WT article on Esther: dead wrong.

by JeffT 33 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Badfish

    This king knows how to throw a party! All you can drink wine while staring at the queen wearing nothing but her crown! Woohoo!!!

  • Nambo

    Taking in mind my view that Babylon the Great is Jerusalem, not Rome, (Compare Matthew 23v35 and 37 with Revelation 18v24)

    I sometimes wonder if the book of Esther, isnt really a celebration of how God worms his people into postions of power so they can kill a lot of people,

    but that it is really a Prophetic Story and warning to the Christian nations how a certain faction of Jews will worm thier way into positions of power, and then get those Gentile nations they have infulltraited to kill thier own people.

    "And the Women whom you saw, is that Great city that has a Kingdom over the Kings of the Earth"

  • Leolaia

    The idea that Vashti was brought out naked is not stated in the text; it is an inference made through midrashic interpretation. It is based on two things: (1) The fact that the royal turban is the only piece of clothing mentioned, and (2) the similarity of the focus on Vashti's beautiful appearance in v. 11 (l e -har'ôt 'et-yap e yah kî-tôbat mar'eh hî) with the description of Bathsheba's beauty in 2 Samuel 11:2 (tôbat mar'eh m e 'od), where the referrent was nude and the object of male sexual desire (cf. yap e yah in Proverbs 6:25, where it is associated with lust). The midrash was occasioned by the lack of expressed motivation for Vashti's refusal. Josephus in commenting on the text explained the refusal by appealing to the "laws" of the Persians which did not permit females to appear at banquets; this is questionable (cf. Herodotus, Historiae 5.15-18), although the custom may have been that queens withdrew when heavy drinking began. The midrash that Vashti was to appear naked appeared first in the Babylonian Talmud (in Megillah 12b) and then in the two Aramaic targumim (Targum Rishon of the fifth century AD and Targum Sheni of the ninth century AD). It is telling that the haggadaic midrash in the five Greek recensions of Esther did not state that Vashti was to appear nude. The midrash was further elaborated by the claim that Vashti had forced the daughters of Israel to work naked on the sabbath carding wool and flax. This is clearly an addition motivated by the desire to depict Vashti as wicked and receiving her "just desserts" (the reference to the "seventh day" in v. 10 is the interpretive basis for this tradition about the sabbath, but this ignores the fact that this was merely the last day of the banquet in v. 5).

    The midrash might have some exegetical basis. The verse refers to the king wanting to "display her beauty" (l e -har'ôt 'et-yap e yah) and this is clearly connected with the 180 days in which " he displayed (b e har'ot ô) the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty" (v. 4); this makes his wife his most prized possession who serves as the climax to this display of his glory. The queen was not unknown to the men attending the banquet; the display here may have been more revealing of her beauty than her usual appearance, just as the king's display of his treasures was unusual and included the exhibition of treasures not usually seen by the populace. There is also a story in Herodotus that has a similar theme: King Candaules of Lydia thought his wife was "the most beautiful woman in the entire world" and he wanted to display to his bodyguard Gyges "the surpassing beauty of his wife" and so he sought to find a way to have Gyges look upon the queen naked (Historiae, 1.8-12). It is however not necessary to read the story as implying Vashti's nakedness in order to explain Vashti's refusal. The king's request involved a degradation of Vashi's honor whether she was to be summoned naked or not. Bruce W. Jones (CBQ, 1977) argued that once the drinking began in such banquets the only women left in attendance would be concubines and the king's request would have made a mockery of her royal status by making her act like a concubine while wearing the royal turban. Herodotus mentions one royal banquet in which the Macedonian king Amyntas was forced to have his women sit with the Persians: "The women did as he ordered, and then the Persians, who had drunk more than they ought, began to put their hands on them, and one even tried to give the woman next to him a kiss" (5.18).

    Regardless of whether Vashti was to appear naked or not, the story still has the same patriarchal misogynist theme of the queen as the possession of the king and displayed degradingly to a group of lustful drunken men.

  • Justitia Themis
    Justitia Themis

    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.

    Leolaia: Would you please comment on the above? Is there historical evidence?

  • Desilusionnee

    Leo, thank you so much for your commentary!

  • Leolaia

    Justitia....I agree with that statement. Esther is a Hellenistic historical romance and is a variant of the genre of Jewish court intrigue stories which concern a Jew who attains high rank in a foreign court, usually through much trial (examples include Joseph, Ahiqar, Daniel, Zerubbabel in 1 Esdras). There is no evidence of historicity in any of these, with the exception of Ahiqar (though not the intrigue legend) and here he was not originally Jewish but Aramean, and he was made Jewish only in later tradition (as he is in Tobit).

  • Band on the Run
    Band on the Run

    The OT prof in college told stunned Jewish students that Esther never existed. There was an existing Jewish holiday without a good story so they commissioned a story to fit the holiday. It must be more complex. He said there were a few other Bible stories in the same class.

