WT article on Esther: dead wrong.

by JeffT 33 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • JeffT

    A few weeks ago the Pastor at our church gave the sermon from the book of Esther. This sparked some old WT memories. I looked through my old bound volumes and found this gem of misguided scholarship from the writing department. I dont want to quote at length from either the WT or the Bible account so here is the relevant part of the story in a nutshell. The King of Persia is throwing this gigantic party that goes on for 180 days. Meanwhile his queen Vashti, is throwing a party for all the women. The Persians are noted for their drinking, this is what the Bible (NIV) says about this party " 7 Wine was served in goblets of gold, each one different from the other, and the royal wine was abundant, in keeping with the king's liberality. 8 By the king's command each guest was allowed to drink in his own way, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished."

    A few verses later we find this " 10 On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him-Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Carcas- 11 to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at. 12 But when the attendants delivered the king's command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger."

    As a result Vashti gets kicked out as queen because the Kings advisors fear that all the women will stop obeying their husbands.

    Article: "A Discreet Woman displays Her Unselfishness" WT 3/15/79

    First what the Watchtower says about the drinking "At this banquet wine is being drunk from golden vessels of various kinds. The Persians are noted for their drinking. But the custom of obligating quests to drink a specific amount is not being followed at this banquet."

    The NWT translation of the verses in question is "As regards the time of drinking according to the law, there was no one compelling for that was the way the King had arranged for every great man of his household, to do the liking of each and every one."

    In other words, unlike every other Bible and commentary around, the WT is trying to insist these guys arent drunk. This is nonsense, this is a culture where your ability to drink is a direct reflection of your manhood. The King is running an open bar, what condition do you think they are in?

    The WT then goes on to comment on Vashtis disobedience to her husband, and that as a result she looses a great honor, opening the way for meek little Esther to become the Kings favorite.

    Heres what sparked my interest in this. Our Pastor said that a careful reading of the Hebrew reveals that the command the King sent to Vashti was "come up here wearing the crown and nothing else." Vashti rebelled at the idea of parading herself naked in front of her husbands drunken friends, and lost her position because she did the RIGHT thing.

    I found this interesting because I think it illustrates two problems with the Watchtowers view of the Bible. One, their desire to make it say what they want it to say, coupled with a lack of knowledge of the original languages of the Bible causes them to miss major points. In this case they totally missed what was going on with the drinking and the subtleties in the Kings command to Vashti, because the were more interesting in making a point they like to beat home every chance they get: the subjugation of women.

  • BluesBrother

    Please compare the following translations :-

    King James
    Esther 1:11 To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on.

    -- New King James
    Esther 1:11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold.

    -- American Standard
    Esther 1:11 to bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to show the peoples and the princes her beauty; for she was fair to look on.

    -- Living Bible
    Esther 1:11 to bring Queen Vashti to him with the royal crown upon her head so that all the men could gaze upon her beauty--for she was a very beautiful woman.

    -- Revised Standard
    Esther 1:11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty; for she was fair to behold.

    -- Romanized
    Esther 1:11 lhaabiy' 'et-washtiy hamalkaah lipneey hamelek bketer malkuut lhar'owt haa`amiym whasaariym 'et-yaapyaah kiy-Towbat mar'eh hiy'.

    -- New American Standard
    Esther 1:11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown in order to display her beauty to the people and the princes, for she was beautiful.

    -- New Jerusalem with Apocrypha
    Esther 1:11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king, crowned with her royal diadem, in order to display her beauty to the people and the officers-of-state, since she was very beautiful.

    -- New American with Apocrypha
    Esther 1:11 to bring Queen Vashti into his presence wearing the royal crown, that he might display her beauty to the populace and the officials, for she was lovely to behold.

    -- New Revised Standard with Apocrypha
    Esther 1:11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing the royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the officials her beauty; for she was fair to behold.

    I see nothing there about being naked. Although most modern women would find it distasteful to be put on show like that, it does not bare bear out the pastors comments.

    Perhaps you could ask him to substantiate his remarks. We must guard against being too quick to condemn, or we fall into the same trap that theyhave often done.

    I would be genuinely interested in any further information..

  • JeffT

    I will try to get more info on that part. But he has a doctorate in theology and speaks both Greek and Hebrew, so I would think he knows what he's talking about. From what he said I believe that it is an idiomatic expression that doesn't quite translate into English.

  • LDH

    Jeff this is interesting. Thanks to Blues also for posting all the different translations.

    While I would not put it past those bastards to change the meaning of the original verses, I would also like more info.

    Thanks for asking your pastor, Jeff.


  • RunningMan

    Well, you may have a hard time determining what "really" happened that night. You see, the problem is that the book of Esther is simply the Hebrew adaptation of a much older Babylonian myth.

    In reality, the story never "really" happened. Esther never existed, and in fact, the names of the four main characters are simply adaptations of Babylonian Gods and Goddesses.

