Esther's Controversy

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FriendlyDoggo
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Esther's Controversy

#1 Post by FriendlyDoggo » 2 weeks ago

Yesterday I was reading about the Dead Sea Scrolls when a paragraph caught my attention:
Which books of the Bible were discovered at Qumran?

All of the books of the Bible were represented in the Qumran library with the exception of the Book of Esther. Scholarly opinion is divided on the reason behind the omission—some believe it is coincidental and others maintain that the book was intentionally excluded.
link: http://cojs.org/frequently_asked_questi ... a_scrolls/

Then I remembered that a long time ago I read on Reddit that Esther was a "work of fiction" or something like that, then I decided to search about it.

Quote from Wikipedia under the topic Historicity:
The apparent historical difficulties, the internal inconsistencies, the pronounced symmetry of themes and events, the plenitude of quoted dialogue, and the gross exaggeration in the reporting of numbers (involving time, money, and people) all point to Esther as a work of fiction, its vivid characters (except for Xerxes) being the product of the author's creative imagination. There is no reference to known historical events in the story; a general consensus, though this consensus has been challenged, has maintained that the narrative of Esther was invented in order to provide an aetiology for Purim
link: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Esther

But another thing also impressed me, right at the beginning of the article:
The books of Esther and Song of Songs are the only books in the Hebrew Bible that do not mention God.
Why does that?
Here are some reasons why God’s name may not have been referenced in Esther: first, one emphasis of Esther appears to be how God works behind the scenes. The book of Esther records no miracles and no direct intervention of God at all. In Esther’s story, the Lord redeems His people through the faith and courage of one strategically placed woman and her cousin. All the while, things are happening behind the scenes to bring about the final result.

Also, it is possible God is not mentioned directly in Esther because of the circumstances of its writing. Jewish tradition claims authorship by Mordecai. If Mordecai is the author, he wrote the book in Persia while serving under King Ahasuerus (or Xerxes). Instead of directly crediting God for the victory of the Jewish people, Mordecai may have written the book to better fit the polytheistic context of Susa. This would have kept him protected from harm by the king or other enemies while still communicating the account of God’s work through Queen Esther.
link:
https://www.gotquestions.org/Book-Esther-God.html

I have to agree with Got Questions that by a side it looks like a beautiful story of faith Esther 4:16. But by the other it also looks like some type of propaganda Esther 6:13.

It's also interesting to note that Esther and Mordecai aren't mentioned (at least by name) in the list of "examples of faith" by the apostle Paul in Hebrews 11, which is very weird for a story whose main theme is faith.

Regarding the authorship, the entire book is written in third person, like someone telling a story.

But let's suppose that it was Mordecai who wrote it. He, who didn't turn his knees to Naman, was able to omit God's name? For me that doesn't fit his personality.

And looks like that not even the Jews believe in the book:
The story itself is implausible as history and, as many scholars now agree, it is better viewed as imaginative storytelling, not unlike others that circulated in the Persian and Hellenistic periods among Jews of the Land of Israel and of the Diaspora. (emphasis added)
link:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.myjewi ... sther/amp/

I don't want to offend the brothers who like the book, but I just can't stop to remember from:

2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.

Titus 1:14 Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.

And then, the quote that literally shocked me:
Some scholars have contended that given the striking resemblance between the names Esther and Mordecai to the Babylonian deities Marduk and Ishtar, the story was rooted in Babylonian worship practices, which the Jews would have adapted and transformed into the story of Esther. The well-known German Jewish historian Heinrich Graetz (1817-1891) for example, argued that the Book of Esther was written at the time of the Maccabean struggle (167-160 BCE) against Antiochus IV Epiphanes, in order to boost the spirit of the Jews at that critical time, and to show that god does not abandon its people.
https://amp.scroll.in/article/831443/tr ... ival-purim

Since I leave the Org. I learn from Tadua's (Beroean Pickets/Understand the Word) that most of O.T books have a first century fufilment, usually speaking about the coming of the Messiah, and Esther doesn't like to follow that pattern.

