The Triumph of Mordecai by Pieter Lastman, 1624
The Triumph of Mordecai by Pieter Lastman, 1624

Mordecai (/ˈmɔːrdɪk, mɔːrdɪˈk/;[1] also Mordechai; Hebrew: מָרְדֳּכַי, Modern: Mardoḵay, Tiberian: Mārdoḵay, IPA: [moʁdeˈχaj]) is one of the main personalities in the Book of Esther in the Hebrew Bible. He is described as being the son of Jair, of the tribe of Benjamin. He was promoted to Vizier after Haman was killed.

Biblical account

Esther before Ahasuerus by Franc Kavčič, 1815
Esther before Ahasuerus by Franc Kavčič, 1815

Mordecai resided in Susa (Shushan or Shoushan),[2] the metropolis of Persia (now Iran). He adopted his orphaned cousin (Esther 2:7), Hadassah (Esther), whom he brought up as if she were his own daughter.[3] When "young virgins" were sought, she was taken into the presence of King Ahasuerus and was made queen in the place of the exiled queen Vashti. Subsequently, Mordecai discovered a plot of the king's chamberlains Bigthan and Teresh to assassinate the king. Because of Mordecai's vigilance, the plot was foiled.

Haman the Agagite had been raised to the highest position at court. In spite of the king's decree that all should prostrate themselves before Haman, Mordecai refused to do so. Haman, stung by Mordecai's refusal, resolved to kill not only Mordecai but all Jewish exiles throughout the Persian empire, and won the king's permission to carry out his plan. Mordecai communicated Haman's scheme to Queen Esther, who used her favor with the king to reverse the scheme, leading the king to authorize Jews to kill their enemies, which they did.

During all this, the king had happened to remember Mordecai's service in foiling the assassination plot, and had asked Haman how a person who did a great service to the king should be honored. Haman answered, thinking the question was about him; and the king followed this advice, and honored Mordecai, and eventually made Mordecai his chief advisor. Haman was executed on gallows that he had erected for Mordecai.

The feast of Purim celebrates these reversals.[4]

History

Mordecai is honored in this 1860 woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld
Mordecai is honored in this 1860 woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Karolsfeld

Name

The name "Mordecai" is of uncertain origin but is considered identical to the name Marduka or Marduku (Elamite: 𒈥𒁺𒋡), attested as the name of up to four Persian court officials in thirty texts (the Persepolis Administrative Archives) from the period of Xerxes I and his father Darius.[5]

The Talmud (Menachot 64b and 65a) relates that his full name was "Mordechai Bilshan" (which occurs in Ezra 2:2 and Nehemiah 7:7, albeit as two separate names in sequence). Hoschander interpreted this as the Babylonian "Marduk Belshunu" (𒀭𒀫𒌓𒂗𒋗𒉡, dAMAR.UTU-EN-šu-nu, meaning "Marduk is their lord") "Mordecai" being thus a hypocorism.

Another interpretation of the name is that it is of Persian origin meaning "little boy".[citation needed] Other suggested meanings of "contrition" (Hebrew root m-r-d), "bitter" (Hebrew root m-r), or "bruising" (Hebrew root r-d-d) are listed in Hitchcock's Bible Names Dictionary of the late 19th century.[citation needed]

In the King James Version of the deuterocanonical Greek additions to Esther, his name is spelled as Mardocheus, which may better preserve the original vowels, though the Masoretic Text versions of the Persian names in the Bible are known to be the most reliable.[6]

Age

Tomb of Esther and Mordechai

Esther 2:5-6 contains a short snippet of Mordecai's genealogical history, generally translated as, "Mordecai, the 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". The wording of the passage lends to two conclusions: either that Mordecai (the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish) was carried into exile by Nebuchadnezzar, or that his ancestor Kish was the one carried into exile.

