The Book of Esther (2013) – Movie Review

‘The Book of Esther’ was released on the 11th of June 2013 and is produced by Pure Flix Entertainment and directed by David A.R. White. Pure Flix Entertainment has made a name for itself making some solid albeit sometimes wacky family dramas and comedies that provide a clean wholesome alternative to the filthy trash that Hollywood produces. Movies such as The Encounter, This is our Time, Marriage Retreat were well received and established David A.R. White and his production company. The The Book of Ruth was another movie that was relatively well made; and although it didn’t stay entirely true to the Bible it was still an enjoyable movie.

So we thought it quite strange that a movie titled “The Book of Esther” opened with a disclaimer that certain liberties had been taken with the biblical account to make the film more ‘dramatic’. This worrying warning proved to be very true as indeed the movie has veered so far from the Bible that it is impossible for us to recommend this movie for any audience – Christians or not.

The Book of Esther (2013) Movie Review at AskBible.org

The story of Esther is one of the most inspiring accounts in the Bible and gives a fascinating insight into how God saved His people Israel from the Persian ruler Ahasuerus through Esther. This book shows us how God is always concerned with the welfare of His people and plays an active role in our lives. Although God is not mentioned explicitly, the story of Esther shows how life is not merely a chain of coincidences but rather that God is always in control and orchestrates events to fulfill His perfect will. The book tells us how the feast of Purim was instituted and why the Jews observe this festival to this day. Since this movie is based on a historical book of the Bible, we assume that you are aware of the story and the ending. So there will be spoilers throughout this review.

Biblical aspects: Not faithful to the Bible

From a Biblical perspective, this movie is riddled with inaccuracies and errors. The main issue with this movies is this: there is hardly any excuse for tampering with the Bible and then calling the resulting work ‘The Book of Esther’ when it hardly resembles the Biblical book any longer. We counted no less than 35 deviations from the Bible and indeed it made for tiring viewing because, knowing the Bible it was very painful to watch this distorted, false and God dis-honouring version. It is understandable when godless Hollywood changes a Biblical account according to their whims and fancies as in ‘One Night with the King’; but it is extremely shameful and disappointing that Christians would dare change the Word of God and worse still, then name it the Biblical book itself. (Deuteronomy 4:1-2, Proverbs 30:5-6, Revelation 22:18-19)

Throughout the movie, we witness attempts to inject moral lessons. While again unnecessary, they thankfully do not violate traditional Biblical doctrines or teaching. Some issues addressed include the observance of the Sabbath (with the conclusion being that one should obey God rather than man), marriage, ‘love’ marriages (a concept that is relevant to many conservative countries even today, especially the Middle East where a woman often does not have freedom in choosing her spouse), and premarital sex. See the content guide section for more details.

Some of the major changes to the Biblical account that we noted are: God speaks to Esther as she prays (this being the most egregious one as it directly involves God), an unnecessary and questionable sub-plot of Haman’s daughter is introduced, and the last three chapters of the Biblical book are ignored completely. You can see the complete list of deviations, additions and omissions at the end of the review.

Technical Aspects: Overall poor, occasional good performances

Technically, the movie is underwhelming and the limited budget available to the producers is woefully evident. However, this need not have necessarily been an impediment to the Biblical value of the movie as other films from the same production company have done much better on similarly inadequate budgets. Instead, what really grates on the viewer is the uneven performance of the main cast. The lead actress does a good job of playing Esther but the King is an abject failure. Not only is he an extremely poor actor, but he hardly has the screen presence required for such an important character in the story. Considering that he commands a significant amount of screen time, the lack of variety in the actor’s expressions is tiresome and reminds you constantly that this is a very low-budget movie and corners had to be cut, even in casting. However, the rest of the main cast such as Mordecai, Haman and Esther herself put on decent performances and are quite believable. Esther’s American accent occasionally surfaces and is an irritant in an otherwise good performance.

The costumes are generally okay but the sets are unimpressive and the computer animation repetitive and amateurish. Of particular criticism is the King’s attire as often he is dressed no differently from his subjects and is thus extremely unconvincing.

Content Guide

The Book of Esther Movie Review AskBible.org - Content chart

Sex

The movie contains a scene where Haman and his wife engage in playful talk and a suggestive smack is heard (not seen). The King and Esther also engage in talk about pre-marital sex (another addition to the Biblical account) – the King wants to have sex before the ‘wedding’ but Esther refuses.

Violence

Queen Vashti is portrayed as a violent individual seething with anger and the intensity of the scene may be unsuitable for children.
Due to the above concerns, we have rated this movie a 1 in both categories as above resulting in an overall content rating of 1 – Teens and above only. This means that it is suitable for teens but due to the dangerous changes in the movie, it should be made clear to them that this is not a biblically accurate representation.

