A 13th/14th-century scroll of the Book of Esther from Fez, Morocco, held at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris. Traditionally, a scroll of Esther is given only one roller, fixed to its lefthand side, rather than the two used for a Torah scroll.[1]

The Book of Esther (Hebrew: מְגִלַּת אֶסְתֵּר, romanizedMegillat Ester; Greek: Ἐσθήρ; Latin: Liber Esther), also known in Hebrew as "the Scroll" ("the Megillah"), is a book in the third section (Ketuvim, כְּתוּבִים "Writings") of the Hebrew Bible. It is one of the Five Scrolls (Megillot) in the Hebrew Bible and later became part of the Christian Old Testament. The book relates the story of a Jewish woman in Persia, born as Hadassah but known as Esther, who becomes queen of Persia and thwarts a genocide of her people.

The story takes place during the reign of King Ahasuerus in the First Persian Empire. Queen Vashti, the wife of King Ahasuerus, is banished from the court for disobeying the king's orders. To find a new queen, a beauty pageant is held and Esther, a young Jewish woman living in Persia, is chosen as the new queen. Esther's cousin Mordechai, who is a Jewish leader, discovers a plot to kill all of the Jews in the empire by Haman, one of the king's advisors. Mordechai urges Esther to use her position as queen to intervene and save their people. Esther reveals her Jewish identity to the king and begs for mercy for her people. She exposes Haman's plot and convinces the king to spare the Jews. The Jewish festival of Purim is established to celebrate the victory of the Jews of the First Persian Empire over their enemies, and Esther becomes a heroine of the Jewish people.

The books of Esther and Song of Songs are the only books in the Hebrew Bible that do not mention God explicitly.[2] Traditional Judaism views the absence of God's overt intervention in the story as an example of how God can work through seemingly coincidental events and the actions of individuals.

The book is at the center of the Jewish festival of Purim and is read aloud twice from a handwritten scroll, usually in a synagogue, during the holiday: once in the evening and again the following morning. The distribution of charity to the needy and the exchange of gifts of foods are also practices observed on the holiday that are mandated in the book. Since the 1890s, several academics have “agreed in seeing [The Book of] Esther as a historicized myth or ritual” and generally concluded that Purim has its origin in a Babylonian or Persian festival (though which one is a subject of discussion).[3][4]

Setting and structure


The biblical Book of Esther is set in the Persian capital of Susa (Shushan) in the third year of the reign of the Persian king Ahasuerus. The name Ahasuerus is equivalent to Xerxes[5] (both deriving from the Persian Khshayārsha),[6] and Ahasuerus is usually identified in modern sources as Xerxes I,[7][8] who ruled between 486 and 465 BCE,[5] as it is to this monarch that the events described in Esther are thought to fit the most closely.[6][9]

Assuming that Ahasuerus is indeed Xerxes I, the events described in Esther began around the years 483–482 BCE, and concluded in March 473 BCE.

Classical sources such as Josephus, the Jewish commentary Esther Rabbah and the Christian theologian Bar Hebraeus,[10] as well as the Greek Septuagint translation of Esther, instead identify Ahasuerus as either Artaxerxes I (reigned 465 to 424 BCE) or Artaxerxes II (reigned 404 to 358 BCE).[10]

On his accession, however, Artaxerxes II lost Egypt to pharaoh Amyrtaeus, after which it was no longer part of the Persian empire. In his Historia Scholastica Petrus Comestor identified Ahasuerus (Esther 1:1) as Artaxerxes III (358–338 BCE) who reconquered Egypt.[11]


The Book of Esther consists of an introduction (or exposition) in chapters 1 and 2; the main action (complication and resolution) in chapters 3 to 9:19; and a conclusion in 9:20–10:3.[12]

The introduction of Book of Esther, hand written, part of Cairo Gniza, digital collections of Younes & Soraya Nazarian Library, University of Haifa

The plot is structured around banquets (Hebrew: מִשְׁתֶּה, romanizedmišˈte, plural מִשְׁתָּאוֹת mištāˈhoṯ or מִשְׁתִּים mišˈtim), a word that occurs twenty times in Esther and only 24 times in the rest of the Hebrew bible. This is appropriate given that Esther describes the origin of a Jewish feast, the feast of Purim, but Purim itself is not the subject and no individual feast in the book is commemorated by Purim. The book's theme, rather, is the reversal of destiny through a sudden and unexpected turn of events: the Jews seem destined to be destroyed, but instead are saved. In literary criticism such a reversal is termed "peripety", and while on one level its use in Esther is simply a literary or aesthetic device, on another it is structural to the author's theme, suggesting that the power of God is at work behind human events.[13]


King Ahasuerus, ruler of the Persian Empire, holds a lavish 180-day banquet for his court and dignitaries from across the 127 provinces of his empire (Esther 1:1–4), and afterwards a seven-day banquet for all inhabitants of the capital city, Shushan (1:5–9). On the seventh day of the latter banquet, Ahasuerus orders the queen, Vashti, to display her beauty before the guests by coming before them wearing her crown (1:10–11). She refuses, infuriating Ahasuerus, who on the advice of his counselors removes her from her position as an example to other women who might be emboldened to disobey their husbands (1:12–19). A decree follows that "every man should bear rule in his own house" (1:20–22).

Esther is crowned in this 1860 woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

Ahasuerus then makes arrangements to choose a new queen from a selection of beautiful young women from throughout the empire (2:1–4). Among these women is a Jewish orphan named Esther, who was raised by her cousin or uncle, Mordecai (2:5–7). She finds favour in the King's eyes, and is crowned his new queen, but does not reveal her Jewish heritage (2:8–20). Shortly afterwards, Mordecai discovers a plot by two courtiers, Bigthan and Teresh, to assassinate Ahasuerus. The conspirators are apprehended and hanged, and Mordecai's service to the King is officially recorded (2:21–23).

