There’s Something About the Book of Esther
The Book of Esther has always bothered me. If the version of Esther found in most Bible translations is authentic, then why is Yahuah not mentioned in the narrative? There is no naming of the Covenant nor is prayer mentioned, only fasting. The historicity of Esther’s story is somewhat sketchy. And, from a personal standpoint, the way in which Esther became Queen is somewhat unseemly.1
As covenant people we owe our very life to our Creator and lean on Him to give us direction in good times and bad. So why was Yah not included in a book about a woman who would be instrumental in preventing the genocide of thousands of Hebrews?
While reading the R.H. Charles translation of the Apocrypha, I stumbled upon the “Additions” to Esther that are not found in the Masoretic translation of this book. More about this later. The important thing to note is there are two versions of Esther. The Masoretic Hebrew2 translation is devoid of any covenant language. By contrast, the Greek Septuagint version peppers the narrative with many mentions of the Most High, and includes the dreams and prayers of the central characters — namely Queen Esther and her cousin3 Mordecai.
Another interesting thing to note: the Book of Esther is nowhere to be found among the Old Testament fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Why? There are at least three possibilities to consider:
- The leadership at Qumran did not consider the book to be authoritative.
- The book did meet their approval, but no copies survived.
- Esther’s story had not been written by the time the Qumran community disbanded.
The Additions to Esther
About a month ago I decided to read through the Old Testament using the Greek Septuagint (LXX) translation of the Scriptures. It wasn’t long before I noticed profound differences in how the Masoretes recounted Esther’s story compared to the LXX version of the book.
For the sake of space and time, I will include and mark the main additions that appear in the LXX but are absent from the Masoretic texts. The Additions to Esther listed here are taken from the R.H. Charles translation of the Apocrypha.
Addition A – Chapter 1 (LXX Introduction)
In the second year of the reign of Artaxerxes the great king, on the first day of Nisa, Mardocheus the son of Jairus, the son of Semeias, the son of Kiseus, of the tribe of Benjamin, was a dream. He was a Jew, dwelling in the city of Susa, a great man, serving in the king’s court; and he was of the captivity, which Nabuchodonosor the king of Babylon carried from Jerusalem with Jechonias, the king of Judea. And this was his dream; and behold noise and tumult, thunderings and earthquake, confusion upon the earth.
And behold, two great dragons came forth, both of them ready to fight, and their cry was great. And at their cry every nation made itself ready for war, to make war upon a nation of righteous men. And behold a day of darkness and of gloom; tribulation and anguish; affliction and great confusion upon the earth. And the whole righteous nation was troubled, fearing the evils that threatened them, and they made ready to perish.
And they cried unto God; and from their cry, as it were from a small spring, there came up a great river, even much water. A light and the sun rose, and the humble were exalted and consumed the glorious. And Mardocheus, having seen this dream and observed what God had determined to do, awoke and keep it in his heart, and sought by all means to understand it until the night.
Mordecai discovers the plot of the two eunuchs.
And Mardocheus took his rest, as was his custom, in the court with Gabatha and Tharra, the two eunuchs of the king who kept the court. And he heard their communing, and searched out their counsels, and learned that they were preparing to lay hands upon Artaxerxes the king; and he informed the king concerning them. And the king examined the two eunuchs, and they confessed their intention and were led forth and executed. And the king wrote these things for a memorial, and Mardocheus wrote concerning these things.
And the king charged Mardocheus to serve in the court, and gave him gifts in respect of these things. And Haman, the son of Mamadathus, a +Bugaean+, was in honor in the king’s sight, and sought to bring evil upon Mardocheus and his people because of the two eunuchs of the king.
[The Masoretic version of Esther begins here]
Addition B – Insert between Chapter 3:13 and Chapter 3:14
And the following is the copy of the letter; The great king Artaxerxes writes thus to the rulers and inferior governors of a hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from India even to Ethiopia, who hold authority under him. Ruling over many nations and having obtained dominion over the whole world, I was minded (not elated by the confidence of power, but ever conducting myself with great moderation and gentleness) to make the lives of my subjects continually tranquil, desiring both to maintain the kingdom quiet and orderly to its utmost limits, and to restore the peace desired by all men.
