Perhaps since Sunday School, I had known the Book of Esther as being the only book in the Bible in which the name of God is missing. The Lord gave me that very Book to read yesterday as I waited in our car for my wife to do attend to some administrative works. As I read the story again, with more obvious understanding than the last time, I decided to do some research on the Book of Esther when I got home.
Other interesting things emerged in my research, other than the apparent missing name of God. Surprisingly for such a short Book comprising only 10 Chapters of 5,637 words and in 167 verses, “the King” is mentioned 192 times, “his Kingdom” 26 times and even the King’s title, “Ahasuerus” 29 times.
So, is the Book of Esther the only book in the Bible which does not contain the name of God? Well, the answer is that it depends on whether one reads Esther in the original Hebrew, or another language.
The Jews, the Hebrews, for understandable reasons, did not write down the full name of God. This practice does not, as you may well imagine, come from the commandment not to take the Lord’s Name in vain. In Jewish thought, that commandment refers solely to oath-taking, and is a prohibition against swearing by God’s Name falsely or frivolously (the word normally translated as “in vain” literally means “for falsehood”). In fact, Judaism does not prohibit writing the Name of God per se; but it prohibits only erasing or defacing a Name of God. Therefore, observant Jews avoid writing any Name of God casually because of the risk that the written Name might later be defaced, obliterated or destroyed accidentally or by one who does not know better.
Thus “God”, even today is written as G-d. Even in the Bible this practice results in “Jehovah” being written as “JHVH” (Hebrew: יהוה) [JeHoVaH] and “I Am that I Am” being written as “EHY EH” (Hebrew: אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה)(pronounced Ehyeh asher ehyeh).
Next we need to know that one of the forms of verse which Judaism used a lot in the Bible is known as an “Acrostic”. An acrostic poem, is a cryptographic form in which the initial letter of each line spells out a word, often the subject of the poem or the name of the person to whom the poem is dedicated. The following is such and example, using scripture verses on prayer:
Pray without ceasing…(1 Thessalonians.5:17)
Remembrance of thee in my prayers night and day…(2 Timothy.1:3)
Always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…(Ephesians.6:18)
You also, helping together in prayer for us… (2 Corinthians.1:11)
Earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; (Colossians.4:2)
Rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer.. (Romans 12:12)
Note that this was not a form of secret “Bible Code” but of literary composition. As a result of the use of acrostics, the name of God is indeed found in the Book of Ester, not once, but five times!
|v1:20||“all the wives shall give”||Spoken by Menucan||JHVH|
|v5:4||“let the king and Haman come today”||Spoken by Queen Esther||JHVH|
|v5:13||“this avails me nothing”||Spoken by Haman||JHVH|
|v7:7||“that evil was determined against him”||Spoken by the author||JHVH|
|v7:5||“who is he, and where is he”||Spoken by King Ahasuerus||EHYEH|
While the hearers of the Word would not understand the hidden references to the names of God uttered by Menucan, Queen Esther, Haman, the author and King Ahasuerus, the reader would certainly have done so. In an acrostic, as in the sample above, the relevant letters or characters were written in bold or aligned, so they stood out clearly on the scroll. The reader would have instantly recognised the name of God appearing to ‘pop-out’ in the original Hebrew manuscript and certainly, during the teaching period which followed the reading, the reader would have brought to the attention of the listeners or students, the power behind these special utterances; God.
Amen and Amen.