Book of Job
The Book of Job is a book in the Ketuvim section of the Hebrew Bible, the first poetic book in the Old Testament of the Christian Bible. Addressing the problem of theodicy – the vindication of the justice of God in the light of humanity's suffering – it is a rich theological work setting out a variety of perspectives, it has been praised for its literary qualities, with Alfred Lord Tennyson calling it "the greatest poem of ancient and modern times". The Book of Job consists of a prose prologue and epilogue narrative framing poetic dialogues and monologues, it is common to view the narrative frame as the original core of the book, enlarged by the poetic dialogues and discourses, sections of the book such as the Elihu speeches and the wisdom poem of chapter 28 as late insertions, but recent trends have tended to concentrate on the book's underlying editorial unity.1. Prologue in two scenes, the first on Earth, the second in Heaven 2. Job's opening monologue, three cycles of dialogues between Job and his three friends First cycleEliphaz and Job's response Bildad and Job Zophar and Job Second cycleEliphaz and Job Bildad and Job Zophar and Job Third cycleEliphaz and Job Bildad and Job 3.
Three monologues: A Poem to Wisdom Job's closing monologue and Elihu's speeches 4. Two speeches by God, with Job's responses 5. Epilogue – Job's restoration; the prologue on Earth introduces Job as a righteous man, blessed with wealth and daughters. The scene shifts to Heaven. Satan answers. God gives Satan permission to take Job's wealth and kill all of his children and servants, but Job nonetheless praises God: "Naked I came out of my mother's womb, naked shall I return: the Lord has given, the Lord has taken away. God allows Satan to afflict his body with boils. Job sits in ashes, his wife prompts him to "curse God, die," but Job answers: "Shall we receive good from God and shall we not receive evil?" Job laments the day of his birth. His three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad console him; the friends do not waver in their belief that Job's suffering is a punishment for sin, for God causes no one to suffer innocently, they advise him to repent and seek God's mercy. Job responds with scorn: his interlocutors are "miserable comforters", since a just God would not treat him so harshly, patience in suffering is impossible, the Creator should not take his creatures so to come against them with such force.
Job's responses represent one of the most radical restatements of Israelite theology in the Hebrew Bible. He moves away from the pious attitude as shown in the prologue and began to berate God for the disproportionate wrath against him, he sees God as, among others and suffocating. He shifts his focus from the injustice that he himself suffers to God's governance of the world, he suggests that the wicked have taken advantage of the needy and the helpless, who remain in significant hardship, but God does nothing to punish them. The dialogues of Job and his friends are followed by a poem on the inaccessibility of wisdom: "Where is wisdom to be found?" it asks, concludes that it has been hidden from man. Job contrasts his previous fortune with an outcast, mocked and in pain, he protests his innocence, lists the principles he has lived by, demands that God answer him. Elihu intervenes to state that wisdom comes from God, who reveals it through dreams and visions to those who will declare their knowledge.
God speaks from a whirlwind. His speeches neither explain Job's suffering, nor defend divine justice, nor enter into the courtroom confrontation that Job has demanded, nor respond to his oath of innocence. Instead they contrast Job's weakness with divine wisdom and omnipotence: "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" Job makes a brief response. In 42:1–6 Job makes his final response, confessing God's power and his own lack of knowledge "of things beyond me which I did not know", he has only heard, but now his eyes have seen God, "therefore I retract/ And repent in dust and ashes." God tells Eliphaz that he and the two other friends "have not spoken of me what is right as my servant Job has done". The three are told to make a burnt offering with Job as their intercessor, "for only to him will I show favour". Job is restored to health and family, lives to see his children to the fourth generation. Job appears in the
Book of Ezra
The Book of Ezra is a book of the Hebrew Bible. The two became separated with the first printed rabbinic bibles of the early 16th century, following late medieval Latin Christian tradition, its subject is the Return to Zion following the close of the Babylonian captivity, it is divided into two parts, the first telling the story of the first return of exiles in the first year of Cyrus the Great and the completion and dedication of the new Temple in Jerusalem in the sixth year of Darius I, the second telling of the subsequent mission of Ezra to Jerusalem and his struggle to purify the Jews from marriage with non-Jews. Together with the Book of Nehemiah, it represents the final chapter in the historical narrative of the Hebrew Bible. Ezra is written to fit a schematic pattern in which the God of Israel inspires a king of Persia to commission a leader from the Jewish community to carry out a mission; the theological program of the book explains the many problems. It appeared in its earliest version around 399 BC, continued to be revised and edited for several centuries before being accepted as scriptural in the early Christian era.
