Literary Devices – Esther 21
The description of Achashverosh's search for a wife contains allusions to several other stories in Tanakh:
- David's search for a virgin to keep him warm in his old age (Melakhim I 1)
- Yosef's gathering of food during the years of famine (Bereshit 41)
- The embalming of Yaakov (Bereshit 50)
|אחשורוש ודוד מבקשים נערה יפה |
|אסתר ב':ב'-ג', י"ד||מלכים א' א':ב'-ד'|
|(ב) וַיֹּאמְרוּ נַעֲרֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ מְשָׁרְתָיו יְבַקְשׁוּ לַמֶּלֶךְ נְעָרוֹת בְּתוּלוֹת טוֹבוֹת מַרְאֶה.||(ב) וַיֹּאמְרוּ לוֹ עֲבָדָיו יְבַקְשׁוּ לַאדֹנִי הַמֶּלֶךְ נַעֲרָה בְתוּלָה וְעָמְדָה לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ...|
|(ג) וְיַפְקֵד הַמֶּלֶךְ פְּקִידִים בְּכָל מְדִינוֹת מַלְכוּתוֹ וְיִקְבְּצוּ אֶת כָּל נַעֲרָה בְתוּלָה טוֹבַת מַרְאֶה אֶל שׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה אֶל בֵּית הַנָּשִׁים...||(ג) וַיְבַקְשׁוּ נַעֲרָה יָפָה בְּכֹל גְּבוּל יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיִּמְצְאוּ אֶת אֲבִישַׁג הַשּׁוּנַמִּית וַיָּבִאוּ אֹתָהּ לַמֶּלֶךְ.|
|(יד) בָּעֶרֶב הִיא בָאָה וּבַבֹּקֶר הִיא שָׁבָה אֶל בֵּית הַנָּשִׁים שֵׁנִי אֶל יַד שַׁעַשְׁגַז סְרִיס הַמֶּלֶךְ שֹׁמֵר הַפִּילַגְשִׁים לֹא תָבוֹא עוֹד אֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ כִּי אִם חָפֵץ בָּהּ הַמֶּלֶךְ וְנִקְרְאָה בְשֵׁם.||(ד) וְהַנַּעֲרָה יָפָה עַד מְאֹד וַתְּהִי לַמֶּלֶךְ סֹכֶנֶת וַתְּשָׁרְתֵהוּ וְהַמֶּלֶךְ לֹא יְדָעָהּ.|
|Achashverosh and David Search for a Beautiful Maiden|
|Esther 2:3-4,14||Melakhim I 1:2-4|
|(2) The king's servants who attended him said, "Let beautiful young virgins be sought out for Your Majesty"||(2) His servants said to him, "Let a virgin be sought for my master, Your Majesty, that she may stand before Your Majesty..."|
(3) "Let Your Majesty appoint officers in every province of your kingdom to assemble all the beautiful young virgins at the fortress Shushan, in the harem..."
|(3) And they sought a fair maiden throughout the territory of Israel, and they found Avishag the Shunammite, and brought her to the king.|
|(14) She would go in the evening and leave in the morning for a second harem in charge of Shaashgaz, the king's eunuch, guardian of the concubines. She would not go again to the king unless the king wanted her, when she would be summoned by name.||(4) And the maiden was very beautiful; and she took care of the king and ministered to him; but the king did not know her intimately.|
|אחשורוש ויוסף אוספים נערות/אוכל|
|אסתר ב':ג'-ד'||בראשית מ"א:ל"ד-ל"ה, ל"ז|
|וְיַפְקֵד הַמֶּלֶךְ פְּקִידִים בְּכָל מְדִינוֹת מַלְכוּתוֹ וְיִקְבְּצוּ אֶת כָּל נַעֲרָה בְתוּלָה טוֹבַת מַרְאֶה... אֶל יַד הֵגֶא סְרִיס הַמֶּלֶךְ שֹׁמֵר הַנָּשִׁים ... וַיִּיטַב הַדָּבָר בְּעֵינֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ וַיַּעַשׂ כֵּן.||וְיַפְקֵד פְּקִדִים עַל הָאָרֶץ... וְיִקְבְּצוּ אֶת כָּל אֹכֶל הַשָּׁנִים הַטֹּבוֹת... וְיִצְבְּרוּ בָר תַּחַת יַד פַּרְעֹה אֹכֶל בֶּעָרִים וְשָׁמָרוּ.... וַיִּיטַב הַדָּבָר בְּעֵינֵי פַרְעֹה וּבְעֵינֵי כָּל עֲבָדָיו.|
