Вы находитесь на странице: 1из 15

The Book of Esther and the Enu r ma Elish1


University of Oxford

The fact that the Old Testament (OT) Book of Esther is to some degree indebted to Ancient Near Eastern precedents is old news in scholarly circles.2 There is even evidence to suggest that Jews throughout the ages have known this to be the case3 although it is only through the efforts of modern scholars that literary traces of (principally Babylonian) antecedents have been systematically and thoroughly analysed. Indeed, the last decade of the nineteenth century witnessed a remarkable scramble amongst scholars to identify the precise Babylonian myth upon which the Book of Esther was based. The arguments hinged on the association of Esther and Mordecai with the Babylonian gods Ishtar and Marduk respectively.4 Such an association is immediately attractive: even to the untrained ear Esther and Mordecainames that are atypical of biblical languagebear a striking resemblance to Ishtar and Marduk; in both the biblical and the Babylonian traditions they are presented as cousins; and even Esthers Hebrew name in the story, Hadassah, has been convincingly linked to Ishtar by scholars.5 Satisfied that Esther is none other than Ishtar, scholars set out to identify the Babylonian version of the Book of Esther, or at least to determine which Babylonian frame-story inspired a Judaicized version that has reached us as the Book of Esther. Understandably, most scholars turned to Babylonian tales about Ishtar and proposed analogies with The Epic of Gilgamesh, the TammuzIshtar myth, The Poem of Agushaya, and others. Notably, Zimmern proposed the Enu r ma Elish in this context while recognizing that, despite similarities with the OT story, it is problematic that this Babylonian myth makes no reference

1 I would like to thank Patricia Crone and Stephanie Dalley for their helpful comments on this article. Stephanie Dalley made a draft of her forthcoming monograph on the Assyrian background to Esther (tentatively titled Revenge at Susa) available to me, for which I am also grateful. Finally, I would like to acknowledge the generous support of the British Academy. 2 There is an enormous amount of literature, from ancient commentaries to modern analyses, devoted to the Book of Esther. For a convenient summary of the state of the field see C. A. Moore, Esther, The Book of in The Anchor Bible Dictionary (ed. D. N. Freedman), New York, 1992, 2: 63343. 3 Thus, a Judaeo-Persian poem about the Book of Esther refers to the planets Jupiter associated with Marduk amongst the Babylonians, and VenusIshtars celestial equivalent (in V. Moreen, In Queen Esthers Garden, Yale, 2000, p. 91, lines 15 and 24). Such comparisons occur as early as the Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Megilla, 13a, where Esthers name is explained as the gentiles term for the planet Venus (istahar), and in both Targums to Esther 2: 7, (in B. Grossfeld, The Two Targums of Esther, Edinburgh, 1991, p. 42 for the first Targum, and p. 136 for the second Targum). This tallies well with the general uneasiness that various streams of Judaism have had with the story; the Essenes famously excluded it from their canon (if the absence of the Book of Esther amongst the Qumran books is anything to go by) as do the Karaites, who generally reject both the Book of Esther and the Purim festival that was instituted on its basis. The lack of any reference to God in the Masoretic text is known to have vexed the rabbis, and in the Babylonian Talmud (Tractate Megilla, 7a) some argue that the scroll of Esther is not a holy book. 4 Cf. P. Jensen, Elamitishe Eigennamen. Ein Beitrag der elamitischen Inschriften, WZKM 6, 1892, 70; H. Zimmern, Zur Frage nach dem Ursprnge des Purimfestes, ZAW 11, 1891, 15769; idem., Zum Babylonischen Neujahrsfest (Leipzig, 1918); idem., in E. Schrader, Keilinschriften und das Alte Testament (Berlin, 1903), 514 ff.; P. Haupt, Purim, Beitrge zur Assyriologie 6, 1906; and idem., The name Ishtar, AJSL 28, 1907, 112 f. Attempts were also made to identify Babylonian equivalents for Haman, Zeresh, and Vashti, although these were less convincing and have not attained the level of scholarly acceptance of Ishtar and Marduk. 5 Cf. J. Lewy, The Feast of the 14th Day of Adar, HUCA, 1939, 12751 at 12830, who shows Hadassah (which makes little sense as the feminine form of hadas, myrtle in Hebrew) to be the Aramaized form of Akkadian hadashshatu, bride, a common epithet of Ishtar.

Bulletin of SOAS, 69, 2 (2006), 209223. School of Oriental and African Studies. Printed in the United Kingdom.



whatsoever to Ishtar/Esther and instead celebrates Marduks achievements.6 This objection to the Enu r ma Elish theory was considered insurmountable, and by the time Lewy published his seminal (if controversial) study on The Feast of the 14th Day of Adar this theory was not deemed worth mentioning; instead, Lewy repeatedly speaks of the unmistakable traces of an older Ishtar story and the original IshtarEsther legend, to the exclusion of Marduk legends that would have suited the needs of his arguments at least as well.7 The attempts to settle the question of Babylonian origins and antecedents met with varying degrees of success and the scholarly controversy quickly reached something of an impasse. As early as 1908, when Paton published his commentary on the Book of Esther, the issue of Babylonian origins was becoming tired; after surveying the various Babylonian options Paton could only conclude that the Book of Esther has many points of similarity to Babylonian mythology, but no close counterpart to it has yet been discovered in Babylonian literature.8 It is not the intention of this article to revive this thorny and probably intractable debate (although it is recognized that this may happen regardless of intention), but rather to reconsider the arguments in favour of the Enu r ma Elish as one of the sources of the Book of Esther, and to show that this theory has not received a fair trial in the court of Esther studies. Before proceeding it should be mentioned that in their search for Babylonian origins of the Esther story, scholars have been equally eager to account for the pre-Jewish history of the Purim festival sanctioned in the Book of Esther.9 Indeed, it would appear that more often than not the issue of the origins of the Esther story was subordinated to a discussion of Purims origins.10 Hence, the acceptance or rejection of a particular Babylonian myth in this context is often associated with a theory of Purims origins. As each such theory was rejected, the Babylonian myth at the core of the theory tended to fall out of favour. The discussion that follows differs from previous efforts to account for the origins of the Book of Esther in three major ways. First, it focuses almost entirely on the Esther story itself to the exclusion of the question of Purims origins. Second, it argues in favour of the Enu r ma Elish as an influence on the Book of Esther without rejecting other sources of influence and inspiration. It recognizes that the Enu r ma Elish is but one of the Babylonian myths that may have left their mark on the Esther story. Third, it pays no attention to the question of the historicity of the events described in the Book of Esther. Accordingly, it is possible that the description of an actual historical event (presumably an unsuccessful plot against the Jewish people in Persia) was authored by someone schooled in Babylonian scribal traditions and expressed in Babylonian terms. Thus, accepting that the Book of Esther shares a general storyline, assorted themes and motifs, and some linguistic details with the
6 For a summary of the various theories and the scholarly objections to them, see L. B. Paton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Esther (New York, 1908), 8794. 7 J. Lewy, The Feast of the 14th Day of Adar, pp. 136 and 138. For Lewy, Mordecai is merely the man to whom the legend gave only second place (ibid., 131). 8 L. B. Paton, Critical and Exegetical Commentary, 94 9 Such options as the Magophonia, the Zagmuk festival, the Sakaea and the Persian Farvardigan have all been proposed, although none has met with universal acceptance. On this question, see note 4 above. 10 In discussing the various theories expounded by nineteenth-century scholars, N. S. Doniach, Purim or the Feast of Esther: An Historical Study (Philadelphia, 1933), 25 says: it becomes increasingly clear that the problems of date and authorship of the book of Esther can scarcely be adequately considered unless some solution is arrived at to the problem of the origin of the festival. Thus, in this view, an investigation into the history of Purim must precede any discussion of the ancient traditions that may have inspired the Book of Esther itself.



