INTRODUCTION TO ESTHER
This book has its name from the person who is the principal subject of it; it is by Clemens of AlexandriaF1Stromat. l. 1. p. 329. called the Book of Mordecai also; it is commonly called, in the Hebrew copies, "Megillah Esther", the Volume of Esther; and sometimes in the Jewish writings only "Megillah", by way of eminency, "the Volume". It was written, according to the TalmudistsF2T. Bava Bathra, fol. 15. 1. , by the men of the great synagogue, composed by Ezra; and some think it was written by Ezra himselfF3August. de Civ. Dei, l. 18. c. 36. Isidor. Origin. l. 6. c. 2. ; but Aben Ezra is of opinion it was written by Mordecai, since he was concerned in, and had perfect knowledge of, all things related in it; which is rejected by SpinosaF4Tract. Theolog. Politic. c. 10. p. 189, &c. , who conceits that this, and the books of Daniel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, were written by one and the same historian long after the times of Judas Maccabaeus: as to the canonical authority of it, it has been generally received by Jews and Christians; our wise men, says MaimonidesF5Moreh Nevochim, par. 2. c. 45. , openly and plainly affirm of the book of Esther, that it was dictated by the Holy Spirit; so Aben Ezra on Esther 6:6, and he himselfF6Hilchot Megillah, c. 2. sect. 18. affirms, that
"all the books of the prophets, and all the Hagiographa (or holy writings), shall cease in the days of the Messiah, except the volume of Esther; and, lo, that shall be as stable as the Pentateuch, and as the constitutions of the oral law, which shall never cease.'
Though the versions of other books of Scripture might not be read in the synagogues, versions of this book might to those who did not understand HebrewF7Misn. Megillah, c. 2. sect. 1. T. Bab. Megillah, fol. 18. 1. ; and so LutherF8Mensal. Colloqu. c. 31. p. 358. says, the Jews more esteem the book of Esther than any of the prophets. Whence Mr. BaxterF9The Saints Everlasting Rest, part 4. c. 3. sect. 1. had that notion, I can not devise, that the Jews used to cast to the ground the book of Esther before they read it, because the name of God was not in it: nor is that any objection to its authenticity, since the hand and providence of God may be most clearly seen in it; in raising Esther to such grandeur, and that for the deliverance of the people of the Jews, and in counter working and bringing to nought the plots of their enemies, and in saving them: nor that it is not quoted in the New Testament; it is sufficient there is no disagreement between them, yea, an entire agreement, particularly in the account of the captivity of Jeconiah, which is expressed almost in the same words in Esther 2:6 as in Matthew 1:11. It stands in Origen's catalogueF11Apud Euseb. Eccl. Hist. l. 6. c. 25. of the books of the Old Testament; nor is it any material objection that it appears not in the catalogue of MelitoF12Apud ib. l. 4. c. 26. , since in that list is comprehended under Ezra not Nehemiah only, but Esther also, which JeromF13Ad Domnion. & Rogat. tom. 3. fol. 7. F. mentions along with it. This book is not only of use to the Jews, as it shows the original and foundation of a feast of theirs, still kept up by them, the feast of Purim, and makes for the glory of their nation, and therefore it is no wonder it should be so highly esteemed by them; but serves to show the singular providence of God in taking care of his people in adversity, in humbling the proud, and exalting the lowly, and saving those that pray to him, and trust in him; it furnishes out various instructions in the conduct of the several persons herein mentioned; it is a history but of ten or eleven years at most, from the third of Ahasuerus, to the twelfth of his reign, Esther 1:3.