Ahasuerus appoints Haman as his viceroy (3:1). Mordecai, who sits at the palace gates, falls into Haman's disfavour, as he refuses to bow down to him (3:2–5). Haman discovers that Mordecai refuses to bow on account of his being a Jew, and in revenge plots to kill not just Mordecai, but all the Jews in the empire (3:6). He obtains Ahasuerus' permission to execute this plan, against payment of ten thousand talents of silver, and casts lots ("purim") to choose the date on which to do this – the thirteenth of the month of Adar (3:7–12). A royal decree is issued throughout the kingdom to slay all Jews on that date (3:13–15).

When Mordecai discovers the plan, he goes into mourning and implores Esther to intercede with the King (4:1–5). But she is afraid to present herself to the King unsummoned, an offense punishable by death (4:6–12). Instead, she directs Mordecai to have all Jews fast for three days for her, and vows to fast as well (4:15–16.). On the third day she goes to Ahasuerus, who stretches out his sceptre to her to indicate that she is not to be punished (5:1–2). She invites him to a feast in the company of Haman (5:3–5). During the feast, she asks them to attend a further feast the next evening (5:6–8). Meanwhile, Haman is again offended by Mordecai and, at his wife's suggestion, has a gallows built to hang him (5:9–14).

That night, Ahasuerus cannot sleep, and orders the court records be read to him (6:1). He is reminded that Mordecai interceded in the previous plot against his life, and discovers that Mordecai never received any recognition (6:2–3). Just then, Haman appears to request the King's permission to hang Mordecai, but before he can make this request, Ahasuerus asks Haman what should be done for the man that the King wishes to honour (6:4–6). Assuming that the King is referring to Haman himself, Haman suggests that the man be dressed in the King's royal robes and crown and led around on the King's royal horse, while a herald calls: "See how the King honours a man he wishes to reward!" (6:7–9). To his surprise and horror, the King instructs Haman to do so to Mordecai (6:10–11).

Mordecai is honoured in this 1860 woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld

Immediately afterwards, Ahasuerus and Haman attend Esther's second banquet. The King promises to grant her any request, and she reveals that she is Jewish and that Haman is planning to exterminate her people, including herself (7:1–6). Overcome by rage, Ahasuerus leaves the room; meanwhile Haman stays behind and begs Esther for his life, falling upon her in desperation (7:7). The King returns in at this very moment and thinks Haman is sexually assaulting the queen; this makes him angrier and he orders Haman hanged on the very gallows that Haman had prepared for Mordecai (7:8–10).

Unable to annul a formal royal decree, the King instead adds to it, permitting the Jews to join and destroy any and all of those seeking to kill them (8:1–14).[14][15] On 13 Adar, Haman's ten sons and 500 other men are killed in Shushan (9:1–12). Upon hearing of this Esther requests it be repeated the next day, whereupon 300 more men are killed (9:13–15). In the other Persian provinces, 75,000 people are killed by the Jews, who are careful to take no plunder (9:16–17). Mordecai and Esther send letters throughout the provinces instituting an annual commemoration of the Jewish people's redemption, in a holiday called Purim (lots) (9:20–28). Ahasuerus remains very powerful and continues his reign, with Mordecai assuming a prominent position in his court (10:1–3).

Authorship and date

Scroll of Esther (Megillah)

The Megillat Esther (Book of Esther) became the last of the 24 books of the Hebrew Bible to be canonized by the Sages of the Great Assembly. According to the Talmud, it was a redaction by the Great Assembly of an original text by Mordecai.[16] It is usually dated to the 4th century BCE.[17][18]

The Greek book of Esther, included in the Septuagint, is a retelling of the events of the Hebrew Book of Esther rather than a translation and records additional traditions which do not appear in the traditional Hebrew version, in particular the identification of Ahasuerus with Artaxerxes II and details of various letters. It is dated around the late 2nd to early 1st century BCE.[19][20] The Coptic and Ethiopic versions of Esther are translations of the Greek rather than the Hebrew Esther.

A Latin version of Esther was produced by Jerome for the Vulgate. It translates the Hebrew Esther but interpolates translations of the Greek Esther where the latter provides additional material. Predating the Vulgate, however, the Vetus Latina ("Old Latin") was apparently translated from a different Greek version not included in the Septuagint.[21]

Several Aramaic targumim of Esther were produced in the Middle Ages, of which three survive – the Targum Rishon ("First Targum" or 1TgEsth) and Targum Sheni ("Second Targum" or 2TgEsth)[22][23] dated c. 500–1000 CE,[24] which include additional legends relating to Purim,[22] and the Targum Shelishi ("Third Targum" or 3TgEsth), which Berliner and Goshen-Gottstein argued was the ur-Targum from which the others had been expanded, but which others consider only a late recension of the same. 3TgEsth is the most manuscript-stable of the three, and by far the most literal.[25][23]


The opening chapter of a hand-written scroll of the Book of Esther, with reader's Torah pointer

The apparent historical difficulties, the internal inconsistencies, the pronounced symmetry of themes and events, the plenitude of quoted dialogue, and the gross exaggeration in the reporting of numbers (involving time, money, and people) all point to Esther as a work of fiction, its vivid characters (except for Xerxes) being the product of the author's creative imagination.[26] There is no reference to known historical events in the story; a general consensus, though this consensus has been challenged,[27][28] has maintained that the narrative of Esther was invented in order to provide an etiology for Purim, and the name Ahasuerus is usually understood to refer to a fictionalized Xerxes I, who ruled the Achaemenid Empire between 486 and 465 BCE.[29]