Enu r ma Elish does not necessarily mean that the story of Jewish triumph over the machinations of an evil vizier did not happen along the lines described.11 The Book of Mordecai When considering the arguments in favour of Enu r ma Elishs influence, it is necessary to confront those counter-arguments for which the theory was originally rejected. There are two reasons why this particular myth has been deemed unattractive for our purposes. First, it has been used extensively in accounting for Babylonian origins of other Biblical narratives. The obvious parallels between the Babylonian account of creation and that of Genesis have r ma Elish The Babylonian Genesis.12 Thus, it even led some to term the Enu is not that scholars have neglected the Enu r ma Elish as a source for Biblical stories but that they have already used this myth in tracing the origins of other OT stories. Second, as stated above, the complete lack of references to Ishtar in this source makes it difficult to take the Enu r ma Elish seriously in establishing influences on the Book of Esther, seeing as the motivation for seeking a Babylonian precedent is based on the identification of Esther with Ishtar. The first objection may be countered by pointing out that although the r ma Elish the vast Babylonian creation myth is indeed described in the Enu majority of the tablets are concerned with the story of Marduks triumph over the evil forces (represented by Tia r mat and her consort Qingu). The description of creation is only introduced in the second half of the myth (tablets five to seven, where Marduk continues to be praised) and although it can be argued that the first four tablets are building up to the act of creation, the unmistakable absence of such a prelude in the Genesis account would suggest either that this is not the case, or that the two creation stories are not entirely comparable. And in any event, it is not difficult to imagine that the Enu r ma Elish, being one of the central myths of Babylonian culture, inspired more than one Biblical account. The second objection is more problematic. Even if one were to read references to Ishtar into the text,13 one would still have to reconcile the fact that Esther is the eponymous heroine of the Book of Esther whereas Ishtar is, at best, alluded to in the imagery of the Enu r ma Elish. Is it likely that a text focused on celebrating the ascent and supremacy of Marduk would have inspired a later story about Ishtar/Esther? The answer proposed here is that a nuanced reading of the OT Book of Esther suggests that in this case too the aim of the story is to extol the virtues of Mordecai/Marduk, rather than those of Esther/Ishtar.14 Mordecais primacy in the Masoretic Text (MT) is generally
11 It is the fact that no such episode is recorded for the Achaemenid period that is most difficult to reconcile with the events described in Esther. 12 Hence, Alexander Heidels translation of and commentary on the Enu r ma Elish by the same name (Chicago, 1942, and subsequent reprints). All quotations from the Enu r ma Elish in this article are from B. Fosters translation (Before the Muses: volume I, Maryland, 1993, 351402), although on occasion reference is made to Heidels translation (The Babylonian Genesis, Chicago, second edition, 1951) for the sake of comparison. Translations from the OT are my own. 13 Marduks bow (E.E. 6: 88 ff.) may hint at a celestial representation of Ishtar, as the Bow-star (E.E. 6: 90) is interpreted by scholars as a reference to Ishtar (cf. S. Langdon, The Babylonian Epic of Creation, Oxford 1923, p. 177 n. 10, which refers to E.E. 6: 67b in Langdons edition of the tablets). 14 It is undeniable that in certain episodes in the MT version of the story Esther is portrayed as the chief protagonist, and studies conducted on the multivalency of the MT show that certain episodes favour either Esther, or Mordecai, or neither. The arguments presented here do not ignore these sophisticated (and often convincing) studies, but assert that in the overall plot it is Mordecai who is celebrated. The question as to why the book is named after Esther (and not Mordecai) will be considered below.



overlooked, but the textual evidence makes two points clear: first, that in their relationship Mordecai is senior to Esther, and second, that Mordecai rather than Esther is the hero of the story. Mordecais seniority in relation to Esther is hinted at in a variety of ways. When both characters are introduced in chapter 2, Mordecai is described as having reared Esther, whom he adopted when she was orphaned (verse 7).15 When Mordecai is introduced, his proud lineage is detailed (verses 57), whereas Esthers lineage is limited to the fact that her parents are dead. Moreover, when Esther is whisked away to the Kings palace we are told that Mordecai ordered her (D siwwah aleyha) not to divulge information concerning her Jewish background (verse 10). This is repeated in verse 20, where we are also told that Esther acted in accordance with Mordecais command (mamar mordekay). Similarly, upon learning of Hamans machinations (4: 1) Mordecai ordered Esther to approach the king and to plead with him to spare her people (4: 8). Later, when Esther hears that Mordecai is wearing sackcloth in mourning over the kings decree, Esther sends clothes for Mordecai, but the latter refused them (lo qibbel; Esther 4: 4), suggesting that while Mordecai routinely orders Esther, Esther cannot dictate Mordecais behaviour.16 Hence, it is not surprising that although they are meant to be cousins (Esther, 2: 7) posterity has redefined their relationship as being that of an uncle and his niece.17 Not only is Mordecai senior to Esther in the MT, but a close reading of the events and language of the story supports the postulate that it is Mordecai and not Esther who is being celebrated throughout the account. Moreover, in some instances Esther actually comes across as being reluctant to help Mordecai and the Jews. The primacy of Mordecai is evident in the following instances: 1) 2) 3) Esther 2: 56. As mentioned above, when introducing Mordecai his full lineage is provided in a level of detail that exceeds the description of any other character in the story.18 2: 22. Mordecai learns of the plot to assassinate the king and he relays this information to the authorities through Esther, who is now queen, thereby saving the kings life. 3: 2 ff. Out of deference for his Jewish beliefs, Mordecai refuses to bow before Haman in a brave affront to the kings command (mis D wah), which could cost him his life. In general, chapter 3 deals exclusively with the rivalry between Haman and Mordecai; Esther makes no appearance and the central plot of the Book of Esther is determined by the relationship between these two enemies. Mordecai, rather than Esther, is constantly referred to as the representative of the Jewish people (3: 4, 6, and 8). Thus, the story that ensues results from the bitter relations between Haman and Mordecai, whereas the other characters are relatively inconsequential.

