The book of Esther in the Old Testament took place in approximately 460-30B.C.during a time when many Jews were in Persia and tells how Esther's courageous actions saved her people from destruction. We find that Esther did not write the book, but her complete story is found in the book.
Esther lived about the same time as Ezra and Nehemiah. Although the book of Esther comes after Nehemiah, the events in Esther actually occurred about thirty years before the events in Nehemiah.
At this particular time Persia ruled over Judah as well as those captive Jews who remained in Babylon. The Persian ruler Ahasuerus decided to divorce the queen because she refused to show her beauty to the people and the princes. Esther, who was the adopted daughter of Mordecai and a Jew, was chosen as the queen's successor on account of her beauty. Haman, chief man at the king's court, hated Mordecai, and having cast lots to find a suitable day, obtained a decree to put all Jews to death. At great risk to Esther, she revealed her nationality and obtained permission for the Jews to defend themselves. Haman was executed on the gallows he had built for Mordecai, and Mordecai was elevated in the king's court.
The Jews people today still celebrate this wonderful event with a holiday they call 'Purim.' Purim takes place in February or March. People dress up in costume and give each other gifts of sweets. Baskets of sweets are traded business to business and given to the poor. Parents take their children to synagogue in costume, where the "Megillah," the story of Esther, is read by the Cantor (assistant to the Rabbi, who "sings" the scriptures). During the course of the reading, congregants boo and hiss and shake noisemakers whenever Haman's name is mentioned. They cheer when Mordecai and Esther are named. It is a raucous occasion, good-natured fun. The traditional food for Purim is "hamentaschen" (Haman's pockets, in German) or "Osnei Haman" (Haman's ears, in Hebrew), which are triangle-shaped cookies filled with jam or poppy seed filling.
The story of Esther and her great sacrifice teaches how one person can positively affect the course of a nation. Esther 4:14 contains the central message: "who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this"?