The book of Esther has more Akkadian and Aramaic loanwords than any other biblical work and the names of the key protagonists, Mordechai and Esther, for example, have been read as allusions to the gods Marduk and Ishtar, who, symbolizing respectively Babylonia and Assyria, were twin powers that brought about the fall of Susa, where the narrative of Esther is set and where the Elamite god Humban/Humman (compare Haman)[30] exercised divine sovereignty. Purim practices like eating “Haman's ears”, ear-shaped loaves of bread or pieces of pastry are similar to those in Near Eastern ritual celebrations of Ishtar's cosmic victory.[31] Likewise other elements in Purim customs such as making a racket with a ratchet, masquerading and drunkenness have all been adduced to propose that such a kind of pagan festival akin to rites associated with Ishtar of Nineveh, which shares these same features, lay behind the development of this story.[32]

Biblical scholar Michael Coogan further argues that the book contains specific details regarding certain subject matter (for example, Persian rule) which are historically inaccurate. For example, Coogan discusses an inaccuracy regarding the age of Esther's cousin (or, according to others, uncle) Mordecai.[33][34] In Esther 2:5–6, either Mordecai or his great-grandfather Kish is identified as having been exiled from Jerusalem to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar II in 597 BCE: "Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jeconiah king of Judah". If this refers to Mordecai, he would have had to live over a century to have witnessed the events described in the Book of Esther.[33] However, the verse may be read as referring not to Mordecai's exile to Babylon, but to his great-grandfather Kish's exile.[35][36][37]

In her article "The Book of Esther and Ancient Storytelling", biblical scholar Adele Berlin discusses the reasoning behind scholarly concern about the historicity of Esther. Much of this debate relates to the importance of distinguishing history and fiction within biblical texts, as Berlin argues, in order to gain a more accurate understanding of the history of the Israelite people.[38] Berlin quotes a series of scholars who suggest that the author of Esther did not mean for the book to be considered as a historical writing, but intentionally wrote it to be a historical novella.[39] The genre of novellas under which Esther falls was common during both the Persian and Hellenistic periods to which scholars have dated the book of Esther (see for example the deuterocanonical Book of Judith).[33][38]

However, there are certain elements of the book of Esther that are historically accurate.[40] The story told in the book of Esther takes place during the rule of Ahasuerus, who amongst others has been identified as the 5th-century Persian king Xerxes I (reigned 486–465 BCE).[8] The author also displays an accurate knowledge of Persian customs and palaces.[36] However, according to Coogan, considerable historical inaccuracies remain throughout the text, supporting the view that the book of Esther is to be read as a historical novella which tells a story describing historical events but is not necessarily historical fact.[33]

Historical reading

The Feast of Esther (Feest van Esther, 1625) by Jan Lievens, North Carolina Museum of Art

Those arguing in favour of a historical reading of Esther most commonly identify Ahasuerus with Xerxes I (ruled 486–465 BCE),[8] although in the past it was often assumed that he was Artaxerxes II (ruled 405–359 BCE). The Hebrew Ahasuerus (ʔaḥašwērōš) is most likely derived from Persian Xšayārša, the origin of the Greek Xerxes. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote that Xerxes sought his harem after being defeated in the Greco-Persian Wars. He makes no reference to individual members of the harem except for a domineering Queen consort named Amestris, whose father, Otanes, was one of Xerxes's generals. (In contrast, the Greek historian Ctesias refers to a similar father-in-law/general figure named Onaphas.) Amestris has often been identified with Vashti, but this identification is problematic, as Amestris remained a powerful figure well into the reign of her son, Artaxerxes I, whereas Vashti is portrayed as dismissed in the early part of Xerxes's reign.[41] Alternative attempts have been made to identify her with Esther,[42] although Esther is an orphan whose father was a Jew named Abihail.

As for the identity of Mordecai, the similar names Marduka and Marduku have been found as the name of officials in the Persian court in over thirty texts from the period of Xerxes I and his father Darius I, and may refer to up to four individuals, one of whom might be the model for the biblical Mordecai.

The "Old Greek" Septuagint version of Esther translates the name Ahasuerus as Artaxerxes,[43] a Greek name derived from the Persian Artaxšaθra. Josephus too relates that this was the name by which he was known to the Greeks, and the Midrashic text Esther Rabba also makes the identification. Bar Hebraeus identified Ahasuerus explicitly as Artaxerxes II; however, the names are not necessarily equivalent: Hebrew has a form of the name Artaxerxes distinct from Ahasuerus, and a direct Greek rendering of Ahasuerus is used by both Josephus and the Septuagint for occurrences of the name outside the Book of Esther. Instead, the Hebrew name Ahasuerus accords with an inscription of the time that notes that Artaxerxes II was named also Aršu, understood as a shortening of Aḫšiyaršu the Babylonian rendering of the Persian Xšayārša (Xerxes), through which the Hebrew ʔaḥašwērōš (Ahasuerus) is derived.[44] Ctesias related that Artaxerxes II was also called Arsicas which is understood as a similar shortening with the Persian suffix -ke that is applied to shortened names. Deinon related that Artaxerxes II was also called Oarses which is also understood to be derived from Xšayārša.[44]

Another view attempts to identify him instead with Artaxerxes I (ruled 465–424 BCE), whose Babylonian concubine, Kosmartydene, was the mother of his son Darius II (ruled 424–405 BCE). Jewish tradition relates that Esther was the mother of a King Darius and so some try to identify Ahasuerus with Artaxerxes I and Esther with Kosmartydene.

