The book of Esther.
Counted among the writings.
None on site.
CCEL: Esther (Hebrew only).
Swete LXX (Greek only).
Gateway (English only).
Humanities Text Initiative:
Additions to Esther (English only).
HTML Bible: Esther (Hebrew and English).
HTML Bible: Esther
(Latin Vulgate only).
Zhubert (Greek and English).
Kata Pi BHS: Esther (Hebrew and English).
Kata Pi LXX: Esther (Greek and English).
Sacred Texts: Esther (polyglot).
Sacred Texts: Additions to Esther (English only).
Esther at the OT Gateway.
apocryphal Esther in the Jewish Encyclopedia.
EJW (Peter Kirby).
the rest of Esther
at Kata Pi (Oesterly and Robinson).
Esther from the Plymouth Brethren.
Introduction to Esther (David Malick).
Outline of Esther (David Malick).
Translation of Esther (Mordecai Housman).
Holy Disobedience in Esther (Karol Jackowski).
Esther and the Future of the Commentary (Zerbanoo Gifford).
Esther 7.4 Interactive (Sheffield).
The book of Esther is counted as an historical book in our English
Bibles, but in the Jewish scriptures
it is among the writings.
The book was originally written in Hebrew, but the ancient Greek
translation known as the Septuagint
(abbreviated LXX) is also a very important witness to the text. The
LXX, however, also incorporates several apocryphal additions to the
Peter Kirby (Early Jewish Writings).
Additions to Esther.
Peter Kirby surveys scholars writing on the book of Esther:
Demetrius R. Dumm writes: On this point [of literary form], scholarly opinion
ranges from pure myth to strict history. Most critics, however, favor a middle
course of historical elements with more or less generous literary embellishments
(thus J. Schildenberger, H. Gunkel, O. Eissfeldt, A. Barucq). The Gk additions
in particular appear to be essentially literary creations. That neither author
intended to write strict history seems obvious from the historical inaccuracies,
unusual coincidences, and other traits characteristic of folklore (all of which
will be pointed out in the commentary). On the other hand, there is no compelling
reason for denying the possibility of an undetermined historical nucleus, and
the author's generally accurate picture of Persian life tends to support this
possibility. Several details of Est suggest a fictitious story. The very fact
of variations between the Hebrew and the deuterocanonical additions shows that
the book was freely embellished in the course of its history. Then there are
the many difficulties concerning Mordecai's age, and the wife of Xerxes (Amestris).
Moreover, the artificial symmetry suggests fiction: Gentiles against Jews; Vashti
as opposed to Esther; the hanging of Haman and the appointment of Mordecai as
the vizier; the anti-Semitic pogrom and the slaying of the Gentiles. A law of
contrasts is obviously at work. On the other hand, one cannot dispute the possibility
of Jewish pogroms during the Persian period, and the story of Esther and Mordecai
may have some basis in fact. As it stands, it has been developed very freely
as the 'festal legend' of a Feast of Purim, which is itself otherwise unknown
to us." (The Anchor Bible Commentary, vol. 1, pp. 628-629)
David J. A. Clines writes: "But the plausibility of the chronological
framework and the accuracy of the local color do not amount to a demonstration
of the book's historicity. It is more significant that the essential plot of
the book hangs upon a considerable number of improbable coincidencesfor
example, that there should be a Jewish queen on the Persian throne at the very
time when genocide of the Jews is being plotted; that Mordecai's service to
the king (2:21-23) is not rewarded at the appropriate time but brought to the
king's attention merely hours before Haman, the prime minister, arrives to ask
for Mordecai's life (6:1-3); or that Haman, in begging for his life at Esther's
feet, should be thought by the king to be attempting to rape the queen and for
that reason be executed (7:8-10). The combination of coincidences, none perhaps
entirely improbable in itself, brings the historical credibility of the work
into question." (The Harper's Bible Commentary, p. 387)
Jay G. Williams writes: "Although conservative scholars through the ages
have taken this to be a factual account of an historical event, it is clear
that this is by no means the case. The story bears too many marks of a highly
contrived melodrama to be considered historical. It is true that the author
was fairly knowledgeable about the goings-on in a Persian court, but he also
