Esther is one of the most beautiful books of all time, teaching us more lessons than a college class. It’s the Mona Lisa of literature. Yet, surprisingly, God’s name is absent from the 167 verses, which has caused some people to doubt Esther’s authenticity in the canon.
The Greek Septuagint (LXX) assumed that God had mistakenly omitted Himself and added 107 apocryphal verses. But inserting God’s name in Esther is like writing the word “book” underneath the Bible. If the author of Esther magnified God without mentioning Him, so can we. Anything we include and exclude in our novels can glorify God—even the smallest scenes. If God is truly at the core of our stories, we won’t need to state it.
By digging into the book of Esther, we’ll unearth three jewels that can radiate God’s glory into a novel.
1. Glorify God by Emphasizing His Sovereignty
God’s name may be missing, but His sovereignty is evident in every verse. Instead of telling readers that God ordained an event, the author allows them to draw that conclusion. Queen Vashti’s refusal, the king’s choice of Esther, and the execution of Haman are too purposeful to be coincidences. Only an infinite being could orchestrate such an epic tune. As John MacArthur notes, “While God was not mentioned in Esther, He was everywhere apparent as the One who opposed and foiled Satan’s diabolical schemes by providential intervention.”
To accentuate God’s sovereignty in your story, thrust your characters into scenarios that could happen only by His intervention. Set up your story so that every event has a goal. What if a scene didn’t occur? If it doesn’t trigger another event, eliminate it. Even the tiniest scenes need purpose. For instance, King Ahasuerus’s banquet may seem pointless (other than serving to entertain his guests). But that simple banquet launched the whole drama. Ahasuerus wouldn’t have summoned the queen otherwise, nor banished her afterward, and Esther would have never become queen. A few pages later, King Ahasuerus suffered from insomnia. His sleeplessness led him to call for the book of records, which paved the way for Mordecai’s exaltation and delayed Haman’s plot to hang him.
2. Glorify God Through a Character’s Strengths and Weaknesses
We are the windows that let God’s light into the world, and our characters should reflect that light too. This doesn’t mean they must mumble “Amen” every five seconds or witness to someone in every chapter. Our characters won’t always need to glorify God with their lips if they’re glorifying Him in their hearts. Esther never voiced her Savior’s name, but her actions emanated His glory more than a thousand sermons. God sacrificed His Son for us, and Esther imitated that love by risking her life to save her people. When she invited King Ahasuerus and Haman to her feast, she trusted God to bring about the desired result. Anyone can claim commitment to a cause, but few live for it, and rarely are people willing to die for it. Esther shows readers that faith is worth dying for.
Esther and Mordecai were not perfect, but their love, faith, and courage outshined their faults. Sin and tragedy have their place in a story and sometimes carry more impact than positive qualities—if portrayed correctly. However, if the character is a Christian, love should be the underlying factor. He may have spouts of hate, but it shouldn’t consume his life. Mordecai’s disdain for Haman was intense, but so was his love for others. Even though Ahasuerus was a pagan king, Mordecai warned him of Bigthan and Teresh’s plan (Esther 2:21–23).
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14). Faith is sprinkled into Mordecai’s statement so that we can taste it but not see it. It expresses his hope in God’s salvation, conviction of God’s judgment, and belief in God’s sovereignty.
Characters’ weaknesses can also elevate God. Drop a brick on their heads that they can’t lift on their own. Push your characters to behave righteously, even if they resist at first. God declares we are all sinners; if we create perfect characters, we’re calling Him a liar. I doubt we want to add perjury to our list of charges. Besides being unrealistic, perfect characters can minimize our sins and maximize our pride.
Concealing their ancestry might have been a faithless decision on Mordecai’s part, but God nevertheless accomplished His will through it. Use your characters’ foolishness to trap them in a hole and God’s wisdom to pull them out. The bigger the weakness, the more your character will rely upon God (2 Corinthians 12:10). When Mordecai asked Esther to plead for her people, she was terrified. If she entered the king’s presence without being summoned, she could be killed! The only way she could gain the king’s favor was by seeking God’s first. Realizing that true strength comes only from above, she requested prayers from her people.