Based on the view that the Ahasuerus of the Book of Tobit is identical with that of the Book of Esther, some have also identified him as Nebuchadnezzar's ally Cyaxares (ruled 625–585 BCE). In certain manuscripts of Tobit, the former is called Achiachar, which, like the Greek Cyaxares, is thought to be derived from Persian Huwaxšaθra. Depending on the interpretation of Esther 2:5–6, Mordecai or his great-grandfather Kish was carried away from Jerusalem with Jeconiah by Nebuchadnezzar, in 597 BCE. The view that it was Mordecai would be consistent with the identification of Ahasuerus with Cyaxares. Identifications with other Persian monarchs have also been suggested.

Jacob Hoschander has argued that the name of Haman and that of his father Hamedatha are mentioned by Strabo as Omanus and Anadatus, worshipped with Anahita in the city of Zela. Hoschander suggests that Haman may, if the connection is correct, be a priestly title and not a proper name.[44] Strabo's names are unattested in Persian texts as gods; however the Talmud[45] and Josephus[46] interpret the description of courtiers bowing to Haman in Esther 3:2 as worship. (Other scholars assume "Omanus" refers to Vohu Mana.)[47][48][49]

In his Historia Scholastica Petrus Comestor identified Ahasuerus (Esther 1:1) as Artaxerxes III who reconquered Egypt.[11]


In the Book of Esther, the Tetragrammaton does not appear, but some argue it is present, in hidden form, in four complex acrostics in Hebrew: the initial or last letters of four consecutive words, either forwards or backwards comprise YHWH. These letters were distinguished in at least three ancient Hebrew manuscripts in red.[50][note 1]

Christine Hayes contrasts the Book of Esther with apocalyptic writings, the Book of Daniel in particular: both Esther and Daniel depict an existential threat to the Jewish people, but while Daniel commands the Jews to wait faithfully for God to resolve the crisis, in Esther the crisis is resolved entirely through human action and national solidarity. God, in fact, is not mentioned, Esther is portrayed as assimilated to Persian culture, and Jewish identity in the book is an ethnic category rather than a religious one.[51]

This contrasts with traditional Jewish commentaries, such as the commentary of the Vilna Gaon, which states "But in every verse it discusses the great miracle. However, this miracle was in a hidden form, occurring through apparently natural processes, not like the Exodus from Egypt, which openly revealed the might of God."[52] This follows the approach of the Talmud,[53] which states that "(The Book of) Esther is referenced in the Torah in the verse 'And I shall surely hide (in Hebrew, 'haster astir,' related to 'Esther') My Face from them on that day.[54]

André Lacocque also sees the Book of Esther as being fundamentally theological and that its main message was to correct the mistakes of ancestors. These mistakes included being lenient against Amalekites and plundering goods, which King Saul was guilty of. Another message was that diasporic Jews were responsible for the welfare of their host community, who held unpredictable views about Jews. These views ranged from violent antisemitism to passionate philosemitism, where Jews are arbitrarily promoted to higher positions due to being 'sexy'. Lacocque compares this to Joseph's governance of Egypt in the Book of Genesis, which benefitted native Egyptians and Hebrew immigrants.[55]

Although marriages between Jews and Gentiles are not permitted in orthodox Judaism, even in case of Pikuach nefesh, Esther is not regarded as a sinner, because she remained passive, and risked her life to save that of the entire Jewish people.[56]

Azīz Pajand, a Persian Jew, published "Purim" in 1966, which offered an Iranophilic interpretation of the Book of Esther. Here, Haman was the Amalekite enemy of 'pure-blooded Iranians' and Jews. Thus, Purim became a holiday that celebrates salvation for all Iranians from the 'Hamanites'. He also emphasizes the role of Jewish-Persian cooperation in realizing the Book of Esther's denouement. Pajand justified his interpretation to dispel accusations that the Book of Esther was anti-Iranian and because he believed that Iranians were "travellers in the way of truth". In contrast, Haman violated the Zoroastrian ideal of “Good thoughts; Good words; and Good deeds”.[57] Lacocque likewise observes that the "enemies of the Jews" were never arbitrarily branded as Amalekites before being killed, in comparison to Haman and his sons, which discredits any motive of Jewish ultranationalism.[55]

Albert Barnes similarly argues that the philosemitic Persian establishment was perplexed at Haman's decree (Esther 3:15),[58] and that they were supportive of Esther's efforts against the "enemies of the Jews". The latter were mostly found "among the idolatrous people of the subject nations", whom the Persians did not care for.[59] The ones in Susa, however, consisted of Haman's faction, led by his ten sons,[60] and fugitives who believed they were free to kill the Jews once the latter's "privileges have expired", thus why they were killed the next day.[61] Matthew Poole sees the subsequent hanging of Haman's sons as a cruel Jewish and Persian custom that punishes offenders for 'abusing' the king.[62]

John Gill sees the conversion of Persian allies (Esther 8:17) as an example of 'conversion under duress' but does not discount alternative explanations. They include being impressed by the 'Divine Providence' working in the Jews' favor and seeking the favor of Esther and Mordecai, who gained immense power.[63] But ultimately, the Persian allies and Jews celebrated Purim together and taught their children to read the Book of Esther (Esther 9:27).[64]

Additions to Esther

An additional six chapters appear interspersed in Esther in the Septuagint, an early Greek translation of the Bible. This was noted by Jerome in compiling the Latin Vulgate. Additionally, the Greek text contains many small changes in the meaning of the main text. Jerome recognized the former as additions not present in the Hebrew Text and placed them at the end of his Latin translation. This placement and numbering system is used in Catholic Bible translations based primarily on the Vulgate, such as the Douay–Rheims Bible and the Knox Bible, with chapters numbered up to 16.[65] In contrast, the 1979 revision of the Vulgate, the Nova Vulgata, incorporates the additions to Esther directly into the narrative itself, as do most modern Catholic English translations based on the original Hebrew and Greek (e.g., Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition, New American Bible, New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition). The numbering system for the additions therefore differs with each translation. The Nova Vulgata accounts for the additional verses by numbering them as extensions of the verses immediately following or preceding them (e.g., Esther 11:2–12 in the old Vulgate becomes Esther 1:1a–1k in the Nova Vulgata), while the NAB and its successor, the NABRE, assign letters of the alphabet as chapter headings for the additions (e.g., Esther 11:2–12:6 in the Vulgate becomes Esther A:1–17). The RSVCE and the NRSVCE place the additional material into the narrative, but retain the chapter and verse numbering of the old Vulgate.


