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Esther as imagined by Julia Margaret Cameron.

Esther (Hebrew: אֶסְתֵּר, Modern Ester Tiberian ʔɛster), born Hadassah, is the eponymous heroine of the Biblical Book of Esther. According to the Bible she was a Jewish queen of the Persian king Ahasuerus (traditionally identified with Xerxes I). Her story is the basis for the celebration of Purim in Jewish tradition.

Contents

Biblical story

King Ahasuerus held a 180-day feast in Susa (Shushan). He ordered his queen, Vashti, to appear before him and his guests wearing her crown, to display her beauty. But when the attendants delivered the king's command to Queen Vashti, she refused to come. Furious at her refusal to obey, the king asked his wise men what should be done. of them said that all the women in the empire would hear that "The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not." Then the women of the empire would despise their husbands. And this would cause many problems in the kingdom. Therefore it would be good to depose her.[1]

To find a new queen suitable to King Ahasuerus, it was decreed that beautiful young virgins be gathered to the palace from every province of his kingdom. Each woman underwent twelve months of beautification in his harem, after which she would go to the king. When the woman's turn came, she was given anything she wanted to take with her from the harem to the king's palace. She would then go to the king in the evening, and in the morning go to the harem where the concubines stayed. She would not return to the king unless he was pleased enough with her to summon her again by name.[2]

King Ahasuerus chose Esther for his wife and queen, an orphaned Jewish child raised in Persia by Mordecai, her cousin, was chosen by King Ahasuerus to replace the recalcitrant queen Vashti. Esther was originally named Hadassah, meaning myrtle, and received her name of Esther when she entered the royal harem.

“Esther 2:7 And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle's daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter.” Esther is a form of an Persian name, Satarah, which means star. Esther was the daughter of a Benjamite, Abihail. When Cyrus gave permission for the exiles to return unto Jerusalem she stayed with Mordecai.

Shortly afterward, Mordecai overheard a plot to assassinate the king. He promptly told Esther of it, and she warned her husband of the threat. An investigation was made and the conspirators were swiftly arrested and executed. An account of the matter was then written in the official archives before the king.

Soon after this, the king granted Haman the Agagite[3], one of the most prominent princes of the realm. All the people were to bow down to Haman when he rode his horse through the streets. All complied except for Mordecai, a Jew, who would bow to no one but his God. This enraged Haman, who, with his wife and advisers, plotted against the Jews, making a plan to kill and extirpate all Jews throughout the Persian empire, selecting the date for this act by the drawing of lots (Esther 3:7). He gained the king's approval. He offered ten thousand silver talents to the king for approval of this plan, but the king refused to take them (Esther 3:9-11).

Mordecai tore his robes and put ash on his head (signs of mourning or grieving/anguish) on hearing this news. Esther sent clean clothes to him, but he refused them, explaining that deliverance for the Jews would come from some other place, but that Esther would be killed if she did not do what she could to stop this genocide - by talking to the king. Esther was not permitted to see the king unless he had asked for her, otherwise she could be put to death. Esther was terrified of this (she had not been called to the king in 30 days), so she and her maid-servants and her people the Jews of Persia fasted earnestly for three days before she built up the courage to enter the king's presence. He held out his scepter to her, showing that he accepted her visit. Esther requested a banquet with the king and Haman. During the banquet, she requested another banquet with the king and Haman the following day.

Ahasuerus, Haman and Esther, by Rembrandt van Rijn, 1660.

After the banquet Haman ordered a gallows constructed, 75 feet (23 m) high, on which to hang Mordecai. Meanwhile, the king was having trouble sleeping, and had some histories read to him. He was reminded that Mordecai had saved him from an assassination attempt, and had received no reward in return. Early the next morning, Haman came to the king to ask permssion to hang Mordecai, but before he could, the king asked him "What should be done for the man whom the king delights to honor?" Haman thought the king meant himself, so he said that the man should wear a royal robe and be led on one of the king's horses through the city streets proclaiming before him, "This is what is done for the man the king delights to honor!" The king thought this well, then asked Haman to lead Mordecai through the streets in this way, to honor him for previously telling the king of a plot against him. After doing this, Haman rushed home, full of grief. His wife said to him, "You will surely come to ruin!"