15 We shall return to this verse, and propose the meaning of advising for the usual rearing that is offered for Hebrew omen. 16 Conversely, when Esther requests that Mordecai gather the Jews of Susa and fast in her honour, Esthers command (and 4: 17 makes it clear that it was in fact a command) is phrased with the verb sh.w.b, suggesting that Esther replied to Mordecai, rather than ordering him. 17 Mordecai is described as being Esthers uncle in Josephuss account of the story (Antiquities, chapter 11, book 6). In the first Targum to Esther Mordecai is described as being both Esthers cousin (2: 7) and uncle (7: 6), in what is clearly a reflection of the confused traditions concerning this point (cf. B. Grossfeld, The Two Targums of Esther, p. 42 n. 16). 18 It could be argued that the description of Mordecais impeccable lineage was provided in order to disguise his existence as a Babylonian god, although the lack of a similar faade for Ishtar/ Esther weakens this postulate.









4: 4. When Esther hears that Mordecai is wearing sackcloth and is mourning (for himself and the Jewish people) her reaction is to send him clothes, which is a rather clumsy and minimal response from someone whose entire people (and adoptive father) are under threat. Ostensibly, as the following two verses intimate, Esther was unaware of the reason for Mordecais mourning. Yet this merely serves to highlight the poignant contrast between a knowledgeable Mordecai, who managed to find out details of a secret plot against the king, and an ignorant Esther, who even as queen was apparently unaware of an edict which, by this point (cf. 4: 3), was already known to all Jews in the empire. 4: 11. When the full extent of the edict against the Jews becomes known to Esther, Mordecai begs her to approach the king and implore him to reverse the ruling. Esthers reaction is to protest that she would be risking her life were she to enter the inner chambers uninvited. As we have seen in 3: 2 ff., Mordecai is willing to risk his own life for Jewish ideals; here, Esther is unwilling to do the same in order to save the entire Jewish nation. It is only when Mordecai explains to her (4: 13) that it is in her personal interests to intervene that she complies. 6: 711. Mordecais reward for averting the assassination plot against the king is to be clothed in the royal garments and paraded on one of the kings horses through the streets of the capital. The regal symbolism is transparent and represents the beginning of the reversal of Mordecais and Hamans fortunes. As with chapter 3, this chapter makes no reference to Esther. 8: 2. In the aftermath of Hamans decline, the king entrusts his signet ring to Mordecai, thereby affording him the legal authority of the king that Haman had previously enjoyed (which explains why disobeying Haman was considered a transgression against the kings command in 3: 2). Mordecai has now worn the kings clothes, he has been paraded on his mount, and he now possesses the kings legal authority in the form of the signet ring.19 8: 15 ff. Immediately following the dispatch of the new edicts, Mordecai is described as being paraded in terms that leave no doubt as to his ascendancy: Mordecai went forth from before the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a fine-linen, purple robe; and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. This is followed by great celebrations amongst the Jews and fear amongst the gentiles. Nowhere in this episode, which colourfully portrays the triumph of the Jewish people, is Esther mentioned. 9: 3. Once again, the fear of Mordecai has befallen the gentiles. The following verse explains why: For Mordecai was great in the kings palace and his reputation spread throughout all the lands; for the man Mordecai was increasingly great.20

19 Furthermore, in Esther 8: 810, 14, the authority inherent in the signet ring is used to issue rulings that override Hamans previous edict of 3: 12 f. In both this case and in the case of Hamans edict, letters were circulated throughout the empire, yet the official courier system of Mordecais edict (as described in 8: 14) is clearly operating at a quicker speed than the ordinary runners used by Haman (3: 13, 15). Thus, even in the smallest of details Mordecais application of royal authority is superior to that exercised by Haman. 20 It is important to mention that Esther is not entirely absent in this episode as she appears in 9: 12. This shows that one cannot argue that Mordecais ascendancy here is due to the fact that this chapter derives from a Marduk legend (while other chapters, which focus on Esther, derive from an Ishtar legend). Thus, in chapter 7, which focuses almost entirely on Esther and the king, Mordecai appears in verse 9. Chapters 3 and 6, however, exclude any reference to Esther and may well emanate from Marduk sources.



10) 9: 2022. Mordecai records the events and institutes a national religious holiday to commemorate the victory of the Jews over their enemies. Following this (9: 23, 278) the Jewish people agree to that which Mordecai has written to them and Purim is permanently established in the Jewish calendar. Only in verse 29 (as in verse 31) is Esthers name affixed to that of Mordecai as one of the two leaders to institute Purim.21 11) Chapter 10, the concluding chapter of the MT version, focuses on Mordecais achievements and does not mention Esther. The final two verses of the Book of Esther exalt Mordecai, a fact that has baffled scholars for centuries.22 The entire story is referred to as all the acts of his [Mordecais] power and his might, and the full account of the greatness of Mordecai, whom the king advanced (verse 2). To end the Book of Esther with the sentence For Mordecai the Jew was next unto the king Ahasuerus, and great among the Jews, and accepted of the multitude of his brethren; seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all his seed (verse 3), leads one to consider whether the Book of Esther should not have been labelled The Book of Mordecai. In light of these points, the assertion that the Book of Esther was influenced by a Marduk-legend such as the Enu r ma Elish no longer seems improbable. In fact, there is evidence that Mordecais dominance did not go unnoticed: in the Babylonian Talmud we are told that there is an obligation to drink on Purim until one does not know the difference between cursed Haman and blessed Mordecai, clearly implying that the main protagonist was Mordecai rather than Esther,23 while in 2 Maccabees (15: 36) the 14th of Adar is actually referred to as Mordecais day.24 If at its core Esther is a Marduk story, one must account for the path of the Marduk story (particularly, the Enu r ma Elish) into the OT. Due to the fragmentary state of the literary and material evidence, this issue does not lend itself to simple solutions. That said, the popularity of the Enu r ma Elish, especially in the seventh and sixth centuries BCE, the influence that it had on later Akkadian literature, and the dominant place it had in the Babylonian school curriculum make it very likely that literate Jews in Achaemenid times would r ma Elish and the culture that have been familiar with both the text of the Enu produced and recited it.25 Elements common to both worksthe case for influence The evidence in support of the argument may be divided into three categories: plot, motifs and themes and language.
21 Esther 9: 32, And the commandment of Esther confirmed these matters of Purim; and it was written in the book, appears to be an anomaly in that the entire account hitherto focuses on Mordecai and clearly shows him to have been behind the various developments. One suspects the hand of the redactor to have played a part here. 22 For a discussion of this puzzling chapter see: D. Daube, The last chapter of Esther, JQR 37, 19467, 13947. 23 Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Megilla, 7b. 24 Admittedly, in light of these arguments we are left to wonder why the account of these events was titled The Book of Esther. This may be clarified by the LXX version, in which the additions to the story (especially addition D) portray Esther in a more positive, heroic role. The present article, in assessing the language and literary style of the Hebrew MT and its relationship to Babylonian precedents, focuses on the MT version to the exclusion of others. Another possibility is that the transmission of the Marduk legend to the Jews of Babylon was effected in areas where the Ishtar cult was particularly popular and influential, and the story reached the Jews through the sieve of Ishtar-worship. Stephanie Dalleys forthcoming monograph Revenge at Susa will treat this issue in detail. 25 Cf. B. Foster, Before the Muses, 25 and 352; and A. Heidel, The Babylonian Genesis, 167.