These additions are:[66]

In the fourth year of the reign of Ptolemy and Cleopatra, Dositheus, who said that he was a priest and a Levite, and his son Ptolemy brought to Egypt the preceding Letter about Purim, which they said was authentic and had been translated by Lysimachus son of Ptolemy, one of the residents of Jerusalem.

— (NRSV)

It is unclear to which version of Greek Esther this colophon refers, and who exactly are the figures mentioned in it.[67]

By the time the Greek version of Esther was written, the foreign power visible on the horizon as a future threat to Judah was the kingdom of Macedonia under Alexander the Great, who defeated the Persian empire about 150 years after the time of the story of Esther; the Septuagint version noticeably calls Haman a "Bougaion" (Ancient Greek: βουγαῖον), possibly in the Homeric sense of "bully" or "braggart",[68] whereas the Hebrew text describes him as an Agagite.


The canonicity of these Greek additions has been a subject of scholarly disagreement practically since their first appearance in the Septuagint. – Martin Luther, being perhaps the most vocal Reformation-era critic of the work, considered even the original Hebrew version to be of very doubtful value.[69]

The Council of Trent, the summation of the Counter-Reformation, reconfirmed the entire book, both Hebrew text and Greek additions, as canonical. The Book of Esther is used twice in commonly used sections of the Catholic Lectionary.[citation needed] In both cases, the text used is not only taken from a Greek addition. The readings also include the prayer of Mordecai, and nothing of Esther's own words is ever used.[clarification needed] The Eastern Orthodox Church uses the Septuagint version of Esther, as it does for all of the Old Testament.

In contrast, the additions are included in the Biblical apocrypha, usually printed in a separate section (if at all) in Protestant bibles. The additions, called "The rest of the Book of Esther", are specifically listed in the Thirty-Nine Articles, Article VI, of the Church of England as non-canonical, though "read for example of life and instruction of manners".[70]

Modern retelling

Year Type Cast or Creator Description
1511 Painting Michelangelo There are several paintings depicting Esther and her story, including The Punishment of Haman by Michelangelo, in a corner of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.[71]
1660 Painting Rembrandt van Rijn In 1660, Rembrandt van Rijn's painting of Esther's Banquet depicts how Esther approached the men at their level to make the request of erasing the decree.
1689 Poem Lucrezia Tornabuoni The Italian Renaissance poet Lucrezia Tornabuoni chose Esther as one of biblical figures on which she wrote poetry.[72]
1689 Stageplay Jean Baptiste Racine Jean Baptiste Racine wrote Esther, a tragedy, at the request of Louis XIV's wife, Françoise d'Aubigné, marquise de Maintenon.
1718 Stageplay Handel Handel wrote the oratorio Esther based on Racine's play.
1881 Poem Christina Rossetti The eighth poem of 14 in Rossetti's sonnet-of-sonnets sequence Monna Innominata portrays Esther as brave, beautiful, wise and witty, as 'subtle as a snake', and the woman who 'built her people's house that it should stand'.
1958 Book Gladys Malvern In 1958, a book entitled Behold Your Queen! was written by Gladys Malvern and illustrated by her sister, Corinne Malvern. It was chosen as a selection of the Junior Literary Guild.
1960 Stageplay Saunders Lewis The play entitled Esther (1960), written by Welsh dramatist Saunders Lewis, is a retelling of the story in Welsh.
1960 Movie Joan Collins A 1960 movie about the story, Esther and the King, starring Joan Collins.
1978 Miniseries Victoria Principal A 1978 miniseries entitled The Greatest Heroes of the Bible starred Victoria Principal as Esther, Robert Mandan as Xerxes, and Michael Ansara as Haman.
1979 TV movie Olivia Hussey A 1979 television film entitled The Thirteenth Day: The Story of Esther and aired on ABC-TV, starring Olivia Hussey as Esther, Tony Musante as King Ahasuerus, and Harris Yulin as Haman.
1981 Animation Superbook Episode 25 of the 1981 anime series Superbook involves this story
1983 Musical J. Edward Oliver,

Nick Munns

The 1983 musical entitled Swan Esther was written by J. Edward Oliver and Nick Munns and released as a concept album with Stephanie Lawrence and Denis Quilley. Swan Esther has been performed by the Young Vic, a national tour produced by Bill Kenwright and some amateur groups.
1986 Movie Amos Gitai Israeli film directed by Amos Gitai entitled Esther.
1987 Book Tomie dePaola Children's book titled Queen Esther written and illustrated by award-winning American author Tomie dePaola and published by HarperCollins.
1992 Animation Helen Slater In 1992, a 30-minute, fully animated video, twelfth in Hanna-Barbera's The Greatest Adventure series, titled Queen Esther features the voices of Helen Slater as Queen Esther, Dean Jones as King Ahasuerus, Werner Klemperer as Haman, and Ron Rifkin as Mordecai.[73][74]
1999 TV movie Louise Lombard TV movie from the Bible Collection that follows the biblical account very closely, Esther, starred Louise Lombard in the title role and F. Murray Abraham as Mordecai.[75]
2000 Animation VeggieTales VeggieTales released "Esther... The Girl Who Became Queen".
2005 Book Ginger Garrett Chosen: The Lost Diaries of Queen Esther by Ginger Garrett. 2005, NavPress.[importance?]
2006 Movie Tiffany Dupont,