That night, during the banquet, Esther told the king of Haman's plan to massacre all Jews in the Persian Empire, and acknowledged her own Jewish ethnicity. The king was enraged and ordered Haman to be hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. The king then appointed Mordecai as his prime minister, and gave the Jews the right to defend themselves against any enemy. The king also issued a second edict allowing the Jews to arm themselves, and kill not only their enemies but also their enemies' wives and children, as well as betake of the plunder (Esther 8:11). This precipitated a series of reprisals by the Jews against their enemies. This fight began on the 13th of Adar, the date the Jews were originally slated to be exterminated. Esther and the Jews went on to kill only their would-be executioners, and not their wives and children, this altogether meaning three hundred killed in Susa alone, fifteen in the rest of the empire. The Jews also took no plunder (Esther 9:10,9:15-16).

Jews established an annual feast, the feast of Purim, in memory of their deliverance. According to traditional Jewish dating this took place about fifty-two years after the start of the Babylonian Exile.[citation needed]

Origin and meaning

Esther and Mordecai, by Aert de Gelder

According to the Esther 2:7, Esther was originally named Hadassah. Hadassah means "myrtle" in Hebrew. It has been conjectured that the name Esther is derived from a reconstructed Median word astra meaning myrtle. [4].

An alternative view is that Esther is derived from the theonym Ishtar. The Book of Daniel provides accounts of Jews in exile being assigned names relating to Babylonian gods and "Mordecai" is understood to mean servant of Marduk, a Babylonian god. "Esther" may have been a Hebrew rendition of a form of "Ishtar" in which the "sh" sound had become an "s" sound. Wilson, who identified Ahasuerus with Xerxes I and Esther with Amestris, suggested that both "Amestris" and "Esther" derived from Akkadian Ammi-Ishtar or Ummi-Ishtar [5]. Hoschander alternatively suggested Ishtar-udda-sha ("Ishtar is her light") as the origin with the possibility of -udda-sha being connected with the similarly sounding Hebrew name Hadassah. These names however remain unattested in sources, and come from the original Babylonian Empire from 2000 BCE,[citation needed] not the Chaldean Empire or Persian Empire of the Book of Esther.[citation needed]

The Targum[citation needed] connects the name with the Persian word for "star", setareh, explaining that Esther was so named for being as beautiful as the Morning Star. In the Talmud (Tractate Yoma 29a), Esther is compared to the "morning star", and is considered the subject of Psalm 22 because its introduction is a "song for the morning star." Esther can also be understood to mean "hidden" in Hebrew, and her name is interpreted thus in another Midrash,[citation needed] where it is said that Esther hid her nationality and lineage as Mordecai had advised. Because the methods and aims of God are believed to be similarly hidden, "The Book of Esther" in Hebrew can be understood as "The Book of Hiddenness," representing God's hiddenness in the story.

Judaism

Esther is considered a prophet in Judaism.

Christianity

Esther is commemorated as a matriarch in the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod on May 24.

Persian culture

The Shrine of Esther and Mordechai in Hamedan, Iran

Given the great historical link between Persian and Jewish history, modern day Persian Jews are referred to as "Esther's Children". A building known as The Mausoleum of Esther and Mordechai is located in Hamedan, Iran.[6]

Modern retelling

References

  1. ^ Esther 1:16-20
  2. ^ Esther 2:14
  3. ^ A descendant of the Amalekite people, probably of King Agag, whom King Saul of Israel was commanded by the prophet Samuel to utterly destroy because of their wickedness; but Saul chose to spare their king instead.(1Samuel 15:1-33) Haman's hatred of the Jews may have had its root in this event.
  4. ^ John Barton, John Muddiman, The Oxford Bible commentary, entry Esther, Oxford University Press, 2001
  5. ^ NeXtBible Study Dictionary, entry Ahasbai
  6. ^ wikimapia