Plot It cannot be convincingly argued that the events described in the Book of Esther are simply a Hebrew or Jewish version of the Enu r ma Elish. Some of the main characters in the latter do not have clear-cut equivalents in the former,26 and Marduks creation of the world is not mirrored in the Esther plot. However, there are a number of pivotal scenes that are common to both storylines. 1) The evil scheme In both stories an innocent group is threatened by an evil scheme. In the Babylonian myth Apsu is irritated by the Anunnaki, or younger gods, whose way has become painful to him (E.E. 1: 35 ff.), whereas in Esther Haman is irritated by the different rules of the Jews (Esther 3: 8). Both Apsu and Haman resolve to destroy the innocent group (E.E. 1: 39; Esther 3: 6).27 The details of this evil scheme become known to the intended victims (E.E. 1: 55 7; Esther 3: 12 ff.). In the Enu r ma Elish the pre-emptive murder of Apsu by the younger gods (E.E. 1: 69) enrages Tia r mat, who decides to eradicate them; in Esther Mordecais refusal to bow before Haman leads the latter to scheme against Mordecai and his people. Hence, Tia r mat and Haman plan to annihilate the younger gods and the Jews in the respective stories, the reaction to which is fear amongst the targeted groups: upon hearing of this plan, Anshar struck his thigh and bit his lip (E.E. 2: 4950),28 this being a formulaic reaction to bad news in Ancient Near Eastern texts, while Mordecai rent his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes in a comparable gesture (Esther 4: 1).29 Moreover, upon learning this news the gods in the Enu r ma Elish were stunned, they sat down in silence (E.E. 1: 58),30 which mirrors the startled dismay of the people of Susa, upon hearing Hamans evil plan (Esther 3: 15, where the unusual term nabokah is used). 2) The defence strategy It is significant that in both stories the fate of the threatened group is reversed and they eventually slay their enemies (in the E.E. 4: 97 ff., and in Esther 9: 5 ff.), but not before an attempt is made, in both cases, to reverse the evil decree peaceably through the efforts of an intermediary. In the Enu r ma Elish (e.g. 2: 72 ff.) various Anunnaki are sent before Tia r mat for this purpose, while in Esther (4: 8) Mordecai sends Esther to the king to plead for mercy. Significantly, in both episodes the intermediary complains that approaching the king/Tia r mat is too dangerous (E.E. 2: 802, and 2: 901; Esther 4: 11) and Esther agrees to approach the king only when it is explained to her that it is in her best interests to do so (Esther 4: 13).31
26 Character development is more elaborate in the Enu r ma Elish and there are more characters central to the Babylonian myth than there are in the Esther story; had Esther been based on the Enu r ma Elish we might have expected the opposite to be true. 27 Furthermore, in both cases the innocents are threatened by those who are expected to protect them: Tia r mat and Apsu plan to kill their own offspring (E.E. 1: 51 ff) and the Persian king agrees to annihilate his own subjects (Esther 3: 11), which is in clear contrast to the Persian ideal of a just ruler. 28 This is Heidels translation of the verse. Foster has He cried out Woe!; he bit his lips. 29 Donning sackcloth and ashes in the OT signifies mourning and sadness. Cf. Genesis 37: 34; Jonah 3: 6; Nehemiah 9: 13; II Samuel 3: 31; I Kings 20: 31; Psalms 30: 11; ibid. 35: 13; and in the NT cf. Matthew 11: 201. Regarding Mesopotamian mourning, in The Descent of Ishtar, Eneshkigal struck her thigh and bit her finger upon hearing a request that should not have been made (in S. Dalley, Myths from Mesopotamia, Oxford, 1991, 158). 30 A similar phrase is used to describe Eas fear when he learnt of Tia r mats preparations for battle: When Ea heard this, He was struck dumb with horror and sat stock still (E.E. 2: 56), which resembles the startled dismay implied by nabokah. 31 Marduk eventually agrees to fight her only after he proves himself worthy and is promised primacy amongst the gods (E.E. 2: 15863).



3) The triumph Unsurprisingly, the protagonists of both stories defeat their enemies. In the Enu r ma Elish, Marduk slays Tia r mat, Qingu and their supporters, while in the Book of Esther Haman is defeated through what appears to have been a bizarre error of judgement on the part of the king, who misinterpreted Hamans pleading for forgiveness from Esther as an attempt to force himself upon her (Esther 7: 8).32 In both stories not only is the antagonist defeated and killed, but their offspring are also destroyed. The eleven evil monsters created by Tia r mat and Qingu himself are captured, tied up and killed (E.E. 4: 1158; 4: 120; and 6: 31), while Haman and his ten sons are killed and subsequently hanged (Esther 7: 10; 9: 710; and 9: 14), in what is a striking case of parity between the two stories. In addition to the physical triumph of Marduk and the Anunnaki on the one hand, and of Mordecai, Esther, and the Jews on the other, one must consider the symbolic triumph of the protagonists in each story and their elevation from obscurity to heroism. While this applies to Marduk in the Enu r ma Elish, it is noteworthy that in the Book of Esther it is Mordecai who benefits most clearly from this ascent.33 In the Enu r ma Elish, it is Qingu whom Tia r mat exalted ... in their midst, she made him great (E.E. 1: 147)34 while in Esther Haman is referred to as being made great ... and exalted, and [the king] set his seat above all the princes that were with him (Esther 3: 1). Furthermore, Tia r mat presented Qingu with the tablet of destinies, saying Your command shall always be greatest, over all the Anunna-gods (E.E., 1: 1567), while in the Book of Esther the king removed his [signet] ring from his hand and gave it to Haman... (Esther 3: 10), who used it to issue irreversible decrees in the kings name. When Qingu receives this power he and Tia r mat immediately ordained destinies for his divine children (E.E. 1: 160). In a similar fashion, shortly after Haman is empowered by the king (Esther 3: 1 ff.) he resolves to destroy the Jews and famously casts lots to determine a time for their destruction (Esther 3: 67). The triumphs of Marduk over Tia r mat and Qingu, and of Mordecai over Haman, represent the central plot of the respective stories, and are described in great detail, which helps to illuminate the parallels between them. Marduk is initially elevated by the other gods, in what can be best described as an audition to be their saviour. He says: If indeed I am to champion you, Subdue Tia r mat and save your lives, convene the assembly, nominate me for supreme destiny! Take your places in the Assembly-Place of the Gods, all of you in joyful mood. When I speak, let me ordain destinies instead of you. Let nothing that I shall bring about be altered, nor what I say be revoked or changed. (E.E. 2: 15763; and repeated in 3: 5864). The gods agree to Marduks terms and he is enthroned and declared supreme (E.E. 4: 1 f.), even before battling and defeating Tia r mat and Qingu. Marduk
32 This, at least, is the ostensible reason for Hamans death in the story. Of course, one should not downplay the importance of Esthers request to spare her people (and her implication of Haman in the plot against the Jews), or the recent elevation of Mordecai, who is rewarded belatedly for having foiled an assassination plot against the king. 33 Naturally, one could argue that Esthers rise from orphaned Jewess to Queen of Persia is of immediate relevance in this context, but it will be shown that the regal trappings associated with this reversal of fortunes are bestowed on Mordecai. 34 This is Heidels translation; Foster has She raised up Qingu from among them, it was he she made greatest.