The Book of Ezra consists of ten chapters: chapters 1–6, covering the period from the Cyrus the Great to the dedication of the Second Temple, are told in the third person. The book contains several documents presented as historical inclusions, written in Aramaic while the surrounding text is in Hebrew Chapters 1–6 1. Decree of Cyrus, first version: Cyrus, inspired by God, returns the Temple vessels to Sheshbazzar, "prince of Judah", directs the Israelites to return to Jerusalem with him and rebuild the Temple. 2. 42,360 exiles, with men servants, women servants and "singing men and women", return from Babylon to Jerusalem and Judah under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua the High Priest. 3. Jeshua the High Priest and Zerubbabel celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. In the second year the foundations of the Temple are laid and the dedication takes place with great rejoicing. 4. Letter of the Samaritans to Artaxerxes, reply of Artaxerxes: The "enemies of Judah and Benjamin" offer to help with the rebuilding, but are rebuffed.
The officials of Samaria write to king Artaxerxes warning him that Jerusalem is being rebuilt, the king orders the work to stop. "Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia." 5. Tattenai's letter to Darius: Through the exhortations of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah and Joshua recommence the building of the Temple. Tattenai, satrap over both Judah and Samaria, writes to Darius warning him that Jerusalem is being rebuilt and advising that the archives be searched to discover the decree of Cyrus. 6. Decree of Cyrus, second version, decree of Darius: Darius finds the decree, directs Tattenai not to disturb the Jews in their work, exempts them from tribute and supplies everything necessary for the offerings; the Temple is finished in the month of Adar in the sixth year of Darius, the Israelites assemble to celebrate its completion. Chapters 7–107. Letter of Artaxerxes to Ezra: King Artaxerxes is moved by God to commission Ezra "to inquire about Judah and Jerusalem with regard to the Law of your God" and to "appoint magistrates and judges to administer justice to all the people of Trans-Euphrates—all who know the laws of your God."
Artaxerxes directs all Persian officials to aid him. 8. Ezra gathers a large body of returnees and much gold and silver and precious vessels for the Temple and camps by a canal outside Babylon. There he discovers he has no Levites, so sends messengers to gather some; the exiles return to Jerusalem, where they distribute the gold and silver and offer sacrifices to God. 9. Ezra is informed that some of the Jews in Jerusalem have married non-Jewish women. Ezra is appalled at this proof of sin, prays to God: "O God of Israel, you are righteous! We are left this day as a remnant. Here we are before you in our guilt, though because of it not one of us can stand in your presence." 10. Despite the opposition of some of their number, the Israelites assemble and send away their foreign wives and children. In the early 6th century BC, the Kingdom of Judah rebelled against the Neo-Babylonian Empire and was destroyed; as a result, the royal court, the priests, the prophets and scribes were taken into captivity in the city of Babylon.
There a profound intellectual revolution took place, the exiles blaming their fate on disobedience to their God and looking forward to a future when he would allow a purified people to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. The same period saw the rapid rise of Persia an unimportant kingdom in present-day southern Iran, to a position of great power, in 539 BC Cyrus II, the Persian ruler, conquered Babylon, it is difficult to describe the parties and politics of Judea in this period because of the lack of historical sources, but there seem to have been three important groups involved: the returnees from the exile who claimed the reconstruction with the support
Books of Samuel
The Books of Samuel, 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel, form part of the narrative history of Israel in the Nevi'im or "prophets" section of the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, called the Deuteronomistic history, a series of books that constitute a theological history of the Israelites and aim to explain God's law for Israel under the guidance of the prophets. According to Jewish tradition, the book was written by Samuel, with additions by the prophets Gad and Nathan. Modern scholarly thinking is that the entire Deuteronomistic history was composed in the period c. 630–540 BC by combining a number of independent texts of various ages. Samuel begins with God's call to him as a boy; the story of the Ark of the Covenant that follows tells of Israel's oppression by the Philistines, which brought about Samuel's anointing of Saul as Israel's first king. But Saul proved unworthy and God's choice turned to David, who defeated Israel's enemies, purchased the threshing floor, where his son, Solomon built the Temple and brought the Ark to Jerusalem.
