At first glance, it seems simple enough. Open up a Megillah (Book of Esther) and read the following two quotes:

  • “And Mordechai inscribed these things and sent letters to all the Jews . . .”1
  • “Now, Queen Esther, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordechai the Jew wrote down all [the acts of] power, to confirm the second Purim letter.”2

The sages understand this to mean that Mordechai and Esther wrote the Book of Esther together.3

But things are not so simple: When listing the authors of the different books of the Bible, the Talmud tells us that the Book of Esther was written by the Anshe Knesset Hagedolah,“Men of the Great Assembly,” a panel of 120 prophets and sages that constituted the ultimate religious authority at the onset of the Second Temple Era in the Land of Israel.4

Now, this council was established in the Holy Land several years after the events of Purim. Why wasn’t the Book of Esther written down immediately? Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki (Rashi) explains that it needed to be written in the Land of Israel because “prophecy is not to be transcribed and included in the canon of Scripture outside of the Holy Land.”5

So who wrote the Book of Esther?

Written and Rewritten

A simple explanation is that it was actually written twice. Esther and Mordechai recorded the story of Purim shortly after the events happened. With G‑dly inspiration, they were able to thread together the entire story, showing the Divine orchestration throughout the approximately nine years of the Purim story.

However, their manuscript lacked holiness. It was just a historical record of events. In fact, according to some, this is the reason the Book of Esther doesn’t contain any reference to G‑d. Mordechai and Esther knew that the Persians would take this account and include it in their history books, but would substitute the name of G‑d with the names of their own deities. They therefore decided that it was more respectful to G‑d to just leave His name out.6

Later, Queen Esther7 petitioned the sages to have the Book of Esther included as part of the 24 holy books of Scripture. The Men of the Great Assembly then rewrote it with Divine inspiration, and it was included as one of the 24 books of Scripture.

Only after it was rewritten by the Men of the Great Assembly could we parse and expound on every nuance, such as the sizing of certain letters.8

G‑d in the Darkest of Times

As mentioned above, the Book of Esther is unique in that G‑d’s name is absent from the entire text.

At the same time, the underlying message is that the hidden hand of G‑d is active even in the darkest of moments, orchestrating the salvation of the Jewish people. Thus, in times of exile, the Book of Esther is especially treasured. This is one of the reasons our sages tell us9 that, in the messianic era, the Book of Esther will have a special significance, even more so than the other books of Scripture.10

May it be speedily in our days!