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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Es´ther (asstar), a damsel of the tribe of Benjamin, born during the Exile, and whose family did not avail itself of the permission to return to Palestine, under the edict of Cyrus. Her parents being dead, Esther was brought up by her uncle Mordecai. The reigning king of Persia, Ahasuerus, having divorced his queen, Vashti, on account of the becoming spirit with which she refused to submit to the indignity which a compliance with his drunken commands involved, search was made throughout the empire for the most beautiful maiden to be her successor. Those whom the officers of the harem deemed the most beautiful were removed thither, the eventual choice among them remaining with the king himself. That choice fell on Esther, who found favor in the eyes of Ahasuerus, and was advanced to a station enviable only by comparison with that of the less favored inmates of the royal harem. Her Jewish origin was at the time unknown; and hence, when she avowed it to the king, she seemed to be included in the doom of extirpation which a royal edict had pronounced against all the Jews in the empire. This circumstance enabled her to turn the royal indignation upon Haman, the chief minister of the king, whose resentment against Mordecai had led him to obtain from the king this monstrous edict. The laws of the empire would not allow the king to recall a decree once uttered; but the Jews were authorized to stand on their defense; and this, with the known change in the intentions of the court, averted the worst consequences of the decree. The Jews established a yearly feast in memory of this deliverance, which is observed among them to this day [PURIM]. Such is the substance of the history of Esther, as related in the book which bears her name.

It should be observed that Esther is the name which the damsel received upon her introduction into the royal harem, her Hebrew name having been Hadassah, myrtle (). Esther is most probably a Persian word. According to the second Targum on Esther, 'She was called Esther from the name of the star Venus, which in Greek is Aster.'

The difficulties of the history of the book of Esther, especially as regards the identity of the king, have been examined under Ahasuerus and are also noticed in the following article.





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Esther'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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