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THE BOOK OF ESTHER IN THE LIGHT 
OF HISTORY 

By Jacob Hoschander, Dropsie College. 
CHAPTER V 

The term ' Judeans ' — The renascence of Israel's religion — National 
aspirations — The religious propaganda among the exiles — Religious creeds 
and the conduct of their adherents — The hatred of the Babylonian exiles 
towards Babylonia — The attitude of the Judeans in Egypt towards this 
country — The conduct of the wealthy Judeans in Babylonia — The cause 
of persecutions — The Judeans' attitude towards the Persians — Zoroaster's 
' monotheistic ' religion — The characters of Mordecai and Esther— The two 
opposing tendencies within Judaism— Mordecai versus Ezra and Nehemiah 
— The effect of the religious persecutions — The predicament of the 
Sopherim— The omission of all religious elements in the Book of Esther — 
The attitude of the Rabbis towards this book — The omission of the names 
of Mordecai and Esther in Sirach's Fathers of the World. 

In the preceding chapter we have demonstrated that 
the Ahasuerus of the Book of Esther is to be identified 
with Artaxerxes II. Now it remains to prove that the 
main event of our story actually occurred under that king's 
reign. Before, however, proceeding to deal with that event, 
it is indispensable to outline the conditions and the character 
of the Jews during the Babylonian captivity and the Persian 
period ; for the misinterpretation of the Book of Esther in 
ancient and modern times is mainly due to misconception 
on those points. In the first place we have to investigate 
the term 'Jews' (DHW). 

In pre-exilic times, the inhabitants of the kingdom of 
Judea, irrespective of their descent, had been termed ' Jews ' 

3°7 



308 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

(D , "lin , ). :l Even those who were worshippers of Baal, Moloch, 
or Astarte, who were the citizens of that country, were 
nevertheless called 'Jews'. This appellation was used 
without the least regard to their beliefs. The practice 
of idolatry did not deprive any one of his nationality. On 
the other hand, Gentiles who had adopted the religion 
of Jahveh, but had not become inhabitants of Judea, were, 
of course, not called 'Jews' (D'Tirr 1 ), and still remained 
members of their own nationality. 2 Thus the term ' Jews ' 
had not the least religious significance. 

What were the criteria of the Judean nationality of 
the inhabitants of Judea who had been carried into the 
Babylonian captivity, or had migrated to Egypt? The 
Hebrew language 3 and the national consciousness ! But 

1 The term D , "ll^ , (2 Kings 16. 6; 25. 25; Jer. 32. 12, &c), includes 
all inhabitants of Judea, even those who did not belong to the tribe of 
Judah (cf. Ges.-Buhl's Hwb., p. 311). 

2 It goes without saying that the worship of Jahveh,, as generally 
practised by the people in the pre-exilic period, was not restricted to the 
state of Judea, and thus was not characteristic of the inhabitants of this 
country. There were the inhabitants of Samaria who claimed to be wor- 
shippers of Jahveh (Ezra 4. a). The name Jau-bVdi of the king of Hamath 
points to the existence of that worship in the latter country. In this fact 
we may see a corroboration of the reading Joram, the name of the son 
of the king of Hamath (2 Sam. 8. 10), of which we find the variant Hadoram 
(1 Chron. 26. 25). The name Azri-jau of the king of Ja'udi (cf. Winckler, 
Altorientalische Forschungen, I, 'Das Syrische Land Jaudi und der angebliche 
Azarja von Juda ') leaves no doubt that the Jahveh-worship existed in the 
latter country. But we may wonder whether it is a mere coincidence that 
the name of that country is identical with that of Judea, in the cuneiform 
inscriptions, and that in both countries the Jahveh-worship is found. 
Who knows whether there is not after all some ethnological connexion 
between these two countries. For the legal status of foreigners among 
the Jews cf. Ed. Meyer's Entstehung des Judenthums, pp. 227-34. 

3 Hebrew was still the national tongue, as in the period of Hezekiah 
(2 Kings 18. 26), and had not yet been superseded by Aramaic, as we may 
learn from the words of Ezekiel : ' For thou art not sent to a people of 



ESTHER IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY — HOSCHANDER 309 

on a foreign soil these distinctive marks could not have 

endured for a loug period. The succeeding generations, 

born in those countries, could not but adopt the idiom 

of the population among whom they were dwelling, with 

whom they were in intercourse. Their own national tongue 

was scarcely of any use in their daily pursuits, and this fact 

must have been detrimental to its preservation. Nor could 

the national consciousness of those generations survive for 

a long space of time. Gradually it must have evaporated. 

There was nothing that should have prevented the 

descendants of those captives or immigrants from being 

absorbed in the nations among whom they dwelt. Their 

assimilation with the latter seemed to have been inevitable. 

The complete disappearance of the remnant of Israel 

was averted by the renascence of the Religion of Israel. 

The religious ideas, propagated by the prophets of the 

captivity and a small number of zealous Jews, made rapid 

progress, not only among their own fellow captives of 

Judea, but also among Gentiles. The result of that 

religious movement apparently was the preservation of 

the Jewish nationality. But as a matter of fact, a new 

principle was now being proclaimed. This did not result 

in restoration, but in reform of the Jewish nationality. 

Henceforth, neither descent, nor language, but religion, 

was the criterion of ' Jews '. However, the religion the 

exilic prophets resurrected could not be restricted to 

the narrow bounds of the Jewish nationality. The national 

barrier had to be removed, and every one was invited to 

a strange speech and of a hard language, but to the house of Israel' 
(Ezek. 3. 5). Even after the return from the captivity, Hebrew continued 
to be the common language, as we may adduce from the words of Nehemiah 
(13. 24), that the offspring of those who married non-Jewish wives could 
not speak the Jews' language. 

VOL. XI. V 



3IO THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

enter into this religious union and was gladly received. 
Those who accepted this invitation, and entered into the 
Covenant of Israel, became at the same time ' Jews ' (DnvT 1 ). 
Consequently, the Jewish nationality disappeared from the 
scene, and its place was taken by the Jewish religious 
community. 4 The latter included, on the one hand, all 
adherents of the Jewish religion, even Gentiles, and, on the 
other hand, excluded all idolaters, even those who belonged 
to the Jewish race. 5 

There were, indeed, Jewish patriots who thought dif- 
ferently. They saw in the religious movement an effective 
force for the Jewish national resurrection, whose preserva- 
tion could be effected only on a racial basis. These claims 
could not but deeply hurt the feelings of the newly- 
converted Gentile, who bitterly complained : ' The Lord 
hath utterly separated me from His people'. 6 But those 
national aspirations were nipped in the bud by the great 

4 Ed. Meyer {Gesck. d. Alt., Ill, p. 183) arrives at the same conclusion, 
but from a point of view which the present writer does not share, in 
observing : ' The community is no longer national, but had become a 
religious association which makes propaganda and enlists adherents among 
foreign tribes.' Cf. aho his Entstehung d. Jud., p. 233 f. He points to the 
large number of proselytes in the Greek and Roman periods. The Semites 
of the Western countries, who were captives like the Jews, may have 
associated with the latter rather than with the Babylonians, and thus were 
easily persuaded to embrace their creed. 

8 We shall see further below that the latter were designated as ~Oi *}3 
' sons of the stranger '. 

s Isa. 56. 3. There must have been a national party which was dis- 
satisfied with Ezekiel's declaration, that the proselytes should become 
equal citizens in the land restored to Israel, who said : ' And it shall come 
to pass that ye shall divide it by lot for an inheritance unto you, and to 
the strangers that sojourn among you, which shall beget children among 
you : and they shall be unto you as born in the country among the children 
of Israel. They shall have inheritance among you among the tribes of 
Israel ' (Ezek. 47. aa). 



ESTHER IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY — HOSCHANDER 3II 

exilic prophet, the so-called ' Second Isaiah ', who pro- 
claimed: 'Also the sons of the stranger which join them- 
selves to the Lord to serve Him, and to love the name 
of the Lord, to be His servants, every one who keepeth 
the Sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my 
covenant. Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, 
and make them joyful in my house of prayer ; their burnt 
offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine 
altar; for mine house shall be called a house of prayer 
for all people'. 7 In accordance with this principle, Jewish 
nationality receded into the background, and the religion 
became its postulate. The idea of Jewish nationality 
required adherence to the Jewish religion, not, however, 
vice versa. Idolaters of Jewish descent ceased to be 'Jews ', 
and Syrians, Babylonians, &c, who accepted the Jewish 
religion, became at the same time 'Jews' (QHin' 1 ). The 
latter term lost its gentilic significance and became a 
religious designation. In post-exilic times, the pagans 
who lived among the Jewish people in Judea, though 
inhabitants of this country, were never termed ' Jehudlm '. 
The truth of this definition was felt by the Rabbis, who 
expressed this idea in observing, 'Everybody who denies 
idolatry is called a Jew' ( , "tin , ) ) 8 and further assert that the 

7 Isa. 56. 6, 7. This prophet went still further than Ezekiel. To him 
it is irrelevant whether the stranger who worshipped Jahveh lived among 
the Jews or in his own country. The house of God is the common property 
of all nations, and everybody is made welcome here. There is only this 
difference between Jews and Gentiles ; the former are condemned for 
forsaking the God of their ancestors, while no blame is attached to the 
latter, if they refuse to join the Lord and adhere to their ancestral deities. 

