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Esther: The Hidden Hand of God

"It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honour of kings is to search out a matter." (Proverbs 25:2)

The Book of Esther is rather odd because it is the only book of the Bible in which the name of God appears to be missing (Martin Luther considered excluding it from the Bible for this reason1). Nonetheless, in this short book consisting of just 167 verses, the Median King is mentioned 192 times, his kingdom is referred to 26 times, and his name "Ahasuerus" is given 29 times. So why isn't God explicitly mentioned?

Deuteronomy 31:17-18 gives us a clue:
"Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured. And many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ And I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they have done, in that they have turned to other gods." (Deuteronomy 31:17-18)
God declared that if His People forsook Him, He would hide His face from them. The Book of Esther is a clear example of God fulfilling His Word. God was hiding His face from His people on account of their sins; they had deliberately chosen to continue in the land of their captivity among the heathen, instead of availing themselves of the opportunity of returning to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel. But, though He was hidden from them, He was working for them. The name Esther gives us another clue: it means "Something Hidden"!


Hidden Acrostics

An "Acrostic" is when the initial letter of each line spells out a word, and it can be used as a mechanism for including a hidden message. The name of God is hidden several times in acrostics in the Book of Esther! Four times it appears as an acrostic, the famed Tetragammaton, "YHWH" or "Yahweh" or "YeHoVaH", and once as "EHYH" or "I AM". (Note: This phenomenon is only found within the original Hebrew Bible.)


 The First Acrostic 
"And when the king’s decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small." (Esther 1:20)

The name YHWH reads backward with the initial letter (Note: Hebrew reads from right to left).

 The Second Acrostic 
"And Esther answered, If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him." (Esther 5:4)

The name YHWH reads forward with the initial letter.

 The Third Acrostic 
 "Yet all this availeth me nothing, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate." (Esther 5:13)

The name YHWH reads backward with the final letter.

 The Fourth Acrostic 
"And the king arising from the banquet of wine in his wrath went into the palace garden: and Haman stood up to make request for his life to Esther the queen; for he saw that there was evil determined against him by the king." (Esther 7:7)

The name YHWH reads forward with the final letter.

 The Fifth Acrostic 

The above are four of them, and the final one validates the others. It is "I AM" or EHYH in Esther 7:5, meaning 'I shall prove to be'.


The following phenomena are noticed in examining the four Acrostics which form the name "YHWH":

1. All four acrostics appear in four consecutive words.
2. (At least) three ancient manuscripts are known in which the Acrostic letters in all five cases are written Majuscular (or, larger than the others) so that they stand out boldly and prominently.
3. Each of the acrostics are words spoken by a different voice:
  • Memucan (1:20)
  • Esther (5:4)
  • Haman (5:13)
  • The author (7:7)
4. The first two Acrostics are a pair, having the name formed by the initial letters of the four words.
5. The last two are a pair, having the name formed by the final letters of the four words.
6. The first and third Acrostics are a pair, having the name spelt backward.
7. The second and fourth are a pair, having the name spelt forward.
They thus form an alternation:

A  Backward
   B  Forward
A  Backward
   B  Forward

8. The first and third (in which the name is formed backward) are a pair, being spoken by Gentiles.
9. The second and fourth (in which the name is spelt forward) are a pair, being spoken by Jews
They thus form an alternation:

C  Spoken by a Gentile (Memucan)
   D  Spoken by a Jew (Esther)
C  Spoken by a Gentile (Haman)
  D  Spoken by a Jew (the inspired writer of Esther)

10. The first and second form a pair, being connected with Queens and Banquets
12. The third and fourth are a pair, being connected with Haman
13. The first and fourth are a pair, being spoken concerning the Queen (Vashti) and Haman respectively.
14. The second and third are a pair, being spoken by the Queen (Esther) and Haman respectively.
They thus form an introversion:

E  Words concerning a Queen
  F  Words spoken by a Queen
E  Words spoken by Haman
  F  Words concerning Haman

15. It is also remarkable that, in the two cases where the name is formed by the initial letters, the facts recorded are initial also, and are spoken of an event in which God’s overruling was initiated; while in the two cases where the name is formed by the final letters, the events are final also, and lead rapidly up to the end toward which God was working. Thus in the two cases where the name is spelt backward, God is seen overruling the counsels of Gentiles for the accomplishment of His own people; and where the name is spelt forward, God is ruling directly in the interest of His people Israel even though it is unknown to them at the time.

In these five Acrostics we have something far beyond a mere coincidence; we have design!

But that's not all...

The names: Meshiach ("Messiah"), Yeshua ("Jesus"), and El Shaddai ("The Almighty"), also appear as equidistant letter sequences! (ELS are similar to acrostics, but instead of reading the initial letter, hidden words are looked for by reading the text every 2, or 3, or 4, (etc.), letters, skipping over the letters in between.)

1. In Esther 1:3, counting in 8 letter increments, we find the letters spelling "Meshiach", the Hebrew name of the Messiah. The interval of eight is significant as the number of Jesus is 888 (in gematria).

2. Again, in Esther 9:17, counting in 8 letter increments, we find the letters spelling "Yeshua", the Hebrew name of Jesus.

3. Finally, in Esther 4:2, counting in 7 letter increments, we find the letters spelling "El Shaddai". El is the familiar name of God; Shaddai, from the root for "breast" or "provider"; the Almighty. And the use of seven shouldn't surprise us.


The Book of Esther is designed to show God's providential care of His people. Even in the explicit absence of God’s name, the Book of Esther reminds us that He is always present and always in control. See related article: ELS in the Bible


References:
1 Colloquia Mensalia, or The Table Talk of Martin Luther , trans. by William Hazlitt, World Publishing Co., 1952. "I am so great an enemy to the second book of the Maccabees, and to Esther, that I wish they had not come to us at all, for they have too many heathen unnaturalities. The Jews much more esteemed the book of Esther than any of the prophets; though they were forbidden to read it before they had attained the age of thirty, by reason of the mystic matters it contains." (Ed. Note: He was in error; that was Song of Songs - CM.)

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