation. Thematically and stylistically there is both simplicity and complexity, a transparency that is mixed with intrigue. Theologically there are obvious implications of the story, but there is also mystery and dilemma. Ethically, good triumphs over evil, but does the end justify the means along the way? Is the book relevant or irrelevant? Is it to be enjoyed at a surface level or penetrated for its hidden depths? Is it meant to convey historical facts, or is its meaning to be found in application to our lives? Is its value for one nation or many, or for individual people? What is the raison d’être of the book of Esther?
These questions are reminiscent of those we sometimes pose of the parables of Jesus. We are fully aware that a full explanation of their details and their meaning somehow escapes us. The New Testament scholar C. H. Dodd claims that the parables ‘leave us in sufficient doubt about their precise application in order to tease our minds into active thought’ (1916: 16). This is at least part of Esther’s compelling quality. The story taunts and teases us. As soon as we think we are beginning to understand its themes or its literary features, we become alert to our own dissatisfaction with our perception.
But rather than being deterred, we become more absorbed. Take, for example, the fact that God’s name is never mentioned in the text. Instead of giving up on a theological quest, we find ourselves searching more earnestly for a God whose non-appearance seems to enhance his presence. The result is that, because our minds are teased, our subsequent theological conclusions incorporate reflection at a number of penetrating and intriguing levels.
This, of course, is similar to our responses to personal testimonies about journeys of faith. Testimonies are our life stories – how life began for us, how we came to experience salvation through Christ, how life has continued for us. It is my contention that the value and meaning of the book of Esther lies in its testimonial value. In this book we read of Esther’s early life (living with her uncle in the Persian Empire). We read what life is like for Esther when she encounters deliverance and salvation (her unenviable position in the king’s palace), and her active acceptance of her own role within these processes ( for such a time as this, Esth. 4:14). The story is concluded by the description of what life is like for Esther after this particular event of deliverance, but somehow it is a story that remains ongoing and is open-ended. Another way of reading the story is to understand that it represents the testimony not of Esther alone but of her people together.
This adds further significance to the references to the establishment of the Purim festival at the end of the book. Life now will never be the same for Esther’s people. An encounter with salvation always has lasting and wide-ranging effects, encompassing its original participants as well as those to whom the testimony is conveyed. This, after all, is Scripture, and Scripture is a document of faith, the story of salvation – history that deserves to be heard and that teases its every hearer into active thought as well as personal and corporate reflection. ...
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