God promised David and his successors an everlasting dynasty. The childless Hannah vows to Yahweh of hosts. Eli, the priest of Shiloh, blesses her, a child named Samuel is born. Samuel is dedicated to the Lord as a Nazirite – the only one besides Samson to be identified in the Bible. Eli's sons and Phinehas, sin against God's laws and the people, of the priesthood and are killed in battle during the Battle of Aphek, but the child Samuel grows up "in the presence of the Lord." The Philistines capture the Ark of the Covenant from Shiloh and take it to the temple of their god Dagon, who recognizes the supremacy of Yahweh. The Philistines are afflicted with plagues and return the ark to the Israelites, but to the territory of the tribe of Benjamin rather than to Shiloh; the Philistines attack. Samuel appeals to Yahweh, the Philistines are decisively beaten, the Israelites reclaim their lost territory. In Samuel's old age, he appoints his sons Joel and Abijah as judges, but they walked not in the ways of the Lord with perverted judgement, lucre, bribes because of the corruption the people ask for a king to rule over them instead of rejecting God and his laws, forgetting all God had done to bring them out of the Land of Egypt The Lord tells Samuel to tell the people of Israel what they have asked for.
This king says Samuel that you have asked to rule over you will take the best of all your labor your fields, crops and give them to his servants. He will take your sheep, your asses, he will take your daughters and your manservants, you will cry out but the Lord will not hear you. But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. After Samuel inquires of God he directs Samuel to grant them a king God There was a mighty man of Benjamin whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath the son of Aphiah a Benjamin a might man of power and he had a son, Saul a choice young man a goodly, there was not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he. Samuel had never met God led Saul to Samuel to be anointed as King. God gave Saul a new heart 1Samuel 10:9 God was with Saul and he defeats the enemies of the Israelites, but disobeys God; the spirit of the Lord departs from Saul because of his disobedience. But the Lord has selected another godly man as King over his people, David son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, David was his youngest son a Shepard boy, he is described as "ruddy and withal of beautiful countenance and goodly to look at" and "fair" 1Samuel 16:12 God tells Samuel to anoint David of Bethlehem as king, David enters Saul's court as his armor-bearer and harpist.
Saul's son and heir Jonathan recognizes him as the rightful king. Saul plots David's death, but David flees into the wilderness, where he becomes a champion of the Hebrews. David joins the Philistines but continues secretly to champion his own people, until Saul and Jonathan are killed in battle at Mount Gilboa. At this point, David offers a majestic eulogy, where he praises the bravery and magnificence of both his friend Jonathan and King Saul; the elders of Judah anoint David as king, but in the north Saul's son Ish-bosheth, or Ishbaal, rules over the northern tribes. After a long war, Ishbaal is murdered by Rechab and Baanah, two of his captains who hope for a reward from David. David is anointed King of all Israel. David brings the Ark there. David wishes to build a temple, but Nathan tells him that one of his sons will be the one to build the temple. David defeats the enemies of Israel, slaughtering Philistines, Edomites and Arameans. David commits adultery with Bathsheba; when her husband, Uriah the Hittite returns from battle, David encourages him to go home and see his wife but Uriah declines in case David might need him.
David thus deliberately sends Uriah on a suicide mission. Nathan tells David. For the remainder of his reign there are problems. Amnon rapes his half-sister Tamar. Absalom kills Amnon, rebels against his father, David flees from Jerusalem. Absalom is killed following the Battle of the Wood of Ephraim, David is restored as king, he returns to his palace. Only two contenders for the succession remain, son of David and Haggith, Solomon, son of David and Bathsheba; the Second Book of Samuel concludes with four chapters (chap
Song of Songs
The Song of Songs Song of Solomon or Canticles, is one of the megillot found in the last section of the Tanakh, known as the Ketuvim, a book of the Old Testament. The Song of Songs is unique within the Hebrew Bible: it shows no interest in Law or Covenant or the God of Israel, nor does it teach or explore wisdom like Proverbs or Ecclesiastes; the two are in harmony, each rejoicing in sexual intimacy. In modern Judaism the Song is read on the Sabbath during the Passover, which marks the beginning of the grain harvest as well as commemorating the Exodus from Egypt. Jewish tradition reads it as an allegory of the relationship between God and Israel, Christianity as an allegory of Christ and his "bride", the Church. There is widespread consensus that, although the book has no plot, it does have what can be called a framework, as indicated by the links between its beginning and end. Beyond this, there appears to be little agreement: attempts to find a chiastic structure have not been compelling, attempts to analyse it into units have used differing methods and arrived at differing results.
