Order of Books in the Bible

tanakh 3

Q. Why is Esther placed behind Ezra and Nehemiah even though chronologically it is before them?

A. I don’t know for sure but this is my guess. The Jews divide their Scriptures (our OT) into three groups, as recognized by our Lord in Lk 24:44-45 He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.

The order was according to the status of the authors. Psalms is the first book of the Writings and its representative.
1. The Law of Moses – the Torah, our Pentateuch,
2. The Prophets:
o Former Prophets – Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings,
o Latter Prophets – Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the 12 (Minor Prophets),
3. The Writings:
o Poetic Books – Psalms, Proverbs, Job,
o 5 Scrolls – Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther
o Historical Books – Daniel, Ezra/Nehemiah, Chronicles.

When the Hebrew OT (Tanakh) was later translated into Greek, the Septuagint LXX, for the Hellenistic Jews, the translators divided it up into 4 parts. Excluding the Apocrypha, these consist of:
1. Pentateuch,
2. Historical Books – Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 & 2 Kings (our 1 and 2 Samuel), 3 and 4 Kings (our 1 and 2 Kings), 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther
3. Writings: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon,
4. Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, 12 Minor Prophets.

The order was according to subject. The Torah was unaffected. The Former Prophets were reclassified as Historical, and grouped with the historical books previously included in Writings (Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, formerly 1 book, was divided into 2) in chronological order. Ruth was inserted to follow Judges. Esther was also deemed historical, but possibly due to the absence of any mention of God, was accepted last and added at the end. Lamentations and Daniel were reclassified to Prophets, and Writings consisted of the Poetic Books plus what’s left of the 5 Scrolls, viz. Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes.

Our English OT followed the order of the LXX, with the exception of the name changes from 1-4 Kings to 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings. That’s my opinion, based on the groupings in the Tanakh and the LXX.

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