Luke Goss

A movie about Esther and Ahasuerus, entitled One Night with the King, stars Tiffany Dupont and Luke Goss. It was based on the novel Hadassah: One Night with the King by Tommy Tenney and Mark Andrew Olsen.
?? ?? ?? Esther is one of the five heroines of the Order of the Eastern Star.[importance?]
2011 Song Maccabeats On March 8, 2011, the Maccabeats released a music video called "Purim Song".[76]
2012 Book J. T. Waldman In 2012, a graphic adaptation of the Book of Esther was illustrated by J. T. Waldman and appeared in volume one of The Graphic Canon, edited by Russ Kick and published by Seven Stories Press.
2013 Movie Jen Lilley The Book of Esther is a 2013 movie starring Jen Lilley as Queen Esther and Joel Smallbone as King Xerxes.[77]
2015 Book Angela Hunt Hunt, Angela "Esther: Royal Beauty" (A Dangerous Beauty Novel) (2015)
2016 Book Rebecca Kanner Kanner, Rebecca, "Esther" (2016)
2011 Book Joan Wolf Wolf, Joan,"A Reluctant Queen: The Love Story of Esther" (2011)
2011 Book Roseanna M. White White, Roseanna, M. "Jewel of Persia" (2011)
2020 Book Jill Eileen Smith Smith, Jill, Eileen."Star of Persia: Esther's Story" (2020)
2013 Book H.B. Moore H.B. Moore."Esther the Queen" (2013)
2014 Movie CJ Kramer "Megillas Lester", an animated comedy loosely based on the Book of Esther, where a boy named Daniel Lesterovich (a.k.a., "Lester") is knocked out and travels back in time to the story of the Megillah, and nearly changes history by accidentally saving Queen Vashti. (2014)[78]
2020 Book Elizabeth Mack Mack, Elizabeth. "The Queen of Persia" (2020)
2019 Book Diana Taylor Taylor, Diana, Wallis."Hadassah, Queen Esther of Persia" (2019)
2020 Stageplay Sight & Sound Theatres Sight & Sound Theatres produced "Queen Esther," a stage production (2020)[79][80]

See also


  1. ^ These are Est 1:20; 5:4, 13 and 7:7. Additionally, Est 7:5 there is an acrostic referring to the title of God of Exodus 3:14.