proves himself up to the task (by performing a miracle) and When the gods, his fathers, saw what he had commanded, joyfully they hailed: Marduk is king! (E.E. 4: 278). Following this, the gods bestowed upon Marduk the sceptre, the throne and the royal robe (E.E. 4: 29).35 Marduk predictably defeats his enemies and is described as having terrifying auras covering his head (E.E. 4: 58). Following this Marduk captured [Qingu] and reckoned him among the doomed. He took away from him the tablet of destinies that he had no right to, He sealed it with his seal and affixed it to his chest (E.E. 4: 120 2). Thus, the sequence of Marduks ascent may be summarized as follows: before defeating his enemies, Marduk is described in regal terms; following his success at battle, he is feared by all and acquires the symbolic tablet of destinies from Qingu. The gods, whom he saved, rejoice in celebration of this victory (to which we shall return below). Mordecais victory over Haman follows a similar chain of events. Already in chapter two we are told that Mordecai sat at the kings gate (verse 21), this being a reference to some sort of minor royal appointment. But it is in chapter six that Mordecai is elevated, if only briefly, to royal status: when the king is reminded of Mordecais tip about the assassination attempt against him, Mordecai is rewarded by being adorned in the kings clothes, mounted on the kings horse, and paraded in the streets of the capital, with Haman proclaiming Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honour (Esther 6: 11). Only in chapter eight, however, after Haman has been hanged from the tree he had prepared for Mordecai, does the latter enjoy the full trappings of royalty. Just as Marduk inherited the tablet of destinies from Qingu, so Mordecai was presented with the kings signet ring, which the king himself had removed from Hamans finger (Esther 8: 2). Subsequently, the king allows Mordecai and Esther to issue whatever decrees they desire in the kings name (Esther 8: 8) in order to override Hamans earlier edict. Mordecai and Esther dispatch their edict using the royal postal service (Esther 8: 10, 14) just as Haman had used the royal couriers in dispatching his own decree, sealed with the kings seal (Esther 3: 13). Mordecai is then described as follows: Mordecai went forth from before the king in royal apparel of blue and white, and with a great crown of gold, and with a fine-linen, purple robe; and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced (Esther 8: 15; compare Marduks sceptre, throne, and royal robe above). Thus, Mordecai had attained the full trappings of royalty, the pomp of regal ceremony and the authority of the signet-ring. Furthermore, Persian officials throughout the realm began to assist the Jews in their revenge because the fear of Mordecai had befallen them (Esther 9: 3), bringing to mind Marduks aforementioned terror-inspiring splendour. Regarding Mordecais awe-inspiring status, the author of the Book of Esther explains: For Mordecai was great in the kings palace and his reputation spread throughout all the lands; for the man Mordecai was increasingly great (Esther 9: 4). 4) The celebration When the Anunnaki saw that Marduk had defeated Tia r mat, they rejoiced and were glad, They brought him gifts and presents (E.E. 4: 1334). The Jews reaction to the reversal of fortunes was to make the thirteenth and fourteenth of Adar a day of feasting and happiness (Esther 9: 17), which is later described as including the sending of portions to one another (Esther 9: 19). Indeed,

This is Heidels translation; Foster has scepter, throne, and staff.



when (as we shall see) Mordecai wrote letters to all the Jews instituting these days as festival in the Jewish calendar, his description of the proceedings is that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions to one another, and gifts to the poor (Esther 9: 22). Admittedly, the parallel would have been more complete had the Jews brought portions and gifts to Mordecai (rather than to each other), but the similarities shared by both descriptions of the victory celebrations deserve our attention.36 5) The instructions for posterity After his triumph and the celebrations of his people, Marduk establishes the celestial patterns of the universe and the yearly calendar (E.E. 5: 3 ff.). Similarly, after the victory of the Jews and their celebration, Mordecai establishes the schedule of Purim celebrations, in a relatively elaborate and repetitive discussion of the variations between dates and places (Esther 9: 179, 21, 278, and 31).37 The Enu r ma Elish concludes with, among other things, Marduk settling in his newly built city of Babylon, in his new temple (E.E. 6: 65, and the preceding verses, which describe the building procedure). Mordecai, in the last chapter of the Book of Esther is depicted as settled in Ahasueruss palace, albeit next to the king (Esther 10: 13, at 3). It is in this final portion of the Book of Esther that Mordecais virtues are extolled, just as the Enu r ma Elish concludes with detailed praise of Marduk (E.E. 7: passim), and with a mixture of prayer and instruction that future generations repeat the virtues of Marduk, and rejoice in him (E.E. 7: 14562).38 This is echoed in the Book of Esther (9: 27) where The Jews ordained and accepted upon them and upon their seed, and upon all those who joined them, would unfailingly keep these two days [of celebration] according to the writing thereof, and the scheduling (timing) thereof, every year. Themes and motifs There are a number of themes and motifs that are common to both stories. Many motifs are common to all good dramas, and it is likely that some of the parallels drawn here will be more convincing as evidence for direct influence than others.39 For example, the idea of mourning is expressed in physical details in both cases. In the Enu r ma Elish Anshar, upon hearing of Tia r mats plan, struck his thigh and bit his lip (E.E. 2: 49), just as Mordecai, upon learning of Hamans machinations, rent his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes (Esther 4: 1).40 While these gestures are equivalent, it must be
36 The reference to Marduk as having established offerings of baked goods (E.E. 7: 58) may bring modern Purim celebrations to mind, but must be viewed as coincidental. Offerings of baked goods are also presented to Namtara in the Epic of Atrah D asis (1: 3801, and 1: 3956, in W. G. Lambert and A. R. Millard, Atrah D asI is: The Babylonian Story of the Flood (Oxford, 1969), 69). 37 Considering the laconic descriptions of other events of the story, the verses concerning the dates of Purim are unusually detailed, and Esther 9: 17, for example, would have sufficed on its own. 38 This is similar to E.E. 7: 18: May [Marduk] not be forgotten amongst men, but let them hold his deeds in remembrance. 39 In the following discussion of motifs/themes reference will be made to those universal motifs that are included in S. Thompsons Motif-Index of Folk Literature (Copenhagen, 195558). It must be remembered, however, that Thompson draws on literature that largely postdates both the Enu r ma Elish and the Book of Esther. In fact, it is probable that similarities between a motif common to both stories on the one hand, and to one of Thompsons categories on the other, indicate not the universal nature of the motif but rather the enduring influence of Biblical and Mesopotamian texts on other literatures. 40 Cf. Thompson, Motif-Index, P678.1 (Tearing garments as a sign of grief) and P.681.1.1.2 (Physical manifestations of mourning).