The following schema, from Kugler & al. must therefore be taken as indicative, rather than determinative: Introduction Dialogue between the lovers The woman recalls a visit from her lover The woman addresses the daughters of Zion Sighting a royal wedding procession The man describes his lover's beauty The woman addresses the daughters of Jerusalem The man describes his lover, who visits him Observers describe the woman's beauty Appendix The introduction calls the poem "the song of songs", a construction used in Scriptural Hebrew to show something as the greatest and most beautiful of its class. The poem proper begins with the woman's expression of desire for her lover and her self-description to the "daughters of Jerusalem": she insists on her sun-born blackness, likening it to the "tents of Kedar" and the "curtains of Solomon". A dialogue between the lovers follows: the woman asks the man to meet; the two compete in offering flattering compliments. The section closes with the woman telling the daughters of Jerusalem not to stir up love such as hers until it is ready.
The woman recalls a visit from her lover in the springtime. She uses imagery from a shepherd's life, she says of her lover that "he pastures his flock among the lilies"; the woman again addresses the daughters of Jerusalem, describing her fervent and successful search for her lover through the night-time streets of the city. When she finds him she takes him by force into the chamber in which her mother conceived her, she reveals that this is a dream, seen on her "bed at night" and ends by again warning the daughters of Jerusalem "not to stir up love until it is ready". The next section reports a royal wedding procession. Solomon is mentioned by name, the daughters of Jerusalem are invited to come out and see the spectacle; the man describes his beloved: Her hair is like a flock of goats, her teeth like shorn ewes, so on from face to breasts. Place-names feature heavily: her neck is like the Tower of David, her smell like the scent of Lebanon, he hastens to summon his beloved, saying that he is ravished by a single glance.
The section becomes a "garden poem", in which he describes her as a "locked garden". The woman invites the man to taste the fruits; the man accepts the invitation, a third party tells them to eat, drink, "and be drunk with love". The woman tells the daughters of Jerusalem of another dream, she was in her chamber. She was slow to open, when she did, he was gone, she searched through the streets again, but this time she failed to find him and the watchmen, who had helped her before, now beat her. She asks the daughters of Jerusalem to help her find him, describes his physical good looks, she admits her lover is in his garden, safe from harm, committed to her as she is to him. The man describes his beloved; the people praise the beauty of the woman. The images are the same as those used elsewhere in the poem, but with an unusually dense use of place-names, e.g. pools of Hebron, gate of Bath-rabbim, tower of Damascus, etc. The man states his intention to enjoy the fruits of the woman's garden; the woman invites him to a tryst in the fields.
She once more warns the daughters of Jerusalem against waking love. The woman compares love to death and sheol: love is as relentless and jealous as these two, cannot be quenched by any force, she summons her lover, using the language used before: he should come "like a gazelle or a young stag upon the mountain of spices". The Song offers no clue to the date, place, or circumstances of its composition; the superscription st
Book of Leviticus
The Book of Leviticus is the third book of the Torah and of the Old Testament. Most of its chapters consist of God's speeches to Moses, which God commands Moses to repeat to the Israelites; this takes place within the story of the Israelites' Exodus after they escaped Egypt and reached Mt. Sinai; the Book of Exodus narrates how Moses led the Israelites in building the Tabernacle with God's instructions. In Leviticus, God tells the Israelites and their priests how to make offerings in the Tabernacle and how to conduct themselves while camped around the holy tent sanctuary. Leviticus takes place during the month or month-and-a-half between the completion of the Tabernacle and the Israelites' departure from Sinai; the instructions of Leviticus emphasize ritual and moral practices rather than beliefs. They reflect the world view of the creation story in Genesis 1 that God wishes to live with humans; the book teaches that faithful performance of the sanctuary rituals can make that possible, so long as the people avoid sin and impurity whenever possible.