Further reading

  • Beal, Timothy K. The Book of Hiding: Gender, Ethnicity, Annihilation, and Esther. NY: Routledge, 1997. Postmodern theoretical apparatus, e.g. Derrida, Levinas
  • Michael V. Fox Character and Ideology in the Book of Esther, 2nd ed. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmanns, 2001. 333 pp.
  • Sasson, Jack M. “Esther” in Alter and Kermode, pp. 335–341, literary
  • Webberley, Helen The Book of Esther in C17th Dutch Art, AAANZ National Conference, Art Gallery NSW, 2002
  • Webberley, Helen Rembrandt and The Purim Story, in The Jewish Magazine, Feb 2008, [1]
  • White, Sidnie Ann. “Esther: A Feminine Model for Jewish Diaspora” in Newsom

External links


Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Esther
disambiguation
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Esther is a book in the Bible. The following English translations may be available:

See also


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ESTHER. The Book of Esther, in the Bible, relates how a Jewish maiden, Esther, cousin and foster-daughter of Mordecai, was made his queen by the Persian king Ahasuerus (Xerxes) after he had divorced Vashti; next, how Esther and Mordecai frustrated Haman's endeavour to extirpate the Jews; how Haman, the grand-vizier, fell, and Mordecai succeeded him; how Esther obtained the king's permission for the Jews to destroy all who might attack them on the day which Haman had appointed by lot for their destruction; and lastly, how the feast of Purim (Lots ?) was instituted to commemorate their deliverance. Frequent incidental references are made to Persian court-usages (explanations are given in i. 13, viii. 8), while on the other hand the religious rites of the Jews (except fasting), and even Jerusalem and the temple, and the name of Israel, are studiously ignored. Even the name of God is not once mentioned, perhaps from a dread of its profanation during the Saturnalia of Purim. The early popularity of the book is shown by the interpolated passages in the Septuagint and the Old Latin versions.

The criticism of Esther began in the 18th century. As soon as the questioning spirit arose, the strangeness of many statements in the book leaped into view. A moderate scholar of our day can find no historical nucleus, and calls it a sort of historical romance.' The very first verses in the book startle the reader by their exaggerations, e.g. a banquet lasting 180 days, " 127 provinces." Farther on, the improbabilities of the plot are noticeable. Esther, on her elevation, keeps her Jewish origin secret (ii. 10; cf. vii. 3 ff.), although she has been taken from the house of her uncle, who is known to be a Jew (iii. 4; cf. vi. 13), and has remained in constant intercourse with him (ii. i 1, 19, zo, 22; cf. iv. 4-17). We are further told that the grandvizier was an Agagite or Amalekite (iii. 1, &c.); would the nobility of Persia have tolerated this ? Or did Haman too keep his non-Persian origin secret? Also that Mordecai offered a gross affront to Haman, for which no slighter punishment would satisfy Haman than the destruction of the whole Jewish race (iii. 2-6). Of this savage design eleven months' notice is given (iii. 12-14); and when the danger has been averted by the cleverness of Esther, the provincial Jews are allowed to butcher 75,000, and those in the capital Boo of their Persian fellowsubjects (ix. 6-16).

It is urged, on the other hand, that the assembly mentioned in i. 3 may be that referred to by Herodotus (vii. 8) as having preceded the expedition against Greece. This hypothesis, however, requires us to suppose that Xerxes had returned from Sardis to Susa by the tenth month of the seventh year of his reign, which is barely credible. In the reckoning of 127 provinces (cf. Dan. vi. 1; i Esd. iii. 2) satrapies and sub-satrapies may be confounded. It is at any rate correct to include India among the provinces; this is justified, not only by Herodotus (iii. 94), but by the inscriptions of Darius at Persepolis and Naksh-i-Rustam. Herodotus again (vii. 8) confirms the custom referred to in Esth. ii. 12. But what authority can make the conduct of Mordecai credible ? To-day the harem is impenetrable, while " any one declining to stand as the grand-vizier passes is almost beaten to death." 2 This, surely, is what a real Mordecai would have suffered from a real Haman. Even the capricious Xerxes would never have permitted the entire destruction of one of the races of the empire, nor would a vizier have proposed it.

