“For the Jews there was light and gladness and joy and honor. In each and every province and in each and every city, wherever the king’s commandment and his decree arrived, there was gladness and joy for the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many among the peoples of the land became Jews, for the dread of the Jews had fallen on them” (Esth 8:16-17).
Here is just another example in the book of Esther of a strategic circumlocution of God’s name while overtly alluding to his promises. God chose Abram as the vehicle to bless all the families of the earth, and to curse everyone who curses his seed (Gen 12:1-3; Num 24:9). The story of Esther is, at least in the biblical sense, the first demonstration of the world-wide fulfillment of these promises. The book begins with a first lady who must keep her Jewish identity completely hidden from the world (Esth 2:10) and ends with people from all over the vast Persian empire openly becoming Jewish (Esth 8:17). While I’ve often heard theologians giving credit to the Greeks for their language and to the Romans for their roads as the leading factors which led to the spread of the gospel, the book of Esther actually provides a far better explanation. Long before Greek became the lingua franca and the Roman’s built their roads, God used the courage of Esther and Mordecai to spread the knowledge of and the fear of his name all over the world, “from India to Ethiopia, 127 provinces, to every province according to its script, and to every people according to their language” (Esth 8:9). Oddly, the book of Esther is typically neglected in churches and in seminaries alike. While God, no doubt, was also at work in and through the pax Romana, it’s about time we start giving the book of Esther pride of place when it comes to our theology of missions and its importance for the spread of the gospel.
“Praise the LORD, all nations; Laud Him, all peoples! For His lovingkindness is great toward us, and the truth of the LORD is everlasting” (Psa 117:1-2).