New American Bible Revised Edition

* [A:1] The genealogy of Mordecai is designed to reflect opposition to Israel’s enemy Haman, an Agagite (v. 17). In 1 Sm 15:1–9, Saul (whose father’s name was Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin) conquered Agag the Amalekite.

* [A:2–3] Repeats information from 2:5–6, on which see note, but states that Mordecai is already a court official. In the Hebrew text, Mordecai is not given this rank until 7:10–8:2.

* [A:4] An interpretation of the dream that relates its features to the plot of the book is given in F:1–6.

* [A:12–17] Retells the story in 2:21–23, but with several differences. Addition A has Mordecai inform the king directly, whereas in 2:22 Mordecai informs the king through Esther after she has become queen. A:16 has Mordecai rewarded immediately after his service, whereas the Hebrew text defers the reward of Mordecai to 6:3–13. In A:17, the failure of the eunuchs’ plot becomes Haman’s reason for seeking the destruction of Mordecai and his people, something which the Hebrew text attributes to Mordecai’s refusal to bow to Haman (see note on 3:2).

* [A:17] A Bougean: the origin of this term is unknown; it may represent a garbled attempt to render the Hebrew “Agagite” (3:1). In the Greek additions Haman not only knows the plot to assassinate the king, but is apparently a co-conspirator.

* [1:1] The Hebrew text opens with a portrait of the power and luxury of the Persian king Ahasuerus (Xerxes I, whose empire consisted of only about thirty provinces).

* [1:2] Susa was the winter capital of the Persian empire. The “royal precinct” (sometimes translated “stronghold” or “citadel”) was a well-fortified section of the city that included the king’s residence. The Book of Esther depicts other citizens living in this section as well.

* [1:19] An irrevocable royal decree: the first of several in the book. In a satiric portrayal, even a minor domestic disagreement is resolved through a sweeping international edict. The irrevocable nature of the decree is intended to increase its force, but creates problems if the king needs to adapt to new information or conditions. See note on 8:8.

* [2:5] Mordecai: a Babylonian name, deriving from the god Marduk. Like Esther, Mordecai may have had a Jewish name as well, although in his case we do not know what it is. The chronology of the book makes him well over one hundred years old, since he was deported with Jehoiachin about 598 B.C.; cf. A:1.

* [2:7] Esther: a Babylonian name, deriving from the goddess Ishtar. She is given a Hebrew name as well, “Hadassah,” which means “myrtle.”

* [2:19–23] This story is retold and placed at the beginning of the book in Greek addition A:12–17, with significant differences (see note). The Greek also has a translation of the account in 2:19–23 at this point in the narrative.

* [2:23] Impaled on stakes: a method of execution used by the Persians, known from ancient records and reliefs.

* [3:2] We are not told the reasons for Mordecai’s refusal to bow. It may be the result of a form of Jewish piety that refuses to offer such homage to any mortal; see also Greek addition C:5–7.

* [3:7] The pur, or lot: the Hebrew text preserves the Akkadian word pur because its plural, purim, became the name of the feast of Purim commemorating the deliverance of the Jews; cf. 9:24, 26. The lot functions as a kind of horoscope to determine the most favorable day for the pogrom.

* [3:10] Signet ring: a ring containing a seal that was impressed on documents to authenticate them. With this ring, Haman can issue decrees in the king’s name.

* [3:11] Although Ahasuerus seems to refuse the bribe, this is probably a polite way of accepting it that makes him appear munificent (compare Gn 23:11–15, where Ephron tells Abraham that he “gives” him the field and, after a few more pleasantries, sets a very high price for it). Both 4:7 and 7:4 seem to assume Ahasuerus has accepted the money.

* [B:6] Fourteenth day: only the Greek text here names the fourteenth of Adar as the day set aside for the destruction of the Jews. The Hebrew text consistently gives the date as the thirteenth of Adar (e.g., 3:13) as does Greek addition E:20; see note on 9:17–19.

* [4:8] The Greek text adds the following to Mordecai’s message to Esther: “Remember the days of your lowly estate, when you were brought up in my charge; for Haman, who is second to the king, has asked for our death. Invoke the Lord and speak to the king for us: save us from death.”

* [4:14] From another source: probably Mordecai refers to divine aid; the Greek additions (C) are explicit about this.

* [C:28] Wine of libations: offered in sacrifice to the gods.

* [D:1–16] Addition D expands on and replaces 5:1–2 of the Hebrew text.

* [D:9] Brother: along with “sister,” a common term of affection between lovers or husband and wife. See, e.g., Sg 4:9–12; 8:1; Tb 5:22; 7:11.

* [5:1–2] The Hebrew text translated here is a short form of the account which is in Greek addition D.

* [6:4–13] Haman’s presumption that the king wants to honor him creates the irony that Haman himself prescribes and fulfills the elaborate terms of Mordecai’s reward. This comic reversal mirrors the fatal reversal to come: Haman and those who hate the Jews find that their plot to destroy them recoils on their own head.

* [8:8] A decree written…cannot be revoked: the king cannot directly grant Esther’s request (v. 5) to revoke the previous decree against the Jews because of the irrevocable character of the laws of the Medes and Persians (see 1:19 and note). He can, however, empower Esther to issue another decree in his name to counteract the earlier one. The second decree authorizes the Jews to defend themselves against those who would kill them, which is what they do in 9:2. This is why the outcome of the two decrees is that the attackers are killed instead of the Jews, rather than a simple cancellation of all hostilities.

* [E:10] Macedonian: throughout the book Haman is identified with terms of contempt—in the Hebrew text as an Agagite (3:1, 10; 8:3, 5; 9:24; cf. note on A:17), thus making him a descendant of Agag, king of the Amalekites, a group hated by the Israelites; in the Greek additions Haman is identified as a Macedonian, reflecting the enmity between the Persians and the Macedonians after Macedonia’s conquest of Persia in the fourth century B.C.

* [9:17–19] According to Esther, Jewish feasting on the day after the defeat of their enemies establishes the date of the holiday. Since in Susa the fighting lasts for two days, the Jews of that community initially celebrate Purim a day later than Jews elsewhere.

* [9:21] Mordecai creates a compromise among the Jews by making Purim a two-day festival.

* [9:23] According to the story, the two-day celebration has its roots in popular observance, which Mordecai’s leadership reinforces and regularizes.

* [9:29–32] In attempting to give the impression of concerted action between Esther and Mordecai, the Hebrew text here presents several unresolved difficulties. Verse 29 makes Mordecai and Esther joint authors of a letter that is ascribed in v. 32 to Esther alone. Verse 31 makes Mordecai and Esther joint authors of a letter that is ascribed in vv. 20–22 to Mordecai alone. Finally, it is difficult to see the purpose of confirming a second letter in the second letter itself.

* [F:7] Two lots: this passage of the Greek text gives an additional interpretation of the feast. The two lots are drawn by God to determine, respectively, the destiny of Israel and that of the nations; contrast with 3:7 of the Hebrew text.

* [F:11] Several “Ptolemies” (Greek kings reigning in Egypt) had wives named Cleopatra. This postscript dates the Greek version somewhere between 116 B.C. and 48 B.C.

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Scripture texts, prefaces, introductions, footnotes and cross references used in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc., Washington, DC All Rights Reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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