8 Talmud Babli Megillah 13 a: nifT SnpJ TTtt fVTOjn nS13n i>3. The 
Talmudic expression, however, is misleading. A gentile denying the 
divinity of idols and refusing to worship them does not become thereby 
a ' Jew '. The Talmud of course means that every Israelite who refuses 

Y a 



312 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

biblical commandment, ' This is the ordinance of the pass- 
over: There shall no stranger eat thereof, exclusively 
refers to a Jewish idolater. 9 The latter is thus, notwith- 
standing his Jewish descent, termed ' the son of a stranger ' 
("OJ f3), according to the Rabbinic conception. The same 
term which is used by Ezekiel, ' Thus saith the Lord God : 
no stranger, uncircumcised in heart, nor uncircumcised in 
flesh, shall enter into my sanctuary, of any stranger that 
is among the children of Israel', 10 may have the same 
meaning. We see, then, that the appellation ' Jews ' (DHiiT) 
in the exilic and post-exilic periods was a purely religious 
designation, 11 and not a national term, like ' Nazarenes ' for 
' Christians ' in the Middle Ages. It is of interest to notice 
that nw is the only gentilic noun from which a verbal 
noun, DHiTTlD ' becoming Jews ', is derived, but we nowhere 
meet with a similar derivation from other gentilic nouns, 
as WIN 'Edomite', WIN 'Aramean', W 'Greek', nvo 
' Egyptian ', &c. The author of the Book of Esther who 

to recognize idols, even a descendant of any other tribe and not of Judah, 
is nevertheless called a ; Judean '. The same is of course true of proselytes. 

9 See Rashi on Exod. 12. 44. 

10 Ezek. 44. 9. In the following passages the prophet excepts the 
Levites, though they had been idolaters. Thus the former passage seems 
to refer to Israelites, not to utter strangers. 

11 Cassel, /. c, p. 40, is the only commentator who correctly perceived 
that DHliT in Esther is a distinctly religious, not a national, term. But 
he was wrong in believing that the name 'Israel' remained the ideal 
designation characteristic of the relation of God to Israel. On the contrary, 
the term ' Israel ' has a purely national signification, including even those 
who are not ' sons of the covenant ' (JV"Q 'J^, according to the Rabb : s. 
and as can be seen from the term ?N">£" JJ'ilS. It is of interest to see 
how the modern commentators contradict themselves. They generally 
see in D'lliT a national term (cf. Siegfried, p. 141 and others), and never- 
theless almost all of them entertain no doubt that the story of Esther reflects 
the events of the Maccabean period, though these events had a purely 
religious character. 



ESTHER IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY — HOSCHANDER 3 13 

used that derivation knew that the appellation Jehudi was 
a religious term. 12 

The words of the Babylonian Isaiah, quoted above, 
indicate that the promoters of the religious movement did 
not content themselves with the conversion of their own 
brethren, but became aggressive, and carried their religious 
ideas into the camps of the Gentiles. The religious pro- 
paganda, carried on successfully, produced the same change 
of conception concerning the term ' Jews ' among Gentiles 
as among the Jews themselves. Seeing people of non- 
Jewish descent embracing the Jewish religion, the Gentiles 
used the term 'Jews' in a religious sense. This neither 
implied that an adherent of the Jewish religion was of 
foreign descent, nor that the family of such a one belonged 
to the same creed, which was an individual belief, regardless 
of family, race, and country. 

What reason may we advance for the great success of 
that religious revival among the Judean exiles ? Did the 
latter attribute their great miseries, the loss of their country 
and of their freedom, to their evil conduct and trans- 
gressions against the God of their ancestors? This may 
have been the case with a small fraction of the exiles. 
But if we should judge the reasoning of the average of the 
Judeans by the behaviour of their brethren in Egypt, 13 
we would be forced to the conclusion that the sufferings 
they experienced produced just the opposite effect, inducing 
them to believe that their misfortune was due to the wrath 
of the gods whose worship they neglected. 14 Shall we 

12 For the author's statement that many embraced Judaism, see the 
discussion of that subject in chapter IX. 

13 Jer. 44. 16-19. 

14 Ed. Meyer {G. A., Ill, p. 177) assumes that the Babylonian Jews 



314 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

ascribe that success to the eloquence of the exilic prophets, 
and the lofty ideas of religion and morality they proclaimed? 
In their former country the Judeans had prophets whose 
eloquence and religious ideas were by no means inferior 
to those of the captivity, and yet they were not persuaded 
by their arguments and exhortations. 15 

The average man hardly ever judges religious creeds 
on their own merits, but by the conduct and deeds of their 
adherents. In their actions and behaviour he sees the 

thought differently from their own brethren in Egypt. This is correct, as 
we shall further see. But he ought to have been more explicit and inform 
us of the reason why they did think differently. 

15 This question is hardly touched upon by Ed. Meyer, /. c. He sees 
in the exiled Jews strict adherents to the Jahvistic religion, with the 
exception of a few who were soon lost among the gentiles, and does not 
give credence to the accusation of Ezekiel that they were idolaters, con- 
sidering chapters XIV and XX mere fiction. This historical conception 
is decidedly erroneous. There is no denying the fact that the Jews who 
remained in Judea continued to be idolaters, notwithstanding the introduc- 
tion of the Law by Josiah. For this fact we have the testimony of the 
eye-witness Jeremiah (19, 25, 32, 33, &c). Those who were carried into 
captivity could not have been different from those who were left behind. 
Nebuchadnezzar did not select religious Jews as captives. Those who were 
carried away belonged to the partisans of Egypt, and there is no reason 
why they should have been more religious than the others. As to the 
chapters dealing with the idolatry of the Jews being fictitious, such an 
assertion is rather daring. The prophets frequently made predictions 
which did not come true. But none of them would have dared to make 
accusations which were not true. Ezekiel wrote his book for his con- 
temporaries, not for modern historians. If he had accused them of sins 
they did not commit, the prophet would have lost his reputation for veracity 
and discredited all his prophecies. Ed. Meyer seems to have overlooked 
to whom the prophet addressed himself in those chapters, not to the common 
people, but to 'the Elders of Israel '. Most of the common people abandoned 
idols not long after their arrival at Babylon, but not the wealthy classes, 
as we shall see further on. Renan (History of the People of Israel, VII, 1) 
does not explain how the anavim, 'the pietists, the fanatics', became 
prominent in Israel. Nor does Graetz, in his History, I, p. 332, though his 
description of the exiles is partly correct. 



ESTHER IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY — HOSCHANDER 315 

influence of their religions. Therefore, just and benevolent 
intercourse of members of a religious creed with their 
fellow-men will help more towards disseminating their 
belief than the highest code of ethics. On the other hand, 
unfair and malicious dealings of members of any creed 
will do more towards discrediting the latter than the worst 
ethical conceptions. A people, as a rule, is favourably- 
inclined towards the religion of its friends, and is easily- 
persuaded to follow their example, but detests that of its 
enemies, without investigating which of the two religions 
is of higher quality. This may be the reason why the 
Israelites, during the period of the Judges,' were willing to 
imitate the idolatrous worship of their friendly neighbours, 
but always turned back to the God of their ancestors when 
oppressed by them. 16 This repentance may have been 
a purely psychological process, and not the effect of 
religious convictions. The modern scholars who contend 
that the Mosaic Code contains numerous Babylonian rites 
and myths, taken over in the exilic period, leave out of 
consideration the character of the Jews. The latter have 
been living among Christian nations for the last sixteen 
hundred years. And yet we do not find any rite or custom 
the Jews -adopted from their Christian neighbours during 
this long period. This remarkable phenomenon is by no 
means due to the rigidity of the Jewish religion. In modern 
times, in liberal countries, where Jews are treated more or 
less /airly, many have abandoned ritual laws of the Bible 
and Talmud, and have even adopted Christian customs. 
The Spanish Jewish preachers, six hundred years ago, who 
considered the stories of Genesis pure mythology, and saw 
in the Patriarchs and the Twelve Tribes personifications 
18 See Judges 3-13. 



316 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

of the planets and the signs of the Zodiac, 17 were quite 
capable of changing the Jewish religion in the most radical 
manner, but for the persecutions the Christians continually- 
inflicted upon the Jews. In paraphrasing a Talmudic 
saying, we may venture the paradoxical statement: The 
Christians did more for the preservation of the Jewish 
religion by their persecutions, than did the Prophets and 
the Talmudic literature. 18 The same, of course, holds true 
of the Mohammedans. The Bible undoubtedly contains 
many ideas similar to or identical with those of the 
Babylonians. If they originated in Babylonia, they must 
have been transmitted to the Jews in a very early period, 19 
not at a time when the Jews suffered under the heavy yoke 
of that empire. 20 

17 See the Responses of ("NO'C?"!) miS f3 rxbv "03, No. 415. 

18 The Talmud observes : ' The seal-ring which Ahasuerus gave to 
Haman effected a greater success than the forty-eight prophets who rose 
in Israel : it did what none of them was able to do, to cause them to repent 
of their sins ', Megillah ia b. 

