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THE BOOK OF ESTHER IN THE LIGHT OF THE STORY OF JOSEPH IN EGYPT / מגילת אסתר באספקלריית קורות יוסף במצרים
משה גן and Moshe Gan
Tarbiẕ / תרביץ
כרך לא, חוברת ב (טבת תשכ"ב), pp. 144-149
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23591042
Page Count: 6
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An analysis of the book of Esther from the aspect of background, personality of the heroes and their development, the chain of events and various motives as compared with the story of Joseph's experiences in Egypt related in the book of Genesis (particularly chaps xxxix—xli) leads to the recognition that the author of the book of Esther drew his inspiration, to a decisive extent, from the story of Joseph and built his story on the same plan. This realisation is strengthened by the existence of unmistakeable linguistic influences indicated in the author's employment in the book of Esther of figures of speech and stylistic formulae borrowed from the Joseph story. 1. The setting is similar: a foreign royal house in a foreign country, the heroes (Joseph and his counterpart Mordecai and Esther) Israelites who achieve high position, for the purpose of rescuing their people from misfortune. 2. The heroes' stages of development are parallel: in both cases the heroes (Joseph and Esther) came to the fore on account of their external appearance, their beauty; both experience a period of obscurity and decline and are given opportunities for the expression of their personal qualities; in both cases wisdom and prudence are combined with moral fibre (Joseph interpreted the dreams of the eunuchs, Mordecai exposed the designs of the eunuchs); in both stories there are two eunuchs who sinned against the king; but the heroes remain forgotten in spite of the confirmation of their discoveries. At the same time, their coreligionists suffer misfortune and their lives are in danger (the famine, Haman's decree). 3. In the working out of the events the parallel continues: the turning point comes at night. The royal slumber is disturbed (Pharaoh through his dreams, Ahasuerus through insomnia) and the solution comes about through the remembrance of the heroes (Joseph and Mordecai); they achieve greatness through the kings investing them with authority and honour as a reward for their deeds; the entrusting of the royal ring to their hands, the riding through the streets of the city in royal apparel and chariot accompanied by a special proclamation of their distinction. The two stories contain other parallel motives. 4. The linguistic influence is indicated chiefly in the use by the author of the book of Esther of expressions and figures of speech that only appear in the story of Joseph. Here are some of them: a) "for so are fulfilled that days of those who are embalmed" (Gen i, 3) "for so are fulfilled the days of their anointing" (Esther ii, 12) b) "And it came to pass when she spoke to Joseph day by day and he did not listen to her" (Gen xxxix 10) "And it came to pass when they spoke daily unto him and he did not listen to them" (Esther iii 4) c) Consecutive appearance of parallel introductory formula in corresponding groups of verses in both stories: "let the king appoint officers .. over all the countries of his kingdom" "let every young virgin of goodly appearance be gathered." "And the matter was pleasing in the eyes of the king." (Esther ii, 3–4) "let Pharaoh... appoint officers over the land..." "let all the food of the good years be gathered." "And the matter was pleasing in the eyes of Pharaoh." (Gen xli, 34–37) d) The verbs describing the bestowing of royal honours are identical: Esther viii 2, 7 wayyasar ("and he took off„') wayyittenah ("and he put it") wayyalbesh ("and he clothed") wayyarkivehu ("and he caused him to ride") wayyiqra lefanaw ("and he cried before him") Gen. xli 42-43 wayyasar ("and he took off") wayyitten ʾota ("and he put it") wayyalbesh ("and he clothed") wayyarkev ("and he caused him to ride") wayyiqreʾu lefanaw ("and they cried before him")
Tarbiẕ / תרביץ © 1961 Mandel Institute for Jewish Studies / המכון למדעי היהדות ע"ש מנדל