|Achashverosh and Yosef Collect Women/Grain|
|Esther 2:3-4||Bereshit 41:34-35,37|
|Let the king appoint officers over all the provinces of his kingdom, and let them gather every virginal maiden of good appearance... to the hand of Hege, the king's chamberlain, keeper of the women... And the thing was good in the king's eyes...||Let Pharaoh act to appoint officers over the land... And let them gather all the food of the good years that are imminent… under the hand of Pharaoh, and let them keep food in the cities... And the thing was good in Pharaoh's eyes|
|הכנות הנערות וחניטת יעקב|
|אסתר ב':י"ב||בראשית נ':ג'|
|וּבְהַגִּיעַ תֹּר נַעֲרָה וְנַעֲרָה לָבוֹא אֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ... כִּי כֵּן יִמְלְאוּ יְמֵי מְרוּקֵיהֶן שִׁשָּׁה חֳדָשִׁים בְּשֶׁמֶן הַמֹּר וְשִׁשָּׁה חֳדָשִׁים בַּבְּשָׂמִים וּבְתַמְרוּקֵי הַנָּשִׁים.||וַיִּמְלְאוּ לוֹ אַרְבָּעִים יוֹם כִּי כֵּן יִמְלְאוּ יְמֵי הַחֲנֻטִים וַיִּבְכּוּ אֹתוֹ מִצְרַיִם שִׁבְעִים יוֹם.|
|Anointing the Maidens and Embalming Yaakov |
|Esther 2:12||Bereshit 50:3|
|When each girl's turn came to go to King Achashverosh at the end of the twelve months' treatment prescribed for women, for such was the full period spent on beautifying them, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with perfumes and women’s cosmetics.||Then Joseph ordered the physicians in his service |
to embalm his father, and the physicians embalmed Israel. It required forty days for such is the full period of embalming...
In all three cases, the similarity in language and uniqueness2 of the phrases employed suggest that these are intentional allusions rather than coincidental parallels. As is often the case, though, it is the differences between the verses which reveal the author's message, a scathing critique of Achashverosh's attitude towards women:
- One woman or all – While King David searched for but one fitting woman ("נַעֲרָה יָפָה"), Achashverosh gathers unto him all the virgins of the kingdom ("כָּל נַעֲרָה"). While David does not have relations ("וְהַמֶּלֶךְ לֹא יְדָעָהּ") even with his single choice, Achashverosh sleeps with all ("...בָּעֶרֶב הִיא בָאָה"), only to later discard them to be untouched again for the rest of their lives.
- Women and wheat – Achashverosh appoints officers to gather all women to him, while Yosef does the same to collect wheat. The parallel language ("וְיַפְקֵד פְּקִדִים... וְיִקְבְּצוּ אֶת כָּל") leads to the inevitable conclusion that for Achashverosh, the women were mere food, there to satisfy an insatiable appetite.
- Anointing and embalming – The comparison of the women's preparations to the embalming of Yaakov's corpse ("כִּי כֵּן יִמְלְאוּ יְמֵי הַחֲנֻטִים / מְרוּקֵיהֶן") suggests that Achashverosh did not treat these women as living people, but rather as merely bodies. All the time the women spent preparing for a potential wedding was, in reality, preparation for a lifetime in a harem, a funeral of sorts.
