Did you read or reread the Book of Esther? You should. It’s ten short chapters, just one-hundred-sixty-seven verses. It can be read from beginning to end in a few minutes.
Before writing the heart of the timeless tale, the author provides a bit of context. “These events took place during the days of Ahasuerus, who ruled 127 provinces from India to Cush. In those days King Ahasuerus reigned from his royal throne in the fortress at Susa” (Esther 1:1–2).
Ahasuerus is the Hebrew name for the Persian king, Xerxes. His empire stretched from the far-east, westward to Asia-Minor and northern Africa. He ruled the world.
Persian control extended to “127 provinces.” Historians suggest that the empire was divided into twenty satrapies, each governed by a loyal Persian Satrap or governor. Each of the satrapies was divided into sub-sections called provinces.
Civilization was advanced during the days of Persian rules because controlling the huge empire required communication. This gave purpose to road construction and allowed for more extensive and faster international trade and travel.
When did this all take place? Consider a simplified timeline.
In 586 BC, Babylon sacked Jerusalem and carried God’s chosen people into captivity. In 539 BC, Babylon was conquered by Persia. A couple of years later, the Persian king, Cyrus, allowed Zerubbabel, a descendent of David, to return to Jerusalem to rebuild (Ezra 1). In about 515 BC, the temple was completed, and temple worship was restored. Xerxes reigned in Persia from 486-464 BC.
When Xerxes became king, the Hebrews had been living in exile for one-hundred years. The main characters of our story had been born into slavery. Life in exile was the only life they knew.
Exile had been the way of life for the Hebrew people in Egypt too. For four-hundred years, from the days of Joseph, the Prime Minister, to Moses’ Exodus, the people had lived as slaves and servants to a foreign government. The Book of Esther is another story of God’s people, exiled in a foreign land.
In the New Testament, Peter wrote to those driven from their home by persecution during the Roman empire. He starts his letter, “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ: To those chosen, living as exiles dispersed abroad in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia…” (1 Peter 1:1). He continues, “Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and exiles to abstain from sinful desires that wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). The early Christians were exiled.
That’s our story too. We’re pilgrims in a foreign land. This world is not our home. “Our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject everything to himself” (Philippians 3:20–21).
Take heart. Though the ruler of this present darkness is the Prince of Evil, God knows where you are. He’s not forgotten. He’s not lost his grip. He’s still God Almighty!
Please. Read the Book of Esther. By it you’ll be reminded that God is in control, even for those of us living in exile.