Friday, July 1, 2016

Book Review: God Unseen, A Theological Introduction to Esther

“The primary conundrum of Esther, then, is what to do with a biblical book that seems so unbiblical” (p. 45). It is this puzzle which Nathan Ward’s introduction to the Book of Esther, GodUnseen, seeks to solve.

After a preliminary section which sets out the textual and interpretive history of the book, Ward tackles the enigma of Esther, the complete absence of the name of God. His thesis is that “God is the hero of the book” (p. 93), and he makes a compelling case for this thesis by focusing on the interbiblical dialogue in Esther. Ward compiles a fascinating survey of the many allusions to the rest of the Hebrew Scripture found in Esther. The story of Esther, then, is right at home in the broader story of Israel in the Old Testament.

Once he establishes this canonical context for the book, Ward then narrows his focus to the sixth chapter of Esther, the turning point of the book. At the crux of the plot, the human heroes, Mordecai and Esther, are nowhere to be found, thus implying that the stunning reversals that unfold cannot be the work of man, and must ultimately be the work of God (p. 94-95).   

The final section of the book draws out the practical implications for Christians living as spiritual exiles just as Esther and Mordecai lived as national exiles. And as our culture drifts further from God, He seems as silent as He did in the time of Esther. That makes the Book of Esther, and this excellent introduction, extremely pertinent and practical for our own time. Like Esther and Mordecai, we cannot say for certain how God will act in His providence. But like them, we can be certain that He does act, and trust in His power by offering faithful obedience.

I highly recommend this book. On a personal note, Nathan is a former student of mine. I am immensely proud of him and his work, and I am happy to recommend this to others. Many thanks to Nathan for providing me with an advance copy to review.

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