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4 pear infl ated and

by Adele Berlin
4 pear infl ated and may be more accurately interpreted as contributing to the tone of excess and exaggeration that permeates the chapter. Their placement at the ends of their verses ( in the Hebrew) emphasizes their magnitude. The language of the chapter, heavy with duplication, interrupting and turning back on itself, adds to the desired effect of excess. The decor that makes an impression on the reader of Esther is very similar to the Persian accoutrements that impressed the classical authors. They speak often of gold and silver furniture and furnishings, sometimes ornamented with gems, and cups of gold and silver. Horse trap- pings, weapons, and armor were also gold or gilded. What most impressed the classical authors was the Persian textiles, many of  which the Persians themselves considered valuable enough to be kept in the royal treasuries. 1  The classical authors mention, among other objects, purple- dyed rugs; hangings embroidered with gold thread; hangings with animal patterns; purple garments with gold embroidery; garments studded with jewels or gold beads; and brilliantly colored clothing. The Greeks were also impressed by Persian banquets, which were in their eyes one of the outstanding traits of Persian social life that stood in marked contrast to Greek life. Greek descriptions of these banquets are quite similar to the Book of Esther’s, with an emphasis on the quantity and luxury of the dinnerware and the food and drink consumed ( they mention glass vessels in addition to gold and silver ones, and a variety of meats). Persian banquets had a precedent in Assyrian banquets, one of which is described in an inscrip- tion of Ashurnasirpal II. From it we see that Ahasuerus was not the only king to indulge in big parties. On the occasion of the dedication of his palace at Calah, Ashurnasirpal II made a banquet consisting of large amounts of meat, fowl, fi sh, eggs, bread, beer, vegetables, condiments, and other delicacies ( described in detail, with the quantities noted). He goes on to say: I treated for ten days with food and drink 47,074 persons, men and women, who were bid to come from across my entire country, ( also) 5,000 important persons, delegates from the country Suhu . . . 16,000 inhabitants of Calah from all ways of life, 1,500 offi cials of all my palaces, altogether 69,574 invited guests from all the . . . countries including the people of Calah. I provided them with the means to clean and anoint themselves.  I did them due honors and sent them back, healthy and happy, to their own countries. 2 Persian banquets are more than just fancy dinner parties. By virtue of their large guest lists, menus, and furnishings, they represent the diversity of the empire, its wealth, and the king’s control over it. The king’s table was supplied by food from provinces throughout the empire, as a form of gift or tribute ( in Greek texts, banquets and tribute are mentioned side by side). Not all the food was eaten at the dinner; large quantities were given to the guests to take home, or were distributed to the army and offi cials as a form of payment. In this way, tribute from the provinces was redistributed.  The royal banquet, then, was an important economic and political institution. 3 Satraps  and governors had similar banquets in their home provinces. Compare Neh. 5: 14– 18. 1. It happened in the days of  This phrase, seeming to set the story in a precise time in the Persian period, lends a quasi- historical  air to the book. But, although it seems perfectly natural to open a narrative in this manner, it is actually relatively rare. Biblical narratives com-monly begin with “ it happened” but omit “ in the days of.” On the other hand, prophetic writings are often introduced as having occurred “ in the days of King X.” Actually, the opening is more like the opening of a folktale, with the aura of “ Once upon a time, in the days of the great and glorious Ahasuerus, King of the vast Persian empire . . . .” A common midrashic explanation ( e. g., Targum Sheni) of the phrase notes that three other  narratives open with these words: “ It happened  in the days of Amraphel” ( Gen. 14: 1),  “ It happened in the  days of Ahaz” ( Isa. 7: 1),  and “ It happened in the days when the judges judged” ( Ruth 1: 1).  The Rabbis, seeking signifi  cance in this particular usage, fi nd that the sound of the word vay-  hi signals trouble and woe. WINE AND WOMENEst. 1: 1          C    h  a  p  t e  r   Home  |      T  O   C   