19 In the present writer's opinion, the transmission to Israel of ideas 
developed in the Euphrates Valley dates back to a pre-Mosaic period 
(cf. Jewish Quarterly Review, New Series, vol. I, pp. 147 ff.). Of the same 
opinion is also Jastrow, in his recent work, Hebrew and Babylonian 
Traditions, New York, 1914, p 4. Albert T. Clay takes a different position, 
in his work Amurru, Philadelphia, 1909, and contends that the Babylonian 
religious conceptions developed mainly in the Westland, the home of Israel. 

20 Renan (History, VI, 1) remarks : ' It is our opinion that the pious 
Jews who were captives in Babylonia willfully closed their eyes to all that 
surrounded them, like Bretons transplanted to Paris who will not look 
at anything and depreciate all that passes under their eyes.' The analogy 
is rather incorrect. Paris did not destroy Bretagne, and thus the Bretons 
have no reason to detest the former city, and merely look down contemp- 
tuously upon this state of luxury. The Judeans, however, had ample 
reason to abominate Babylonia, even those who were not pious. Jastrow, 
in the work cited above (see preceding note), correctly observes that the 
Hebrews were in no mood to assimilate ideas from those who appeared to 
them in the light of ruthless destroyers. 



ESTHER IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY — HOSCHANDER 317 

The Judeans led into captivity to Babylonia naturally 
hated intensely the people which had deprived them of 
their liberty. Their conqueror, Nebuchadnezzar, was by no 
means a cruel monarch. He was a generous robber, and had 
no desire to destroy his victims utterly. Though depriving 
the exiles of their possessions and their freedom, he gave 
them means of subsistence in his native land. The prophets 
Jeremiah and Ezekiel, seeing in this king the instrument 
of Jahveh's judgement, were grateful to him for his gentle 
treatment of the exiles, and even represented him as the 
' servant of Jahveh '. But the victims themselves thought 
differently on this point. Little did they care whether he 
was an instrument in the hand of Jahveh for the execution 
of his judgement. They saw in him only the merciless 
destroyer of their happiness, and thus detested and cursed 
this king, his country, his people, and all their institutions. 

The exiles were addicted to idolatrous practices in their 
own country. Their local gods having, according to the 
common conceptions, 21 no power outside of their own 

21 Su£h a conception was generally shared by Jews and Gentiles alike, 
David complained to Saul : ' They have driven me out this day from abiding 
in the inheritance of the Lord, saying: Go, serve other gods ' (1 Sam. 26. 19). 
The colonists transplanted by the Assyrians to Palestine found that their 
own gods were powerless to protect them against the lions, until they 
placed themselves under the protection of Jahveh, and only then were able 
to worship their ancestral gods, who became now the manifestations and 
ministers of Jahveh, ' they feared the Lord and served their own gods ' 
(a Kings 17. 25-33). The Assyrians frequently carried their captives and 
their gods to Assyria, for the purpose of depriving the latter of their power 
to avenge the harm done to their votaries. In Assyria the foreign gods 
became subject to the will of the indigenous gods, and had to punish their 
own votaries if they were not faithful to their masters. The Bible expresses 
the same idea : 'The Lord shall bring thee . . . unto a nation which neither 
thou nor thy father have known ; and there shalt thou serve other gods, 
wood and stone' (Deut. 28. 36). Jahveh, having no representation, could 



318 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

dominions, were of no use to them in a foreign country. 
The same conception prevailed even among those who 
were worshippers of Jaliveh, that He was powerless to 
assist His votaries outside of Palestine. Now the Baalim 
and Astartes they had worshipped were essentially and by 
origin identical with many gods of the Euphrates valley, 
and the exiles could easily have substituted the latter for 
the former deities. And even the worship of Jahveh could 
have been preserved on this foreign soil by identifying him 
with one of the chief Babylonian divinities of West Semitic 
origin, like Adad or Marduk. But how could they be 
expected to recognize the very gods to whom their mortal 
enemies attributed the victory over them? It was quite 
natural that the captives who could not reconcile themselves 
to the new conditions, and deeply felt the misery of the 
captivity, detested and refused to worship the gods of their 
conquerors. 22 Not being able to preserve their old religious 
practices, and not willing to put themselves under the 
protection of the gods of their enemies, the captives were 
practically without any religion. There was a void in their 
heart, and they felt themselves forsaken by god and man. 

Under those circumstances, the prophets found it easy 
to disseminate the old religion of Israel, as the soil was well 
prepared. The religion whose laws awakened memories 

not be carried into captivity, and his worshippers would have to serve there 
other gods. It was due to the prophetic idea of the Omnipresence of 
Jahveh that the Jewish belief lost its local character, and could be 
established everywhere. Nevertheless, the idea of Galuth ha-Shekinah, 
that the Lord abides with his people in the captivity and is powerless to 
redeem them, has still survived in the Talmudic and Cabbalistic literature. 
It would lead us too far to dwell upon it. 

82 Renan, I.e., failed to see that the idolatrous Jews had more reason 
to detest Babylonia than those who were pious. The latter may have seen 
in their miseries the hand of the Lord, while the former did not. 



ESTHER IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY — HOSCHANDER 319 

and aspirations immensely dear to their hearts was en- 
thusiastically accepted by the people. The change in their 
religious conceptions was effected in a short time. Not 
long after the first exile Jeremiah could already contrast 
the religious conduct of the Babylonian exiles with that 
of those who were left behind in Judea, in the parable of 
the 'two baskets of figs'. 23 The Judeans in the old 
country still continued the practice of idolatry. But as 
soon as they came to Babylonia, after the complete 
destruction of Judea, most of them imitated the example 
of their fellow captives and accepted the religion of Jahveh. 
They had even more cause for detesting the Babylonians 
and their deities than the first exiles. 21 

The condition of the Jews who migrated to Egypt was 
different from that of the Babylonian captives. Egypt 
had done no harm to Judea. Though the latter suffered 
a terrible defeat, twenty years before the destruction of 
the Temple, at the hands of the Egyptians at Megiddo, 25 
Egypt was not responsible for this calamity. It was due 
to the presumption and short-sightedness of the Judean 
government. Being assured that the king of Egypt 

23 Jer. 24. 3. The same is seen from the letter sent to the captives 
(29. 1-32). But not all of them had at that time abandoned idolatry (see 
n. 15). 

24 We may assume that the captives at the final destruction of Judea, 
who had proved themselves faithless to the Babylonian in their covenant 
with the Babylonian king, were not treated with some consideration as 
were those who were exiled with Jehoiachin. This may perhaps be the 
reason why the last chapters of Jeremiah show such a deep-rooted hatred 
toward Babylonia, and so strangely contrast with the sentiments of this 
prophet toward the Babylonian empire. Jeremiah may have learned in 
Egypt of the sufferings of those exiles at the hands of the Babylonians, 
and thus his sentiments toward them naturally changed. 

25 2 Kings 23. 29 ; 2 Chron. 35. 20-24. Cf. Graetz, Hist., p. 296 f. 



320 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

had no hostile intentions against Judea, Josiah had no 
reason to prevent the passing of the Egyptian army through 
his borderland to Syria. At the time of Judea's final 
destruction and conquest by Babylonia, the Egyptians were 
the allies of that country and made an attempt to come 
to its rescue. 20 The Judean immigrants expected to find 
a safe refuge in the land of their former allies, were no 
doubt received in a friendly way by the Egyptians, and 
accordingly felt a deep gratitude towards their kind hosts. 
' The Queen of Heaven', to whom the immigrants sacrificed, 
was an Egyptian goddess whose cult had been introduced 
into Judea long before the reform of Josiah. 27 Thus the 
immigrants had not the least reason for abandoning 
the worship of this goddess, since they believed that her 
wrath for having been formerly abandoned by them was 
the cause of their present condition. We do not know 
whether at that time the Jahveh-cult was given up altogether. 
It is more probable that along with the worship of Jahveh 
the Egyptian Jews practised idolatry, as they formerly did 
in Judea. But after the conquest of Egypt by Cambyses, 
the intercourse of the Egyptian Jews with their Babylonian 

2C Jer. 37. 5, 6-11. 

27 Graetz, Hist. I, p. 300, asserts that the worship of the ' Queen of 
Heaven ' was introduced after the battle of Megiddo. The improbability 
of such an opinion is evident, as the Jews would never have accepted 
voluntarily the cult of a people at whose hands they suffered a terrible 
defeat and to whom they had to pay a heavy indemnity. Moreover, the 
words of the immigrants : ' But we will certainly do whatsoever goeth 
forth of our own mouth, to burn incense to the Queen of Heaven, as we 
have done, we and our fathers, our kings and princes, in the cities of 
Judah' (Jer. 44. 17), prove that her cult in Judah must have dated from 
an earlier period. The Egyptians were continually on friendly terms w'ith 
Israel and Judea and the other Western states, since the Assyrians started 
their conquests in the West, and the Judeans may have adopted the cult of 
that goddess at. that period. 



