How do the book, characters and circumstances of Esther point us to Christ?
It seems that a major qualification for a book in the Bible should be some mention of God, Christ, the Scriptures, or even prayer. The book of Esther has none of these. Yet the story clearly records God’s extraordinary deliverance of his chosen people from annihilation, and foreshadows our ultimate delivery from death through Christ’s victory on the cross.
The character of Esther mirrors the character of Christ. Esther is willing to sacrifice herself—risking a potential death sentence by going before the king’s throne unsummoned—in order to save her people. She is more concerned with the overall good than with her own life: “I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” (4:16) Likewise, Christ is willing to perform a miserable task—die a gruesome death on a cross—in order to save his people.
Granted, Esther is not without faults. She goes to the king only after Mordecai rather brutally points out that, even as the queen, she would not escape the upcoming slaughter of the Jews. He tells her, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish.” (3:13-14) While she is frightened, Esther does obey Mordecai, relying on his wisdom to set her path in the right direction. By looking to his guidance, Esther shows wisdom herself.
Similarly, Christ is also obedient to his Father. He does not anticipate the cross with joy, but is more concerned with obeying God than with maintaining his own comfort. Though he asks the Lord to come up with another way to deliver humanity, he willingly goes: “Not as I will, but as you will.” (Matt 26:39) Esther mirrors Christ’s obedience and consequent wisdom.
Not only does Esther act as a Christ figure, but the entire book mirrors—or perhaps more adequately, foreshadows—the salvation story. Paul writes in Romans that “we know that for those who love God, all things work together for good for those who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) The truth of this statement is demonstrated throughout the Bible, and Esther’s story is no exception. Hamon means to slaughter all the Jews in Persia; instead, the Jews are able to take “an eye for an eye” from their enemies, and Hamon is hanged on his own gallows.
In Sunday school, I used to sing a kids’ song with these lyrics: “From bad to good, in all things. God works for good, in all things. What’s meant for evil God turns it around from bad to good, yeah.” (Dean-O and the Dynamos) Christ’s death is the ultimate example of God working from bad to good. For the disciples, Jesus’ death must have been the worst event of their lives. They had given up everything—family, livelihood, the respect of the righteous religious leaders—to follow the man they thought was the Messiah. His death represented utter failure—the new world they had hoped for would not come into fruition.
Yet in reality, it was the best event that has ever taken place in the history of the world. It saved mankind from itself. Even though the book of Esther makes no mention of God, his presence and the faith of his people are visibly present, from the moment of Vashti’s demotion to Hamon’s execution.