Accident Or Acronymy: The Tetragrammaton In The Masoretic Text Of Esther -- By: John M. Manguno Jr.
BSac 171:684 (October-December 2014) p. 440
Accident Or Acronymy: The Tetragrammaton In The Masoretic Text Of Esther
John M. Manguno Jr. is on staff at Southwestern Assemblies of God University, Waxahachie, Texas.
The Talmud records the question “Where is there an allusion to Esther in the Torah?” The answer given is “And I will hide My face.”1 The verb “I will hide” in Deuteronomy 31:18 is אסתיר, which contains all the consonants in the name אסתר. This bit of midrashic wordplay highlights the root of problems posed by the book of Esther, for in Esther one character is conspicuously absent, Yahweh. But what if the Hebrew text of Esther did contain a reference to Yahweh, albeit a hidden one? Would that not aid in finding answers to questions that have plagued interpreters of Esther for many years? Whether this feature exists and was an intentional plan of the original author is exactly the issue that this article addresses.
Many well-intentioned Bible readers have been drawn into things like Michael Drosnin’s The Bible Code or Ivan Panin’s Numeric Greek New Testament, and competent scholars have presented strong cases against these methods.2 The question of the divine name being encoded in Esther, however, has not received a similarly thorough treatment. When the feature is mentioned at all, it is seemingly either accepted or dismissed without discussion of the
BSac 171:684 (October-December 2014) p. 441
reasoning behind deciding one way or the other. That YHWH can be found as an acronym in the text is beyond dispute, but the question of intentionality remains open. This article aims to provide sound reasoning for dismissing the appearance of YHWH in the text as an accidental feature that seems significant only because of the unique omission of the divine name elsewhere in the book.
The Background Of The Problem
As late as the third century AD, rabbis were discussing whether Esther “defiled the hands,”3 and it fared no better among later Christian interpreters, with Martin Luther saying, “I am so hostile to this book [II Maccabees] and to Esther that I could wish they did not exist at all.”4 And the questioning concerning Esther is far from over. As Abraham Cohen points out, “Modern scholars, impressed by the absence of God’s name and by a gentile mood in the book, question its Jewish roots and religious nature....
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