Three Ways the Book of Esther Inspires Writers to Glorify God Between the Lines

By Mariposa Aristeo

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 isn’t mentioned in all 167 verses. His name’s absence has fogged the brains of some people so that they doubt Esther’s authenticity in the canon.

The Greek Septuagint (LXX) assumed God had mistakenly omitted Himself and added 107 apocryphal verses.[1] 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. All 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 have to state it.3_Ways_the_Book_of_Esther_Inspires_Writers_to_Glorify_God_Between_the_Lines

By digging into the book of Esther, we’ll unearth three jewels that will 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 caused an event to occur, the author allows them to make that conclusion as they read along. Queen Vashti’s refusal, the king’s choice of Esther, and the execution of Haman are too purposeful to be mere 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.”

If you want to emphasize God’s sovereignty in your storytelling, thrust your characters into scenarios that could happen only by God’s intervention. Set up your story so that every event has an objective. What if a scene didn’t occur? If the event doesn’t trigger another, eliminate it. Even the tiniest scenes need purpose. For instance, King Ahasuerus’s banquet didn’t seem to have a purpose (other than to entertain his guests). But that simple banquet launched the whole drama. Otherwise Ahasuerus wouldn’t have summoned the queen, and if he hadn’t summoned her, he wouldn’t have banished her, and Esther would have never become queen. Turn a few pages and we find King Ahasuerus suffering 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. Your characters won’t always need to glorify God with their lips if they are 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. By inviting King Ahasuerus and Haman to her feast, she trusted God to bring about the desired result. Anyone can talk about a cause, but few can live for it, and hardly anybody will die for it. Esther shows readers that faith is worth dying for.

Esther and Mordecai were not perfect, but their love, faith, and courage out-shined their faults. Sins, tragedies, and hate have their place in a story and sometimes carry more impact than positive qualities—if done correctly. However, if the character is a Christian, love should be the underlying factor. He may have spouts of hate, but it should not 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. The dialogue presents his hope in God’s salvation, conviction of God’s judgement, and belief in God’s sovereignty so it permeates the soul.

Characters’ weaknesses can also elevate God. Drop a brick on their heads they can’t lift on their own. Push your characters to do right, even if they don’t want to at first. God declares we are all sinners; if we create perfect characters, we are calling God a liar. I doubt you want to add perjury to your 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 nevertheless God accomplished His purposes 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. She didn’t want to enter 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 true strength comes only from above, she requested prayers from her people.

3. Glorify God by the Outcome

The culmination of your story should glorify God more than the beginning. God’s glory begins at the first sentence of Esther, but it is not clearly visible until the last chapters of the book. Haman’s plan backfired. The king issued a counter-decree, enabling the Jews to overcome their enemies. The Jewish race was preserved and so were God’s promises. The execution of Haman proved good will always triumph over evil. Evil can never prosper eternally.

The ending of your story 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 where all these events unite. Esther reveals her identity and Haman begs her for mercy. The king returns and thinks Haman is assaulting the queen, so he hangs him on the gallows Haman 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 whole 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 is untrustworthy is unbiblical. Regardless of whether your novel closes in a sweet tone or not, a flicker of hope should always appear. If your protagonist was 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.

It would be wrong for a preacher to exclude God in a sermon, but we aren’t preachers and our stories aren’t sermons. Jesus’s parables were usually devoid of God’s name, whereas He voiced God’s name multiple times in His discourses.

A few ways to gauge whether God needs mentioned in your story is to ask: 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? Is it obvious you are alluding to God when His name is absent? And the most important question: 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, but that doesn’t mean He’s not there. “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 is heard in the thunder without Him needing to utter a word. His footsteps are imprinted at the base of the mountain without Him even moving a finger. His signature is on all creation without Him picking up a pencil. John MacArther wisely observes that “Whether He is named is not the issue. He is clearly the main character in the drama.”

[1] John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible (Thomas Nelson, Inc., 2006), 668.


Mariposa AristeoMariposa Aristeo is a self-taught artist who captures the glories of God’s creation on canvas. She has a Ph.D. in creativity and a master’s degree in imagination.