Serious difficulties of another kind remain. Mordecai is represented as a fellow-captive of Jeconiah (597 B.C.), and grandvizier in Xerxes's twelfth year (474 B.C.) I This is parallel to the strange statement in Tobit xiv. 15. And how can we find room for Esther as queen by the side of Amestris (Herod. vii. 14, ix. 112)? How, too, can a Jewess have been a legal queen (see Herod. iii. 84) ? Then take the supposed Persian proper names. " Ahasuerus " may no doubt stand, but very few of the rest (see NOldeke, Ency. Bib. col. 1402). As to the style, the general verdict is that it points to a late date (see Driver, Introd. 6 , p. 484). Altogether, critics decline to date the book earlier than the 3rd or even 2nd century B.C.

So far we have only been carrying on 18th-century criticism. In more recent years, however, new lines of inquiry have been opened up. First of all by the great Semitic scholar Lagarde. His thesis (seldom defended now) was that Purim corresponds to Furdigan, the name of the old Persian New Year's and All Souls' festival held in spring, on which the Persians were wont to exchange presents (cf. Esth. ix. 19). In 1891 came a new explanation of Esther from Zimmern. It is true that in its earlier form his theory was very incomplete. But in justice to this scholar we may notice that from the first he looked for light to Babylonia, and that many other critics now take up the same I Kautzsch, Old Testament Literature (1898), p. 130.

So Morier, the English minister to the Persian court, quoted by Dean Stanley.

position. There is also another new point which has to be mentioned, viz. that, judging from our experience elsewhere, the Book of Esther has probably passed through various stages of development. Here, then, are two points which call for investigation, viz. (I) a possible mythological element in Esther, and (2) possible stages of development prior to that represented by the Hebrew text.

As to the first point. The Second Targum (on Esth. ii. 7) long ago declared that Esther was so called " because she was like the planet Venus." Recent scholars have expressed the same idea more critically. Esther is a modification of Ishtar, the name of the Babylonian goddess of fertility and of the planet Venus, whose myth must have been partially known to the Israelites even in pre-exilic times,' and after the fall of the state must have acquired a still stronger hold on Jewish exiles. A general knowledge of the myth of Marduk among the Israelites cannot indeed be proved. Singularly enough, the Babylonian colonists in the cities of Samaria are said to have made idols, not of Marduk, but of a deity called Succoth-benoth 2 (2 Kings xvii. 30). Nor does the Second Targum help us here; it gives a wild explanation of Mordecai as " pure myrrh." Still it is plain that the name of the god Marduk (Merodach) was known to the Jews, and the Cosmogony in Gen. i. is considered by critics to have ultimately arisen out of the myth of Marduk's conflict with the dragon (see Cosmogony). At any rate the name Mordecai (the vocalization is uncertain) looks very much like Marduk, which, with terminations added, often occurs in cuneiform documents as a personal name.' Add to this, that, according to Jensen, Ishtar in mythology was the cousin of Marduk, just as the legend represents Esther as the cousin of Mordecai.4 The same scholar also accounts for Esther's other name Hadassah (Esth. ii. 7); hadasshatu in Babylonian means " bride," which may have been a title of Ishtar.

But we cannot stop short here. Unless the mythological key can also explain Haman and Vashti, it is of no use. Jensen, now followed by Zimmern, is equal to the occasion. Haman, he says, is a corruption of Hamman or Humman or Uman, the name of the chief deity of the Elamites, in whose capital (Susa) the scene of the narrative is laid, while Vashti is Mashti (or Vashti), probably the name of an Elamite goddess.

Following the real or fancied light of these names, Prof. Jensen holds that the Esther-legend is based on a mythological account of the victory of the Babylonian deities over those of Elam, which in plain prose means the deliverance of ancient Babylonia from its Elamite oppressors, and that such an account was closely connected with the Babylonian New Year's festival, called Zagmuk, just as the Esther-legend is connected with the festival of Purim.

