The book of Esther arises in the situation of Israel returned to its homeland, after the long exile in Babylon. Nevertheless Israel is a colony of the Persian empire and Israel’s monarchy is defunct. The Persian King Ahasuerus rather extraordinarily chooses Esther to become his Queen, and in that position she finds the opportunity to foil the plot of one of the king’s ministers to destroy the Jews. Contemporary Judaism continues to celebrate this deliverance in the annual feast of Purim.
Lengthy sections of Chapters 4 and 5 (including our reading for today), as well as sections of Chapters 8 and 10, are not present in the Hebrew text of Esther but are found only in Greek translation; accordingly they are not included in Jewish or in Protestant Bibles. Esther’s moving prayer, our reading today, asks God’s protection as she prepares to approach the King on behalf of her people. She engages in this dangerous enterprise because she has become convinced that she had come into Ahasuerus’ court by divine Providence ‘for just such a time as this.’ [4.14] With that conviction that she is not following caprice but the perfect will of God Esther finds courage to fulfil God’s vocation for her.