  1. ^ Rossel, Seymour (2007). The Torah: Portion by Portion. Los Angeles: Torah Aura Productions. p. 212. ISBN 978-1-891662-94-2.
  2. ^ Blumenthal, David R. "Where God is Not: The Book of Esther and Song of Songs". Archived from the original on January 17, 2019. Retrieved April 19, 2016.
  3. ^ Moore, Carey A. (1971). Esther. Doubleday. See section “The Non-Jewish Origins of Purim.” Pages 46-49. “Esther's canonical status may have been opposed by those Jews who saw the book as a defense for a Jewish festival which, as its very name suggests (*the pûr [that is, the lot]", iii 7; see also ix 26), was non-Jewish in origin. Certainly modern scholars have felt the explanation for Purim's name in ix 26 to be strained and unconvincing. Moreover, the ‘secular" character of the feast suggests a pagan origin, that is, no prayers or sacrifices are specified, but drinking to the point of excess is permitted in the Talmud, Megilla 7b… pûrim is a hebraized form of a Babylonian word...Efforts to identify Purim with an earlier Jewish or Greek festival have been neither common nor convincing, and ever since the 1890s, when Heinrich Zimmern and Peter Jensen equated Mordecai and Esther with the Babylonian gods Marduk and Ishtar, and Haman and Vashti with the Elamite gods Humman and Mashti, a Babylonian origin for Purim has been popular. Though scholars like Jensen, Zimmem, Hugo Winckler, Bruno Meissner and others have each picked a different Babylonian myth or festival as the prototype for Purim, namely, the Gilgamesh Epic, the Babylonian Creation Story, the Tammuz-Ishtar Myth, and the Zagmuk Feast, respectively, they all agreed in seeing Esther as a historicized myth or ritual. More recently, however, a Persian origin for Purim has been gaining support among scholars.”
  4. ^ Moore, Carey A. “Esther, Book of,” ed. David Noel Freedman, The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 637-638 “Certainly a pagan origin for Purim would also help to explain the "secular" way in which it was to be celebrated, i.e., with uninhibited and even inebriated behavior (cf. above Meg. 7b). Then too, a pagan origin for the festival would also help to explain the absence of various religious elements in the story…. But even more recently scholars are again looking to Palestine for the origin of the festival… Its Lack of Historicity: [R]are is the 20th-century scholar who accepts the story at face value.”
  5. ^ a b Baumgarten, Albert I.; Sperling, S. David; Sabar, Shalom (2007). Skolnik, Fred; Berenbaum, Michael (eds.). Encyclopaedia Judaica. Vol. 18 (2 ed.). Farmington Hills, MI: Macmillan Reference. p. 216.
  6. ^ a b Larkin, Katrina J.A. (1996). Ruth and Esther (Old Testament Guides). Sheffield, UK: Sheffield Academic Press. p. 71.
  7. ^ Crawford, Sidnie White (1998). "Esther". In Newsom, Carol A.; Ringe, Sharon H. (eds.). Women's Bible Commentary. Louisville: Westminster John Knox. p. 202.
  8. ^ a b c Middlemas, Jill (2010). Becking, Bob E.J.H.; Grabbe, Lester (eds.). Between Evidence and Ideology. Leiden: Brill. p. 145. ISBN 978-9004187375.
  9. ^ Moore, Carey A. (1971). Esther (Anchor Bible). Garden City, NY: Doubleday. p. xxxv.
  10. ^ a b E.A.W. Budge, The Chronography of Bar Hebraeus, Gorgias Press, reprint 2003
  11. ^ a b "Historia Scholastica/Esther – Wikisource". Archived from the original on 2022-07-05. Retrieved 2017-12-17.
  12. ^ Clines 1984, p. 9.
  13. ^ Jobes 2011, pp. 40–41.
  14. ^ "Esther – Chapter 8". Archived from the original on 2018-09-26. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  15. ^ "Esther: Bible | Jewish Women's Archive". Archived from the original on 2023-06-26. Retrieved 2018-10-20.
  16. ^ Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Baba Bathra 15a
  17. ^ NIV Study Bible, Introductions to the Books of the Bible, Esther, Zondervan, 2002
  18. ^ Berlin, Adele; Brettler, Marc Zvi; Fishbane, Michael, eds. (2004). The Jewish Study Bible. Oxford University Press. p. 1625. ISBN 978-0195297515.
  19. ^ Freedman, David Noel; Myers, Allen C.; Beck, Astrid B. (2000). Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 428. ISBN 978-0802824004. Archived from the original on 2023-06-23. Retrieved 2023-06-23.
  20. ^ George Lyons, Additions to Esther, Wesley Center for Applied Theology, 2000
  21. ^ Bellmann, Simon; Portier-Young, Anathea (2019-08-21). "The Old Latin book of Esther: An English translation". Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha. 28 (4): 267–289. doi:10.1177/0951820719860628. S2CID 202163709. Archived from the original on 2021-02-10. Retrieved 2021-02-05.
  22. ^ a b Prof. Michael Sokoloff, The Targums to the Book of Esther, Bar-Ilan University 's Parashat Hashavua Study Center, Parashat Tezaveh/Zakhor 5764 March 6, 2004
  23. ^ a b S. Kaufman, Cal Targum Texts, Text base and variants, The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon, Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion
  24. ^ Alan J. Hauser, Duane Frederick Watson, A History of Biblical Interpretation: The Ancient Period, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2003
  25. ^ Goshen-Gottstein, M. H. (1975). "The "Third Targum" on Esther and Ms. Neofiti 1". Biblica. 56 (3): 301–329. ISSN 0006-0887. JSTOR 42610736. Archived from the original on 2021-03-16. Retrieved 2021-03-02.
  26. ^ Meyers, Carol (2007). "16. Esther". In Barton, John; Muddiman, John (eds.). The Oxford Bible Commentary. Oxford University Press. p. 325. ISBN 9780199277186. Archived from the original on 2023-11-11. Retrieved 2019-03-24.
  27. ^ David J. A. Clines, The Esther Scroll: The Story of the Story, Archived 2023-11-11 at the Wayback Machine A&C Black, 1984 ISBN 978-0-905-77466-4 pp. 26, 50, 155ff.
  28. ^ Tsaurayi Kudakwashe Mapfeka, Esther in Diaspora: Toward an Alternative Interpretive Framework, Archived 2023-11-11 at the Wayback Machine Brill, 2019 ISBN 978-9-004-40656-8 pp. 2, 15, 28ff
  29. ^ Browning, W. R. F., ed. (2009), "Ahasuerus", A Dictionary of the Bible (2nd ed.), Oxford University Press, doi:10.1093/acref/9780199543984.001.0001, ISBN 978-0-19-954398-4, archived from the original on 2020-09-03, retrieved 2020-04-17, The story is fictitious and written to provide an account of the origin of the feast of Purim; the book contains no references to the known historical events of the reign of Xerxes.
  30. ^ Paul Wexler, Silk Road Linguistics, Studies in Arabic Language and Literature, Harrassowitz Verlag 2021 ISBN 978-3-447-11573-5 vol.10 p.694 notes an alternative derivation from Elamite Humpan>Human, the divine name doubling as an anthroponym.
  31. ^ Wexler p.695: ‘Any resemblance between Ishtar's ear-shaped pastries and Haman's ear-shaped pastries may be the accidental result of later practice, but a common denominator is also possible, in that the original function of sacrifice is thought to be partaking of, and eating, the god. The eating of Haman represents symbolically the eating of a slain enemy god in order to absorb his power, such as is expressed in the Cultic commentaries