The rituals the sin and guilt offerings, provide the means to gain forgiveness for sins and purification from impurities so that God can continue to live in the Tabernacle in the midst of the people. Scholars agree that Leviticus developed over a long time and that it reached its present form in the Persian period; the English name Leviticus comes from the Latin Leviticus, in turn from the Greek Greek Λευιτικόν, referring to the priestly tribe of the Israelites, “Levi.” The Greek expression is in turn a variant of the rabbinic Hebrew torat kohanim, "law of priests", as many of its laws relate to priests. In Hebrew the book is called Vayikra, from the opening of the book, va-yikra "And He called." I. Laws on sacrifice A. Instructions for the laity on bringing offerings 1–5; the types of offering: burnt, peace, reparation offerings B. Instructions for the priests 1–6; the various offerings, with the addition of the priests' cereal offering 7. Summary II. Institution of the priesthood A. Ordination of Aaron and his sons B.
Aaron makes the first sacrifices C. Judgement on Nadab and Abihu III. Uncleanliness and its treatment A. Unclean animals B. Childbirth as a source of uncleanliness C. Unclean diseases D. Cleansing of diseases E. Unclean discharges IV. Day of Atonement: purification of the tabernacle from the effects of uncleanliness and sin V. Prescriptions for practical holiness A. Sacrifice and food B. Sexual behaviour C. Neighbourliness D. Grave crimes E. Rules for priests F. Rules for eating sacrifices G. Festivals H. Rules for the tabernacle I. Blasphemy J. Sabbatical and Jubilee years K. Exhortation to obey the law: blessing and curse VI. Redemption of votive gifts Chapters 1–5 describe the various sacrifices from the sacrificers' point of view, although the priests are essential for handling the blood. Chapters 6–7 go over much the same ground, but from the point of view of the priest, who, as the one carrying out the sacrifice and dividing the "portions", needs to know how do this. Sacrifices are between God, the priest, the offerers, although in some cases the entire sacrifice is a single portion to God—i.e.
Burnt to ashes. Chapters 8–10 describe how Moses consecrates Aaron and his sons as the first priests, the first sacrifices, God's destruction of two of Aaron's sons for ritual offenses; the purpose is to underline the character of altar priesthood as an Aaronite privilege, the responsibilities and dangers of their position. With sacrifice and priesthood established, chapters 11–15 instruct the lay people on purity. Eating certain animals produces uncleanliness; the reasoning behind the food rules are obscure. Leviticus 16 concerns the Day of Atonement; this is the only day on which the High Priest is to enter the holiest part of the sanctuary, the holy of holies. He is to sacrifice a bull for the sins of the priests, a goat for the sins of the laypeople; the priest is to send a second goat into the desert to "Azazel", bearing the sins of the whole people. Azazel may be a wilderness-demon. Chapters 17–26 are the Holiness code, it begins with a prohibition on all slaughter of animals outside the Temple for food, prohibits a long list of sexual contacts and child sacrifice.
The "holiness" injunctions which give the code its name begin with the next section: there is are penalties for the worship of Molech, consulting mediums and wizards, cursing one's parents and engaging in unlawful sex. Priests receive instruction on acceptable bodily defects; the punishment for blasphemy is death, there is the setting of rules for eating sacrifices.
Book of Zechariah
The Book of Zechariah, attributed to the Hebrew prophet Zechariah, is included in the Twelve Minor Prophets in the Hebrew Bible. Zechariah's prophecies took place during the reign of Darius the Great, were contemporary with Haggai in a post-exilic world after the fall of Jerusalem in 587/6 BC. Ezekiel and Jeremiah wrote before the fall of Jerusalem, while continuing to prophesy in the early exile period. Scholars believe Ezekiel, with his blending of ceremony and vision influenced the visionary works of Zechariah 1–8. Zechariah is specific about dating his writing. During the Exile many Judahites and Benjamites were taken to Babylon, where the prophets told them to make their homes, suggesting they would spend a long period of time there. Freedom did come to many Israelites, when Cyrus the Great overtook the Babylonians in 539 BC. In 538 BC, the famous Edict of Cyrus was released, the first return took place under Sheshbazzar. After the death of Cyrus in 530 BC, Darius consolidated power and took office in 522 BC.
