Esther (/ˈɛstər/; Hebrew: אֶסְתֵּר,
Modern ’Estēr, Tiberian ʼEsetēr), born Hadassah
(Hebrew: הֲדַסָּה, Modern Hadasa,
Tiberian Haḏasā), is the eponymous heroine of the Book of
According to the Hebrew Bible,
Esther was a
Jewish queen of the
Persian king Ahasuerus.
Ahasuerus is traditionally identified with
Xerxes I during the time of the Achaemenid Empire, although Josephus
wrote that Esther's king husband was Xerxes' son Artaxerxes. In his
Petrus Comestor identified
as Artaxerxes III, who reconquered Egypt.
Her story is the basis for the celebration of
Purim in Jewish
1 In the Bible
3 Origin and meaning of the name Esther
Esther as rhetorical model
5 Persian culture
6 Depictions of Esther
7 Canonicity in Christianity
9 Further reading
10 External links
In the Bible
Main article: Book of Esther
Ahasuerus displayed his wealth for 180 days then held a 7-day
Susa (Shoushan). While in "high spirits" from the wine, he
ordered his queen, Vashti, to appear before him and his guests to
display her beauty. But when the attendants delivered the king's
command to Queen Vashti, she refused to come. Furious at her refusal
to obey, the king asked his wise men what should be done. One of them
said that all the women in the empire would hear that "The King
Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but
she came not." Then these women would despise their husbands, which
would cause many problems in the kingdom. Therefore, it would be
prudent to depose Vashti.
The Feast of
Esther by Johannes Spilberg the Younger
Many beautiful maidens were then brought before the king in order that
he might choose a successor to the unruly Vashti. The King chose
Esther, an orphan daughter of a
Benjamite named Abihail.
originally named Hadassah, meaning myrtle. She had spent her life
Jewish exiles in Persia, where she lived under the
protection of her cousin Mordecai.
Esther talking to Mordecai
Mordecai was the son of Jair, a Benjamite, who had been carried into
captivity together with
Jeconiah by Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon.
Mordecai became chief minister of
Ahasuerus and lived in the Persian
capital of Susa. One day, while sitting at the gate of the king's
Mordecai overheard a plot of two eunuchs, Bigthan and Teresh,
to kill the king. Having informed the king through
Esther of the
Mordecai brought about the execution of the two
conspirators, and the event was recorded in the royal chronicles.
The grand vizier, Haman the Agagite, commanded
Mordecai to do
obeisance to him. Upon Mordecai's refusal to prostrate himself, Haman
informed the king that the Jews were a useless and turbulent people
and inclined to disloyalty, and he promised to pay 10,000 silver
talents into the royal treasury for the permission to pillage and
exterminate this alien race. The king then issued a proclamation
ordering the confiscation of
Jewish property and a general
extermination of all the Jews within the empire.
Mordecai tore his robes and put ash on his head (signs of mourning or
grieving) on hearing this news. Sheltered in the harem,
unaware of the decree until
Mordecai advised her of it through
Hathach, one of the king's chamberlains. He informed her that she
should not think that she would escape simply because she was in the
palace. At the request of Esther,
Mordecai instituted at
general fast for three days.
Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther, by Rembrandt
Esther could not approach the king without being summoned, on pain of
death, and the king had not summoned her for thirty days, implying
that she may have fallen out of favor. Nevertheless, at the end of
the three days,
Esther dressed in her royal apparel and went before
the king, who was pleased to see her. When the king asked her what her
request was, she invited the king and Haman to come to a banquet she
had prepared. At the banquet they accepted her invitation to dine with
her again on the following day. Haman, carried away by the joy that
this honour gave him, issued orders for the erection of a gallows on
which he intended to hang the hated Mordecai.
But that night the king, being sleepless, ordered the chronicles of
the nation to be read to him. Recalling that
Mordecai had never been
rewarded for his service in revealing the plot of the eunuchs, he
asked Haman, the next day, to suggest a suitable reward for one "whom
the king desired to honour". Thinking it was himself that the king had
in mind, Haman suggested the use of the king's apparel and insignia.
These the king ordered to be bestowed on Mordecai.
Esther denouncing Haman by Ernest Normand.
Only at the second dinner party, when the king was sufficiently
beguiled by her charms, did
Esther reveal for the first time her
identity as a Jew, and accused Haman of the plot to destroy her and
her people. The king ordered that Haman should be hanged on the
gallows prepared for Mordecai, and, confiscating his property,
bestowed it upon the intended victim. The king then appointed
Mordecai as his prime minister, and issued a decree authorizing the
Jews to defend themselves.
Main article: Purim
The Jews established an annual feast, the feast of Purim, in memory of
their deliverance. Haman set the date of Adar 13 to commence his
campaign against the Jews. This determined the date of the festival of
Origin and meaning of the name Esther
It has been conjectured that the name
Esther is derived from a
reconstructed Median word astra meaning myrtle.
