A sentence can make us pause and reread a few times to reflect on its meaning; Esther 8:16 made me pause and reread. It says, “The Jews had light and gladness and joy and honor.” This is a fairly straightforward sentence except for the usage of the word “light”.

Light can mean, in this context, that the Jews had knowledge, for light is often symbolic of knowledge, but I don’t know whether that fits this passage best. Light could refer to how the Jews possessed the favor of the nations, which God promised their predecessors. Truly God had called the Jews to be a light to the nations in Isaiah 49:6. Or perhaps it means God gave the Jews clarity as opposed to confusion; clarity is often associated with light.

The truth is, I don’t know for sure the intended usage of light in this passage. My best guess is that it means favor, since the surrounding verses stress the way others began to favorably view the Jews. If that is the case, then it is strange, as one commentator has pointed out, that God’s people accomplish their vocation to bring good news and light to the world better as exiles than they did during a majority of their time as a monarchy. As the scattered church today, we do well to reflect on what this might mean for us in difficult times.