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Headword: Ἐσθήρ
Adler number: epsilon,3139
Translated headword: Esther
Vetting Status: high
Being the consort of King Artaxerxes,[1] this woman acquired the royal dignity; she happened to be Jewish by race and gained an emulous admiration for her fame, and after inviting all her kinsfolk[2] to stay with her, especially Mordechai,[3] who was her maternal uncle,[4] she let them stay in the royal palace[5]. By the time Artaxerxes proclaimed by the royal edict that the Hebrews give up the worship of God, changing it with the prostration in front of his own image [6], establishing a delay[7] of forty days[8] for the punishment of those who would not comply with his orders, then the Jews spreading word with one another decided for a day to be devoted to prayer, in an attempt to appease God by fasting and praying.[9] As for the others, each by himself performed the supplication rituals in their own tent; but Mordechai, hiding in the dark at the king’s gate,[10] heard about the plot against Artaxerxes and revealed it to Artaxerxes.[11] And thus the conspiracy against the Jews was destroyed.[12]
Greek Original:
Ἐσθήρ: αὕτη συνοῦσα τῷ Ἀρταξέρξῃ τῷ βασιλεῖ, τὴν βασίλειον τιμὴν ἐκέκτητο, γένους Ἰουδαϊκοῦ τυγχάνουσα καὶ ζῆλον τῆς δόξης ποιουμένη τούς τε πρὸς γένος αὐτῇ διαφέροντας συγκαλεσαμένη, μάλιστα [δὲ] Μαρδοχαῖον μητράδελφον ὄντα, ἐν τοῖς βασιλείοις κατεῖχεν. ὡς δὲ τῷ βασιλικῷ προστάγματι Ἀρταξέρξης διεκήρυξε, τοὺς Ἑβραίους μεθίστασθαι μὲν τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ, προσκυνεῖν δὲ τὴν ἑαυτοῦ εἰκόνα, ἕως ἡμερῶν μ# ἀνακωχὴν τῆς τιμωρίας τοῖς ἀπειθοῦσι διαταξάμενος, οἱ Ἰουδαῖοι διαδόντες ἀλλήλοις ὥρισάν τινα τῆς προσευχῆς ἡμέραν, νηστείᾳ καὶ προσευχῇ τὸ θεῖον ἐξιλεούμενοι. καὶ οἱ μὲν ἄλλοι, ὡς ἕκαστος εἶχεν, ἐν τῇ ἰδίᾳ σκηνῇ τὰς ἱκεσίας ἐποίουν: Μαρδοχαῖος δὲ εἰς τὴν βασίλειον αὐλὴν ἐν σκότῳ κρυπτόμενος ἤκουσε περὶ τῆς ἐπιβουλῆς κατ' Ἀρταξέρξου καὶ δηλοῖ τῷ Ἀρταξέρξῃ. καὶ οὕτως ἡ κατὰ Ἰουδαίων ἐλύθη ἐπιβουλή.
Summary of the biblical Book of Esther; cf. already under alpha 1483 and epsilon 3121.
[1] The name of the king is in the Hebrew אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ ʾaḥašwerōš (Latin Ahasuerus), which seems to reflect a transliteration of Persian Kshaiarsha. This equates to the Greek Ξέρξης , but no historical source links Esther with that king (Xerxes I, reigned 486-465: xi 54). Rather, the Greek sources, and especially Josephus (Jewish Antiquities 11.198ff.) show the name Artaxerxes; therefore an alternative identification with Xerxes' immediate successor, Artaxerxes I Makrocheir (reigned 465-424), has been suggested.
[2] The Greek verb διαφέρω normally denotes a "difference" more than a relation between things or persons, though a later use (C3-C4 A.D.) is attested with the sense of "belonging to" or "appertaining to"; hence οἱ διαφέροντες is sometimes used to mean "relatives" or "kinsfolk".
[3] See mu 190. Both Esther and Mordechai could be names of Babylonian origin (Ishtar and Marduch; and as to Esther, a relationship is also possible with Persian stareh, "star").
