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Origins of the bibilical Esther...

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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: Origins of the bibilical Esther...
    Posted: 26-Aug-2004 at 10:24
Hello everyone

I'd wish to discuss about the story of Esther, in which the Jewish queen becomes the wife of the king Xerxes and manages to have the Iranians who opposed Jews slain/controlled:
http://www.carm.org/kjv/Esther/Esther_1.htm

I came across some articles discussing the matter, saying the story is derived more from the Mesopotamian mythology than the actual history, and Esther and Mordecai are originally the Babylonian gods Ishtar and Marduk who sacrificed to Hammon (Haman in bible). Since the Jews have been in contact with Mesopotamians, Egyptians etc. bibilical concepts and stories are in origin from diverse nations, so it's not really a strange matter and the names are too close by the way.

The articles debate that the Iranian King at that time would not marry anyone out of certain noble families (there were seven families I think), and reputation of the Queen's family and background is essential. So Esther could not become queen of Iran while hiding her Jewish background. And I personally find that a bit strange that the King dismissed his first wife so easily (some believe he asked his queen Vashti to appear to his guests while wearing "only" her crown, and then she disobeyed him and so on...). According to what's written, Esther persuades Xerxes to give domination to the Jews, in result of which he declared that all the Jews in all the provinces of the Iranian empire were allowed to kill and "cause to perish" anyone who offends them, including women and children. And so many were killed, and many converted to Judaism because "the fear of the Jews fell upon them".

It's common for Jewish youth in various regions around the world to make a doll of Haman, the Iranian general, and mutilate/burn it at the celebration of Purim. It's one of their most celebrated feasts and is based on this story. So I can say that it's a very well-known and important event... but I cannot really believe in it in the way it's written in bible... any ideas about alternative events that may have inspired this story? The babylonian myth is certainly one of the sources. But anyone can say more about it?
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  Quote Sabzevarian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26-Aug-2004 at 17:57
Haman was not Iranian, he was descended from the Amalekites. Or maybe you meant that was just his rank in the court, but I don't agree with the comment  that it was the "Iranians who opposed Jews" 

Edited by Sabzevarian
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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Aug-2004 at 01:47
By "Iranian general" I meant being in the service of the ruler of Iran. I didn't know what Agagite means though, and took it as a word expressing his decadence or somethong. Fortunately by searching for Amalek through internet I got the idea. So thanks for the key-word

I learnt that Haman was the descendant of the king Agag, the only person in his land that the Jews did not slay at once during their march to Amalek, though Yahweh had ordered them to slay every adult, child and herds in there. If Agag himself was the last living person of his land and was finally cut into pieces by his captor, how could he have left descendants? Probably the story is not accurate when it talks about "all" of them being slain... or maybe the king's children were not in their land at that moment, it's somehow confusing...

By the way, About not agreeing that it was the "Iranians who opposed Jews", would you please explain more? Were those people from another nationality, or something else?

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  Quote Sabzevarian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27-Aug-2004 at 17:59

Well not "nationality" (maybe not a good term for it) but different tribes or ethnic groups, yes. The Persian Empire ruled over a lot of different groups of people, in this case the Jews' various local enemies.

Though I don't know much about Jewish history, I read this here, not sure if it's accurate..;

Though Shmuel then killed Agag, Agag was able to father a child in the interval between his capture by Shaul and his death. That child was the ancestor of Haman.6

http://www.chabad.org/holidays/purim/article.asp?AID=1386



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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Sep-2004 at 17:34
Yes, there were several Iranian and non-Iranian tribes that Persian empire ruled upon... Thanks for the link. It appears that Haman only had one Amalekite ancestor, some drops of "hostile blood" in his vains...
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  Quote Sharrukin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 01-Sep-2004 at 23:35

I came across some articles discussing the matter, saying the story is derived more from the Mesopotamian mythology than the actual history, and Esther and Mordecai are originally the Babylonian gods Ishtar and Marduk who sacrificed to Hammon (Haman in bible). Since the Jews have been in contact with Mesopotamians, Egyptians etc. bibilical concepts and stories are in origin from diverse nations, so it's not really a strange matter and the names are too close by the way.

There was in fact, during the reign of Xerxes I (biblical, Ahasueras), a certain Marduka, a treasury officer.  Nothing else is known of this official, except his name and position which was found on a cuneiform tablet.  We may yet be dealing with real people, and Ishtar's name was not uncommon in Babylonian names.  Examples such as Daniel and his friends, shows that Jews did gain Babylonian theophoric names. 

Yes, there were several Iranian and non-Iranian tribes that Persian empire ruled upon... Thanks for the link. It appears that Haman only had one Amalekite ancestor, some drops of "hostile blood" in his vains...