appreciated that such descriptions are ubiquitous in the OT and in Mesopotamian myths respectively.41 A second example of this phenomenon is the motif of the rulers irreversible or irresistible decree, which occurs in both stories.42 In the Enu r ma Elish we are told, (regarding Tia r mat) Her commands were absolute, no one opposed them (E.E. 1: 145; 2: 31: 3: 35), and (regarding Marduk) When I speak ... let nothing that I shall bring about be altered (E.E. 3: 634). By the same token, in the Book of Esther the king explains that Hamans earlier decree against the Jews could not be retracted for the writing which is written in the kings name, and sealed with the kings ring, may no man reverse (Esther 8: 8). It would be tempting to hear echoes from the Enu r ma Elish in this verse, but it would be foolish to overlook the fact that kings and deities in the Ancient Near East expected unconditional obedience and regarded their commands as inflexible.43 Moreover, common motifs can occasionally delude scholars into drawing far-reaching conclusions on the basis of coincidental similarities. Thus, the insomnia of a ruler is a theme common to both stories: in the Enu r ma Elish Apsus sleep is disturbed by the clamour of the Anunnaki (E.E. 1: 25, 37), while in the Book of Esther Ahasueruss sleep was disturbed (for an unknown reason) and he asked to have stories from the book of records of the chronicles read out to him (Esther 6: 1). In both cases it would be reasonable to assume that the rulers insomnia is a topos that introduces an important episode (the initial plot to destroy the Anunnaki, or the belated rewarding of Mordecai), but not to suppose, as de Goeje did, that this proves that the framework for the 1001 Nights was the Book of Esther.44 And in any event, it is worth noting that there are other specimens of Mesopotamian literature in which a central storyline is introduced through the topos of a rulers insomnia,45 making it difficult to argue for direct influence from the Enu r ma Elish on Esther based on this minor point of convergence.46 These caveats aside, there are a number of themes and motifs that bear enough resemblance in both stories to merit discussion. The first theme is destiny or fate.47 The struggles at the centre of both stories concern safeguarding the fate of a threatened group. Mordecai, in being promoted by the king, and Esther, through her intervention on behalf of Mordecai and the Jewish people,
41 See note 29 above. Cf. Thompson, Motif-Index, Q523.10 (Fasting in sackcloth and ashes). On mourning gestures in the Ancient Near East cf. M. I. Gruber, Aspects of Non-Verbal Communication in the Ancient Near East (Rome: The Pontifical Institute, 1980), chapters 67; and P. A. Kruger, Depression in the Hebrew Bible: an update, Journal of Near Eastern Studies 64, 2005, 18792. 42 Cf. Thompson, Motif-Index, A196.2 (Decree of God(s) is irrevocable) and M203 (Kings promise is irrevocable). 43 Hence, the Persian kings rule is irrevocable in Daniel 6: 8, 12, and 15. Sources external to the OT, however, suggest that this was not the case (cf. Herodotus, Histories, 9: 109; and Plutarch, Artaxerxes, 27). If this is so, and royal decrees were not uniformly irrevocable, then the recurrence of this theme in the Enu r ma Elish and in Esther would argue for Babylonian influence (on both Esther and Daniel). 44 In E. Littmann, sv. Alf layla wa-layla, in Encyclopaedia of Islam (second edition, Leiden, 1979) 1: 358b. In the 1001 Nights, Shehraza r d averts execution by relating tales to the king every night. For a detailed exploration of the question of the 1001 Nights and Esther see: E. Cosquin, Le Prologue-cadre des Mille et une Nuits. Les lgendes perses et le Livre dEsther, RB 18, 1909, pp. 749, and 16197. 45 Another instance of the Mesopotamian insomnia-formula is the flood-story of Atrah D asis, according to which the chief god Ellil suffers from insomnia on account of the noise created by humans. This prelude introduces the flood-plot in which the deluge is designed to reduce the number of humans. 46 This particular topos may support the more general point that the author (or editor/redactor) of Esther was schooled in Babylonian scribal traditions. 47 Cf. Thompson, Motif-Index, A463.1.2 (Fates allot destinies).



take control of the Jews fate that had hitherto been in Hamans hands. Marduks destiny is proclaimed supreme as a reward for defeating Tia r mat (E.E. 2: 159; 3: 60), and he ordains the destinies (E.E. 3: 62, 120) of the gods (as non-godly humans had yet to be created), and benefits from unchanging decrees, as discussed above.48 The destiny or fate motifs recur throughout Esther and many of the etymologies proposed for the term Purim interpret the word to mean fates.49 A closely related theme is that of the object that controls destiny, namely the kings ring in Esther and the tablet of destinies in the Enu r ma Elish.50 As shown above, there is considerable parity in the two stories with regard to the possession of the ring/tablet by an evil figure (Tia r mat gives the tablet to Qingu in E.E. 1: 157; Ahasuerus gives his ring to Haman in Esther 3: 10) who then relinquishes it, and the power associated with it, to the hero (Marduk or Mordecai).51 Control of the tablet of destinies in Mesopotamian literature is not exclusive to the Enu r ma Elish: in the Epic of Anzu it is Ninurta (the Sumerian version of the OT figure Nimrod) who wins control of the tablet, this being a central plot of the storyline. Furthermore, the motif of the tablet of destinies is often compared to the two tablets of stone received by Moses at Mount Sinai in the OT, to the heavenly tablets in the books of Enoch and Jubilees, or even to the emerald tablet of Hermes Trismegistos and the preserved tablet referred to in the Quran (su r rat al-buru r j, 22).52 Such comparisons, however, do not serve to dilute the parallel with the kings signet ring since the two objects play identical roles in the Enu r ma Elish and in Esther and are pivotal in the heros struggle to control the destinies.53 The banquet motif is also ubiquitous in both stories. In the Enu r ma Elish the Anunnaki hold a banquet where they are told of Tia r mats intentions and at which for Marduk they ordained the destiny (E.E. 3: 810, and 133 ff.). In Esther, it is at a banquet that Esther tells the king of Hamans evil scheme (Esther 7: passim, esp. 4 ff.). Similarly, Marduks triumph and the construction of Babylon are celebrated at a banquet (E.E. 6: 71) just as the Jews celebrated their victory with a banquet (Esther 8: 17; 9: 18; etc.). Other motifs and themes that are common to both stories include: overhearing an evil scheme (in the Enu r ma Elish, 1: 557, the Anunnaki come to hear of Apsus plan to annihilate them; in Esther, 2: 213, Mordecai comes
48 And cf. J.A. MacCulloch (ed.), The Mythology of All Races (Boston, 191632), vol. 5; S.H. Langdon, Semitic (Boston, 1931), 150 and 300. 49 This is both the OT explanation (Esther 3: 7, and 9: 26), and one of the theories proposed by modern scholars, according to which Purim derives from Akk. pu r ru, meaning stone or lot. 50 Cf. Thompson, Motif-Index, H1561.5 (Test of valor worthy for kingship: taking possession of royal insignia), and A1417 (Theft of the tablet of Fate). 51 Compare S. Gordon, A world of investiture, pp. 89, in S. Gordon (ed.), Robes and Honor: The Medieval World of Investiture (New York, 2001), who argues that it was the Kings robe (rather than his signet ring) that represented royal power and prestige in the Esther story. 52 For these and other examples see S. Dalley, The Sassanian period and early Islam in S. Dalley (ed.), The Legacy of Mesopotamia, (Oxford, 1998), 1667. Dalleys reference to the quranic tablet as the Book of Fates is slightly off the mark; lawh D (in) mah D fu rz D (in) is more accurately rendered a preserved tablet (referring, in Islamic tradition, to the heavenly template of the Quran). 53 In general, it is tempting to draw a parallel between the tablet of destinies, upon which the destinies for life on earth were written and sealed at the beginning of the New Year, and the Book of Life that is inscribed for every person at the beginning of the Jewish New Year, culminating in the sealing of this Book on the Day of Atonement (yom kippu r r), ten days later. A central ritual of the Day of Atonement was the casting of lots for two goats, one of which was sacrificed to God, the other banished to azazel (as per Leviticus, 16: 5 ff.), just as popular Jewish etymology (reflected in Esther 9: 26) connects the Purim festival with the casting of lots. On this basis, Jewish mystics compared the most solemn day of the calendar (Atonement) with the most frivolous r ri m with pu one (Purim) by coining a pun that linked yom hak-kippu r rI im.