  32. ^ Wexler 2021 pp.694-695
  33. ^ a b c d Coogan, Michael David, A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in Its Context (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009), 396.
  34. ^ Sidnie White Crawford, "Esther", in The New Interpreters Study Bible New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha, ed. Walter J. Harrison and Donald Senior (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2003), 689–90.
  35. ^ New King James Version, translation of Esther 2:6 Archived 2019-02-20 at the Wayback Machine
  36. ^ a b Bromiley, Geoffrey W., ed. (1982). "Book of Esther". International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume II. Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. p. 159. ISBN 9780802837820.
  37. ^ Wiersbe, Warren W. (2004). Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament History. David C Cook. p. 712. ISBN 9780781435314.
  38. ^ a b Adele Berlin, "The Book of Esther and Ancient Storytelling", Journal of Biblical Literature 120, no. 1 (Spring 2001): 3–14.
  39. ^ Berlin, 2001: 6.
  40. ^ Sarbanani, Morteza Arabzadeh (2023). "Revisiting the Book of Esther: Assessing the Historical Significance of the Masoretic Version for the Achaemenid History". Persica Antiqua. 3 (4): 19–32. doi:10.22034/pa.2022.344449.1009.
  41. ^ Esther 1:19
  42. ^ Hubbard, Robert L. (2007). "Vashti, Amestris and Esther 1,9". Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft. 119 (2): 259–271. doi:10.1515/ZAW.2007.020. S2CID 170144015.
  43. ^ http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/nets/edition/17-esther-nets.pdf Archived 2014-03-27 at the Wayback Machine Note on two Greek versions of the book of Esther.
  44. ^ a b c Jacob Hoschander, The Book of Esther in the Light of History, Oxford University Press, 1923 [page needed]
  45. ^ "Sanhedrin 61b". www.sefaria.org. Archived from the original on 2021-04-16. Retrieved 2021-02-17.
  46. ^ "Josephus: Antiquities of the Jews, Book XI". penelope.uchicago.edu. Archived from the original on 2023-07-02. Retrieved 2021-02-17.
  47. ^ Matassa, Lidia D.; Silverman, Jason M. (2011). Text, Theology, and Trowel: New Investigations in the Biblical World. Wipf and Stock Publishers. ISBN 978-1-60899-942-2. Archived from the original on 2023-11-11. Retrieved 2021-02-17.
  48. ^ Handbuch der Orientalistik: Der Nahe und der Mittlere Osten. Brill. 1991. ISBN 978-90-04-09271-6. Archived from the original on 2023-11-11. Retrieved 2021-05-13.
  49. ^ Dhalla, Maneckji Nusservanji (1914). Zoroastrian Theology: From the Earliest Times to the Present Day. s.l. Archived from the original on 2023-11-11.
  50. ^ The Name of Jehovah in the Book of Esther. Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine, appendix 60, Companion Bible.
  51. ^ Hayes, Christine (2006). "Introduction to the Old Testament (Hebrew Bible): Lecture 24 – Alternative Visions: Esther, Ruth, and Jonah". Open Yale Courses. Yale University. Archived from the original on 2023-08-09. Retrieved 2016-01-05.
  52. ^ Commentary of the Vilna Gaon to the Book of Esther 1:1
  53. ^ Chullin 139b
  54. ^ Deut. 31:18
  55. ^ a b Lacocque, André (1987). "HAMAN IN THE BOOK OF ESTHER". The Ohio State of University. Archived from the original on June 16, 2024.
  56. ^ Yehuda Shurpin: How Could Esther Marry a Non-Jewish King? Archived 2020-10-23 at the Wayback Machine, Chabad.org.
  57. ^ Silverstein, Adam J. (2018). Veiling Esther, Unveiling Her Story: The Reception of a Biblical Book in Islamic Lands. Oxford University Press. pp. 39–63. ISBN 978-0198797227.
  58. ^ "Esther 3 Barnes' Notes". Biblehub.com. 2024. Archived from the original on February 13, 2024.
  59. ^ "Esther 9 Barnes' Notes". TheTorah.com. 2024. Archived from the original on February 12, 2024.
  60. ^ "Esther 9 Gill's Exposition". Biblehub.com. 2024. Archived from the original on February 12, 2024.
  61. ^ "Esther 9 Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary". Biblehub.com. 2024. Archived from the original on February 12, 2024.
  62. ^ "Esther 9 Matthew Poole's Commentary". Biblehub.com. 2024. Archived from the original on July 11, 2021.
  63. ^ "Esther 8 Gill's Exposition". Biblehub.com. 2024. Archived from the original on March 1, 2024.
  64. ^ "Esther 9 Gill's Exposition". Biblehub.com. Archived from the original on April 23, 2024.
  65. ^ The Holy Bible – Knox Translation: The Book of Esther, Chapter 16 Archived 2022-12-31 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 31 December 2022
  66. ^ See the NRSV online Archived 2022-04-29 at the Wayback Machine for the additions
  67. ^ Angiolillo, Patrick (2019). "Lysimachus". Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception. 17: 273. doi:10.1515/ebr.lysimachus.
  68. ^ "Bougaean – Encyclopedia of The Bible – Bible Gateway". www.biblegateway.com. Archived from the original on 2021-03-16. Retrieved 2021-03-01.
  69. ^ Bush, Frederic W. (1998). "The Book of Esther: Opus non gratum in the Christian Canon" (PDF). Bulletin for Biblical Research. 8: 39–54. doi:10.5325/bullbiblrese.8.1.0039. JSTOR 26422154. S2CID 64672092. Archived (PDF) from the original on 20 August 2008.
  70. ^ Church of England, Articles of Religion Archived 2019-02-27 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 31 December 2022: they are included in the section headed: "And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine; such are these following:..."
  71. ^ The Punishment of Haman
  72. ^ Robin, Larsen and Levin. Encyclopedia of women in the Renaissance: Italy, France, and England. p. 368.
  73. ^ Books of the Bible Christian Bookstore. "I Have A Song – Shannon Wexelberg". Archived from the original on 2011-09-28. Retrieved 2007-05-31.
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  76. ^ "The Maccabeats – Purim Song". YouTube. Archived from the original on 2021-11-08. Retrieved 2011-08-09.
  77. ^ "The Book of Esther (2013)". IMDb. 11 June 2013. Archived from the original on 3 August 2018. Retrieved 1 July 2018.
  78. ^ Megillas Lester (2014) - IMDb, archived from the original on 2023-03-02, retrieved 2023-03-02
  79. ^ "First Ever Live Broadcast of a Sight & Sound Theater Show to Air Labor Day Weekend - Live!". CBN.com - The Christian Broadcasting Network. 2020-07-29. Archived from the original on 2022-10-13. Retrieved 2022-10-13.
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Further reading

Text and translations

Physical relics

Book of Esther History books Preceded byEcclesiastes Hebrew Bible Succeeded byDaniel Preceded byNehemiah ProtestantOld Testament Succeeded byJob Preceded byJudith Roman CatholicOld Testament Succeeded by1 Maccabees E. OrthodoxOld Testament