"Agagite" was merely a Jewish epithet of Xerxes' vizier, Haman.  The name Haman, itself, is a Semitic form but the name of his father Hammedatha has a Persian form.  "Agagite" seems to make reference to an early Iron Age Amalekite king, named Agag.  The Amalekite king seemed to have had the reputation for killing: "As your sword has made women childless...."  It may have been this reference which made Haman an "Agagite", (i.e. one who was bent on killing off the Jews), or as an illustration of the saying "He who lives by the sword shall die by it" as Samuel said it, "As your sword has made women childless, so will your mother be childless among women".  Haman intent on killing the Jews was himself killed instead.

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  Quote Guests Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Sep-2004 at 06:37
Interesting to learn about it... but that raises new questions. Since the Empire was vast and included Mesopotamian lands, it'd be incautious and unsatisfying to relate one of the officials named Marduka to the same Jewish Mordecai only for the names' similarity.

... apparently the location of that found tablet is not Susa, where that story took place, which makes it still less possible to judge. Even if we imagine Mordecai had travelled to where the tablet was made, which would add still more guesses to the topic, in my opinion the story still has more fictional aspects in it than to be proved to be true with one similarity in names.

About the sword... well, I don't think the swords that cut children and non-military people in general would bless their wielders neither, yet, I consider no exception for the Jews enemies and their children even if God himself ordered their slaughter. I found the same attitudes in Islamic and Christian concepts... not quite convincing for me.
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  Quote Sharrukin Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 02-Sep-2004 at 22:14

... apparently the location of that found tablet is not Susa, where that story took place, which makes it still less possible to judge. Even if we imagine Mordecai had travelled to where the tablet was made, which would add still more guesses to the topic, in my opinion the story still has more fictional aspects in it than to be proved to be true with one similarity in names.

True, the tablet was found at Borsippa in northern Babylonia, but the official Marduka worked at Susa.  For some theories regarding Marduka, see:

http://www.shef.ac.uk/~biblst/Department/Staff/BibsResearch/ DJACcurrres/Postmodern1/Mordecai.html

Others site a successful Jewish business family known as the Murashu Brothers based at Nippur in Babylonia.  The evidence is from the reign of Artaxerxes I, successor of Xerxes, and later.  Six members of this family were named "Mordecai", which may point to an illustrious figure of an earlier period who became "great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of the brethren." (Esther 10:3).

We cannot obviously say that Marduka of Susa of the reign of Xerxes, was the same as the Mordecai of Shushan of the reign of Ahasueras, yet their presence at the same time and at the same place cannot obviously be dismissed either. 

About the sword... well, I don't think the swords that cut children and non-military people in general would bless their wielders neither, yet, I consider no exception for the Jews enemies and their children even if God himself ordered their slaughter. I found the same attitudes in Islamic and Christian concepts... not quite convincing for me.

The point was that there was probably a significance to the epithet "Agagite" other than simply trying to identify it as an ethnic or ancestral name.  It would have not mattered if there were "negative" consequences of such a reputation.  The point WAS the reputation.  The only point of reference was the figure of Agag, the Amalekite king, of more than a half millennium before. 

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  Quote Sabzevarian Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 15-Dec-2004 at 20:39
From the link miller posted, this looks like an interesting movie
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0430431/

http://www.wdctest.citymax.com/OneNightWithTheKingWDCMedia .html

And is it true its set to release this March?


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  Quote Berosus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 17-Dec-2004 at 20:53
Assuming the story of Esther took place around 480 B.C., by that time the Jews would have been living in Babylon for more than a hundred years, so I wouldn't be surprised if some of them had been given Babylonian names by then.  Also, I wouldn't use the term "Iranians who opposed Jews."  Overall, the days of the Achaemenid Persian Empire were good times for the Jews.  Cyrus allowed some of them to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple (only about 1/5 of them returned, the rest didn't want to give up the businesses they had built in Iraq, and stayed there until 1948 A.D.).  The Jews were so grateful for the generous treatment of Cyrus, that they remained loyal subjects for two hundred years, right until Alexander's army arrived at the gates of Jerusalem.

Personally I'd like to see what Cyrus Shahmiri has to say about this.  I always thought his logo looked like a scene from the story of Esther.  Maybe that's when Ahasuerus/Xerxes is thinking of a way to undo the anti-Semitic decree he had approved at Haman's request previously.
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  Quote Miller Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 18-Dec-2004 at 16:00

Actually, Iranians acting as the protectors of the Jewish people did not end with Achaemenids. It continued all the way to the end of Sassanids. Although the level of protection and the reasons were probably different at different stages.








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  Quote Berosus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 19-Dec-2004 at 19:20
Quite right, especially in the aftermath of the Jewish-Roman War and the Bar Kochba rebellion, when there was plenty of anti-Semitism in the Roman Empire.
Nothing truly great is achieved through moderation.--Prof. M.A.R. Barker
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