to know of Bigthan and Tereshs assassination plot against the king);54 grooming an evil helper/consort (in the Enu r ma Elish, 1: 147 ff., and 2: 34 ff., Qingu is groomed by Tia r mat, just as Haman is by Ahasuerus in Esther 3: 1); the ten/eleven evil helpers that are killed in addition to their creator (Tia r mat and her eleven monster-helpers in E.E. 4: 1178, 4: 120, and 6: 31;55 Haman and his ten sons in Esther 7: 10, 9: 710, and 9: 14); the calendar motif (E.E. 5: 3 ff.; and Esther 9: 179, 21, 278, and 31); and the reversal of fortunes (as enjoyed by Marduk and the Anunnaki, and by Mordecai and the Jews).56 Finally, the comparison has been made between Marduks slaying of Tia r mat the sea-dragon and Mordecais defeat of Haman, who in the Greek additions to Esther is portrayed as a dragon in Mordecais dream.57 Admittedly, this imagery is absent from the MT version of Esther and as such is external to the interests of this study. But there is evidence that the image persisted even in traditional Jewish contexts for whom the MT version was the standard text of the story. In a joyous poem intended for recitation during the Purim festival, the poet writes: A blossom bloomed from a lulav-branch behold!, Hadassah stood up to arouse the sleeping; Her servants hastened Haman, to serve him wine of serpents poison.58 In the original Hebrew, the words for serpents poison are h D amath tanninim,59 literally the burning [rage] of tannin-creatures. The identification of the tannin with Tia r mat has recently been explored by scholars60 and the motif of a dragon-slaying hero may thus be discerned in both stories.61 Language Numerous parallels between the language of the Enu r ma Elish and that of Esther have been drawn in our discussion of plot and motifs and themes. Linguistic similarities between the two stories may take one of two forms, specimens of both of which have already been encountered in this study. The first is use of equivalent words and expressions in the two texts: it has been shown,
54 Cf. Thompson, Motif-Index, N455 (Overheard human conversation) esp. N455.2 (Robbers plans overheard: owner warned). 55 Cf. Thompson, Motif-Index, K1600 (Deceiver falls into his own trap), esp. K1626.2 (Counsellor killed in his own treacherous game). 56 Cf. Thompson, Motif-Index, L300 (Triumph of the weak). 57 Mordecais dream occurs in the LXX as 1: 1117 and in the Vulgate as 11: 212. This comparison was drawn by Zimmern and, as it stands, is less than convincing as Mordecai himself is also portrayed as a dragon. Cf. L. Paton, Critical and Exegetical Commentary, p. 90. 58 This appears in The Complete Artscroll Siddur: A New Translation and Anthologized Commentary by Rabbi Nosson Scherman, (New York, 1997), 788 (Hebrew) and 789 (English translation). 59 The burning rage of this creature is ostensibly meant to invoke the h D emah, burning [rage] that filled Haman (Esther 3: 5) when Mordecai refused to bow before him. It should be noted that the Hebrew h D emah may also bring to mind the [outdated] Akkadian term h D amD tu, fieriness that is said to characterize Marduk in Langdons translation of E.E. 1: 104 (S. Langdon, The Babylonian Epic of Creation, p. 82, l. 104). The word h D amD tu appears with the meaning hot in The Chicago Assyrian Dictionary (vol. H, Chicago, 1958, sv. p. 71), along with the unmistakably related verb h D amD tu (to burn), but in A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian (T. Breckwoldt et al., Wiesbaden, 1999, p. 105) only h D amD tu is accepted, implicitly denying the validity of h D amD tu (though a homonym meaning swift is accepted in both dictionaries). CAD (vol. N, 1980, s.v. nablu, flame, pp. 256) includes the expression nablu h D amD tu; presumably in this instance h D amD tu serves to describe the flame as being hot or burning, rather than swift. The word h D imD tu, burning, is accepted by both sources (CAD, vol. H, p. 193; and CDA, p. 116) and is a cognate of the Hebrew h D emah. 60 Cf. A. Hintze, The Saviour and the Dragon in Iranian and Jewish/Christian eschatology, in S. Shaked and A. Netzer (eds), Irano-Judaica IV, (Jerusalem, 1999) pp. 7290 at 806. 61 The story of Bel and the Dragon in the Apocrypha may indicate that the Enu r ma Elish (or Babylonian mythology in general) was known to the authors of ancient Jewish texts, particularly later books such as those of the Hagiographa. Cf. Thompson, Motif-Index, A1072.4 (Fettered monster as dragon), B1111 (Fight with a dragon), and B19.4.2 (Fiery serpent).



