Literature: Book of Esther

The Book of Esther tells the story of the titular heroine, a young woman who was taken to become a Persian Queen, while her cousin works in his court. While there, a plot is made by the official Haman to murder all the Jews.

One of the fun and more exciting stories in the Bible, the events are commemorated by the uproarious festival of Purim, and the (surprisingly short) book is read in the synagogue that day at an atypically-noisy session.

The story is the basis for the film One Night With The King. And the Veggie Tales episode "Esther: The Girl who Became Queen." And author Joan Wolf's romance novel The Reluctant Queen: The Love Story of Esther.

It was also adapted into a politically charged Israeli film, titled Esther by Amos Gitai.


  • Anachronic Order: In Christian canonical ordering, the Book of Esther comes after the Book of Nehemiah, even though its events come directly before. (In the Jewish ordering, Esther is grouped with the literary books and Nehemiah with the late historical books, in different subsections of the Bible.)
  • Audience Participation: When the book is read out loud during Purim, audiences are expected to boo and jeer every time they hear the name of Haman. Noisemakers are even provided just so we can be sure his name is properly drowned out.
  • Beauty Contest: Xerxes has a very elaborate one to choose the new queen. No surprises, the winner is Esther.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Haman is said to be an Agagite, so some have theorized that he was descended from King Agag, whom Saul's failure to kill immediately gave him to the time to conceive a son whose descendant would come back to destroy the Jews.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: If anyone visits the king without him having called for them, they are to be killed unless the king decides he's glad to see them. Naturally, this puts a snag in Esther addressing the matter of the Jews with the king.
    • When Haman finds out that Mordecai's reason for not bowing down to him is that Mordecai is a Jew, he decides to massacre all the Jews.
  • Evil Chancellor: Haman is one of the earliest examples, and one of the evilest.
  • Final Solution: What Haman proposes regarding the Persian Jews.
  • Forgot I Could Change the Rules: Averted. The king is maneuvered into creating a law that would allow all the Jews to be massacred by Haman. When Queen Esther reveals that she is Jewish herself and exposes Haman to the king, the law authorizing pogrom cannot be annulled by even the king. However, there is nothing that prevents him from passing a new law enabling the Jewish population to defend themselves with state support.
  • Genre Savvy: After Haman is tricked into rewarding his rival and declaring his worthiness across the city, Haman's wife predicts that it's the beginning of a big Humiliation Conga for him.
  • Guile Heroine: Esther's smarts are what save the day.
  • Happily Ever Before: For one person; Xerxes's assassination is foiled in this book, but later he was eventually murdered by a court guard.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Haman builds a gallows to hang Mordecai on. When his plot is discovered, Haman himself is hanged on it.
  • Humiliation Conga: Boy, does Haman ever get his comeuppance. First he has to publicly honor his hated rival Mordecai, with a plan that Haman came up with thinking he was going to be the honoree. Then his fancy dinner with the king and queen turns out to be a set-up to expose him as the villain. When he tries to plead with the queen for his life, the king thinks he's trying to assault her and sentences him to death right then and there. He winds up literally Hoist by His Own Petard on the gallows he built himself for Mordecai. You almost feel sorry for the guy. Almost.
  • Informed Judaism: Esther's Jewishness is a major plot point, but she apparently passed for a non-Jew well enough that her own husband was surprised to find out her nationality.
  • I Owe You My Life: Mordecai reveals the plot to kill Xerxes, and the king later decides to reward him.
  • Jesus Taboo: Rather surprisingly for a book of The Bible, the story never once mentions the name of God. It's generally accepted that the point is God can work behind the scenes In Mysterious Ways even when he is The Unseen.
  • "Just So" Story: There is no evidence Persia ever had a Jewish queen and its possible Esther was invented to explain the festival of Purim which already existed. Xerxes was an actual Persian King though, the same one who is in 300 as a matter of fact.
  • Kneel Before Zod: Haman is furious when Mordecai refuses to bow to him, and decides to kill all the Jews to get revenge.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Haman goes to ask the king for a death warrant for Mordecai, but gets sidetracked when Xerxes asks him what a good reward would be for a man who has done great service to the king. Haman, assuming that he's the honoree, proposes an elaborate public ceremony. Turns out the king was asking about Mordecai, and Haman is ordered to carry out his own plan to honor his rival. Humiliation Conga ensues.
  • Not What It Looks Like: Haman throws himself at Queen Esther to beg for his life. The king comes in at the wrong moment and assumes that Haman is trying to rape her. This does not end well for Haman.
  • One Dialogue, Two Conversations: Xerxes calls in Haman to discuss how he should reward a man who has done a great service to the king. Haman thinks he's talking about himself, only to find to his horror that the king is actually talking about his hated rival Mordecai.
  • Original Position Fallacy: Haman being asked to think up a reward and assuming it's for him is a textbook example.
  • Promoted To Parent: Mordecai has raised Esther after her parents died.
  • Replacement Goldfish: Xerxes holds a competition to find a beautiful wife for him to replace his divorced one Vashti.
  • Rags to Royalty: Esther gets hand-picked to be the queen.
  • Royal Harem: The home of all the women selected for the Beauty Contest.
  • Suddenly Ethnicity: To stop Haman's planned pogrom, Esther makes the big reveal that she's Jewish. Granted, the audience has known this all along, but her own husband is astonished to find out.
  • There Are No Coincidences: "It so happened" is a recurring line in this book.
  • The Unseen: God is never mentioned, but the story serves as a great example of Him placing the right people in places where they'll eventually be needed.
  • You Can Leave Your Hat On: A literal case, at least implied. The previous queen, Vashti, is asked to parade before Xerxes' drunken party guests wearing her royal crown— the insinuation being, only her crown. Her refusal sets the story in motion.
  • World's Most Beautiful Woman: Esther is determined to be by Xerxes.