The bottom line: A fair commentary that shines a light on the story of Esther, but leaves many theological questions unanswered.
I do not think Esther Interpretation is a bad commentary. It does provide insightful historical and contextual information that will help all readers visualize the story behind the story. The only problem is that where the book has decided to focus its attention, it subsequently neglects to extract key theological meaning to the detriment of teachers and preachers (like me).
The result is that you step away from this commentary with a better understanding of the book of Esther, but that knowledge is not necessarily preachable on Sunday morning. I finished this commentary still asking myself, “So what does this all mean—what’s the big picture?” Many of points made in this volume do not go further than what one may find in the footnotes of a typical study Bible (e.g., the Zondervan NASB).
Furthermore, after the Introduction, Esther Interpretation repeatedly re-describes events as opposed to extracting meaning from the text itself. Resultantly the “interpretation” is lacking. As a general example, there is a lack of cross-reference to larger Biblical themes and stories (e.g., the many similarities in Ester’s story with that of Joseph). As a specific example, in the discussion of Esther’s three-day total fast (5:1-8; pg. 51-54), there is a complete absence of discussion on the significance of fasting, Jewish identity and communal obedience in pursuit of a common cause, and the literary omission of God in execution of these activities as rhetorical device that points directly to Yahweh.
What this book does do well is construct a map (literally and figuratively: pg. 6) that highlights the great reversals and symmetry in the narrative. Also, the main commentary is based upon the Masoretic text (MT) that is found in standard Protestant Bibles. The Appendix contains a commentary on the Apocryphal additions to Esther. The linguistic analysis of the words for “destruction” and “kill” is also quite helpful.
I have read over 15 books in the Interpretation Series and while the series in general is very solid, in my opinion, this volume falls a bit short where others have excelled. As with the other books in the series, this is not a word-for-word technical commentary. Esther Interpretation is short (<100 pages), easy to get through and written on a very accessible level.