An alternative view is that
Esther is derived from the theonym Ishtar.
Book of Daniel
Book of Daniel provides accounts of Jews in exile being assigned
names relating to Babylonian gods and "Mordecai" is understood to mean
servant of Marduk, a Babylonian god. "Esther" may have been a
different Hebrew interpretation from the
"star/'morning/evening star'", which descended with the /th/ into
Ugaritic Athtiratu and
Arabian Athtar. The derivation must
then have been secondary for the initial ayin to be confused with an
aleph (both represented by vowels in Akkadian), and the second
consonant descended as a /s/ (like in the
Aramaic asthr "bright
star"), rather than a /sh/ as in Hebrew and most commonly in Akkadian.
Wilson, who identified
Xerxes I and
Amestris, suggested that both "Amestris" and "Esther" derived from
Ishtar or Ummi-Ishtar. Hoschander alternatively
suggested Ishtar-udda-sha ("
Ishtar is her light") as the origin with
the possibility of -udda-sha being connected with the similarly
sounding Hebrew name Hadassah. These names however remain unattested
in sources, and come from the original
Babylonian Empire from 2000
BCE, not the
Chaldean Empire or Persian Empire of the
Book of Esther.
The Targum connects the name with the Persian word for "star",
ستاره setareh, explaining that
Esther was so named for being as
beautiful as the Morning Star. In the
Esther is compared to the "morning star", and is considered the
subject of Psalm 22, because its introduction is a "song for the
Esther in rabbinic literature
Dianne Tidball argues that while
Vashti is a "feminist icon", Esther
is a post-feminist icon.
Abraham Kuyper notes some "disagreeable aspects" to her character:
that she should not have agreed to take Vashti's place, that she
refrained from saving her nation until her own life was threatened,
and that she carries out bloodthirsty vengeance.
The tale opens with
Esther as beautiful and obedient, but also a
relatively passive figure. During the course of the story, she evolves
into someone who takes a decisive role in her own future and that of
her people. According to Sidnie White Crawford, "Esther's position
in a male court mirrors that of the Jews in a Gentile world, with the
threat of danger ever present below the seemingly calm surface." 
Esther is related to Daniel in that both represent a "type" for Jews
living in Diaspora, and hoping to live a successful life in an alien
Esther as rhetorical model
Since she used only rhetoric to convince the king to save her people,
Esther has been interpreted as a model for a successful rhetoric of
marginalized groups persuading those who have power over them.
According to Susan Zaeske, the story of
Esther is a "rhetoric of exile
and empowerment that, for millennia, has notably shaped the discourse
of marginalized peoples such as Jews, women, and African
The Shrine venerated as the tomb of
Mordecai in Hamedan,
Interior of the structure venerated as the tomb of
Esther and Mordecai
Given the great historical link between Persian and
modern day Persian Jews are called "Esther's Children". A building
venerated as being the Tomb of
Mordechai is located in
Hamadan, Iran, although the village of
Kfar Bar'am in northern
Israel also claims to be the burial place of Queen Esther.
Depictions of Esther
Book of Esther
Book of Esther § Modern retelling
There are several paintings depicting Esther, including one by
Canonicity in Christianity
The status of
Esther as a canonical book of the Bible has historically
been under dispute. For example, in the first several centuries of
Esther does not appear in the lists of books produced by
Melito, Athanasius, Cyril, Gregory of Nazianzus, and others.
Additionally, no copies of
Esther were found at Qumran in the contents
of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Nevertheless, by the fourth century CE, the
majority of Western churches accepted
Esther as a part of their
Esther is also commemorated as a matriarch in the Calendar of Saints
Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod on May 24. She is also
recognized as a saint in the
Eastern Orthodox and Coptic Orthodox
Churches. "The Septuagint edition of
Esther contains six parts
(totaling 107 verses) not found in the Hebrew Bible. Although these
interpretations originally may have been composed in Hebrew, they
survive only in Greek texts. Because the Hebrew Bible’s version of
Esther’s story contains neither prayers nor even a single reference
to God, Greek redactors apparently felt compelled to give this secular
tale a more explicitly religious orientation, alluding to “God” or
the ‘Lord” fifty times." The approximate dates for the
Esther in the Apocrypha are: Second or first century BCE.
Link to online version of
Esther in English translation of
^ Robert J. Littman (January 1975). "The Religious Policy of Xerxes
and the "Book of Esther"". The
Jewish Quarterly Review.
^ Josephus, Antiquities. Book 11 Chapter 6 (184)
^ a b c "Esther",
^ a b c "Mordecai",
^ A descendant of the
Amalekite people, of King Agag, whom King Saul
Israel was commanded by the prophet
Samuel to utterly destroy
because of their wickedness; but Saul chose to spare their king
Samuel 15:1-33) Haman's hatred of the Jews may have had its
root in this event.