3. Glorify God by the Outcome
Your story’s culmination should glorify God more than its beginning. Glimmers of God’s glory appear in the first sentence of Esther, but it doesn’t become a blaze until the last chapters. Haman’s plan backfired. The king issued a counter-decree, enabling the Jews to defeat their enemies. The Jewish race was preserved and so were God’s promises. The execution of Haman proved that good always triumphs over evil. Evil can never prosper eternally.
Your story’s ending is where all the fuzzy events become sharp and their purpose unmistakable. At first glance, the book of Esther might seem to be a story about a peasant girl who married a king and lived happily ever after. Haman’s construction of the gallows, the belated exaltation of Mordecai, and Esther inviting Haman to the feast have little meaning until the final act. Esther revealed her identity, and Haman begged for mercy. The king returned and assumed that Haman was assaulting the queen, so he hanged him on the gallows Haman had prepared for a man who spoke on the king’s behalf. It doesn’t matter if readers can’t grasp your story’s purpose at the outset, but if it’s obscured on the last page, your book will be a useless blob that no one will ever enjoy.
Even if your character’s whole world crumbles, the ending should throw her back onto the solid foundation of faith. God will not ultimately abandon His own; His promises are thicker than concrete. An ending that implies He’s untrustworthy is unbiblical. Regardless of whether your novel closes on a sweet note or not, a flicker of hope should always be visible. If your protagonist is an unbeliever, a dreary finale would be reconcilable. But a Christian’s hope never dies. We may be ridiculed, persecuted, or killed, but our ending will inevitably be happily ever after.
A Time to Speak
Although there is a time to keep silent, there is also a time to speak. Removing God from your novel because you’re ashamed of Him is as bad as writing a preachy story. We must never be ashamed to share the gospel in writing or vocally, and we should capitalize on every opportunity given to us. Leaving God’s name out of Esther strengthened the story, but it would have weakened the other Old Testament books.
Excluding God from a sermon would be wrong, but we aren’t preachers and our stories aren’t sermons. Jesus’s parables were usually devoid of God’s name, whereas He referenced God multiple times in His discourses.
To determine whether to include God in your story, ask yourself: Would God’s name cause the scene/dialogue to seem awkward and forced? Would it glorify Him more, less, or not make any difference at all? Are you obviously alluding to God when His name is absent? But the most important question is: What would He desire you to do? Remember, He is the author of Esther, so it was God Himself who chose to omit His name.
A believer will glorify God even when He’s not mentioned, but an unbeliever will not glorify God even if you write His name a thousand times.
The True Protagonist
God is the protagonist of every story. Esther risked her life, but God saved the day. God is invisible yet omnipresent. “His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made” (Romans 1:20). God’s voice roars in the thunder without Him needing to utter a word. His feet imprint the base of the mountain without Him taking a step. His signature marks all creation without Him lifting a pencil. John MacArther wisely observes that “Whether He is named is not the issue. He is clearly the main character in the drama.”
 John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible (Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2006), 668.
Mariposa Aristeo is a writer of quirky characters and fantastical adventures filled with heart, humor, hope, and, very often, dinosaurs. If you can’t find her in one of her own imaginary worlds, try combing the pages of a great middle-grade fantasy novel.
At Story Embers, igniting (and sometimes imploding) ideas is her favorite pastime, so she often uses her creativity to make graphics for articles and writing quotes, as well as implement new strategies for SE’s social media channels. Explosions aside, she loves getting to know each and every writer here at SE by running the popular #embersgram hashtag on Instagram and responding to your questions and emails.
Besides being a co-owner of Story Embers, Mariposa is an ACFW First Impressions contest finalist, a children’s book illustrator, and the host of the IGTV series #middlegrademagicwithmari. You can check out her book recommendations (and shenanigans) on her Instagram page or her character sketches on her art account.