ESTHER IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY — HOSCHANDER 321 

brethren was not without influence, and many of them may 
have become pure worshippers of Jahveh. 28 

As a rule, religion plays a minor, not to say an in- 
significant part, in the affairs of those who live in affluence. 
The religious propaganda was successful among the poor 
and middle classes of the Judean captives. The nobles, 
however, who exercised a certain authority over their poor 
brethren, 29 were soon reconciled to the exilic conditions. 
Having been the leaders of the people, they came in contact 
with the government officials, and entertained friendly 
relations with many Babylonians. Out of deference to the 
latter, and in order to keep on good terms with them, 
these nobles were quite willing to pay their respects to the 
Babylonian deities. There were others who became pros- 
perous by commerce, and were quite contented with their 
present conditions in the great Babylonian metropolis, 
where they found more opportunities for accumulating 
riches than in their former agricultural country. Being 
satisfied with their new surroundings, they had no ill will 
towards the king and the people who transplanted them 
to Babylonia, and thus no reason for refusing to worship 
the gods of this countiy. Those Jews, though representing 
a small portion of the captives, were, on account of their 
influence, a constant menace to the religious movement. 
The activity of the prophets was directed against them. 

28 But the Elephantine Papyri (published by Sachau, Leipzig, 1911) 
seem to indicate that the Egyptian Jews were not pure worshippers of 
Jahveh in the fifth and fourth centuries b. c. e. There may, however, have 
been a number who accepted the religious conceptions of the Babylonian 
Jews, and the sanctity of the Temple of Jeb was not recognized by them. 

ls See Ezek. 34. There can be no doubt that these 'shepherds' were 
the leaders of the Jews in the captivity. Cf. Graetz, I.e., p. 332, and 
Renan, /. c. VI, 1. 



322 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

However, they had little regard for the prophets, and 
ridiculed their prophecies. 30 ' The elders of Israel ' fre- 
quently visited Ezekiel, but not for the purpose of listening 
to his teachings. 31 The prophet being respected, and 
enjoying the highest authority among the common people, 
it was a matter of policy to occasionally ask his advice, 
in order to give to their measures divine sanction. 32 Hypo- 
critically they asked for a divine message. But he was 
well acquainted with their conduct, and they could not 
deceive him. 'What do you idolaters care for God and 
His messages?' was his reply. Whenever he addressed 
the elders of Israel he accused them of idolatry. 33 To the 
common people, however, he spoke in a different tone, 
comforting them and correcting their religious conceptions. 34 
As long as the influential men among the captives were 
not won over to the religious party, the existence of the 
Jewish religion was precarious. 

The religious propaganda could not be carried on 
secretly. The publicity which it aroused could not fail 
to engender bad feeling among the Babylonians. Com- 
batting and deriding idolatrous conceptions in the very 
centre of the Babylonian cult was nothing short of high 
treason. 35 Such a movement was undoubtedly the cause 

30 Ezek. 21. 5. 

31 If the elders of Israel practised idolatry, we cannot assume that they 
were in earnest in visiting the prophet and listening to his admonitions. 

32 It is nearly the same at present in some European countries, as the 
present writer knows from his personal knowledge, that wealthy men of 
influence who are personally indifferent to religious observances, stand 
at the head of strictly religious congregations and consult the orthodox 
Rabbis upon all measures they want to carry through. 

33 Ezek. 14, 20. 

M Ibid. 18, 33, 34, 36, 37, 38. 25-9. 

36 It is inconceivable how Renan (History, VI, 1) came upon the idea 



ESTHER IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY — HOSCHANDER 323 

of numerous persecutions, 36 which, however, had no dis- 
couraging effect upon the zeal of the pious Jews. On the 
contrary, even those who had held aloof from the religious 
movement could not remain unaffected by the sufferings 
of their brethren. It is easy to sneer at religious ideas, 
but they assume a different aspect when one sees men 
willing to pay for them with their lives. However, this 
sympathy did not have an immediate effect. Those wealthy 
Jews preferred their own comfort above everything, and 
were not inclined to expose themselves to persecutions by 
abandoning idolatrous practices. They were not of the 
stuff of which martyrs are made. 

The conquest of Babylon by Cyrus dealt a death-blow 
to the Babylonian religion. The superstitious belief in 
Bel's power was shattered. Idolatry, though still tolerated, 
was no longer fashionable. The seeds of the Jewish religion 
now found a fruitful soil even in the hearts of the wealthy 
people, who gave up idolatry and joined the Jewish 
community. Nevertheless they still remained indifferent 
members, without high regard for the observances of 
the Jewish laws. They were the people of whom the 
Babylonian Isaiah said : ' They who are eating swine's 

that the Babylonians at that period denied both the gods and Providence. 
The Babylonians were certainly at that period just as religious as ever. 

86 Graetz {History, I, p. 334) states that the violent hatred of the Jews 
toward Babylonia was caused by Nabunaid's refusal to grant them per- 
mission to return to their own country. But the letter of Jeremiah stated 
that they had to remain in the captivity seventy years (29. 10). The pious 
Jews were firm believers in the prophetic prediction, and thus did not 
cherish any hope of an earlier return. The indifferent Jews felt comfortable 
in that country, and were not eager to leave it. Even if we should see in 
that prediction a later interpolation, we have not the least evidence for 
an assumption that Nabunaid had been kindly disposed towards the captives 
on his accession to the throne, and later changed his mind. 



324 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

flesh, and broth of abominated things is in their 
vessels.' 37 

If the Jews detested the Babylonian religion as being 
the creed of their oppressors, it stands to reason that they 
loved the Persian religion as being that of their liberators. 
This love would have been disastrous to the establishment 
of the Jewish religion if the Persians had been idolaters. 
The mere fact that the Persian religion did not do much 
harm to the Jewish religious conceptions is in itself a 
sufficient proof that there were no great differences between 
the principal doctrines of both the Jewish and Persian 
religions. 

Ahuramazda was a purely spiritual god, not represented 
by any image, according to the Avesta. His emblem, 
adopted by the Iranians from the Assyrians, 38 consisting 
of a winged ring floating in the air with a human figure 
rising from the circular space, was not considered an idol. 39 

37 Isa. 65. 4. This accusation does not refer to those who practised 
idolatry. No prophet would have blamed idolaters for not observing the 
dietary laws. On the contrary, if the latter had observed them, the pro- 
phets would have ridiculed their conduct. The prophet in those passages 
describes different kinds of Jewish transgressors ; some were real idolaters, 
sacrificing in gardens and burning incense upon altars of brick ; others 
were superstitious, remaining among the graves and lodging in the monu- 
ments, and practised necromancy ; and others finally had already abandoned 
all those practices, but still continued to eat swine's flesh. 

38 This was the emblem of the Assyrian god Ashur (see Justi, History, 
p. 69, and Ed. Meyer, G. A., Ill, p. 123). If Zoroastrianism dates from 
the beginning of the sixth century, we must assume that the adopting of 
this emblem was pre-Zoroastrian, and that Zoroaster did not consider it 
an idolatrous representation. 

39 See Ed. Meyer, ibid. Justi, however, is of the opinion that the 
religion of the Achaeamenides was not identical with that of the Avesta, 
as the latter prohibits the representation of Ahuramazda by an image. But 
then he would have to go a step further and maintain that the religion 
of the Sassanides, the most fanatical adherents of the Zoroastrian religion, 



ESTHER IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY — HOSCHANDER 325 

The essential part of this emblem was the winged ring and 

not the human figure, as this emblem was represented 

frequently without the latter. 40 This divinity was not the 

supreme god of the Persians, but actually the only one. 

The Daevas, the gods of the popular belief, were, according 

to the teaching of Zoroaster, to be regarded as spurious 

deities, and their priests and votaries as heretics. 41 The 

angels, by whom Ahuramazda was surrounded, originally 

represented abstract ideas. 42 However, at a later period, 

when the Zoroastrian religion became corrupt, they assumed 

the character of the former Daevas. 43 The power of 

Ahuramazda, the god of light, having continually to strive 

under whose rule the Avesta was compiled, was not identical with that 
of the Avesta either, as the Sassanides represented Ahuramazda in human 
shape. Thus we cannot but assume that the Persians did not look upon 
these figures as representations. 

40 Cf. George Rawlinson, Herodotus, vol. I, p. 208, n. 3. That this 
symbol was not regarded as an image is seen from Berossus who was no 
doubt well acquainted with the Persian religion, and nevertheless asserts 
that the Persians knew of no images of the gods before Artaxerxes II (see 
chapter VI). 

41 See K. F. Geldner's article ' Zoroaster ' in the Enc. Brit. J. Darme- 
steter {Zend-Avesta, p. 59) observes that Mazdeism struggled on towards 
unity : the Lord (Ahura) slowly brought everything under his unquestioned 
supremacy, and the other gods became not only his subjects, but his 
creatures. Justi, in his History, remarks: 'All these things have in 
Zoroastrianism an essentially different position than in the natural religion. 
They have given up their character as gods, and preserved only their 
cosmic sphere of action. They are creatures and servants of the supreme 
god ' (p. 82). 

