Esther lacks any explicit reference to the name of the Lord or even to “God” (אלהים; elohim). This may be why the library of texts at Qumran, the Dead Sea Scrolls, includes portions of every biblical book except for Esther. The divine name may not feature in Esther, but this omission doesn’t mean that God is absent. For the attuned Hebrew reader, Esther recycles language from Exodus to suggest the continued presence of God among the Jewish people.

While Jews are living under Persian rule, Esther is “taken into the king’s house, into the hand of Hegai, the keeper of the women… [but], day by day, Mordecai walked in front of the court of the house of the women to ascertain Esther’s welfare and what was happening to her” (Est 2:8, 11). Admittedly, the name of God does not appear in these verses. However, a closer look at the Hebrew language reveals some striking similarities between Esther’s situation (as well as Mordecai’s response) and the way that God intervenes for Israel during the exodus.

While many English translations say that Esther is taken into the king’s “palace,” the Hebrew phrase is “house of the king” (בית המלך; beit ha’melekh). In this house, Esther goes into the “hand” (יד; yad) of Hegai, the courtier in charge of the royal harem. Esther finds herself under watch in the “house” of a foreign king, just as the Israelites were enslaved in an Egyptian “house of bondage” (בית עבדים; beit avadim) from which they were rescued by the power of God’s mighty “hand” (יד; yad) (Exodus 13:3). Though Esther is confined to this harem, the text indicates that she is not alone, adding that “day by day (יום ויום; yom va’yom) Mordecai walked in front of (מתהלך לפני חצר; mithalekh lifnei) the court of the house of the women to ascertain Esther’s welfare” (2:11). This language echoes what God did for Israel after the exodus: “The Lord walked in front of them by day (הלך לפניהם יומם; holekh lifnehem yomam) in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way” (Exodus 13:21). In walking before Esther by day, Mordecai reiterates divine action at the exodus, which implies that the Lord will work through Mordecai to save the people in Persia just as God had rescued them from Egypt.



  1. I've heard many ways of "adding" God to the Esther story but this was the first time I've heard it put this way. Very good - lots of comments for thought! Thanks!
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