for instance, that the language used to describe the elevation of Haman or Qingu is very similar as both are made great and exalted by Ahasuerus or Tia r mat respectively. The second is the use of cognate terms and phrases in both stories. Naturally, as Akkadian and Hebrew are related languages, some incidental similarities in the vocabulary of both stories may be expected. None the less, the following examples, taken together, may indicate a certain amount of terminological borrowing on the part of Esthers author (or editor/ redactor).62 Three examples that illustrate the point will now be examined. The first example is the tantalizing term used to describe Mordecais relationship with Esther in that he was the omen of Hadassah (Esther 2: 7). This term is generally translated as rearing. However, one may detect here r nu, sage, wise man which, as an epithet here of the Akkadian term umma Mordecai, can be compared to Marduk Profound of wisdom, ingenious in perception (E.E. 7: 117). Mordecais role as Esthers omen may therefore be construed as an advisor, which tallies well with the subsequent events of the story, in which Mordecai orchestrates Esthers intervention on behalf of the Jewish people.63 The second example is Marduks language in encouraging Anshar to let not your lips be silent, but speak. What man is it who has sent forth this battle against you? (E.E. 2: 140 ff.). This may be compared with Mordecais telling Esther that if you are muted at this time, relief and deliverance may arise to the Jews from another place (Esther 4: 14) and the kings asking Esther who is he and where is he who has decided in his heart to do so [to the Jews]? (Esther 7: 5). Two parallels may be drawn on the basis of these verses. First, Marduks insistence that Anshar be not silent is reflected in Mordecais insistence that Esther not be muted.64 Second, Marduks query as to what man is it... may be compared to the kings inquiry who is he and where is he.... In this case, the language of both verses is odd; the reference to a man in the Enu r ma Elish is obviously meant to stress the masculine gender in contrast to the answer Tia r mat, a woman; but in Esther the formulation of the kings question is clunky and awkward. The Hebrew mi hu r zeh could easily have been expressed as mi zeh, the masculine pronoun hu r being superfluous. It may be that this construction is simply a mirror of the Akkadian i D -u r zik-ri (what man [is it]), where the man in the question is contrasted with the woman in the answer. The third example is the use of the root a.b.t./a.b.d. in both stories.65 The Akkadian aba r tu, (to destroy) is used with reference to Marduk as the destroyer of the gods of Tia r mat (a-bit ila r ni lem-nu-ti in E.E. 7: 89), but also
62 Some scholars believe the MT version of Esther to be based on a (now-lost) Aramaic text. As Aramaic is also related to Akkadian and Hebrew, the linguistic observations presented here should not be dismissed even amongst those for whom an Aramaic prototype is assumed. 63 The Akkadian term umma r nu may also refer to a god as the master-craftsman in creating the world. This may be compared to the passage in Proverbs 8: 22 ff. where Mother-wisdom is referred to as a master-craftsman (amon in Proverbs 8: 30) in the context of Gods creation of the earth (out of the tehom, it should be added), invoking Marduks creation and defeat of Tia r mat/tehomot. Furthermore, in the Epic of Atrah D asis, Mami, the creator of mankind, is repeatedly referred to as wise (e.g. 1: 250 in W. G. Lambert and A. R. Millard, Atrah D asis, p. 61), thereby linking wisdom with the act of creation. Hence, Marduk, the creator of mankind in the Enu r ma Elish, and Mordecai, the wise-omen in Esther may be considered tantamount to each other. 64 Marduk is presumably referring to the Anunnakis reaction to the news of Tia r mats plot (with lips closed tight, they sat in silence, E.E. 2: 122), whereas Mordecais turn of phrase appears unrelated to other verses (although in Esther 7: 4 the root h D .r.sh. is used in an unrelated context). 65 This is not the only Mesopotamian myth in which the root a.b.t. is employed, of course. In the Epic of Atrah D asis, for example, aba r tu is used in the context of destroying ones house and building a boat for the Flood (3: 22 in W. G. Lambert and A. R. Millard, Atrah D asis, p. 89).



with reference to the destruction of the constellation66 in Marduks audition (E.E. 4: 223). In Esther, the root a.b.d. is employed repeatedly, often in conjunction with synonyms such as h.r.g. and sh.m.d. (Esther 3: 13; 7: 4; 8: 11; 9: 6; and 9: 12) with reference to both Hamans plan to destroy the Jewish people and, later, to the Jews exacting revenge from their enemies. The root is also used on its own (Esther 3: 9; 4: 11; 4: 14; 8: 5; and 8: 6), and may be said to be a pivotal concept in the story as a whole. Lewy argued that Purim is derived from the root p.r.r. (to destroy), a synonym of a.b.d., owing to the fact that destruction of the Jews (or their enemies) is the central theme of the Book of Esther.67 There are a number of other linguistic parallels that may or may not indicate Babylonian influence on the Book of Esther, which have not been discussed in this study.68 The point here is merely to examine some such samples as an adjunct to the arguments concerning the common plots and themes and motifs shared by the two stories. As stated, the linguistic relationship between Akkadian and Hebrew (and Aramaic) means that similarities in vocabulary and syntax are bound to occur in the two stories regardless of any question of direct influence. Conclusion In the first part of this article, it was shown that Mordecai enjoys primacy in the MT Esther-story, a fact that encouraged us to entertain the possibility that Marduk-legends are at the core of the Book of Esther in the first place. The second part of this article confirmed this intuition and showed that the Enu r ma Elish, being the foremost Marduk-legend of Mesopotamian culture, deserved to be considered an important vehicle for the influence of Babylonian precedents on the Book of Esther, alongside the Ishtar-legends explored by other scholars. The extent of the Book of Esthers debt to the Enu r ma Elish is nigh on impossible to quantify; nor can we determine whether or not the vestiges of the Enu r ma Elish in the Book of Esther were intentional or the subconscious product of an author (or editor/redactor) who may have been deeply entrenched in the culture of the Babylonian exile. It is being argued here, then, that the person who recorded these events (or created the story ex nihilo) was closely acquainted with Babylonian literature in general and the Enu r ma Elish in particular. We can also surmise that the plots, themes, and phrases employed in the MT version of the Book of Esther would have resonated with a Jewish audience ensconced in the Diaspora.

66 The constellation referred to is represented in Akkadian as lu-ma-shu, which had been previously misread as lu-ba-shu (garment) on account of the similarity between the signs ba and ma. Had the meaning of garment persisted, it would have been tempting to compare the test set by the Anunnaki in which Marduk tore and restored this garment, with Mordecais tearing his clothes upon hearing the decree against the Jews (to Esther 4: 1). Indeed, unlike the topos of sackcloth and ashes, tearing ones garment is relatively rare in the OT as a symbol of mourning or distress (an equally rare occurrence may be found in Genesis 37: 34). In any event, the updated reading of lu-ma-shu renders this comparison untenable. 67 J. Lewy, The Feast of the 14th Day of Adar, p. 138. 68 For instance, the Hebrew root m.k.r. to sell, employed by Esther (in Esther 7: 4: My people and I have been sold) is clearly a cognate of Akkadian makkaru, while Hebrew bI irah (fortress, used repeatedly in Esther with reference to Susa) is a cognate of Akkadian birtu (citadel). The path of these words from Akkadian to OT Hebrew is often impossible to trace and one is left to consider whether the lexical similarities are due to the influence of the Enu r ma Elish on Esther particularly, or to the influence of Akkadian on Hebrew more generally. A list of Akkadian words in Esther will be provided in S. Dalley, Revenge at Susa, Appendix, and the general subject of Akkadian words in OT Hebrew is covered in P. Mankowski, Akkadian Loanwords in Biblical Hebrew, Harvard Semitic Studies 47, Eisenbrauns, 2000.