If you asked her what her favorite things are, she would probably say nothing, since she is extremely shy and quiet. But if you ask her to write about it, she’ll give a five-page treatise on palm trees, peas, and sweet potatoes. When she’s not thinking, reading, or writing about dinosaurs, she’s drawing them. Easter eggs are as common in her art as they are in Disney-Pixar films. She is a spider-hating germ-killer who is repulsed by people who don’t wash their hands. She enjoys perusing the works of John MacArthur and Charles Spurgeon, but the Bible will always remain her ultimate guide to the truth.

If you wish to hear the tippy-tap of her keyboard, visit TheTinyTealTypewriter.com

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Comments

  1. Great article, Mariposa!! That is amazing. I never noticed that God’s name wasn’t mentioned in Esther, but I could see Him throughout the whole thing anyway, just like you pointed out. 😀
    I’m really growing a new appreciation for the book of Esther. My brother played in a big homeschool production of it just recently, and ever since I’ve been fascinated with the book. It really is a Mona Lisa of literature! A perfect example of the wonderful stories we can find throughout the Bible.

  2. Great article Mariposa! You have given me a lot to think about, and this will definitely affect my WIP.

  3. Fantastic article! I’m so glad you wrote this. A lot of good points. I really think you could almost call Esther a novel. It really is, just with a less personal style than we use today. I really want to turn Esther into a novel some day, but the research would be daunting, so… we’ll see. 😛

    • It’s hilarious you mention that, because turning Esther into a novel was actually one of my dream projects when I was young and naive and just beginning. 😛 I dropped it once I realized how unsuited I was to tackle such an enormous task, but it’s still there way back in the back of my head.
      Race you to it. 😉
      KIDDING. I value my life, thank you very much. XD

    • Yes, research does seem to work as a deterrent to writing, doesn’t it? 😉 I think that’s why a lot of writers lean towards fantasy because they can just make stuff up. Unfortunately, I don’t usually write fantasy and most of my books require research *sigh*. And it’s especially irritating when I google information and I can’t find the answer or I find two answers that contradict each other.

      • *shudders* Yup. That’s one of the main reasons I stick with fantasy. After doing an ‘exhaustive’ research on the battle of Trafalgar and writing it all out and being so proud of it only to chuck that book as worthless later on… Yep. Sticking with fantasy. 😛

  4. Amen. Beautiful article; I’d noticed this, but not put it out in so many words. Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. My church actually just finished a sermon series on the Book of Esther. This article is so fitting after just studying it in-depth. This is such a fantastic article for writers. “We aren’t preachers, and our stories aren’t sermons,” How true this is. I found this article to be so encouraging for Christian writers who need to be reminded of this. Thanks for writing it!

    • Yes, this is a tricky concept for Christian writers to master (myself included). I don’t think writers should always leave out God’s name in their stories, but sometimes it makes the cause of Christ stronger. Thanks for reading!

  6. I’ve been thinking about this subject a lot but Esther is the best allegory I have come upon so far. This was spot on, incredible article Mariposa! Keep it up!

  7. Love this article. There’s so much wealth in biblical stories for writers to learn from!

  8. Wow. Thank you so much for sharing, Mariposa. I’m one of those naive writers who recently didn’t understand how to glorify God in my writing. Since I’m currently working on a slice of life story, this was extremely helpful!

  9. Great Article!

    I wrote a paper on Esther last year for college and really struggled to get anywhere with it. It simply is quite different from the other books I had worked with closely. But it is also one of the most compelling books in the Bible.

    So again great work!

    • Esther is unique, but that’s what makes it special. There is so much crammed into this book that I just barely scratched the surface. Thanks for reading!

  10. Cool article! This was really helpful to me. This whole thing you’ve discussed seems to me like it would work wonderfully for Christians writing fiction for secular audiences especially, which is my intention for at least one or two projects I’m thinking up right now. Thanks for writing this! 😀

  11. This was wonderful. All too many times, Christian writers, especially young writers, think naming God or quoting BIble verses on almost every page is an excellent way to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. While sharing Christ’s love is a good thing, it doesn’t get people who are totally uninterested in God to read the book.

    This post is so incredible because it points us all to excellence. We can talk about God in our writing, without using His name all the time.

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