Saturday, June 19, 2010

Esther chapter 1

I am finally getting back into translation of this book after a month's hiatus. How should one approach this book? What kind of story is it? The commentaries I have read are varied. One is very scholarly and helpful but non-committal as to humour or allegory. One is committed to Esther as an image of Jesus (nice analogy but I don't follow it quite yet) and a third is an SBL book I am reading through on Persian law and policy. Must give SBL a plug - critical or not, nothing stops us from putting on our own critical hats.

This could be titled Xerxes folly and Memukan's face saving dictum.

וַיְהִי בִּימֵי אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ
הוּא אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ הַמֹּלֵךְ מֵהֹדּוּ וְעַד כּוּשׁ
שֶׁבַע וְעֶשְׂרִים וּמֵאָה מְדִינָה
1.1And it was in the days of Xerxes
this is the Xerxes who ruled from India all the way to Cush
a hundred and twenty seven jurisdictions
Ahasuerus, Xerxes
= I will be silent and poor - BLB? or lion-king (Gesenius)? or with softer vowels, the origin of Shah? or mighty-eye (BDB)? Is the king silent in this book?
בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם
כְּשֶׁבֶת הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ עַל כִּסֵּא מַלְכוּתוֹ
אֲשֶׁר בְּשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה
1.2in those days
when the king Xerxes sat on the throne of his kingdom
which was in the Shushan Palace
..
בִּשְׁנַת שָׁלוֹשׁ לְמָלְכוֹ עָשָׂה מִשְׁתֶּה לְכָל שָׂרָיו וַעֲבָדָיו
חֵיל פָּרַס וּמָדַי הַפַּרְתְּמִים וְשָׂרֵי הַמְּדִינוֹת לְפָנָיו
1.3in year three of his rule he made a feast for all his princes and his servants,
the might of Persia and Medea, the chiefs and the princes of the jurisdictions, were in his presence
characteristic of Job's opening - presence and the king
בְּהַרְאֹתוֹ אֶת עֹשֶׁר כְּבוֹד מַלְכוּתוֹ וְאֶת יְקָר תִּפְאֶרֶת גְּדוּלָּתוֹ
יָמִים רַבִּים שְׁמוֹנִים וּמְאַת יוֹם
1.4as his display of the riches of the glory of his kingdom and the value of the splendour of his greatness,
days of largess, one hundred and eighty days.
This was a big party - the G1 in continuous self-congratulation
וּבִמְלוֹאת הַיָּמִים הָאֵלֶּה עָשָׂה הַמֶּלֶךְ
לְכָל הָעָם הַנִּמְצְאִים בְּשׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה
לְמִגָּדוֹל וְעַד קָטָן
מִשְׁתֶּה שִׁבְעַת יָמִים בַּחֲצַר גִּנַּת בִּיתַן הַמֶּלֶךְ
1.5And at the completion of these days the king made,
for all the people that could be found in the Shushan Palace
from the greatest to the least,
a feast of seven days in the court of the garden of the king's palace
I was tempted to make the name of the palace Lily palace - but I thought this an insult to the Song and the Psalms under the title, at the place of the lily.
חוּר כַּרְפַּס וּתְכֵלֶת אָחוּז בְּחַבְלֵי בוּץ וְאַרְגָּמָן עַל גְּלִילֵי כֶסֶף וְעַמּוּדֵי שֵׁשׁ
מִטּוֹת זָהָב וָכֶסֶף עַל רִצְפַת בַּהַט וָשֵׁשׁ וְדַר וְסֹחָרֶת
1.6white, green, and violet, held with bindings of fine linen and purple to cylinders of silver and pillars of marble
beds of gold and silver on a red pavement and marble and mother of pearl and tortoiseshell
two words from Song 5:14-15, + bed Song 3:7
וְהַשְׁקוֹת בִּכְלֵי זָהָב וְכֵלִים מִכֵּלִים שׁוֹנִים
וְיֵין מַלְכוּת רָב כְּיַד הַמֶּלֶךְ
1.7and irrigated from vessels of gold such vessels from vessels varying
and wine of the kingdom in abundance according to the hand of the king
..