We are bound, however, to mention some critical objections. (I) The Babylonian festival corresponding to Purim was not the spring festival of Zagmuk, but the summer festival of Ishtar, which is probably the Sacaea of Berossus, an orgiastic festival analogous to Purim. (2) According to Jensen's theory, Mordecai, and not Esther, ought to be the direct cause of Haman's ruin. (3) No such Babylonian account as Jensen postulates can be indicated. (4) The identifications of names are hazardous. Fancy a descendant of Kish called Marduk, and an "Agagite " called Hamman! Elsewhere Mordecai (Ezra ii. 2; Neh. vii. 7) occurs among names which are certainly not Persian (Bigvai is no exception), and Haman (Tobit xiv. Io) appears as a nephew of Achiachar, which is not a Persian name. Esther, moreover, ought to be parallel to Judith; fancy likening the representative of Israel to the goddess Ishtar !

Next, as to the preliminary literary phases of Esther. Such phases are probable, considering the later phases represented in the Septuagint. There may have once existed in Hebrew a story of the deadly feud between Mordecai (if that be the original ' See Zimmern, Die Keilinschriften and das Alte Test.('), p. 438.

2 Ibid. p. 396.

3 Johns, Assyrian Deeds, iii. 198-199; Amer. Journ. of Sem. Languages (April 1902), p. 158.

So too Zimmern, in Gunkel's Schopfung and Chaos, p. 313, note 2, name) and Haman, with elements suggested by the story of the battle between the Supreme God and the dragon (see Cosmogony). As the legend stands, Mordecai and Esther seem to be in each other's way. In a passage (i. 5 in LXX.) only found in the Septuagint, but which may have belonged to the original Esther, reference is made to a dream of Mordecai respecting two great dragons, i.e. Mordecai and Haman (x. 7). This seems to confirm the view here mentioned. If so, however, there must also have been an Esther-legend, which was afterwards worked up with that of Mordecai. This is, in fact, the view of Erbt. Winckler takes a different line. Linguistic facts and certain points in the contents seem to him to show that our Esther is a work of the age of the Seleucidae; more precisely he thinks of the time of the revolt of Molon under Antiochus III. Of course there was a Book of Esther before this, and even in its redacted form our Esther reflects the period of three Persian kings, viz. Cyrus, Cambyses and Darius. Lastly, Cheyne (Ency. Bib. " Purim, § 7), while agreeing with Winckler that the book is based on an earlier narrative, holds that that earlier text differed more widely from the present in its geographical and historical setting than Winckler seems to suppose. The problem of the origin of the name Purim, however, can hardly be said to have received a final solution.

Bibliography

Kuenen, History of Israel, iii. (1875), 14$-153; Lagarde, Purim (1887); Zimmern in Stade's Zeitschrift, xi. (1891), pp. 1 5716 9, and Keilinschriften and das Alte Testament (3), 485, 515-520, Jensen in Wildeboer's Esther (in Marti's series, 1898), pp.173-175; Winckler, Keilinschriften and das Alte Testament ('), p. 288, Altorientalische Forschungen, 3rd ser. i. 1-64; Erbt, Die Purimsage (1900); Ency. Biblica, articles " Esther " and " Purim " (a composite article). (T. K. C.) Additions To Book Of Esther. These "additions " were written originally in Greek and subsequently interpolated in the Greek translation of the Book of Esther. Here the principle of interpolation has reached its maximum. Of 270 verses, 107 are not to be found in the Hebrew text. These additions are distributed throughout the book in the Greek, but in the Latin Bible they were relegated to the end of the canonical book by Jerome - an action that has rendered them meaningless. In the Greek the additions form with the canonical text a consecutive history. They were made probably in the time of the Maccabees, and their aim was to supply the religious element which is so completely lacking in the canonical work. The first, which gives the dream of Mordecai and the events which led to his advancement at the court of Artaxerxes, precedes chap. i. of the canonical text: the second and fifth, which follow iii. 13 and viii. 12, furnish copies of the letters of Artaxerxes referred to in these verses; the third and fourth, which are inserted after chap. iv., consist of the prayers of Mordecai and Esther, with an account of Esther's approach to the king. The last, which closes the book, tells of the institution of the feast of Purim. The Greek text appears in two widely-differing recensions. The one is supported by ABN, and the other - a revision of the first - by codices 19, 93 a, 108b. The latter is believed to have been the work of Lucian. Swete, Old Test. in Greek, ii. 755, has given the former, while Lagarde has published both texts with critical annotations in his LibrorumVeteris Testamenti Canonicorum, i. 504-541 (1883), and Scholz in his Kommentar ilber das Buck Esther (1892).