But when I had enquired of my counsellors how this should be brought to pass, Man, who excels in soundness of judgment among us, and has been manifestly well inclined without wavering and with unshaken fidelity, and had obtained the second post int he kingdom, informed us that a certain ill-disposed peoples mixed up with all the tribes throughout the world, opposed in their law to every other nation, and continually neglecting the commands of the king, so that the united government blamelessly administered by us is not quietly established.
Having then conceived that this nation alone of all others is continually set in opposition to every man, introducing as a change a foreign code of laws, and injuriously plotting to accomplish the worst of evils against our interests, and against the happy establishment of the monarchy; we signify to you in the letter written by Amanda, who is set over the public affairs and is our second governor, to destroy them all utterly with their wives and children by the swords of the enemies, without pitying or sparing any, on the fourteenth day of the twelfth month Adar, of the present year; that the people aforetime and now ill-disposed to us having been violently consigned to death in one day, may hereafter secure to us continually a well constituted and quiet state of affairs.
Addition C – Insert between Chapter 4:17 and Chapter 5:1
The prayer of Mordecai.
And Mardocheus besought the Lord, calling to remembrance all the works of the Lord, and said, ‘Lord, Lord, King that rules over all, for in Thy power is the whole world, and there is none that gainsayeth Thee when Thou wildest to save Israel: for Thou didst make heaven and earth, and every wondrous thing beneath the heaven; and Thou art Lord of all, and there is not one that shall resist Thee, the Lord.
Thou knows all things; Thou knows, Lord, that it was not in insolence or in pride or in vainglory that I did this, to wit, that I did not bow before proud Haman. For I had been content to kiss the soles of his feet for the salvation of Israel.
But I did this that I might not set the glory of a man above the glory of God: and I will bow before none save before Thee, my Lord, and I will not do it in pride. nd now, Lord, God and King, the God of Abraham, spare Thy people; for the eyes of our enemies are against us to consume us, and they seek to destroy the heritage that is Thine from the beginning. Despise not Thy portion which Thou didst redeem unto Thyself out of the land of Egypt. Hearken to my prayer, and be gracious unto Thine heritage; and turn our mourning into feasting, that we may live and sing Thy Name, O Lord; ad destroy not the mouth of them that praise Thee.
And all Israel cried out with their might, for their death was before their eyes.
The Prayer of Esther.
And Esther, the queen fled in prayer unto the Lord, being seized with an agony of death. and taking off her glorious raiment, she put on garments of anguish and mourning; and instead of the choice ointments, she covered her head with ashes and dung, and she humbled her body with much fasting, and every place of the ornament of her joy she filled with her tangled hair. And she besought the Lord God of Israel and said, ‘My Lord, our King, Thou art God alone; help me who stand alone, and have no helper save Thee: for my danger is in my hand.
I have heard ever since I was born in the tribe of my family that Thou, Lord, didst take Israel out of all the nations, and our father from their progenitors, for an everlasting inheritance, and that Thou didst for them all that Thou didst promise. And now e have sinned before Thee, and Thou has delivered us into the hands of our enemies, because we have given glory to their gods. Righteous art Thou, O Lord.
And now they have not been satisfied with the bitterness of our captivity, but they have laid their hands ,<in the hands of their idols>, to remove the ordinance of Thy mouth and to destroy Thine inheritance, and to stop the mouth of them that praise Thee, and to quench the glory of Thy house, and Thy altar, and to open the mouth fo the nations to give praise to vain idols, and that a king of flesh should be magnified for ever.’