Different from Ruth for example who is even related with Jesus (Matthew 1:5)

Of course I can be wrong, but now everything looks to me that Esther should be apocryphal.
My english isn't very good, sorry any inconvenience.

Bobcat
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Re: Esther's Controversy

#2 Post by Bobcat » 2 weeks ago

Myself, I think both Esther (here) and Song of Songs (here) have God's fingerprints all over them.

Post # 4 in the Esther thread has some information regarding the Tetragram in the book of Esther.

That's my opinion, for what it's worth.

(Here is regarding Ruth. More fingerprints. :whistle: We might not know what all Jehovah is up to. But He left clues.)


Bobcat

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FriendlyDoggo
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Re: Esther's Controversy

#3 Post by FriendlyDoggo » 2 weeks ago

Bobcat: I have to agree that the chiastic structure is a really good point, thank you Bobcat.

Possible inspirations?

This article explain some problems already mentioned, and makes this interesting comparation with Joseph and Saul stories:
A Jewish scribe, living in exile in Shushan, would have known at least parts of the Jewish canon that would later become the Bible. It is at least possible that the inspiration for the Esther story is the story of Joseph in the court of Pharaoh.

Joseph’s story begins with him being taken in captivity to Egypt. Mordechai’s story begins with him being taken into captivity to Babylonia.

Joseph refuses to lay with his master’s wife and Mordechai refuses to bow down to Haman – they both get in trouble.

Joseph interprets the dreams of Pharaoh's ministers, and Mordechai saves Ahasuerus from an assassination attempt – yet both go unrewarded.

Pharaoh can’t interpret his dreams and is told of Joseph, Ahasuerus can’t sleep and is told of Mordechai; both provide the needed service and get the king’s ring; both are paraded on the street; and both become close advisers to the crown.

Once again the language can be brought in as evidence. The writer of Esther seems to have known the story of Joseph and Pharaoh: he uses many of the same words. A great example of this is the word it-a-PAK – “he held back” – which, in the Bible, only appears in these two stories.

Enter King Saul

But while the story of Esther could be based on the story of Joseph, it also bears a close relationship to the story of King Saul. It might even be seen as a kind of sequel, a theory supported by the way the author introduces the characters.

Mordechai is introduced as a descendant of Saul, while Haman is introduced as a descendant of Agag the Amalekite king. This parentage is no trivial fact. In 1 Samuel, Saul loses his kingship to David because he defied the will of God and did not kill Agag. In Esther, Mordechai, a descendant of Saul, kills Haman, a descendant of Agag, and his children.
link: https://www.haaretz.com/amp/jewish/.pre ... -1.5331950

In the next paragraph the article adress the same idea of "propagnda" as me, some type of "fake biography", worth reading.

I also add that is very similar how the antagonists used the Persian laws for their own gain, exactly like in the Daniel and the Lions episode:

Daniel 6:12 So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or human being except to you, Your Majesty, would be thrown into the lions’ den?”

The king answered, “The decree stands—in accordance with the law of the Medes and Persians, which cannot be repealed.

Esther 8:8 Now write another decree in the king’s name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king’s signet ring—for no document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring can be revoked.”

There's also similarities between the death of John Baptist and Esther. Was Herod inspired by the tale when he made the promise?

1° A woman impresses the king:

Mt 14:6 But at a birthday party for Herod, Herodias’s daughter performed a dance that greatly pleased him,

Esther 5:2 When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold scepter that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.

2° The king allows anything:

Matthew 14:7 that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked.

Esther 5:3 Then the king asked, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.”

3° A death happens:

Matthew 14:8-10 Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison.

Esther 7:6 Esther said, “An adversary and enemy! This vile Haman!”