All deviations from the Bible

MovieBibleCorresponding Bible Verse
(Book of Esther)
Esther is eager to get married, mentions love marriages. Mordecai's wife is portrayed. Haman's wife appears too early.Not there in the Bible
Ignored180 days of celebration1:4,5
King's feast is a single evening, Queen's feast ignored7 days feast by King & Queen1:9
King is brooding when he is not angry or upsetKing is drunk & merry1:10
King asks a single soldier to bring Queen & an extended conversation addedKing asks 7 eunuchs to fetch Queen1:10
King summons Queen because of people's muttering overheard by a soldierNot there in the Bible
Mordecai and Haman are among the wise men (the princes). A particular eunuch is Haman's accompliceNot there in the Bible1:13-14
King independently decides on course of actionKing consults wise men on how to deal with Queen Vashti, the eunuch Memucan advises King
IgnoredRoyal decree issued that wives respect their husbands1:22
Haman plots with a particular eunuch (mentioned earlier) to make his daughter Zara the next queen. Mordecai counters this plan by proposing a contest and enters Esther into the fray. Only wise men's daughters are to participate in this contest.King's servants proposed plan to search for virgins across the kingdom & King accepts it. No mention of Haman's daughter.2:2
God speaks to Esther while she prays (God basically repeats what Mordecai said to her as a young child)Not there in the Bible
Sub-plot of Haman's daughter - a pretty girl is called unpretty. This is corrected by Esther laterNot there in the Bible
Ignored12 month preparation of the virgins
Biblical account ignoredEach virgin spent a night with the KingCh 2:12
Biblical account ignoredEunuch advises Esther what to take with herCh 2:15
King accepts Esther and Zara and says he will summon them laterNot there in the Bible
King tests the two girls secretly by spying on themNot there in the Bible
Plot by Haman "to control the king" through his daughter mentionedNot so in the Bible, actually two eunuchs plotted against the King and Mordecai tell Esther who tells the KingCh 2:21
Hints of Haman's wife practising witchcraft (called magic in the movie)Not there in the Bible
Esther not afforded the same position of a Persian queen and is called inferiorNot there in the Bible
King wants to consummate relationship before marriageNot there in the Bible. No marriage either.
Two soldiers plot against the KingNot so in the Bible, actually two eunuchs plotted against the King and Mordecai tell Esther who tells the King
Haman promoted before plot is revealed to the KingHaman promoted afterCh 3:1
Mordecai approached the King directly Mordecai tells Esther who then tells the KingCh 2:22
Mordecai's wife approaches Esther and informs her of Haman's plan and the King's order to kill all the JewsNot so in the Bible, Esther's maids inform her and she sends the eunuch Hathach to enquire of MordecaiCh 4:4
Only one feast held by EstherEsther held two feastsCh 7
Biblical account ignoredHaman had gallows made for Mordecai before the second feastCh 5:14
Largely ignored, Mordecai honoured in the endKing's sleepless night and subsequent decision to honour Mordecai instead of Haman, and Haman caught in his own guileCh 6:1
Esther accuses Haman of plotting to kill the Jews and herself at the first feastThis happens at the second feastCh 7:6
Biblical account ignored, new sub-plot of King inviting Mordecai to defend himself createdHaman begs Esther for mercy, the King orders Haman be hanged on the same gallows that Haman built for MordecaiCh 7:7
Biblical account ignoredChapters 8, 9 and 10 (details below)Ch 8-10
Biblical account ignoredHaman's house given to MordecaiCh 8:2
Biblical account ignoredThrough the King, Mordecai writes a counter-decree for Jews to destroy their enemiesCh 8:8
Biblical account ignoredAccordingly, the Jews destroy over 75,000 of their enemies over two days and Haman's ten sons are killed and hanged
Biblical account ignoredThe feast of Purim is institutedCh 9

Verdict

From a Biblical standpoint, it is wholly unacceptable that a self-professed Christian film company twists the Bible to this extent and still call it ‘The Book of Esther’. From a technical standpoint, the quality of the movie leaves a lot to be desired as well. Due to the inaccurate representation of the Bible, we recommend you and your family skip this movie.

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4.6 Total Score
A biblically inaccurate version of the Book of Ruth

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2 Comments
  1. Reply
    Chrispy January 20, 2015 at 5:08 AM

    I’m a fan of Pure flix and David A.R. White, but this film was a terrible disappointment! Not biblical at all. So any accounts were ignored as of they didn’t have time to include them, yet they had time to include ridiculous dramatic scenes that were not biblical. I rarely have time to watch anything, and I’m disappointed that I spent my time on this.

  2. Reply
    Penny February 1, 2016 at 9:33 AM

    I was disappointed with this movie, not only was the acting subpar but they white washed so much of what happened to Esther. In the movie the the king judges his prospects with a glance and the final 2 through the lattice work. Where is the second harem the being made a concubine? Just as it is wrong to change the kings mood from drunk and merry to grouchy it is also wrong to white wash the scriptures to make the story fit our moral agenda. The king wanted to have as you said premarital sex and Esther in the movie refuses. This is a king which one does not refuse. At least other Esther movies dealt with this honestly.

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