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4 pear infl ated and may be more accurately interpreted as contributing to the tone of excess and exaggeration that permeates the chapter. Their placement at the ends of their verses ( in the Hebrew) emphasizes their magnitude. The language of the chapter, heavy with duplication, interrupting and turning back on itself, adds to the desired effect of excess. The decor that makes an impression on the reader of Esther is very similar to the Persian accoutrements that impressed the classical authors. They speak often of gold and silver furniture and furnishings, sometimes ornamented with gems, and cups of gold and silver. Horse trap- pings, weapons, and armor were also gold or gilded. What most impressed the classical authors was the Persian textiles, many of which the Persians themselves considered valuable enough to be kept in the royal treasuries. 1 The classical authors mention, among other objects, purple- dyed rugs; hangings embroidered with gold thread; hangings with animal patterns; purple garments with gold embroidery; garments studded with jewels or gold beads; and brilliantly colored clothing. The Greeks were also impressed by Persian banquets, which were in their eyes one of the outstanding traits of Persian social life that stood in marked contrast to Greek life. Greek descriptions of these banquets are quite similar to the Book of Esther’s, with an emphasis on the quantity and luxury of the dinnerware and the food and drink consumed ( they mention glass vessels in addition to gold and silver ones, and a variety of meats). Persian banquets had a precedent in Assyrian banquets, one of which is described in an inscrip- tion of Ashurnasirpal II. From it we see that Ahasuerus was not the only king to indulge in big parties. On the occasion of the dedication of his palace at Calah, Ashurnasirpal II made a banquet consisting of large amounts of meat, fowl, fi sh, eggs, bread, beer, vegetables, condiments, and other delicacies ( described in detail, with the quantities noted). He goes on to say: I treated for ten days with food and drink 47,074 persons, men and women, who were bid to come from across my entire country, ( also) 5,000 important persons, delegates from the country Suhu . . . 16,000 inhabitants of Calah from all ways of life, 1,500 offi cials of all my palaces, altogether 69,574 invited guests from all the . . . countries including the people of Calah. I provided them with the means to clean and anoint themselves. I did them due honors and sent them back, healthy and happy, to their own countries. 2 Persian banquets are more than just fancy dinner parties. By virtue of their large guest lists, menus, and furnishings, they represent the diversity of the empire, its wealth, and the king’s control over it. The king’s table was supplied by food from provinces throughout the empire, as a form of gift or tribute ( in Greek texts, banquets and tribute are mentioned side by side). Not all the food was eaten at the dinner; large quantities were given to the guests to take home, or were distributed to the army and offi cials as a form of payment. In this way, tribute from the provinces was redistributed. The royal banquet, then, was an important economic and political institution. 3 Satraps and governors had similar banquets in their home provinces. Compare Neh. 5: 14– 18. 1. It happened in the days of This phrase, seeming to set the story in a precise time in the Persian period, lends a quasi- historical air to the book. But, although it seems perfectly natural to open a narrative in this manner, it is actually relatively rare. Biblical narratives com-monly begin with “ it happened” but omit “ in the days of.” On the other hand, prophetic writings are often introduced as having occurred “ in the days of King X.” Actually, the opening is more like the opening of a folktale, with the aura of “ Once upon a time, in the days of the great and glorious Ahasuerus, King of the vast Persian empire . . . .” A common midrashic explanation ( e. g., Targum Sheni) of the phrase notes that three other narratives open with these words: “ It happened in the days of Amraphel” ( Gen. 14: 1), “ It happened in the days of Ahaz” ( Isa. 7: 1), and “ It happened in the days when the judges judged” ( Ruth 1: 1). The Rabbis, seeking signifi cance in this particular usage, fi nd that the sound of the word vay- hi signals trouble and woe. WINE AND WOMEN Est. 1: 1 <    <      C   h  a  p  t e  r  >> Home |      T  O   C   
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