Chiastic Structure in the Book of Esther

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Re: Chiastic Structure in the Book of Esther

#11 Post by Bobcat » 4 months ago

Below is the literary structure of each half of the book of Esther as proposed by David Dorsey in his book, The Literary Structure of the Old Testament. Each half uses Est 6:1-14. In the first half it forms the end of the chiasm; in the second half the beginning.

Dorsey comments:
There is another prominent structural theme in the book of Esther. Each half of the story forms its own symmetry: the first seven episodes form a seven-part chiasmus, and the last seven episodes also form a seven-part chiasmus (the book's central episode in chap. 6 serves double duty). The symmetric design of the first half of Esther centers around Haman's evil plot, while the symmetric design of the second half of Esther centers on the foiling of his plot.
First Half:

A. Queen Vashti is deposed (Est 1:1-22)
. . ● King asks advice of advisors: what ought to be done to disobedient queen?
. . ● Advisors give king advice which he follows
. . ● Example made of queen Vashti: here is what happens to disobedient women

. . . B. Esther goes to the King (Est 2:1-18)
. . . . . ● King is pleased and makes her his new queen
. . . . . ● King gives Esther a banquet

. . . . . . C. Mordecai learns of plot to kill the king (Est 2:19-23)

. . . . . . . . . X. Haman's plot (Est 3:1-15) (CENTER or PIVOT)

. . . . . . C^ Mordecai learns of plot to kill the Jews (Est 4:1-17)

. . . B^ Esther goes to the king (Est 5:1-14)
. . . . . ● King is pleased and asks her request
. . . . . ● Esther gives king a banquet

A^ Mordecai honored (Est 6:1-14)
. . ● King asks advice from Haman: what ought be done to someone the king wishes to honor?
. . ● Haman gives king advice which he follows (to Haman's chagrin!)
. . ● Example made of Mordecai: here is what happens to man king wishes to honor
Last Half:

A. Mordecai is honored (Est 6:1-14)
. . ● Beginning: King reads the royal records about Mordecai's deeds

. . . B. King asks Esther for her request on 2nd day at her 2nd banquet (Est 7:1-10)
. . . . . ● Esther requests that Jews not be killed
. . . . . ● Result: Haman hanged

. . . . . . C. Mordecai's new prominence in palace (Est 8:1-2)
. . . . . . . . ● Mordecai given king's signet ring and appointed over Haman's estate
. . . . . . . . ● All that was supposed to be Haman's is given to a Jew

. . . . . . . . . X. Haman's plot foiled (Est 8:3-17) (CENTER or PIVOT)

. . . . . . C^ Mordecai's new prominence in the palace (Est 9:1-10)
. . . . . . . . ● Jews kill those intending to kill them
. . . . . . . . ● All that was supposed to be done to Jews by their enemies, Jews do to them

. . . B^ King asks Esther about her request; Esther's request for a 2nd day (Est 9:11-19)
. . . . . ● Esther requests that Jews be allowed to kill enemies one more day
. . . . . ● Result: Haman's sons are hanged and 2nd day of Purim banquet

A^ Mordecai is honored, promoted to be second to the king (Est 9:20-10:3)
. . ● Ending: Mordecai's deeds are recorded in royal records

Regarding points of note about the way the whole story is structured, Dorsey comments:
The structure of the Book of Esther offers several insights about its function and meaning. One obvious point is that the story's layout is designed to entertain the audience by creating and holding suspense for as long as possible. For example, the tension created by Haman's terrible edict is introduced early in the story (chap. 3) but the audience is kept in suspense until near the end, when we finally learn how this terrible scheme was neutralized (chaps. 8-9). Likewise, the audience must wait in suspense to learn whether Esther's attempt to save her people will work. We assume that the turning point will occur when Esther boldly approaches the king in Est 5:1-4 to beseech his help for the Jews. But the storyteller prolongs the suspense. When Esther succeeds in approaching the king, she defers her request until her private dinner for the king and Haman; then she postpones it again until a second private dinner for the two men. Finally, when the suspense can be held no longer, she springs the trap!

The story's structure also reinforces the author's use of irony. For example, the irony involving Haman's gallows is highlighted by structurally matching the episode of Haman's building of the gallows with the episode in which he is hanged on it. The irony in chapter 6 is classic: Haman enthusiastically advises the king how the king might honor an unnamed man (whom Haman, in his self importance, assumes is himself), only to discover that the man to be so rewarded is his despised enemy Mordecai; even more ironically, Haman's suggestion that "one of the king's most trusted nobles" be chosen to assist in the honoring backfires on him: the king chooses Haman to assist in honoring Mordecai! The irony is made even more obvious for the audience by placing the ironic (and humorous) backfiring of Haman's self-serving advice directly after his advice, so that even children in the audience would not miss it.

Several matchups in the story serve to highlight the theme of just retribution against the enemies of God's people. The episodes recounting the evil plots against the Jews are matched by episodes recounting the backfiring of those plots, in which the very evils devised against the Jews end up falling upon those who devised them. . . .

It is significant that the turning point of the story (chap. 6) does not involve the brave actions of either Mordecai or Esther (although we have every reason to expect this), but rather an ironic twist of fate in which the fortunes of wicked Haman begin to turn. This episode in which Haman's advice to the king backfires on him, marks the turning point of Haman's success. From this point on, his schemes begin to unravel. By designing the story with this episode as the turning point, the author implies that the real reason the Jews were saved was (divine) providence. Granted, by all appearances it was the brave actions of two Jews that saved God's people. But the real turning point of the story was a triumph caused neither by Mordecai nor Esther; but by an ironic twist of fate and a combination of providential coincidences: the king just happened to be sleepless that night; he happened to ask for the royal records to be read; the section read happened to be about Mordecai's good deed; Haman happened to be in the palace the next day; Haman happened to misread the king's intentions; etc. The author's moral: the security of God's people is ultimately in the hands of God himself. As Mordecai says to Esther: " If you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place. . . . Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this (Est 4:14).


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Re: Chiastic Structure in the Book of Esther

#12 Post by Bobcat » 2 weeks ago

Poster FriendlyDoggo started a thread on the book of Esther that has some interesting parallels to Joseph and King Saul. I cross-linking his thread to here for reference purposes.


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