  • JustHuman14

    There is no such an evidence, either by the Hellenic, or the Hebrew text of the Book of Esther, that the King asked her to appear naked in front of the guests.

    In fact the ancient Hellenic text shows that: He asked the servants to introduce the Queen to the Lords of the Nations, wearing her Crown and show her magnitude & beauty.

    You can only show your magnitude only if you have your royal clothes on....

    ?ν δ? τ? ?μ?ρ? τ? ?βδ?μ? ?δ?ως γεν?μενος ? βασιλε?ς ε?πε τ? ?μ?ν κα? Βαζ?ν κα? Θ?ρ? κα? Βαραζ? κα? Ζαθολθ? κα? ?βαταζ? κα? Θαραβ?, το?ς ?πτ? ε?νο?χοις το?ς διακ?νοις το? βασιλ?ως ?ρταξ?ρξου,ε?σαγαγε?ν τ?ν βασ?λισσαν πρ?ς α?τ?ν, βασιλε?ειν α?τ?ν κα? περιθε?ναι α?τ? τ? δι?δημα κα? δε?ξαι το?ς ?ρχουσι κα? το?ς ?θνεσι τ? κ?λλος α?τ?ς, ?τι καλ? ?ν.

  • Leolaia

    I think the purpose of the story of Esther is to justify the popular holiday of Purim which otherwise lacked a biblical basis and which was probably of pagan origin. The major theme of Purim was role reversal; a Purim rabbi is a student who would, for instance, replace a real rabbi, similarly a Purim king might be selected from the poor or an orphan girl promoted as Purim queen, men and women would exchange clothes, and so forth. One variation on this theme was masquerade which developed in the Middle Ages; the use of masks concealed one's identity in role-reversal games. The story of Esther and Mordecai gives an etiology for these practices. Vashti and Esther exchage places: Vashti as favored queen is requested to take the role of concubine, refuses, and is replaced by a Jewish member of the harem who becames queen. Haman and Mordecai also exchange places, with Haman killed in place of Mordecai and with Mordecai taking his place in the kingdom. The festival however likely did not originate from this story but rather derives from an older Babylonian festival called Sakaia (Sacaea), which preceded the New Year Akitu festival, which was later adopted by the Persians:

    Five days, including the vernal equinox, March 21 or 22: Sacaea was an ancient five-day Babylonian New Year festival associated with Anaitis, the Syrian war goddess identified with the Greek goddess Athena. It was characterized by drunkenness and licentious behavior as well as a reversal of the usual customs and relationships. Slaves ruled their masters throughout the festival, and a mock king was selected from among the criminals. After being feasted and honored for five days, the mock king was executed, thereby serving as a surrogate for the real king, who was supposed to die each new year when a new king was born.


    The Babylonian origin of Purim is suggested by the fact that the name derives from Akkadian pûru "lot" (probably from a feature of the celebration itself, as opposed to the story of Haman). The story of Esther aimed to give a "Jewish origin" to what the Jews in Persia and Babylonia had adopted from the culture they lived in, and the narrative itself seems to draw on the typical "court intrigue" tale with Haman taking the role of Nadab/Nadin in the tale of Ahiqar, or the role of three nobles conspiring against Daniel in ch. 6 of Daniel. There is also a resonance with the events of 522 BC pertaining to the accession of Darius to the throne. There was an imposter Bardiya who usurped the throne around the time Cambyses died and he ruled for several months before Darius assassinated him; a member of pseudo-Bardiya's harem, Hutaosa (Atossa in Greek), was key to uncovering the fraud and she became queen under Darius. The true identity of the imposter was Gaumata the Magian and a slaughter of Magi followed, resulting in a national holiday:

    "So the Persians when they heard of that which had been brought to pass by the seven and of the deceit of the Magians, thought good themselves also to do the same, and drawing their daggers they killed the Magians wherever they found one; so that if night had not come on and stopped them, they would not have left a single Magian alive. This day the Persians celebrate in common more than all other days, and upon it they keep a great festival which is called by the Persians the festival of the slaughter of the Magians, on which no Magian is permitted to appear abroad, but the Magians keep themselves within their houses throughout that day" (Herodotus, Historiae 3.79).

    This has a resonance with the theme of genocide and mass killing in the Purim story, and there is a superficial (non-etymological) similarity with the Persian name Hutaosa/Atossa and Esther's Hebrew name Hadassah. There is also a superficial similarity between the Sakaia festival's promotion of a slave to the role of king, followed with punishment, and the situation involving the imposter king who then was executed by Darius. It makes me wonder if there is a chance that there is a conflation between two separate Persian festivals that the story draws on: the Sakaia festival (giving rise to the theme of role reversal in Purim) and the Magophonia festival mentioned by Herodotus and Ctesias, which commemorated (if the Hellenistic writers are to be believed) a mass slaughter.

  • Aussie Oz
    Aussie Oz

    I guess if i ask my wife to wear her favorite high heels when we go out that i expect her to be naked save for the shoes, for she is beautiful in form...


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