His system divided the different colonies of the empire into manageable districts overseen by governors. Zerubbabel comes into the story, appointed by Darius as governor over the district of Yehud Medinata. Under the reign of Darius, Zechariah emerged, centering on the rebuilding of the Temple. Unlike the Babylonians, the Persian Empire went to great lengths to keep “cordial relations” between vassal and lord; the rebuilding of the Temple was encouraged by the leaders of the empire in hopes that it would strengthen the authorities in local contexts. This policy was good politics on the part of the Persians, the Jews viewed it as a blessing from God; the name "Zechariah" means "God remembered." Not much is known about Zechariah's life other than what may be inferred from the book. It has been speculated that his grandfather Iddo was the head of a priestly family who returned with Zerubbabel, that Zechariah may himself have been a priest as well as a prophet; this is supported by Zechariah's interest in the Temple and the priesthood, from Iddo's preaching in the Books of Chronicles.
Some scholars accept the book as the writings of one individual. For example, George Livingstone Robinson's dissertation on chapters 9–14 concluded that those chapters had their origin in the period between 518 and 516 BC and stand in close relation to chapters 1–8, having most been composed by Zechariah himself. However, most modern scholars believe the Book of Zechariah was written by at least two different people. Zechariah 1–8, sometimes referred to as First Zechariah, was written in the 6th century BC. Zechariah 9–14 called Second Zechariah, contains within the text no datable references to specific events or individuals but most scholars give the text a date in the fifth century BCE. Second Zechariah, in the opinion of some scholars, appears to make use of the books of Isaiah and Ezekiel, the Deuteronomistic History, the themes from First Zechariah; this has led some to believe that the writer or editor of Second Zechariah may have been a disciple of the prophet Zechariah. There are some scholars who go further and divide Second Zechariah into Second Zechariah and Third Zechariah since each begins with a heading oracle.
The return from exile is the theological premise of the prophet's visions in chapters 1–6. Chapters 7–8 address the quality of life God wants his renewed people to enjoy, containing many encouraging promises to them. Chapters 9–14 comprise two "oracles" of the future; the book begins with a preface, which recalls the nation's history, for the purpose of presenting a solemn warning to the present generation. Follows a series of eight visions, succeeding one another in one night, which may be regarded as a symbolical history of Israel, intended to furnish consolation to the returned exiles and stir up hope in their minds; the symbolic action, the crowning of Joshua, describes how the kingdoms of the world become the kingdom of God's Messiah. Chapters Zechariah 7 and Zechariah 8, delivered two years are an answer to the question whether the days of mourning for the destruction of the city should be kept any longer, an encouraging address to the people, assuring them of God's presence and blessing.
This section consists of two "oracles" or "burdens": The first oracle gives an outline of the course of God's providential dealings with his people down to the time of the coming of the Messiah. The second oracle points out the glories that await Israel in "the latter day", the final conflict and triumph of God's kingdom; the purpose of this book is not historical but theological and pastoral. The main emphasis is, he will cleanse them from sin. Zechariah's concern for purity is apparent in the temple and all areas of life as the prophecy eliminates the influence of the governor in favour of the high priest, the sanctuary becomes more the centre of messianic fulfillment; the prominence of prophecy is quite apparent in Zechariah, but it is true that Zechariah allows prophecy to yield to the priesthood. Most Christian commentators read the series of predictions in chapters 7 to 14 as Messianic prophecies, either directly or indirectly; these chapters helped the writers of the Gospels understand Jesus’ suffering and resurrection, which they quoted as they wrote of Jesus’ final days.