The Pentecostal minister Finis Dake interprets the Bible verses Esther 2:5–6 to mean that Mordecai himself was exiled by Nebuchadnezzar.[7]

Biblical scholar Michael D. Coogan discusses this as an inaccuracy regarding Mordecai's age.[8][9] 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 (assuming the biblical Ahasuerus is indeed Xerxes I).[8] However, the verse may be read as referring not to Mordecai's exile to Babylon, but to his great-grandfather Kish's exile — a reading which many accept.[10][11][12]

Genealogy

The tablet of Mordechai's ancestry in the tomb traditionally ascribed to him and Esther
The tablet of Mordechai's ancestry in the tomb traditionally ascribed to him and Esther

The Targum Sheni gives his genealogy in more detail, as follows: "Mordecai, son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Shemida, son of Ba'anah, son of Elah, son of Micah, son of Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan, son of Saul, son of Kish, son of Abiel, son of Zeror, son of Bechorath, son of Aphiah, son of Shecharim, son of Uzziah, son of Sason, son of Michael, son of Eliel, son of Amihud, son of Shephatiah, son of Penuel, son of Petakh, son of Melokh, son of Jerubaal, son of Yeruham, son of Hananiah, son of Zabdi, son of Elpa'al, son of Shimri, son of Zebadiah, son of Rimoth, son of Khashum, son of Shekhorah, son of Gazza, son of 'Uzza, son of Gera, son of Bela, son of Benjamin, son of Jacob the firstborn, whose name is called Israel."[13][14] The same genealogy is inscribed on a massive metal tablet in the Tomb of Esther and Mordechai (pictured).

This traditional genealogy implicates Kish as the name of an ancient ancestor and not simply Mordecai's great-grandfather, meaning that Esther 2:5—6 was interpreted as Mordecai being the one who was exiled to Babylon. The chronological inconsistencies of this assumption are detailed above.

Prophet status

The Talmud lists Esther as a prophet.[15] Nachman b. Yaakov suggests that Mordecai is the Biblical prophet Malachi, but this argument is rejected by the Talmud.[16]

Mordecai's genealogy in the second chapter of the Book of Esther is given as a descendant of a Benjaminite named Kish. As "Kish" was also the name of the father of King Saul, another Benjaminite, the Talmud accords Mordecai the status of a descendant of the first King of Israel.[17]

See also

References

  1. ^ "Mordecai". Random House Webster's Unabridged Dictionary.
  2. ^ Esther 2:5–6 of the Bible (New International Version):
    Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, who has been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jeconiah king of Judah.
  3. ^ Esther, Ch. 2, translation by Rabbi A. J. Rosenberg.
  4. ^ Moore, Carey A. (1971) Esther. New York: Doubleday. pp. 36–37
  5. ^ Jr, David M. Howard (2007-08-01). An Introduction to the Old Testament Historical Books. Moody Publishers. ISBN 978-1-57567-447-6.
  6. ^ Millard, A. R. (1977). "The Persian Names in Esther and the Reliability of the Hebrew Text". Journal of Biblical Literature. 96 (4): 481–488. doi:10.2307/3265987. ISSN 0021-9231.
  7. ^ Dake's Annotated Reference Bible
  8. ^ a b Coogan, Michael and Coogan, David (2009) A Brief Introduction to the Old Testament: The Hebrew Bible in Its Context. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 396. ISBN 0195332725.
  9. ^ White Crawford, Sidnie (2003) "Esther", in The New Interpreters Study Bible New Revised Standard Version with the Apocrypha, ed. Walter J. Harrison and Donald Senior. Nashville: Abingdon Press. pp. 689–690. ISBN 0687278325.
  10. ^ Bromiley, Geoffrey W. (Ed.) (1982) International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume II, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. p. 159 (entry: Book of Esther)
  11. ^ Wiersbe, Warren W. (2004) Bible Exposition Commentary: Old Testament History, David C Cook p. 712
  12. ^ Halley's Bible Handbook
  13. ^ An Explanatory Commentary on Esther with Four Appendices consisting of The Second Targum Translated From the Aramaic With Notes, Mithra, The Winged Bulls of Persepolis, And Zoroaster by Professor Paulus Cassel, D.D., Berlin, Translated by Rev. Aaron Bernstein, B.D., T&T Clark, 38 George Street, Edinburgh, 1888, pp 298-299, retrieved Oct 25, 2017
  14. ^ "The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon". cal.huc.edu. Retrieved 2021-03-01.
  15. ^ "Megillah 14b:9". www.sefaria.org. Retrieved 2021-02-16.
  16. ^ "Megillah 15a:4". www.sefaria.org. Retrieved 2021-02-16.
  17. ^ "Esther's Echo to the Past". aishcom.