    Take a look at the following information (from: http://www.geocities.com/paulntobin/ruth.html#esther

    The Book of Esther
    Like the book of Ruth, the Book of Esther is fiction. Esther narrates the exploits of a Jewish woman who became queen of Persia. There is absolutely no historical evidence that there ever was a Jewish Queen of Persia. [2] There are also other historical problems with the story as it stands. We will discuss the most obvious here. The book mentions very clearly that Esther was the cousin of one Mordecai, who was among those taken into captivity by Nebuchadnezzar. The verses are clearly translated in the Good News Bible below:

    Esther 2:5-7
    There in Susa lived a Jew named Mordecai son of Jair;When King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took king Jehoiachin of Judah into exile from Jerusalem, along with a group of captives Mordecai was among them. He had a cousin Esther, whose Hebrew name was Hadassah; she was a beautiful girl and had a good figure. At the death of her parents, Mordecai had adopted her and brought her up as her own daughter.

    Then in Esther 2:15-23 we are told that Esther became Queen in the seventh year of King Xerxes (or Ahaseurus) reign and that Mordecai became an administrator in the Kings court. Here is the problem: Jehoiachins (and Mordecais) exile was a historical event that took place in the year 597 BC. Xerxes became king in 486 BC when his father, Darius, died. The seventh year of Xerxes reign therefore is 479 BC. Now, let us charitably assume that Mordecai was a newborn when he was taken into exile. This would mean that at that time of Esthers marriage to the king, Mordecai was already 118 years old! Esther could not have been much younger since she was only the cousin of Mordecai. Are we asked to believe that a centenarian woman had the capability to charm the mighty king of Persia? All this shows that the author must have been writing a long time after the purported events and got his historical dates terribly wrong.

    There are many elements within the story that leads one to conclude that the origin of the story was not from history but from an ancient Persian folktale.

    * The very name Esther is a derivative of the Babylonian goddess Ishtar . In fact, the Aramaic version of the goddess name was Esther. Even her original Hebrew name, Hadassah (Esther 2:7), is closely related to the Babylonian word for bride.
    * The name Mordecai itself is not Hebrew and seems like a derivative of Marduk, the chief god of the Babylonians. In Babylonian mythology, Marduk and Ishtar are cousins, just like Mordecai and Esther in the story.
    * Even the name of King Xerxes original wife Vashti, mentioned in the Book (Esther 1:11-2:1) was not a historical figure. The real wife of Xerxes during the earlier years of his reign, according to the Greek historian Herodotus, was Amestris, the daughter of a Persian general. The name Vashti came from, you got it, Babylonian mythology. Vashti was the name of an Elamite Goddess.
    * Even the name of the chief villain of the story, Haman, the prime minister in Xerxes court (Esther 3:1), is fictional. There is no historical reference to any ministers in Xerxes court with such a name. Furthermore, the name of the chief male Elamite god is Hamman.

    The considerations above are revealing-apart for king Xerxes, the names of all the other major characters from the book of Esther can be shown to be derived from Babylonian mythology

  • amac

    RunningMan - Very interesting post! I will have to print that out and research it later.

    JeffT -

    But he has a doctorate in theology and speaks both Greek and Hebrew, so I would think he knows what he's talking about.
    One thing to remember...there are a lot of men (and women) with doctorates, but they often disagree. So having a doctorate doesn't necessarily equate to having the answer.
  • JeffT

    Good points all, I'm still doing some research on this. I did some quick reading in my Zondervan Encyclopedia this morning. It seems that most scholars agree that this book has some problems. One of the more notable issues is the fact that no where in the book is God even mentioned. (This was acknowledged by the Pastor in his sermon).

    I think my main point is still valid: the Watchtower had an axe to grind and used this story to do the grinding.

  • Lieu

    If the book of Ruth is fiction...then what is her name doing in the ancestral line up of Christ, later on in the gospels?Since Persians were known to assimilate the practices of those they conquered (Babylonians, et al) and not make "waves". .....why would it be hard to understand that Mordachai and Esther were given foreign names just as Daniel and his friends were when in captivity....seems like the norm of captors in that region to change the names of their slaves.

  • RunningMan

    Are you referring to the geneology in Matthew (the one that says that Joseph's father was Jacob) or the one in Luke (the one that says that Joseph's father was Heli)?

  • BluesBrother

    Interesting, I guess that this is one that we could play tennis with, passing comments back and forth.

    Regarding the time period though , a quick look at two or three Bibles shows an agreement with the N W T redering that Mordecai was the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjaminite who had been taken to exile from Jerusalem. That would make the timing feasable.

    The New Strongs Exhaustive Concordance , in its subject guide page 118 describes Kish (5) as a "Benjaminite and geat grandfather of Mordecai., ref Esther 2.5

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