42 Cf. Geldner, /. c. Darmesteter, /. c, p. 71, observes : ' They were at 
first mere personifications of virtue and moral or liturgical powers ; but 
as their lord and father ruled over the whole world, they each took by and 
by a part of the world under their care.' 

43 In Armenia, at least, some of the Amshaspands possessed their own 
sanctuaries ; cf. the article ' Armenia ' (Zoroastrian) by H. M. Ananikian, 
in Hastings's Encyclop. of Religion and Ethics, and Ed. Meyer, G.A., III, 
p. 127 f. 

VOL. XI. Z 



326 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

with Anra-Mainyu, the god of darkness, was seemingly 
limited. Notwithstanding this conception, he was, to all 
intents and purposes, the only god. The conception of 
the power of darkness in the Zoroastrian religion corre- 
sponds to that of the spiritual enemy of mankind, the 
Evil One, in the Christian religion, who is feared, but not 
worshipped. 44 The term dualism applied to the Persian 
religion is a misnomer. The two opposing forces of light 
and darkness represent the principles of good and evil. 
There is no good without its counterpart, evil. The latter 
being the destructive element in nature, it is reasonable 
that man should place himself under the protection of the 
good, constructive principle. Ahuramazda himself was 
originally, to a certain extent, placed above these opposing 
forces, as has been pointed out. 45 In a later period, however, 
the Holy Spirit was made equivalent to him. 46 This would 

44 Herodotus VII, 114 seems to contradict that assumption, as he tells 
us : ' I have heard that Amestris, the wife of Xerxes, in her old age, buried 
alive seven pairs of Persian youths, sons of illustrious men, as a thanks- 
offering to the god who is supposed to dwell underneath the earth.' But 
Zoroastrianism is just as little responsible for the superstition of Amestris 
as Christianity for some mad witches who worshipped the devil. George 
Rawlinson (ibid., vol. IV, p. 8) holds as probable that Herodotus merely 
speaks as a Greek. In the Avesta there is no vestige of such a cult. That 
god Anra-mainyu, being the personification of the evil principle, was 
naturally unlike any other deity that could be propitiated by sacrifices. 
Justi, in his History, observes : ' If the ancient writers inform us that the 
Persians sacrificed to Hades, we may recognize therein a feature of the 
Median religion of the Magians ' (p. 83). The latter religion, however, was 
not identical with that of Ahuramazda, but represents the old Iranian belief. 

46 A similar opinion is expressed by Darmesteter, /. c, p. 82 : ' When 
the Magi had accounted for the existence of evil by the existence of two 
principles, there arose the question how there could be two principles, and 
a longing for unity was felt, which found its satisfaction that both are 
derived from the same principle.' 

46 Cf. Geldner's ' Zoroaster', Encycl. Brit, and Justi's Hist., p. 83. 



ESTHER IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY — HOSCHANDER 327 

account for the fact that Darius, in his Behistun Inscription, 
does not mention Anra-Mainyu. 47 Besides, the limitation 
of Ahuramazda's power was held to be merely temporary, 
as he was bound after a certain period to be victorious, 
and destroy his enemy. 48 

To scholarly minds there might have been great 
differences between the Jewish and Persian conceptions 
concerning the Divine Nature. However, to the average 
man, Jahveh and Ahuramazda were identical in all respects 
but in name. 49 The Persian religion having no images, 
no temples, and no altars, 80 the Jews did not see any 
transgression in acknowledging Ahuramazda as God, and 
identifying him with Jahveh. 51 We may assume that they 

47 It has been contended that Darius did not know anything about 
Zoroaster, since he does not mention Anra-Mainyu in his Behistun in- 
scription. 

48 Geldner, /. c , and Justi, /. c, p. 83. 

45 Graetz (History, I, p. 402) is certainly correct in his remark : ' They 
contrasted that doctrine with their own belief that the God of Israel created 
light and darkness, good and evil.' A similar opinion is expressed by 
Alfred Jeremias (The Old Testament in the Light of the Ancient East, II, 
p. 376) : 'The assumption that the prophet (Isa. 45. 7, 12) combats the 
theology of Zarathustra, at least in its exoteric interpretation, is well 
founded.' He further observes (n. 2) : 'The esoteric religion of Zarathustra 
is not dualistic in the proper sense.' But the contrary may be true. 
Zoroaster's esoteric religion was dualistic, and the prophet called attention 
just to this fundamental principle which the common people did not perceive. 
But so subtle a distinction could scarcely have made any impression upon 
the average Jew. Moreover, it was no easy task to convince the people 
that God himself was the creator of evil. The very idea of the prophet 
that God created the darkness evidently contrasted with the story of 
Creation in which the first divine act was the creation of light. 

60 Herodotus I, 131. 

51 It looks as if the Persians themselves saw in Jahveh their own God 
Ahuramazda under a different name. Marquart (Fundamente, p. 49) indeed 
contends that 'the God of Heaven' (Ezra 7 ia, 21, 23) is Ahuramazda. 
This conjecture is not without foundation. The edict of Artaxerxes, in 
which enormous powers are conferred upon a Jewish priest, even to impose 

Z % 



328 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

did not fail, whenever there was an opportunity, to impress 
upon the minds of the Persian officials the close relationship 
of their own religion to that of the Persians, and thus justly 
claim special favours. 

During the Babylonian period, the distinctive mark of 
' Jews ' (DnifT) was the rejection of idols. Under Persian 
rule, however, this fact ceased to be the criterion of the latter, 
as the true Zoroastrians did the same. Zoroastrianism 
having adherents everywhere throughout the Persian empire, 
a Jew, not caring to reveal his identity, could live among 
Gentiles all his lifetime without being recognized as an 
adherent of the Jewish religion. A strictly pious Jew could 

the death penalty upon those who disobey the Jewish Law, is quite 
incomprehensible. The Persian rulers were very tolerant towards the 
creeds of their subjects. There is nothing improbable in granting the Jews 
permission to return to their old home, to rebuild the Temple and the walls 
of Jerusalem, and to live according to their own laws. But it is rather 
strange that a Persian king should have been so solicitous about the 
promulgation of the Jewish Law as to impose it by force upon those who 
had no inclination to accept it. Hence it is no surprise to find that the 
authenticity of that edict is denied by Kuenen {Hist.-krit. Einleitung, I, 
p. 165), Kosters {Het Herstel van Israel, 1903, p. 114), Wellhausen {Israel, 
undjiid. Geschichte, 1914, p. 160), Th. Ndldeke (G&tt. Gel. Ans., 1884, 1014), 
and others. Ed. Meyer (Entst. d. Jud. , p. 60 f.), however, has clearly 
demonstrated that this document is absolutely genuine. But his explanation 
that Artaxerxes was superstitious, and that the promulgation of the Law 
had to be sanctioned by the government is very forced. There is no 
parallel between favours granted to the Greeks in religious matters and 
those granted to Ezra. A polytheistic religion does not interfere with 
other polytheistic creeds, while the promulgation of the Jewish Law 
involved intolerance toward other creeds. We therefore suggest that this 
promulgation was a matter of policy on the part of Artaxerxes. The latter 
looked upon the Jewish creed as being identical with that of the Persians. 
He was desirous of introducing the latter belief in the Western countries 
in order to connect them more firmly with his empire, and he saw in the 
Jewish Law such a connecting link between these inhabitants and the 
Persians. We shall deal with this subject further on in chapter VII, n. 59. 



ESTHER IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY — HOSCHANDER 329 

not have done so, on account of his observance of the ritual 
laws. But at that period these laws had not yet been 
firmly rooted in the hearts of the Jewish people, and many 
of them may have neglected them. 52 The wealthy cared 
more, as we have seen, for their own comfort than for 
religion. Many among them, indifferent to the religious 
observances, in all probability pretended to be Zoroastrians, 
and concealed their religion. Examples of this kind of 
Jews we may see in Mordecai and Esther. 

Mordecai was born in Babylonia, as we may conclude 
from the pure Babylonian name he bears. The fact that 
he could rise later to a high position in Persia seems to 
indicate that he came to Persia in his early youth, and 
received a Persian education. 53 He was a member of one 
of the distinguished families which had been carried into 
the Babylonian captivity with the Judean king Jeconiah 
(=Jehoiachin). We have already observed that those 
noble families were soon reconciled to their fate, and were 
idolaters. Under Persian rule, however, idolatry having 
gone out of fashion, they apparently abandoned it, as 
evidenced by the fact that the late prophets do not accuse 
any Jew of idolatry. But even then they were not quite 
averse to the worship of the Babylonian deities, being 
indifferent to both the Babylonian and the Jewish religions. 
There can be little room for doubt that the father of 
Mordecai was a Jew of that type. In Babylonia a proper 
name compounded with the name of a deity was intimately 

62 The Rabbis accuse the Jews of that period of having partaken of the 
feast of Ahasuerus (Megillah 12 a). They correctly judged that the Jewish 
observances were neglected at that period. 

a According to Flavius Josephus, in his story of Esther, Mordecai 
moved from Babylon to Susa after Esther had been taken into the house 
of the king. This is of course pure fancy. 



