Grossman Jonathan - Esther - the outer narrative and the hidden reading

Grossman, Jonathan - Esther: the outer narrative and the hidden reading
The book of Esther is a wondrous journey for its readers. Despite the plot line, which deals with the annihilation of an entire people, the irony and light-hearted atmosphere of the story create a playful, delightful reading experience. The many feasts scattered throughout the story reflect to a large degree the experience of reading the story: an atmosphere of drunkenness and mischief. This reading experience is mainly influenced by the unique literary style of the book. The author of Esther was a literary genius who succeeded in telling his story by using a diverse, sophisticated variety of literary devices, thus creating an especially pleasurable storytelling experience. However, one must not be taken in by the playful narrative that characterizes Esther. Beneath the surface, the author of the story deals with social, political, and theological questions, often even hinting at a unique view that does not appear anywhere else in the Bible. Thus, although this is true of any good story, the book of Esther in particular must be read many times over in an attempt to extract what is hidden beneath the surface. Much important scholarly work has been devoted to the study of Esther; in the present book, I seek to contribute more to peeling away the layers of language and revealing what is hidden beneath.
It is well known that any literary analysis compels the reader to participate in the unfolding examination of the story. Even though researchers may differ in their definitions of the complex relationship between the text and the reader, it is agreed today that one can no longer relate to the text as standing on its own; rather, it is only the reader’s encounter with the story that gives it “meaning.” Nevertheless, there is a difference between a reader who approaches the text in search of something specific and one who comes to the story in acquiescence, ready and willing for the text to launch him or her into new realms. Though it is difficult, bordering on the impossible, my experience in studying the book of Esther has led me to attempt to pursue the words and not to lead them wherever my heart desires. Undoubtedly my preconceived notions as one particular reader constantly influence my analysis of the verses and my claim on the meaning associated with them. However, there is great value to the pretense of being a “listening reader” in exploring the text, even if it not truly feasible. But even the “listening reader” must be an “active reader,” especially in literary analysis, in order to reveal the hidden meaning of the story. Therefore, I must ask the reader’s forgiveness if, on occasion, you feel that what I have suggested is “overreading.” This was nothing more than an enamored author who was swept away by the beloved subject of his research.

Grossman, Jonathan - Esther: the outer narrative and the hidden reading

Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 2011. — (Siphrut : literature and theology of the Hebrew Scriptures ; 6). – 264 p.
ISBN 978-1-57506-221-1 (hardback : alk. paper)

Grossman, Jonathan - Esther: the outer narrative and the hidden reading – Contents

1. Introduction
  • On the Hidden Reading of Biblical Narratives
  • The Masoretic Version and the Septuagint
  • The Artistic Structure of the Book of Esther
  • Historical Setting
  • Where Should the Narrative Begin?
  • Who Is the Protagonist of Esther?
2. The Feast of Ahasuerus and the Feast of Vashti (Esther 1)
  • The Kingdom of Ahasuerus (1:1)
  • Ahasuerus’s Feasts: Generous King or Arrogant King? (1:2–8)
  • “In Addition, Queen Vashti Gave a Banquet for Women” (1:9–12)
  • The King’s Judgment:  Responsible or Ridiculous Rule? (1:13–22) 48
3. Esther Is Taken to the King (Esther 2)
  • The Treatment of Women (2:1–20)
  • Presentation of Mordecai and Esther
  • “When the Virgins Were Assembled a Second Time” (2:19–20)
4. The Attempted Rebellion against the King (Esther 2:21–23)
5. “Some Time Afterward”: The Promotion of Haman (Esther 3:1–6)
  • Haman, Son of Hamedatha, the Agagite (3:1)
  • “And Placed His Seat above All the Officers Who Were with Him” (3:1)
  • “Mordecai Would Not Kneel or Bow Low” (3:2)
  • Mordecai as Vashti (and Haman as Ahasuerus)
6. The Casting of the Lot (Esther 3:6–7)
7. Did the King Know of Haman’s Decree? (Esther 3:8–11)
  • Mordecai Tells Esther (4:7–8)
  • Esther Tells Ahasuerus (7:3–4)
  • The King, Haman, and the “City of Shushan” (3:15)
8. The Secret Turning Point (Esther 4)
  • Without Clothes (4:1)
  • Hathach’s Disappearance (4:1–15)
9. Esther’s Plan (Esther 5:1–8)
10. The Gallows (Esther 5:9–14)
11. Mordecai on Horseback (Esther 6)
  • That Night
  • In the Morning
  • In the Street
12. Haman’s Advisers: Fate versus Divine Providence (Esther 6:12–13)
  • Haman’s Return Home (6:12)
  • Haman at Home with His Advisers (6:13)
13. Esther’s Second Party (Esther 6:14–7:10)
  • “Haman’s Face Was Covered” (7:8)
  • “Also Harbonah Is Remembered for Good”
14. Mordecai Appointed over Haman’s House, and Esther before the King Again (Esther 8:1–8)
  • Mordecai’s True Reward
  • Haman’s Estate
  • Esther’s Plea to the King
15. Mordecai’s Letters (Esther 8:9–16)
16. “Not One Good Thing Was Lacking” (Esther 8:17–9:4)
  • Indiscriminate Slaughter?
  • Martin Luther Adopts an Extreme Manner of Speaking
17. Stages of the Festival’s Acceptance (Esther 9:15–32)
18. The Greatness of the King and the Greatness of Mordecai (Esther 10)
  • The Joseph Narratives and the Book of Esther
  • “All His Mighty and Powerful Acts Are Recorded” (10:2)
19. Conclusion
  • “Dynamic Analogies” in the Book of Esther
  • Changeover and Reversal
  • From “Literary Carnivalesque” Genre to “Theological Carnivalesque” Genre
  • Attitude toward the Monarchy
  • Attitude toward Women
  • Attitude toward Honor
  • Attitude toward Exile
  • Attitude toward Fate
  • Attitude toward God
  • The Uniqueness of the Book of Esther
Index of Authors
Index of Scripture


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