The Persian King and His Jewish Queen as Presented from a Jewish Subaltern Point of View in the Book of Esther (MT)

Recorded: July 5, 2023
Event: Achaemenid Workshop 2
Citation: Joachimsen, Kristin. "The Persian King and His Jewish Queen as Presented from a Jewish Subaltern Point of View in the Book of Esther (MT)." Pourdavoud Institute: Achaemenid Workshop 2 (July 5, 2023).

by Kristin Joachimsen (University of Oslo)

This contribution addresses issues related to how the book of Esther is applied in ancient historiography. Due to the fictional character of the book, it is hard to find points of reference to narrow down the dating and location. Still, these issues have been related to the question of whether a particular historical event lies behind the story. Besides, linguistic criteria and usage of conventional literary motifs have been considered, e.g., how the book conveys Greek perceptions of the Persian world. In this presentation, I will analyze a recent trend in situating the book of Esther (MT) within Hasmonean ideology (e.g., Eckhardt 2017, Bezold 2021), in which Esther 8-10 is regarded as heavily edited in light of the Maccabean revolt (Macchi 2016). There might be some risks of a one-dimensionality in pursuing precise identification of the Hellenistic influence, as there might be both Persian and Greek influence under both Persian and Hellenistic rule. A broader Mesopotamian context, as well as previous Hebrew traditions, should also be considered when discussing the context of the book of Esther. The genre of “court tale,” widely attested in antiquity, is defined as a narrative about a character in the royal court who gains access to the king and is successful because of their skills or wisdom. The protagonists typically convey an “in-between” role, as they are both influential in the insider governing group and considered outsiders and subalterns. In this regard, the book of Esther mimicries the Persian court, underscoring its subversive message via exaggerations and irony.

About the Speaker

Kristin Joachimsen is Professor of Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, MF – Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society. She is the author of Identities in Transition: The Pursuit of Isa. 52:13-53:12 (Brill, 2011), as well as a whole range of articles on postcolonial and gender perspectives on literature on the Hebrew Bible located in Persian period. Her current project is on perceptions and receptions of Persia in the Hebrew Bible and in biblical scholarship.