makes a good many mistakes. For instance, the Persian Empire never had 127 provinces
as the story claims (1:1). Persian court records to not name either Vashti or
Esther as the name of Ashasuerus' queen, nor is there any indication that Purim
was ever celebrated in Jewry during the Persian period." (Understanding
the Old Testament, p. 304)
James King West writes: "Whether or not this entertaining story rests
upon some historical incident is impossible to say. The account is such as manifestly
fictional, and its knowledge of Persian affairs sufficiently remote to make
unlikely a date for the work ealier than the Greek period. Several considerations
argue for a second-century date. No reference either to the feast of Purim appears
elsewhere in Jewish literature before the first century B.C.; and the Qumran
discoveries have thus far failed to produce a single fragment of the book. Had
it circulated prior to the second century, moreover, the absence of the names
of Esther and Mordecai from the exhausitve list of heros in Eccleasiasticus
(c. 180 B.C.) would be difficult to explain." (Introduction to the Old
Testament, p. 409)
Samuel Sandmel writes: "Major objections [to canonicity] can be cited
from the religious standpoint of the Pentateuch. First, the story relates that
Esther became a concubine to the King of Persia, before becoming the queen;
and in becoming the queen, she was married to a Gentile. Secondly, the story
contains incidents of bloodthirsty revenge, at variance with the Pentateuchal
view that man must not be vengeful. Even more significant is the total absence
of any mention of God. The modern commentators who stress this peculiarity are
underlining a fact that also occurred to the ancient Greek translators. Esther
in the Greek Bible has been expanded by the addition to the Scroll of some prayers
which the Greek Jews felt Esther should have prayed." (The Hebrew Scriptures,
Peter Kirby also surveys scholars writing on the additions to the book of
Demetrius R. Dumm writes: "Est has been preserved in two substantially
different forms: a Hebr text, assumed by most scholars to be original; and a
Gk text (also existing in two rather divergent formsLXX and Lucian), which
freely translates the Hebrew and adds to it six large (deuterocanonical) sections.
When Jerome translated this book, he lumped the Gk sections together at the
end of his work. In this commentary, they are restored to their proper places,
where they are designated by capital letters. The Gk numbering (11:2-12:26;
13:1-7; 13:8-14:19; 15:1-16; 16:1-27) is adopted in many translations. The Greek
additions to Est are the 'deuterocanonical' portions, and they were, as usual,
questioned by Jerome. But they were finally recognized as canonical by the Council
of Trent." (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 1, p. 628)
James King West writes: "There are six items contained in these five sections.
(1) 11:2-12 prefaces the story with a dream in which Mordecai receives a premonition
of the events that are to follow and gives a variant of the story of the plot
against the king discovered by Mordecai, which is related in 2:21-23 and alluded
to in 6:2. (2) In 13:1-7 the text of the decree drafted by Haman in the king's
name is supplied. (3) 13:8-18 and 14:1-19 supply appropriate prayers offered
by Mordecai and Esther as she prepares to enter the presence of the king to
intercede for the Jews. In Mordecai's prayer is a pious explanation for his
refusal to bow to Haman; Esther's prayer ends with the striking petition, 'And
save me from my fear!' (4) 15:1-16 is a much more elaborate account of Esther's
preparation, entrance, and reception by the king than the brief statement in
5:1-2 which it replaces. (5) 16:1-24 supplies the royal decree nullifying the
original one against the Jews and making provisions for their self-defense.
Here we learn the surprising fact that Haman is not a Persian but a Macedonian!
(16:10) The edict also provides the explicit connection of this letter with
the Feast of Purim (cf. the colophon 11:1). (6) As the Greek Esther opens with
an account of Mordecai's dream, so it closes with its interpretation and a note
as to how it had been fulfilled. The appended colophon credits the Greek translation
to one Lysimachus of Jerusalem. Several discrepancies between the Greek and
the Hebrew texts make it appear likely that the additions were made at a later
time in order to clarify and 'correct' the older version (cf. 12:2 with 2:21-23;
12:5 with 6:3; 12:6 with 3:2-6; 16:10 with 3:1; 16:22-23 with 9:20-28)."
(Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 456)
David J. A. Clines writes: "The Additions are found only in the Greek
Bible, and not in the Hebrew, but some of them seem to have existed earlier
in a Hebrew or Aramaic form. This is the case with Additions A, C, D, and F,
where traces of a Semitic original are still visible. Additions B and E (the
royal letters), on the other hand, are obvious examples of flowery Greek rhetorical
style and must have been composed originally in Greek. All the Additions are
most probably Jewish in origin, especially Additions A and F, which breathe
an anti-Gentile spirit. The Semitic Additions are quite likely Palestinian in
origin, while the Greek Additions more probably come from a Jewish community
outside Palestine, such as that in Alexandira, Egypt where the LXX version of
the Bible was made. The date of the Additions is witnessed to by the unusual
colophon or conluding bibliographic notice attached to the book at 11:1 (omitted
by NAB). This librarian's note records that the Greek Esther, including the
Additions, was brought from Jerusalem, where it had been translated, to Egypt
in the fourth year of Ptolemy and Cleopatra. The date is therefore ca. 114 B.C.
(but ca. 77 or ca. 48 B.C. are also possibilities, since there was more than
one Ptolemy with a wife named Cleopatra)." (Harper's Bible Commentary,
David A. deSilva writes: "The date, however, helpfully records the year
in which Dositheus brought the scroll to Alexandria. Unfortunately, every successor
of Ptolemy I took the name Ptolemy, and several were married to a Cleopatra.
Bickerman (1944: 346-47) determined that the translation was accomplished in
78-77 B.C.E., the fourth year of the reign of Ptolemy XII Auletes and Cleopatra
V. The other popular date is 114-113 B.C.E., the fourth year of the reign of
Ptolemy VIII Soter II and an earlier Cleopatra (Moore 1977: 250; Jacob 1890:
279-80). Bickerman rejects this possibilityas well as a third, Ptolemy
XIII, the brother and husband of the famous Cleopatrasince the queen was
acting in both cases as a regent for a younger Ptolemy in the fourth years of
those reigns, and official documents listed Cleopatra first in those cases,
unlike the colophon of Esther. In addition to two lively possibilities for the
date of the translation, the colophon also preserves a name, Lysimachusa
resident of Jerusalem, probably with an Egyptian Jewish background (his father's
name, Ptolemy, suggests this), thus perhaps explaining why the book should speak
so well to the Egyptian Jewish situation, whither it was sent (Pfeiffer 1949:
311)." (Introducing the Apocrypha, p. 117)
J. Alberto Soggin writes: "As we have seen, the proto-canonical book does
not mention the name of God once, nor is it very concerned with Jewish belief;
these elements appear continually in the additions. It is therefore easy for
those who defend the need to read Esther with the additions to show that without
them the book would be theologically void and its presence within the canon
incongruous, to say the least. But notwithstanding the presence of these theological
elements, the additions, like the Hebrew text, have a strongly nationalistic
attitude which is also projected on to almost a cosmic plane, in this way far
transcending the original dispute between Mordecai and Haman. They thus become
a kind of anti-Gentile manifesto, carrying on a discourse which we have seen
to be extremely problematical in itself. This is probably the reason why they
were not admitted into the Hebrew canon, despite the theological element, which
admirably completes what is lacking in the proto-canonical Esther." (Introduction
to the Old Testament, pp. 440-441)
Daniel J. Harrington writes: "The Hebrew Esther is canonical for Jews
and Protestants. In the Roman Catholic and Greek and Russian Orthodox churches,
the expanded Greek version with the additions is the canonical form. The canonical
status of Esther was debated in antiquity among both Jews and Christians. It
is the only book in the Hebrew Bible not represented among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Indeed, the revised and expanded Greek version of Esther was most likely produced
to make the book more acceptable." (Invitation to the Apocrypha,