Much of the Book of Revelation, which narrates the denouement of his
Book of Esther
The Book of Esther known in Hebrew as "the Scroll", is a book in the third section of the Jewish Tanakh and in the Christian Old Testament. It is one of the five Scrolls in the Hebrew Bible, it relates the story of a Hebrew woman in Persia, born as Hadassah but known as Esther, who becomes queen of Persia and thwarts a genocide of her people. The story forms the core of the Jewish festival of Purim, during which it is read aloud twice: once in the evening and again the following morning; the books of Esther and Song of Songs are the only books in the Hebrew Bible that do not explicitly mention God. The biblical Book of Esther is set in the Persian capital of Susa in the third year of the reign of the Persian king Ahasuerus; the name Ahasuerus is equivalent to Xerxes, Ahasuerus is identified in modern sources as Xerxes I, who ruled between 486 and 465 BC, as it is to this monarch that the events described in Esther are thought to fit the most closely. Assuming that Ahasuerus is indeed Xerxes I, the events described in Esther began around the years 483–82 BC, concluded in March 473 BC.
Classical sources such as Josephus, the Jewish commentary Esther Rabbah and the Christian theologian Bar-Hebraeus, as well as the Greek Septuagint translation of Esther, instead identify Ahasuerus as either Artaxerxes I or Artaxerxes II. On his accession, Artaxerxes II lost Egypt to pharaoh Amyrtaeus, after which it was no longer part of the Persian empire. In his Historia Scholastica Petrus Comestor identified Ahasuerus as Artaxerxes III who reconquered Egypt; the Book of Esther consists of an introduction in chapters 1 and 2. The plot is structured around banquets, a word that occurs twenty times in Esther and only 24 times in the rest of the Hebrew bible; this is appropriate given that Esther describes the origin of a Jewish feast, the feast of Purim, but Purim itself is not the subject and no individual feast in the book is commemorated by Purim. The book's theme, rather, is the reversal of destiny through a sudden and unexpected turn of events: the Jews seem destined to be destroyed, but instead are saved.
In literary criticism such a reversal is termed "peripety", while on one level its use in Esther is a literary or aesthetic device, on another it is structural to the author's theme, suggesting that the power of God is at work behind human events. King Ahasuerus, ruler of the Persian Empire, holds a lavish 180-day banquet for his court and dignitaries and afterwards a seven-day banquet for all inhabitants of the capital city, Shushan. On the seventh day of the latter banquet, Ahasuerus orders the queen, Vashti, to display her beauty before the guests by coming before them wearing her crown, she refuses, infuriating Ahasuerus, who on the advice of his counselors removes her from her position as an example to other women who might be emboldened to disobey their husbands. A decree follows that "that every man should bear rule in his own house". Ahasuerus makes arrangements to choose a new queen from a selection of beautiful young women from throughout the empire. Among these women is a Jewish orphan named Esther, raised by her cousin or uncle, Mordecai.
She finds favour in the King's eyes, is crowned his new queen, but does not reveal her Jewish heritage. Shortly afterwards, Mordecai discovers a plot by two courtiers and Teresh, to assassinate Ahasuerus; the conspirators are apprehended and hanged, Mordecai's service to the King is recorded. Ahasuerus appoints Haman as his viceroy. Mordecai, who sits at the palace gates, falls into Haman's disfavour, as he refuses to bow down to him. Haman discovers that Mordecai refused to bow on account of his Jewishness, in revenge plots to kill not just Mordecai, but all the Jews in the empire, he obtains Ahasuerus' permission to execute this plan, against payment of ten thousand talents of silver, casts lots to choose the date on which to do this – the thirteenth of the month of Adar. A royal decree is issued throughout the kingdom to slay all Jews on that date.. When Mordecai discovers the plan, he goes into mourning and implores Esther to intercede with the King, but she is afraid to present herself to an offense punishable by death.
Instead, she directs Mordecai to have all Jews fast for three days for her, vows to fast as well. On the third day she goes to Ahasuerus, who stretches out his sceptre to her to indicate that she is not to be punished, she invites him to a feast in the company of Haman. During the feast, she asks them to attend a further feast the next evening. Meanwhile, Haman is again offended by Mordecai and, at his wife's suggestion, has a gallows built to hang him; that night, Ahasuerus cannot sleep, orders the court records be read to him. He is reminded that Mordecai interceded in the previous plot against his life, discovers that Mordecai never received any recognition. Just Haman appears to request the King's permission to hang Mordecai, but before he can make this request, Ahasuerus asks Haman what should be done for the man that the King wishes to honor. Assuming that the King is referring to Haman himself, Haman suggests that the man be dressed in the King's royal robes and led around on the King's royal horse, while a herald calls: "See how the King honours a man he wishes to r