The book of Esther is conspicuously absent from the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls discovered in the Judean Desert caves. It is the only book of the Bible for which there are no scroll fragments. Martin Abegg Jr., Peter Flint, and Eugene Ulrich, three of the world's foremost Dead Sea Scrolls scholars, propose several possible reasons why Esther might have been deliberately excluded from the Dead Sea Scroll community at Qumran.
They first look at the calendar texts found at Qumran that chart the festivals and holy days observed there. All the festivals one would expect to find are notedPassover, Pentecost, Tabernaclesbut Purim is absent. Purim celebrates the deliverance of the Jews exiled in Persia from the wicked Haman.
Haman planned to destroy the Jews on a specific date that he chose by drawing lots (Hebrew, purim; see Esther 3). At great personal risk, Esther sought audience with the king, her husband, and successfully pleaded the case of the Jews (see Esther 57). Haman was hanged on his own gallows (see Esther 7:10), the enemies of the Jews were thwarted (see Esther 9:1216), and the resulting feast took place on the "fourteenth . . . day of the month Adar" (Esther 9:17). The festival of Purim has since been celebrated on the fourteenth day of Adar. But not at Qumran.
The authors offer several explanations of why the community at Qumran may have rejected Purim and the book of Esther:
Adapted from Martin Abegg Jr., Peter Flint, and Eugene Ulrich, "Why Is Esther Missing from Qumran?" Bible Review, August 1999, 2.