Esther 7:9-10 Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said, “A pole reaching to a height of fifty cubits stands by Haman’s house. He had it set up for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king.”

The king said, “Impale him on it!” So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai. Then the king’s fury subsided.
My english isn't very good, sorry any inconvenience.

Bobcat
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Re: Esther's Controversy

#4 Post by Bobcat » 2 weeks ago

Hi Doggo,

That is some interesting information that you posted on possible parallels to the Esther account. I cross-linked it to the Esther Chiastic thread for further examination.

Thank you very much.

If you come across further pertinent information about Esther please post it in this thread so that all the information will be linked together.

Thanks again.


Bobcat

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FriendlyDoggo
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Re: Esther's Controversy

#5 Post by FriendlyDoggo » 2 weeks ago

I should have expressed myself better in the original post, it looks like I doesn't like the book. :lol:

I literally LOVED to watch this cartoon as a kid. :hearteyes:

My english isn't very good, sorry any inconvenience.

Strazh
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Re: Esther's Controversy

#6 Post by Strazh » 2 weeks ago

Once I was also surprised that there are two versions of the book of Esther in Russian: canonical and apocryphal. But my biggest surprise was the fact that the "canonical" version has no mention of God and His Name. They appear in the apocryphal version only.
I don't speak English, so sorry for the mistakes and style.

Bobcat
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Re: Esther's Controversy

#7 Post by Bobcat » 2 weeks ago

On the Tetragram in the book of Esther, see this post and included links.

On what might be some of the purpose of the book of Esther, see comments in this post, especially towards the latter half of the post.

Might there be some drama conveyed in Esther that gets played out later? That has me wondering, but I haven't come up with anything concrete yet. But Doggo's post was most interesting. I just haven't had time yet to give it thought.


Bobcat

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FriendlyDoggo
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Re: Esther's Controversy

#8 Post by FriendlyDoggo » 2 weeks ago

Strazh wrote:
2 weeks ago
Once I was also surprised that there are two versions of the book of Esther in Russian: canonical and apocryphal. But my biggest surprise was the fact that the "canonical" version has no mention of God and His Name. They appear in the apocryphal version only.
Hello Strazh! I found this:
Esther: Apocrypha
by Carey A. Moore

In Brief

The Greek Additions to the Hebrew Bible’s Book of Esther were probably written over several centuries and contradict several of the details from the Hebrew text. This version is explicitly religious and contains several verses that do not appear in the Hebrew account.
Another important “addition” to Greek Esther is the mention of God’s name over fifty times. This has the effect of making the story explicitly religious, in sharp contrast to the Hebrew text, which does not mention God at all.
link:
https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/esther-apocrypha
My english isn't very good, sorry any inconvenience.

apollos0fAlexandria
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Re: Esther's Controversy

#9 Post by apollos0fAlexandria » 2 weeks ago

Hi FD & friends

First off, I have certainly asked the same questions about Esther and SoS. I didn't see anything in your original post that suggested you had a problem with them btw, at least not beyond the natural questions that are raised from them being unusual in not mentioning YHWH directly.

Does this mean we might dismiss them?

From my viewpoint no, for the reasons that Bobcat has already pointed out.

On the other hand we might question what criteria are used to determine Bible canon. I'm fairly sure that JW reasoning is that 1) if Jesus referenced it, then it's good, 2) if it has sufficient manuscript support AND harmonizes with the canon as a whole then it's good.

#2 is a little problematic in that it's somewhat self-referential.

Honestly, I'm not convinced that Esther belongs in canon. But am ready to be persuaded otherwise. In the meantime I don't think for a moment that it is without value.

Best,
Apollos

Bobcat
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Re: Esther's Controversy

#10 Post by Bobcat » 2 weeks ago

That's a good balance, Apollos. It reminds me of Jude apparently quoting from the book of Enoch (if I remember correctly). Whether canonical or not, Jude saw some value in it.


Bobcat

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