וְהַשְּׁתִיָּה כַדָּת אֵין אֹנֵס
כִּי כֵן יִסַּד הַמֶּלֶךְ עַל כָּל רַב בֵּיתוֹ
לַעֲשׂוֹת כִּרְצוֹן אִישׁ וָאִישׁ ס
1.8and the drinking according to decree - there was no compulsion
for such the king established for all the many of his house
to do according to the pleasure of each person.
..
גַּם וַשְׁתִּי הַמַּלְכָּה עָשְׂתָה מִשְׁתֵּה נָשִׁים בֵּית הַמַּלְכוּת אֲשֶׁר לַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ 1.9Even Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the house of the kingdom which belonged to king Xerxes...
בַּיּוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי כְּטוֹב לֵב הַמֶּלֶךְ בַּיָּיִן אָמַר לִמְהוּמָן בִּזְּתָא חַרְבוֹנָא בִּגְתָא וַאֲבַגְתָא זֵתַר וְכַרְכַּס שִׁבְעַת הַסָּרִיסִים הַמְשָׁרְתִים אֶת פְּנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ 1.10On the seventh day when good was the heart of the king with wine he said to Mehuman, Bizta, Xarbona, Bigta, and Abagta, Zetar, and Karkas, seven eunuchs in the presence of the king XerxesAs is usual with me, and especially on a first draft, I keep things sounding alike in English that sound alike in Hebrew where I can.
לְהָבִיא אֶת וַשְׁתִּי הַמַּלְכָּה לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ בְּכֶתֶר מַלְכוּת לְהַרְאוֹת הָעַמִּים וְהַשָּׂרִים אֶת יָפְיָהּ כִּי טוֹבַת מַרְאֶה הִיא1.11to have Vashti the queen come into the presence of the king in the crown of the kingdom to show off to the people and the princes her beauty, for goodly to look upon was she...
וַתְּמָאֵן הַמַּלְכָּה וַשְׁתִּי לָבוֹא בִּדְבַר הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר בְּיַד הַסָּרִיסִים
וַיִּקְצֹף הַמֶּלֶךְ מְאֹד וַחֲמָתוֹ בָּעֲרָה בוֹ ס
1.12But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king's dictum that was by the hand of the eunuchs and the king was very displeased and his rage burned within him.dictum for DBR (instead of word, thing, matter, etc) - dictum puts it on the level of the law of the land - here edict. A foolishness observed.
וַיֹּאמֶר הַמֶּלֶךְ לַחֲכָמִים יֹדְעֵי הָעִתִּים
כִּי כֵן דְּבַר הַמֶּלֶךְ לִפְנֵי כָּל יֹדְעֵי דָּת וָדִין
1.13And the king spoke to the wise who knew the times, because the king's dictum was in the presence of all who knew decree and adjudication...
וְהַקָּרֹב אֵלָיו כַּרְשְׁנָא שֵׁתָר אַדְמָתָא תַרְשִׁישׁ מֶרֶס מַרְסְנָא מְמוּכָן
שִׁבְעַת שָׂרֵי פָּרַס וּמָדַי רֹאֵי פְּנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ הַיֹּשְׁבִים רִאשֹׁנָה בַּמַּלְכוּת
1.14And near him was Karshena, Shetar, Admata, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, Memukan, seven princes of Persia and Medea seeing the presence of the king and seated preeminent in the kingdom...
כְּדָת מַה לַּעֲשׂוֹת בַּמַּלְכָּה וַשְׁתִּי
עַל אֲשֶׁר לֹא עָשְׂתָה אֶת מַאֲמַר הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ בְּיַד הַסָּרִיסִים ס
1.15According to decree - what is to be done with queen Vashti given that she did not do the dictum of the king Xerxes by the hand of the eunuchs?..