For an account of the Latin and Syriac versions, the Targums, and the later Rabbinic literature connected with this subject, and other questions relating to these additions, see Fritzsche, Exeget. Handbuch zu den Apok. (1851), i. 67-108; Schiirer (3), iii. 330-332; Fuller in Speaker's Apocr. i. 360-402; Ryssel in Kautzsch's Apok. u. Pseud. i. 193-212; Siegfried in Jewish Encyc. v. 237 sqq.; Swete, Introd. to the Old Test. in Greek, 257 seq.; L. B. Paton, " A Text-Critical Apparatus to the Book of Esther " in O.T. and Semitic Studies in Memory of W. R. Harper (Chicago, 1908). (R. H. C.)


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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

English

Etymology

Either from Persian ستاره (setâreh), star, or from Hebrew עשתר (Ishtar), a Persian goddess.

Pronunciation

Homophones

Proper noun

Singular
Esther

Plural
-

Esther

Wikipedia-logo.png Esther on Wikipedia.Wikipedia
Wikisource-newberg-de.png Wikisource has an article on “Esther”. Wikisource
Wiktionary has an Appendix listing books of the Bible

  1. A female given name.
  2. (Biblical) A book of the Old Testament and the Hebrew Tanakh.
  3. (Biblical) The heroine of the Book of Esther.

Quotations

Related terms

Translations

Anagrams


Danish

Proper noun

Esther

  1. A female given name, a popular spelling variant of Ester.

French

Proper noun

Esther

  1. (Biblical) Esther.
  2. A female given name.

German

Proper noun

Esther

  1. A female given name, a popular spelling variant of Ester.

Norwegian

Proper noun

Esther

  1. A female given name, a less common spelling of Ester.

Spanish

Proper noun

Esther (m)

  1. (Biblical) Esther.
  2. A female given name.

Synonyms


Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

the queen of Ahasuerus, and heroine of the book that bears her name. She was a Jewess named Hadas'sah (the myrtle), but when she entered the royal harem she received the name by which she henceforth became known (Est 2:7). It is a Syro-Arabian modification of the Persian word satarah, which means a star.

She was the daughter of Abihail, a Benjamite. Her family did not avail themselves of the permission granted by Cyrus to the exiles to return to Jerusalem; and she resided with her cousin Mordecai, who held some office in the household of the Persian king at "Shushan in the palace." Ahasuerus having divorced Vashti, chose Esther to be his wife. Soon after this he gave Haman the Agagite, his prime minister, power and authority to kill and extirpate all the Jews throughout the Persian empire. By the interposition of Esther this terrible catastrophe was averted. Haman was hanged on the gallows he had intended for Mordecai (Esther 7); and the Jews established an annual feast, the feast of Purim (q.v.), in memory of their wonderful deliverance. This took place about fifty-two years after the Return, the year of the great battles of Plataea and Mycale (B.C. 479).

Esther appears in the Bible as a "woman of deep piety, faith, courage, patriotism, and caution, combined with resolution; a dutiful daughter to her adopted father, docile and obedient to his counsels, and anxious to share the king's favour with him for the good of the Jewish people. There must have been a singular grace and charm in her aspect and manners, since 'she obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her' (Esther 2:15). That she was raised up as an instrument in the hand of God to avert the destruction of the Jewish people, and to afford them protection and forward their wealth and peace in their captivity, is also manifest from the Scripture account."

This entry includes text from Easton's Bible Dictionary, 1897.

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