The book of Esther is a book of dissonance. From a literary standpoint, it is deeply sober while also being humorous. For example, when Haman’s plan of betrayal is uncovered at the end of the book, he pleads to the queen for his life. This is a solemn moment when life is at stake. However, while he pleads for mercy, he accidentally falls on the queen just as the king walks in upon the scene. His clumsiness might be very humorous were it not for its unfortunate timing and deadly consequences.
The narrative itself is dissonant. The story is structured around ten banquets. In the beginning, there is a banquet for Vashti, and in the end there is one for Esther. Each banquet forever alters the life of the woman hosting it. Their lives are impacted in opposite ways by the banquets they prepare. Even the plot is dissonant. Mordecai, a descendent of Kish, a Benjamite Jew, and Haman the Agagite are engaged in a continuation of a feud that existed between their ancestors, Saul, the literal son of Kish of the tribe of Benjamin, and Agag, the previous king of the Amalekites, whom Saul failed to eradicate at the command of God.
Finally, the lead figure in the book, Esther, is herself a dissonant character. For some, she is a faithful woman who, at the risk of her own life, stood up to save God’s people from certain death. Others have serious questions regarding her faith. Why did she hide her identity? Why would she marry an unbelieving king? Why would she partake of a pageant that might compromise her purity?
Some argue that she was a victim and was unable to escape things beyond her control as a young woman living in a male-dominated society. Others point to Daniel and his three friends, who, even at the prospect of death, were unwilling to sacrifice any of God’s principles. Regardless of where we stand regarding the character of Esther, her story illustrates that God is not afraid of dissonance. Whether our faithfulness in Him is enduring and misunderstood, or whether we’ve had weak faith but decide to put it all on the line for Him in a particular moment of crisis, Esther’s life shows us that God can use us when we are totally surrendered to Him.
A great dissonant reality that emerges in the life of Esther is the character of God. Out of all the books in the Bible, the book of Esther is the only one that doesn’t mention God by name. When Esther and her entire people, who call themselves by God’s name, are in the moment of greatest crisis, is God missing because He’s absent? Esther’s story demonstrates that the obvious answer is no. A hidden God is still a very present One. Although a casual reader of the book will not be able to see God, a careful reader cannot but see Him. He is orchestrating the salvation of His people with measures beyond anything they themselves could imagine.
Luke clarifies this very thing about God in the life of Jesus. When certain women went to the tomb of Jesus in search for Him, the angels responded, “He is not here, but is risen” (Luke 24:6). True education prepares us so that in the hardest moments of our lives, when God is hidden, we might be able to see the Invisible.