וַיֹּאמֶר מְמוּכָן לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ וְהַשָּׂרִים לֹא עַל הַמֶּלֶךְ לְבַדּוֹ עָוְתָה וַשְׁתִּי הַמַּלְכָּה כִּי עַל כָּל הַשָּׂרִים וְעַל כָּל הָעַמִּים אֲשֶׁר בְּכָל מְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ1.16And Memukan said in the presence of the king and the princes,
"Not to the king alone has Vashti the queen done wrong, for to all the princes and to all the peoples in all the jurisdictions of the king Xerxes
..
כִּי יֵצֵא דְבַר הַמַּלְכָּה עַל כָּל הַנָּשִׁים לְהַבְזוֹת בַּעְלֵיהֶן בְּעֵינֵיהֶן בְּאָמְרָם הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ אָמַר לְהָבִיא אֶת וַשְׁתִּי הַמַּלְכָּה לְפָנָיו וְלֹא בָאָה 1.17"for the dictum of the queen will come to all women to hold in contempt their lords in their eyes when it is said to them 'the king Xerxes said to come to Vashti the queen into his presence and she did not come'.lord ba'al rather than husband. Sometimes 'ish is husband in its context (Ruth) as in English with Porgie and Bess - man, woman.
וְהַיּוֹם הַזֶּה תֹּאמַרְנָה שָׂרוֹת פָּרַס וּמָדַי אֲשֶׁר שָׁמְעוּ אֶת דְּבַר הַמַּלְכָּה לְכֹל שָׂרֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ וּכְדַי בִּזָּיוֹן וָקָצֶף1.18"and that very day the princesses of Persia and Medea who heard the dictum of the queen will speak to all the princes of the king - and that will be more than enough contempt and spite...
אִם עַל הַמֶּלֶךְ טוֹב יֵצֵא דְבַר מַלְכוּת מִלְּפָנָיו וְיִכָּתֵב בְּדָתֵי פָרַס וּמָדַי וְלֹא יַעֲבוֹר אֲשֶׁר לֹא תָבוֹא וַשְׁתִּי לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ וּמַלְכוּתָהּ יִתֵּן הַמֶּלֶךְ לִרְעוּתָהּ הַטּוֹבָה מִמֶּנָּה 1.19"If it is good to the king to set out a dictum of the kingdom from his presence to be written into the decrees of Persia and Medea and not to be altered that Vashti not enter the presence of the king Xerxes and that her kingdom the king give to a colleague good in comparison to her...
וְנִשְׁמַע פִּתְגָם הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶׂה בְּכָל מַלְכוּתוֹ כִּי רַבָּה הִיא
וְכָל הַנָּשִׁים יִתְּנוּ יְקָר לְבַעְלֵיהֶן לְמִגָּדוֹל וְעַד קָטָן
1.20"And it will be heard - this sentence of the king that he will make in all jurisdictions - for it is great - and all the women will give esteem to their lords from the greatest to the least."greatest to the least - inclusio? - perhaps for this chapter.
וַיִּיטַב הַדָּבָר בְּעֵינֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ וְהַשָּׂרִים
וַיַּעַשׂ הַמֶּלֶךְ כִּדְבַר מְמוּכָן
1.21And the dictum in his eyes was good to the king and the princes
and the king did according to the dictum of Memukan
..
וַיִּשְׁלַח סְפָרִים אֶל כָּל מְדִינוֹת הַמֶּלֶךְ אֶל מְדִינָה וּמְדִינָה כִּכְתָבָהּ וְאֶל עַם וָעָם כִּלְשׁוֹנוֹ לִהְיוֹת כָּל אִישׁ שֹׂרֵר בְּבֵיתוֹ וּמְדַבֵּר כִּלְשׁוֹן עַמּוֹ ס1.22and he sent letters into all jurisdictions of the king, jurisdiction by jurisdiction according to its writing, and people by people according to their tongue that it should be that each man be prince in his own house and that it be dictated according to the tongue of his people.Many scripts - many tongues - how much Persia then mimics the world today!
What do the complementarians do with this book? This reads like a farce in the making. It is so obvious that the men should have been embarrassed rather than muttering and 'thinging' about the king's rep in the face of foolish behaviour. Bravo Vashti!