Archaeological Backgrounds of the Exilic and Postexilic Era Part 2: The Archaeological Background of Esther -- By: Edwin M. Yamauchi

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 137:546 (Apr 1980)
Article: Archaeological Backgrounds of the Exilic and Postexilic Era Part 2: The Archaeological Background of Esther
Author: Edwin M. Yamauchi


Archaeological Backgrounds of the Exilic and Postexilic Era
Part 2:
The Archaeological Background of Esther

Edwin M. Yamauchi

[Edwin M. Yamauchi, Professor and Director of Graduate Studies, History Department, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio.]

[Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of four articles delivered by the author as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Memorial Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, November 6–9, 1979.]

Objections and Problems

Literary Form

In the last twenty years there has been no lack of erudite and ingenious attempts to unravel the riddle of Esther by reading between the lines and discovering hidden meanings below the surface of the text.

Assyriologist J. Lewy suggested that the tale of Esther originally involved a story of the threatened extermination of Babylonians loyal to Marduk in Susa rather than of Jews.1 This proposal was recently revived by Littman.2

Cazelles thought that Esther resulted from the combination of a liturgical account with a historical account.3 Bickerman, citing numerous parallels from the Arabian Nights, viewed Esther in a similar light as pure folklore.4 Gerleman perceived Esther as consciously modeled on the story of the Exodus,5 whereas Talmon defined the Esther narrative as a “historicized wisdom tale,”6 like the story of Ahiq̣ar.7

Dommershausen has analyzed Esther by focusing on particular stylistic elements such as the references to drinking.8 Bardtke believes that separate tales of Vashti, Mordecai, and Esther were combined to form the present book.9

These earlier attempts at literary analysis are reviewed and shown to be less than satisfying in a recent work by Berg who herself chooses to relate Esther to the story of Joseph.10

All these studies contribute insights into the literary

techniques of the author and underscore certain aspects of the narrative, such as the author’s humor.11 At the same time many of these studies too readily reject the claims of the work itself to be a historical narrative.

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