330 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

connected with the religious belief of its bearer, as may be 
seen from the seal cylinders. 64 The bearer of a name 
Nabu-nasir, ' the god Nabu protects ', was a votary of the 
god Nabu. The name Mordecai is a hypocoristicon of a 
complex name compounded with the divine name Marduk. 
Thus the full name was undoubtedly of idolatrous character. 
If the Talmudic statement, 'Mordecai is identical with 
Bilshan ', 55 is based on tradition, the compounded name of 
Mordecai was Marduk-bel-shunu, ' Marduk is their lord \ 56 
Such a name could be borne only by a worshipper of the 
god Marduk. But that does not prove that Mordecai's 
father was an idolater. To ease his son's path through 
life, that he should not be hampered with an outlandish 
name which stamps one as an alien, his father gave him 
a pure Babylonian name. Many modern Jews in European 
countries, where biblical names are very seldom met with 
among Christians, consider it likewise a disadvantage for 
the future career of their children to be named Abraham, 

64 Cf. J. Krausz, Die Gotternamen in den Babylonischen Siegelcylinder- 
Legenden, Mfinchen, 1910, pp. 15 ff. 

65 Megillah 15 a and Menahoth 65 a. However, the Talmud had not 
the slightest notion of the meaning of Bilshan, and explained it as ' master 
of the languages, linguist ' (flC? ?JQ), as he was said to have been a member 
of the Sanhedrin, and was therefore supposed to understand 'seventy 
languages ', that is to say, he had to understand the various idioms in use 
in Palestine, and not to have to rely upon the services of an interpreter. 
The explanation of Bilshan presents a counterpart to that of Mordecai, 
which is explained as 'pure myrrh' (NOT KID), the Aramaic translation 
of "fl"l ">fo (Exod. 30. 23). The fact that the Rabbis did not know the 
meaning of Bilshan, and nevertheless connect it with Mordecai, seems to 
point to a true tradition. As a matter of fact, Bel-shunit is an abbreviated 
name, and so is Mordecai. 

60 Cf. Nabu-bel-shunu, Nin-ib-bel-shiinu, Sha-la-bel\ii!)-shunu (cf. Tall- 
quist, Neubabylonisches Namenbuch, Helsingfors, 1905 ; Assyrian Personal 
Names, 1914). Many of the numerous names Marduka, Murduku (see ibid.) 
may be hypocoristica of Marduk-bel-shunu. 



ESTHER IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY — HOSCHANDER 331 

Moses, &c. No Jew with any regard for his religion 
would have given his son a name that implied his being 
dedicated to the worship of Marduk. But Jair was not 
an exception in this respect. It was customary among 
the indifferent Babylonian Jews to name their children 
Arad-Gula, Nana-nadin, Ninib-muballit, Sin-nasir, &c., 6T 
as may be seen from the business documents of those 
periods. But it may be of interest to observe that we very 
seldom find names of idolatrous character borne by relatives 
of those whose names are compounded with the divine 
name Jawa. 5 * The latter were, as it seems, characteristic 
of the religious conduct of their bearers and their families 
as faithful worshippers of Jahveh. Mordecai was not better 
in this respect, if not worse, than his father, and by no 
means proud of his religion. Though exercising, as it 
seems, some authority over his humbler co-religionists in 
Susa, as did his distinguished family in Babylonia, he was 
anxious to conceal his Jewish identity, which under Zoroas- 
trianism it was easy to accomplish, without transgressing 
the main tenet of the Jewish religion. The name Mordecai 

57 Cf. Babyl. Exp., IX, x and Tallquist, /. c. That the bearers of such 
names are Jews may be seen by the names of their fathers or sons. Renan 
{History, VI, 1) remarks: 'A great many Jews became servants of the 
households of the Chaldean nobility and adopted Chaldean names, without 
troubling themselves about the paganism implied by these names. It did 
not entail any apostasy and was no more shocking than when the Jews of 
the Roman epoch called themselves Apollonius or Hermes.' His analogies 
are wrong. Strictly religious Jews never adopted in post-exilic times 
names implying paganism. The name Apollonius is a mere translation 
of the Hebrew name Samson, and the name Hermes means literally 
' interpreter ', and a Jew may bear such a name, even if it is also that of 
a Greek god. It would be different if a Jew would be called Apollodorus 
or lsidorus. They would certainly be characteristic of the indifference 
toward the Jewish religion on the part of their hearers. 

58 See chapter IX. 



332 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

being Babylonian, we may assume that he had for special 
use in his dealings with Persians a pure Persian name. 59 

Esther, like Mordecai, was born in Babylonia. Her name, 
undoubtedly identical with that of the goddess Ishtar = 
Astarte, is a hypocoristicon of a complex name compounded 
with that of this goddess. Her full name may have been 
Ishtar-udda-sha, ' Ishtar is her light ', which would account 
for her two names, "iriDK and riDin, both abbreviations, 
= np' ! !Pr"iPiDX. 60 But it is perhaps more probable that the 
name nDin is the Persian Hutaosa, rendered into Greek 
as Atossa, 61 and was adopted by her in Persia. Whatever 
her compounded name may have been, the name Esther = 
Ishtar evidently shows that Abihail, Esther's father, was 
a worthy brother of Mordecai's father, Jair. Having lost 
both parents in her childhood, Esther was brought to Susa 
and adopted by Mordecai. He could not give her a better 
Jewish education than he himself possessed. Their real 

68 We find names compounded with udda, cf. Tallquist, Namenbuch. 
This word is a synonym of urru, iiru = "IlK 'light', and of nuru = "U )»su, 
of the same meaning, and is etymologically identical with Hebrew "tfrl 
'splendour', which is used also in the formation of Hebrew proper names 
(see Hebr. Dictionary). Both synonyms are found in cuneiform proper 
names, as in llu-ur-ri, U- rtl " 1 Ma-lik, &c. ; Nuri-Ishtar, &c. (see Tallquist, 
/. c.) That ud-du does not refer merely to the 'daylight' ; though UD = 
Shamash, may be seen from the name Nabu-shakin-ud-du, ' the god Nabu 
makes light ' (cf. ibid.). This noun may have been pronounced hud-du, 
according to the etymology. We see that even the Sumero-Babylonian 
word ekal, 'great house, temple, palace' was by the Hebrews pronounced 
hekal. 

60 Stanley, History of the Jewish Church, III, p. 196, remarks : ' Hadassah 
(her Hebrew name) is either "myrtle", or else a Hebraized form of the 
Persian Atossa.' But the Hebrew form stands nearer to the Persian name 
Hutaosah than the Greek rendering Atossa. Cf. Cassel, /. c, p. 54. 

61 Many of those opposed to Rabbinic Judaism, whose aim was at the 
start to abrogate its rigid observances, found that they could not draw 
a strict line between the latter and those of the Mosaic Law. 



ESTHER IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY — HOSCHANDER 333 

characters are shown in the second chapter of the Book 
of Esther. 

Orthodoxy and Heterodoxy, the two opposing tendencies 
within Judaism, are by no means peculiar to and charac- 
teristic of our enlightened era. They are as old as Judaism 
itself, though in each age, in accordance with the prevailing 
ideas, Heterodoxy assumed a different character. As long 
as idolatry was fashionable, the Heterodox were idolaters ; 
in the Alexandrian age, Hellenists; under the Maccabees, 
Sadducees; during the Jewish-Christian era, adherents of 
the Christian doctrines; in the period of the Ceonim, 
Karaites ; in the Middle Ages, philosophers ; and at a later 
period, Cabbalists. Orthodoxy, the real representative of 
that Judaism established during and after the Babylonian 
captivity, 62 has survived all these changes. The same two 

62 The passage nmStt HX! PIDJ7 DK TTIDN ITTOn t6 is not quite 
clear. The terms DJ) and JTITIIO here and in the similar passage iriDN pN 
DDJ) nXI nm?10 T\1iO (II, 20) might be regarded as hendiadys. But 
that is scarcely true of the other passage : HITO Wtni ^31K ilM'tf '3 

VTT?1D p3N3 WK*11 blK r^NI IDS? ON NXC *1E>K ' For how can 
I endure to see the evil that shall come unto my people ? or how can I endure 
to see the destruction of my kindred ' ? (VIII, 6). The term mplD means 
either ' native place ' or ' kindred '. The former meaning is here impossible, 
as Esther's native place was Babylonia, and the latter very improbable. 
But m?1D may mean also ' place of origin ', and could refer to Judea. 
Such an interpretation is not impossible, as the execution of Haman's edict 
involved the destruction of the Jewish state, as we shall further see. But 
it is strange that the terms m?1D1 DJI are nowhere found, outside of 
Esther, in the Old Testament. We find only m^lB pK or mSffl pK- 
Hence there is room for doubt whether the original text contained the 
word m?1D. We shall find that Haman's edict was not directed against 
the Jewish race, but against those who were adherents of the Jewish 
religion. They were in no danger, if they abandoned it. But at a later 
period, the real issue of that event was not known any longer. The term 
m , a Persian loan-word (which occurs so often in Esther), in the passage 
DJ? ?3D niJltf Dfl'mi 'their laws are diverse from all people', refers of 