^ a b Crawford, Sidnie White. "Esther", Eerdmans Commentary on the
Bible, (James D. G. Dunn, John William Rogerson, eds.), Wm. B.
Eerdmans Publishing, 2003 ISBN 9780802837110
^ a b c Crawford, Sidnie White. "Esther: Bible",
^ a b c McMahon, Arthur. "Esther." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 5.
New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1909. 11 Apr. 2015
^ Barton, John; John Muddiman (2001-09-06). "Esther". The Oxford Bible
Commentary. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198755005.
^ Huehnergard, John (2008-04-10). "Appendix 1: Afro-Asiatic". In
Woodard, Roger D. The Ancient Languages of Syria-Palestine and Arabia.
Cambridge University Press. pp. 225–246.
^ Rahmouni, Aïcha; Ford, J. N. (2008). "Section 1, The Near and
Middle East". Divine Epithets in the
Ugaritic Alphabetic Texts. Brill.
p. 86. ISBN 9004157697.
^ Offord, Joseph (April 1915). "The Deity of the Crescent
Ancient Western Asia". Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great
Britain and Ireland: 198. JSTOR 25189307.
^ NeXtBible Study Dictionary, entry "Ahasbai" Archived 2008-12-22 at
the Wayback Machine.
^ Tidball, Dianne (2001). Esther, a True First Lady: A Post-Feminist
Icon in a Secular World. Christian Focus Publications.
Abraham (2010-10-05). Women of the Old Testament. Zondervan.
pp. 175–176. ISBN 9780310864875.
^ Coogan, Michael David; Brettler, Marc Zvi; Newsom, Carol Ann and
Perkins, Pheme. The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Oxford University
Press, 2007 ISBN 9780195288803
^ Zaeske, Susan (2003). "Unveiling
Esther as a Pragmatic Radical
Rhetoric". Philosophy and Rhetoric. 33 (3): 194.
^ Vahidmanesh, Parvaneh (5 May 2010). "Sad Fate of Iran's Jews".
^ Schaalje, Jacqueline (June 2001). "Ancient synagogues in Bar'am and
^ McDonald, Lee Martin (2006-11-01). The Biblical Canon: Its Origin,
Transmission, and Authority. Baker Academic. pp. 56, 109, 128,
131. ISBN 9780801047107.
^ The Old Testament: An Introduction to the
Hebrew Bible (p. 375) by
Stephen Harris and Robert Platzner
^ The Meaning of the Dead Sea Scrolls, p. 182 by James Vanderkam and
Zaeske, Susan. "Unveiling
Esther as a Pragmatic Radical Rhetoric",
Philosophy and Rhetoric, vol.33, issue 3
Beal, Timothy K. (1997-12-11). The Book of Hiding: Gender, Ethnicity,
Esther (1st ed.). London ; New York: Routledge.
ISBN 9780415167802. . Postmodern theoretical apparatus,
e.g., Jacques Derrida, Emmanuel Levinas
Fox, Michael V. (2010-04-01). Character and Ideology in the Book of
Esther: Second Edition with a New Postscript on A Decade of Esther
Scholarship (2nd ed.). Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock.
Sasson, Jack M. (1990). "Esther". In Alter, Robert; Kermode, Frank.
The Literary Guide to the Bible. Harvard University Press.
pp. 335–341. ISBN 9780674875319.
Kahr, Madlyn Millner (1968). The
Book of Esther
Book of Esther in Seventeenth-century
Dutch Art. New York University.
Webberley, Helen (Feb 2008). "
Rembrandt and The
Purim Story". The
White, Sidnie Ann (1989-01-01). "Esther: A Feminine Model for Jewish
Diaspora". In Day, Peggy Lynne. Gender and Difference in Ancient
Israel. Fortress Press. ISBN 9781451415766.
Grossman, Jonathan (2011). Esther: The Outer Narrative and the Hidden
Reading. Eisenbrauns. ISBN 9781575062211.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Esther.
"Esther". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.
Esther in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints
Fachartikel in: Michaela Bauks, Klaus Koenen (Hgg.): Das
wissenschaftliche Bibellexikon im Internet (WiBiLex). 2007ff.
Jewish Encyclopedia: Esther
Prophets in the Hebrew Bible
Noah (in rabbinic literature)
Patriarchs / Matriarchs
in the Torah
Moses (in rabbinic literature)
Eldad and Medad
Mentioned in the
Zechariah ben Jehoiada
Isaiah (in rabbinic literature)
Daniel (in rabbinic literature)
Jonah (in rabbinic literature)
Job (in rabbinic literature)
Esther (in rabbinic literature)
Italics indicate persons whose status as prophets is not universally
Book of Esther
Esther (in rabbinic literature)
Haman (in rabbinic literature)
Bigthan and Teresh
Fast of Esther