The Book Of Esther In The Hebrew Bible

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The book of Esther appears as a historical book in the Hebrew Bible. Set in the city of Susa, during the Persian empire, the story of Esther portrays the literary convention of a Jew in a foreign court. Esther, the heroine, saves her people from destruction and creates the origin for the holiday, Purim. The lack of divine intervention in this book raises many questions, especially the inclusion of it canonicity. Many aspects of the story, point to the idea that the story of Esther began as a Babylonian narrative that was adopted into the Hebrew Bible.
The narrative begins by establishing that Ahasuerus is king, and his wife is Vashti. During a celebration, King Ahasuerus requests that Vashti be brought before him, however, she refuses, and
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It is accepted that King Ahasuerus is the Persian king Xerxes I, who ruled from 486-465 BCE (Littman 145). However, this poses problems as it is known who Xerxes was, what he did, and who he married. Records say that Xerxes was married to a woman named Amestris, and there are no records of a Vashti or an Esther (Littman 146). The story portrayed in Esther explains the origin for the holiday Purim. However, it is likely that the story is metaphorical, and the holiday was adopted from the Babylonian New Year, which celebrates the gods Marduk and Ishtar’s victory against neighboring gods (Littman 147). This possibly translates to Mordecai and Esther’s victory over Haman and his wife, Zeresh, especially since Mordecai means “man of Marduk” or “worshipper of Marduk”, and Esther is seen as identical to Ishtar (Littman 147, 148-149). With the Persian empire being as large as it was, there should be records of these characters had they…show more content…
The setting takes place in Susa, located within the Persian empire, during the 5th century BCE. The text uses the term Jew, which is not used until Hellenistic times, around the 4th and 3rd century BCE, placing the time of writing around one hundred years later. This book is odd because there is no mention of YHWH. The Jews are condemned because of a human enemy, not because of any punishment bestowed by YHWH, and they are saved by another human, specifically a woman, something that would be uncommon to include for the setting of the text and the time of the authors. Esther, with the help and guidance of Mordecai, is the one who stops the annihilation of the Jews. There is no divine intervention, only small mentions of practices to honor YHWH. The only reason this text would need to be included in the canon is to explain the origin of Purim. Also troubling for many modern Jews and Christians, is the destruction of the Jew’s enemies, with the text claiming they killed thousands of people. This is problematic, because no divine command is given. King Ahasuerus does not revoke his previous decree, he simply allows Mordecai to write a new decree establishing that the Jews can defend themselves against attacking enemies, and they do just that. The Jews of this book listen to King Ahasuerus, a non-Jew, and a non-Israelite. It is unsurprising to learn that this book was a

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