IO 



334 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

tendencies in Judaism are met with in the times of Mordecai 
and Esther. 
Esther ii. The author of our story states : ' Esther had not shewed 
her people nor her kindred ; for Mordecai had charged her 
that she should not shew it \ 63 He tells it so frankly and 
naively, without giving any reason for such a conduct, as if 
it were the most natural way and a matter of course, and 
not a dastardly act, for a Jew to conceal his religion. It 
was indeed unnecessary for the author to explain why 
Mordecai charged Esther not to disclose her Jewish identity, 
as we can read the reason between the lines. Relying upon 
Esther's great charms, which, in his belief, could not fail 
to captivate the king's heart, Mordecai was apprehensive 
of her being excluded from the competition for the rank 
of queen if she was known as an adherent of the Jewish 
religion. For her elevation he was ready and willing to 
sacrifice her religion. 64 If Mordecai had been imbued with 

course to the Jewish religion. The identical term is used in the Mishnah 
in milT m 'the Jewish Law', and b&WI i"IK>D m ' the Law of Moses 
and Israel '. Hence we venture the following suggestion. The same word 
m might have been contained in the original text in the passages quoted. 
But a later copyist changed the word m into m?10 , believing that m and 
DV are superfluous synonyms, as a member of the Jewish race is of course 
an adherent of the Jewish religion. Thus the original meaning of the 
passages II, 10. 20 might have been : Esther kept secret her people and her 
religion. In her supplication to the king, Esther complained not only about 
the evil that shall come unto her people, but also about the disappearance 
of the Jewish creed. Siegfried, /. c, is correct in objecting that m?1D is 
here out of place. 

63 Ibn Ezra remarks : ' Some say that Mordecai was wrong in com- 
manding Esther not to disclose her origin, because he feared that he might 
not take her fcr a wife if he knew that she was one of the exiles. But 
others say that Mordecai learned in a dream that Esther was destined to 
save Israel '. 

64 Paton, I.e., p. 178, observes: 'There is nothing of the martyr-spirit 
in Mordecai, as in Daniel and his friends who display their Judaism at all 



ESTHER IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY — HOSCHANDER 335 

the spirit of Ezra and Nehemiah, there is no doubt that 
rather than giving her in marriage to a Gentile he would 
have slain his adopted daughter with his own hands, 
and he would certainly have charged her to disclose her 
religion. 65 If Esther had been a true daughter of Israel 
she would have done everything in her power not to 
become the wife of a Gentile, preferring the observance 
of her religion to the rank of a queen. 66 On informing 
the keeper of the harem of her religion, Esther would have 
done her duty, and been free from blame if he had kept 
her notwithstanding that reason, 67 as we could not condemn 
her for not having been courageous enough to prefer death 
to that fate. 

However, on the other hand, the question presents itself: 
Why did Mordecai so ardently desire to see Esther as 
queen ? Was it due to his ambition ? Certainly not ! 
If he had been ambitious, it would have been easy for him 

costs. So long as there is any advantage in hiding it, he does not let 
Esther tell her race ; only when secrecy is no longer useful, does he bid 
her disclose it' (see n. 68). 

65 The author of the apocryphal additions to the Greek version of Esther 
could not comprehend either how the pious Esther could have acted in that 
way, and lets her say in her prayer : ' Thou hast knowledge of all things, 
and thou knowest that I hate the glory of the wicked and abhor the bed 
of the uncircumcised and of every alien '. This prayer is characteristic of 
the mode of thinking of religious Jews of the Graeco-Roman period con- 
cerning intermarriage. 

66 See, however, Cassel, p. 61 f. 

67 The commentates who think that Esther concealed not only her 
Jewish origin, but also her kinship to Mordecai, must admit that the latter 
could hardly have profited anything by Esther's exalted position. Moreover, 
they assume that 'Mordecai was sitting in the king's gate' as a lounger, 
and not in an official character. Thus what advantage was there for 
Mordecai ? Hence it is evident that Mordecai did not act out of selfish 
motives in furthering the elevation of Esther, but for the welfare of his 
people (see n. 64). 



336 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

to be appointed to a high position after the elevation of 
Esther, or at least after having saved the king's life. Thus 
it is evident that his desire that Esther should be elevated 
to the rank of queen was not prompted by selfish motives. 68 
Although concealing his own religion, Mordecai was never- 
theless solicitous for the welfare of his people, and was 
convinced that Esther on becoming queen would be in 
a position to render them many useful services, as indeed 
she was. 

However so prudent and farsighted the policy of Mor- 
decai, in his endeavour to elevate Esther, may have been 
for the benefit of the Jewish people; from a purely 
religious point of view, we either must condemn his conduct 
or accept utility as the sole standard of rectitude. An 
approval of Mordecai's action would give full licence to 
intermarriage. We might say that that prohibition under 
certain circumstances may be disregarded, if any essential 
advantage would accrue to the Jewish people or to some 
Jewish community from such an intermarriage. It would be 
wellnigh impossible to draw a strict line between a marriage 
to a king, a high official, or any other person. But 
Mordecai no doubt belonged to that party which espoused 
intermarriage between the Jews in Palestine and their 
non-Jewish neighbours, as by these alliances they were 
strengthening their own position. 69 That policy, however, 
though of great advantage to the newly-established Jewish 
state, was disastrous to the Jewish religion, and we may 
doubt whether the latter would have survived if such a 

68 That party was in all other respects just as strict worshippers of 
Jahveh as Ezra and Nehemiah, since even the family of the High-priest was 
related by marriage to the Samaritan Sanballat and to other non-Judaeans. 

63 See chapter VIII. 



ESTHER IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY — HOSCHANDER 337 

practice would have been permitted to continue. On the 
other hand, the zeal of Ezra and Nehemiah against inter- 
marriage caused many hardships to the Jewish people in 
Judea, and jeopardized the existence of the new state, but 
the Jewish religion remained pure and intact. Thus Ezra 
and Nehemiah represented Orthodoxy, while Mordecai 
was the representative of the Heterodox wing of Judaism 
of that period which advocated intermarriage. 

It is characteristic of Jews in all periods that, though 
indifferent to religious observances, and being hardly 
recognized as members of the Jewish people, at times of 
religious persecutions they do not stand aloof from their 
suffering brethren, but identify themselves with them in 
every respect, some of them becoming even more or less 
religious. The religious persecutions which soon broke out 
had the same effect upon Mordecai. Seeing the sufferings 
of the Jews, Mordecai openly declared his adherence to the 
Jewish religion, 70 and did everything in his power to assist 
his brethren. But a change produced by sympathy, not 
conviction, never has a lasting effect. Mordecai, after his 
elevation to the rank of prime minister, was not and could 
not have been religious. The Rabbinic homiletic inter- 
pretation of the passage, ' He was pleasing to most of his 
brethren', that it meant to indicate that a part of the 
Sanhedrin separated themselves from him, 71 contains a 
great deal of truth, even more than the rabbis intended 
to imply. A part of his brethren refused to have any 
intercourse with Mordecai. Even among the Sanhedrin, 
the leaders of Israel, the strictly religious Jews, who do not 
barter the tenets of their religion for worldly advantages, 

70 Cf. also Renan, History, VI, 1. 

71 Megillah 16 b. 



338 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

though being in all periods Israel's very representatives 
and preservers, always form only a small fraction. And 
men of that type refused to associate with him. 

The Book of Esther was in all probability composed 
in Babylonia, not Palestine, 72 as the former country was 
for a considerable period the real centre of Jewish learning. 
It undoubtedly was composed at a time when the person- 
alities of Mordecai and Esther were still well known. Its 
compilers were the Sopherim, who strictly adhered to the 
principles of Ezra and Nehemiah. Upon them devolved 
the task of commemorating an event, in which the 
opponents of the latter, against whose principles they still 
had continually to fight, figured as heroes and saviours 
of Israel. Those Sopherim were in a most embarrassing 
situation. They could not deny the fact that Mordecai 
and Esther, though having been transgressors of the Law, 
actually effected the rescue of Israel's religion. Not to 
record such an event would have been disgraceful. 73 But 

72 But they did not put this story in writing during the life-time of 
Mordecai and Esther (see following notes and chapters VII, IX). 

n Megillah 7a:' Esther sent to the sages, saying : " Record this event 
of mine for future generations." But they sent back : " It is written, Have 
I not written for thee three times?" (Prov. 22. 20). This passage teaches 
that any event should be recorded only three times, and not four times, and 
the memory of Amalek's destruction is already recorded three times. 
(Thus they refused to record it) until they found for her a biblical verse : 
" Write this for a memorial in a book " (Exod. 16. 14) : " write this " refers 
to the records made by Moses himself, here and Deuteronomy 25. 17-19 ; 
" for a memorial " refers to that which is written in the historical records 
of the prophets (1 Sam. 15. 1-34): "in a book" refers to the event of 
Purim, the story of which ought to be represented in a special Book ' 

{-b »narD vbn' rb in!>e> mtrb ^lanD wsrb -irtDN orb nrbv 
mirn mro xipo rb ik¥de> ijj ,D»iwn obi Q'<vb» 'awrb& 
,min njtwai fxa 3iroe> no mr ama '-ism jnar nut 3ina' 
rfrsoi 3iroe> n» paoa pwaaa airDB> no pnar). 