[4] Mordechai raises the orphaned Esther and loves her as a father in the Biblical account. The post-Christian Jewish tradition makes Esther’s husband out of him, saying that he would become the tutor of the girl, with the intention of marrying her.
[5] This remark especially relates to Mordechai, whose official function at the king’s court is alluded to at Esther 2.19ff.
[6] The account offered by the Suda is confused and seems to be based on other (perhaps inaccurate) summaries, since it seems to combine two different episodes of the story as it appears in the Book of Esther. What is said about the edict does not correspond with any evidence in the text, where the king orders all of his subjects to perform a proskynesis not to "his own image" but to his wicked minister Haman (cf. Esther 3.1). The refusal expressed by Mordechai (which could rest upon ethnic pride more than religious reasons, according to some interpretations; yet the Book of Daniel 1.8, 3 relates such positions to Jewish worship) and Haman’s consequent wrath are the rationale behind the royal edict decreeing death for the whole Jewish people, accused of not following Persians rules and laws. Also cf. (besides Josephus) the accounts by Athanasius, Synopsis script. sacr. (28,368.9ff. Migne); George the Monk, Chronicon 272.2ff.; Hippolytus Comm. in Danielem 3.20.5 and the allusion in Origen, Exhortatio ad martyrium 33.
[7] Ἀνακωχὴ is a rather rare word, with the basic meaning of "cessation", or even "hindrance" (cf. alpha 1913, alpha 1914); but for the sense given by the Suda cf. Hesychius alpha4397-4398, explaining the word (in Thucydides 1.40.4) with the gloss ἀνάπαυσις and the participle ἀνακωχήσαντες (Herodotus 6.116) as ἀναχωρήσαντες, ἢ μετεώρως κατέχοντες τὰς ναῦς "retiring, or keeping the ships on the high sea".
[8] Another obscure detail, since the edict fixes the date for the beginning of Jewish people’s extermination on the "fourteenth day of the twelfth month" (Adar according to the Jewish calendar). One wonders whether a mistake has been made here, starting from confusion between "fourteen" and "forty".
[9] The prayer of the Jews is inserted by the Vetus Latina after Esther 3.15.
[10] The expression εἰς τὴν βασίλειον αὐλὴν (cf. Esther 2.19 ff.) seems to refer to Mordechai’s official duties, since "the king’s gate" denotes (even in Aramaic documents and in the Book of Daniel) the royal chancelry.
[11] This is the episode "combined" in the summary or in its sources with the main story of the edict against the Jews (cf. note 6), and actually preceding this one in the Book of Esther. At 2.19 ff. Mordechai, while "at the king’s gate", discovers the plot against the king organized by two of his eunuchs. It is not Mordechai who reveals to the king the details of the conspiracy, but Esther, after her uncle has asked for her help.
[12] There is still a relationship between the discovering of this plot and the story of Haman’s edict. While he is being convinced by Esther not to carry out the extermination of the Jews, the king will remember Mordechai’s fidelity by reading about the episode in the chronicles of his reign and reward him with honors; Haman will be hanged on the very gallows he had prepared for the hated Mordechai.
Keywords: biography; Christianity; ethics; food; gender and sexuality; historiography; history; politics; religion; women
Translated by: Antonella Ippolito on 1 December 2005@23:34:44.
Vetted by:
Catharine Roth (cosmetics) on 2 December 2005@00:51:44.
David Whitehead (more x-refs; modified n.1; tweaks and cosmetics) on 2 December 2005@05:12:46.
David Whitehead (another keyword) on 2 December 2005@10:26:05.
Antonella Ippolito (cosmetics) on 2 December 2005@10:33:46.
David Whitehead (more keywords; cosmetics) on 30 October 2012@10:26:29.
Raphael Finkel (Converted Romanization of Hebrew to ISO 259) on 7 August 2014@15:33:19.
Catharine Roth (cosmetics) on 18 August 2014@20:33:58.
Catharine Roth (coding) on 7 November 2014@23:05:32.
Catharine Roth (cosmetics, cross-references) on 27 December 2017@00:39:30.


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