Surrender not, O Lord, Thy scepter unto them that be not gods; and let not them that are our enemies mock at our fall; but turn their counsel against themselves, and make an example of him that began to do this against. us. Remember <us>, O Lord; make Thyself known to us in the time of our tribulation, and give me courage O King of the gods and Lord over all dominion. Put eloquent speech into my mouth before the lion; and turn his heart to hatred of him that fighteth against us, that there may be an end of him and of them that are likeminded with him. But save us by Thy hand, and help me sho stand alone, and have none to save Thee, O Lord.
Knowledge has Thou of all things, and Thou knows that I hat the glory of the wicked, and I detest the bed of the uncircumcised and of any alien. Thou knows my necessity, that I abhor the sign of my proud estate, which is upon my head int he days when I show myself openly; I abhor it as a menstruous rag, and I wear it not in the days of my leisure.
And Thy servant hath not eaten at the table of Human, and I have not honored the king’s feast, neither have I dunk the wine of libations. And Thy servant hath known no joy since the day I was brought here until now, save in Thee, Lord God of Abraham. O God, whose strength is over all, hear the voice of the hopeless, and save us from the hand of them that deal wickedly and save me out of my fear.
Additions D, E, and F describe Esther’s appearance before the king, Artaxerxes’ second edict concerning the Yahudim (Jews), and an interpretation of the dream of Mordecai.
More Questions. Few Answers.
There are other discrepancies between the canonical Esther and the LXX version with the Additions:
- Mordecai is said to hold a high position at court in the second year of Artaxerxes, but in Esther 2:16 says it was the seventh year.
- Mordecai is credited with informing the king of the eunuch conspiracy but in Esther 2:21-23 it says it was Esther who informed the king in her cousin Mordecai’s name.
- Mordecai is rewarded but Esther 6:3,4 says he was forgotten.
- Esther voices her hatred of her position as wife of an uncircumcised alien, but canonical Esther makes no such objection.
- Haman is called a Macedonian but in Esther 3:1 his father has a Persian name.
As fascinating as these Additions may be they only raise more questions regarding both versions of Esther.
Bible scholar R. H. Charles has this to say about the authorship of the Additions:
The Additions belong to that mass of floating legendary material which in the course of years gathered around the name of Esther. It is impossible to assign a single date to them, as they are written in different styles, and may be the work of different authors, some of the additions (e.g. A, C, D, F) having probably grown up gradually and assumed their present shape after an existence of some years inn oral tradition.The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament, Volume One, page 668
It is also interesting to note that out of Esther’s book comes the creation of a celebration known as Purim.
Therefore these days are called Purim, from the word Pur. Because of all the instructions in this letter, and because of all they had seen and experienced, the Jews bound themselves to establish the custom that they and their descendants and all who join them should not fail to celebrate these two days at the appointed time each and every year, according to their regulation. These days should be remembered and celebrated by every generation, family, province, and city, so that these days of Purim should not fail to be observed among the Jews, nor should the memory of them fade from their descendants.Esther 9:26-28, Berean Study Bible
Keep in mind that, like Hanukkah, Purim is not one of Yahuah’s feasts or moedim. It is a custom, a tradition.
As students of the Scriptures we have to be both thoughtful and discerning. Like me, this may be the first time you have been made aware of the Esther Additions. It is not the intention of this article to cast doubt on the authenticity of either version of Esther. I merely want to expose you to information you may not have been made aware of in church.
1 Esther 2:8-16
2 According to 18th century Anglican scholar Adam Clark, the work of the Masoretes is, in reality, a commentary which has been integrated into the body of Scripture. Clark asserts that the Hebrew of the Masoretic Text (Masoretic Hebrew) is different from the Hebrew of the Patriarchs (Ancient Hebrew) in which Old Covenant (OT) scripture was originally written. It is based on the Hebrew which was rejected by early believers in Messiah (Natsarim).
3 Some translations describe Mordecai as Esther’s uncle while others say they are first cousins, with Esther being “the daughter of the brother of Mordechai’s father.” Both were of the tribe of Benjamin.