ESTHER IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY — HOSCHANDER 339 

it could not be done without jeopardizing the religious 
principles for which they stood. To describe Mordecai 
and Esther as ardent adherents of the Jewish religion was 
impossible. The religious conduct of Mordecai and Esther 
was well known. Besides, the Sopherim would under no 
circumstances have consciously distorted the facts. To 
represent, however, non-religious Jews as God's chosen 
instruments for the preservation of Israel, would have been 
destructive to the ritual edifice they strove to preserve 
intact. The people would have been perplexed, and would 
have raised the question : How could the rites and ob- 
servances be an essential part of the Law of Israel if God 
chose for his own instruments people who did not care for 
them ? The only way out of this dilemma was to represent 
the events exactly as they happened, without suggesting 
that there was any divine intervention. In this way the 
compilers did not commit themselves, and the people could 
interpret this story each according to his own sentiments. 
In the present writer's opinion, a strictly orthodox rabbi 
of to-day would be in the same predicament, if compelled 
by circumstances to write the biography of a great Jewish 
philanthropist who was indifferent to all religious ob- 
servances, and would have to act in the same way as the 
Sopherim did in the compilation of the Book of Esther, 
circumspectly avoiding all matters pertaining to religion. 

There is a Talmudic statement that Esther requested 
the sages of her period to compile the story of that event, 
and they at first refused to comply with her request. 7 * 

71 Rabbi Joshua, son of Hananiah (flourished about 100 c. e.), still held 
that this Book ought to have been put in writing, in explaining : ' write this ' 
refers to what is written in Exodus ; ' for a memorial ' refers to the repeti- 
tion of that commandment in Deuteronomy to remind Israel to keep it 
in their memory ; ' in a book ' refers to what is Written in the Book of 



34° THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

Who knows whether this narrative is not based on some 
tradition ? We can well imagine that it was Esther's just 
ambition to have the event in which she played such a 
conspicuous part recorded for the admiration of future 
generations, and that the Sopherim, confronted by the 
difficulty of such a task, used some subterfuge to be excused 
from compiling that story, in expressing their opinion that 
it ought to be handed down by tradition, like the Oral 
Law, and not to be recorded. 75 We may even assume that 
they definitely refused to undertake this compilation, and 
that the only record of that event consisted of the letters 
sent out by Mordecai and Esther. 76 Later, however, being 
afraid lest the Feast of Purim might assume a non-Jewish 
character, as we shall see further on, 77 the Sopherim could 

Samuel (/Hiri njts'o:: 3irDE> no pnar ,|M airoc no nxr aim 

D'X'On S'lfOC no HSD3, ibid.). In the present writer's opinion, these 
homiletic explanations do not give the real reasons pro and contra. The 
Rabbis were averse to questioning the religious conduct of Mordecai, and 
therefore expressed their opinions in homiletic disguise. 
78 See chapter IV. 

76 We shall see that the Sopherim were even averse to the commemora- 
tion of this event, because the time of the celebration was simultaneous 
with that of a Persian festival. The Talmud indeed tells us : ' Esther sent 
to the sages : " Establish for me a festival for future generations". But they 
sent back: "Will you incite envy against us among the nations? " She, 
however, sent back: "(There is no fear of that) as the event of mine is 
already written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Media and 

Persia " ' (rw mip nb ir6t? rmvb yijnp D'coni? -iriDN orb nrb& 
nr» nsD by "ok naina *iaa orb nrbw mown pa$> wby n-nws 

D131 HD , a?D? tWil, Megillah ■) a). In this homiletic saying we may 
perhaps see a trace of a tradition that the Sopherim refused to sanction the 
establishment of the festival of Purim. We observe, by the way, that this 
saying seems to confirm the suggestion in chapter IV, that the existence 
of the Book of Esther may have caused trouble to the Jews in the East 
in a certain period, ' inciting k envy against them among the nations'. 

77 The saying DH*H flN KOBD WN "1DDX 'the Book of Esther does 



ESTHER IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY — HOSCHANDER 341 

not but compile the story of that event, and order its 
reading on the day of this Festival. Both Rabbi Joshua 
and Samuel in decreeing that ' the Book of Esther does not 
defile the hands', 78 were undoubtedly displeased with the 
non-religious style of the book, and considered such a defect 
just as bad as the scepticism of Ecclesiastes. 79 Looking 
upon Mordecai and Esther as saints in Israel, and on the 
compilers of that book as having been inspired by the Holy 
Spirit, the non-religious character of that book was beyond 
their comprehension. They may have believed that the 
Sopherim did not dare to represent Ahasuerus as an 
instrument of the God of Israel, 80 and therefore omitted 
all religious elements. Those rabbis, however, did not 
approve of such a procedure. In their opinion, if a book 
that records such a signal rescue of Israel had to be devoid 
of all religious elements, the records of that event ought 
not to have been put in writing, but handed down by 
tradition. This is the real meaning of the Talmudic inter- 
not defile the hands', is mentioned only in the name of Samuel, not in that 
of Rabbi Joshua. Since, however, we are informed that ' Samuel holds 
the opinion of Rabbi Joshua', that Esther ought not to have been recorded, 
we must assume that in the latter's opinion, Esther does not belong to the 
sacred Books, and thus does not defile the hands (see ibid.\ 

78 As to Ecclesiastes, there are divergent opinions: 'Rabbi Meir says: 
' Ecclesiastes does not defile the hands, but there is disagreement concerning 
Canticles ' ; Rabbi Jose says : ' Canticles defiles the hands, but there is 
disagreement concerning Ecclesiastes ' ; Rabbi Simeon says : ' Ecclesiastes 
belongs to the decisions in which the School of Shamai was more lenient 
than the School of Hillel, but Ruth, Canticles, and Esther defile the hands' 

(■a>'vwn Tea npi L n»i dhti dn kccd irx rbrp -ion -,wd -n 
■an niripn npi^rai dhti ns kcud d'tbti tc -idin w *n 
•ven nn b2K bbn rra noinni "tmv rra »Spo rbnp now piw 

DTTl DX ftWBD iriDXT D"T»n), Md; &c. 

79 See note 72. 

80 nirob mctu nS nnpi> mow -inoN, Meguiah 7a 

VOL. XI. A a 



342 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

pretation of those rabbis opinions : ' The story of Esther 
was composed to be read, but not to be written down \ 81 
The latter agreed with their colleagues that ' the compilation 
of the story of Esther was made by the inspiration of the 
Holy Spirit ', 82 but were unwilling to admit that the Holy 
Spirit had inspired them to omit the name of God, seeing 
in this omission a certain faint-heart edness. The other 
rabbis, however, looked upon it from a different point of 
view, holding perhaps that the story is the more religious 
in its spirit, because of its being so entirely free from the 
phraseology of religion. 83 

Bearing in mind the religious conceptions of Mordecai 
and Esther, we understand why Sirach did not enumerate 
them among ' the Fathers of the world '. To any un- 

81 mow &~\pn nm nnox, 'bid. 

82 See also Stanley, History, III, p. 201. 

83 Wildeboer, p. 17a, and other commentators conclude from the fact 

that Sirach did not mention Mordecai and Esther, that their story was 
unknown in his time. Jampel, however, calls attention to Sirach's omission 
of Daniel and Ezra. But these omissions do not invalidate the critics' 
objection. The existence of the historical Daniel cannot be denied, as we 
have for it the testimony of Ezekiel (28. 3) : ' Behold, thou art wiser than 
Daniel '. But there can be no doubt that the latter was not a contemporary 
of Ezekiel, as he is represented with Noah and Job as an example of a God- 
fearing man (14. 14, 20). If he was not a pre-historic personality, he must 
have lived in the hoary antiquity. The Book that bears his name is no 
doubt younger than Sirach. As to Ezra, Sirach was not a 'Bible-critic'. 
In his eyes Ezra was merely the copyist of the Mosaic Law and a holy man, 
but no more holy than the prophets Haggai, Zachariah, and Malachi, whom 
he also omitted to mention. Ezra, in Sirach's opinion, was only the leader 
of about fourteen hundred immigrants and one of the great teachers of the 
people. But having built neither the Temple nor the walls of Jerusalem, 
he did not leave a lasting memorial for future generations. Of Nehemiah 
he could say that he raised the walls of Jerusalem and restored the home 
of Israel. But Sirach could not have omitted the names of Mordecai and 
Esther who played such an important part in Jewish history, if he had 
considered them saints in Israel. 



ESTHER IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY — HOSCHANDER 343 

prejudiced mind it must have been obvious that they did 
not belong in this assemblage. In a later period, however, 
the Book of Esther having become popular, it would have 
been blasphemy to criticize the conduct of these saviours 
of Israel. The rabbis had no other course but to represent 
them as Jewish saints, and endeavoured to the best of their 
ability to defend and justify all their actions. 



(To be continued.) 



A a a