Internal Structure – Parallel Halves
The chapter can be viewed as composed of two parallel halves:
|אסתר ב':ב'-י"א||אסתר ב':י"ב-כ'|
|נערות שושן||(ב) וַיֹּאמְרוּ נַעֲרֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ מְשָׁרְתָיו יְבַקְשׁוּ לַמֶּלֶךְ נְעָרוֹת בְּתוּלוֹת טוֹבוֹת מַרְאֶה. (ג) וְיַפְקֵד הַמֶּלֶךְ פְּקִידִים בְּכָל מְדִינוֹת מַלְכוּתוֹ וְיִקְבְּצוּ אֶת כׇּל נַעֲרָה בְתוּלָה טוֹבַת מַרְאֶה אֶל שׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה אֶל בֵּית הַנָּשִׁים אֶל יַד הֵגֶא סְרִיס הַמֶּלֶךְ שֹׁמֵר הַנָּשִׁים וְנָתוֹן תַּמְרֻקֵיהֶן.||(יב) וּבְהַגִּיעַ תֹּר נַעֲרָה וְנַעֲרָה לָבוֹא אֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ מִקֵּץ הֱיוֹת לָהּ כְּדָת הַנָּשִׁים שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ כִּי כֵּן יִמְלְאוּ יְמֵי מְרוּקֵיהֶן שִׁשָּׁה חֳדָשִׁים בְּשֶׁמֶן הַמֹּר וְשִׁשָּׁה חֳדָשִׁים בַּבְּשָׂמִים וּבְתַמְרוּקֵי הַנָּשִׁים.|
|אסתר, הבת המאומצת||(ז) וַיְהִי אֹמֵן אֶת הֲדַסָּה הִיא אֶסְתֵּר בַּת דֹּדוֹ כִּי אֵין לָהּ אָב וָאֵם וְהַנַּעֲרָה יְפַת תֹּאַר וְטוֹבַת מַרְאֶה וּבְמוֹת אָבִיהָ וְאִמָּהּ לְקָחָהּ מׇרְדֳּכַי לוֹ לְבַת.||(טו) וּבְהַגִּיעַ תֹּר אֶסְתֵּר בַּת אֲבִיחַיִל דֹּד מׇרְדֳּכַי אֲשֶׁר לָקַח לוֹ לְבַת לָבוֹא אֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ לֹא בִקְשָׁה דָּבָר כִּי אִם אֶת אֲשֶׁר יֹאמַר הֵגַי סְרִיס הַמֶּלֶךְ שֹׁמֵר הַנָּשִׁים וַתְּהִי אֶסְתֵּר נֹשֵׂאת חֵן בְּעֵינֵי כׇּל רֹאֶיהָ.|
|לקיחת אסתר||(ח) וַיְהִי בְּהִשָּׁמַע דְּבַר הַמֶּלֶךְ וְדָתוֹ וּבְהִקָּבֵץ נְעָרוֹת רַבּוֹת אֶל שׁוּשַׁן הַבִּירָה אֶל יַד הֵגָי וַתִּלָּקַח אֶסְתֵּר אֶל בֵּית הַמֶּלֶךְ אֶל יַד הֵגַי שֹׁמֵר הַנָּשִׁים.||(טז) וַתִּלָּקַח אֶסְתֵּר אֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ אֶל בֵּית מַלְכוּתוֹ בַּחֹדֶשׁ הָעֲשִׂירִי הוּא חֹדֶשׁ טֵבֵת בִּשְׁנַת שֶׁבַע לְמַלְכוּתוֹ.|
|"נושאת חן וחסד"||(ט) וַתִּיטַב הַנַּעֲרָה בְעֵינָיו וַתִּשָּׂא חֶסֶד לְפָנָיו וַיְבַהֵל אֶת תַּמְרוּקֶיהָ וְאֶת מָנוֹתֶהָ לָתֵת לָהּ וְאֵת שֶׁבַע הַנְּעָרוֹת הָרְאֻיוֹת לָתֶת לָהּ מִבֵּית הַמֶּלֶךְ וַיְשַׁנֶּהָ וְאֶת נַעֲרוֹתֶיהָ לְטוֹב בֵּית הַנָּשִׁים.||(יז) וַיֶּאֱהַב הַמֶּלֶךְ אֶת אֶסְתֵּר מִכׇּל הַנָּשִׁים וַתִּשָּׂא חֵן וָחֶסֶד לְפָנָיו מִכׇּל הַבְּתוּלוֹת וַיָּשֶׂם כֶּתֶר מַלְכוּת בְּרֹאשָׁהּ וַיַּמְלִיכֶהָ תַּחַת וַשְׁתִּי...|
|"אֵין אֶסְתֵּר מַגֶּדֶת מוֹלַדְתָּהּ"||(י) לֹא הִגִּידָה אֶסְתֵּר אֶת עַמָּהּ וְאֶת מוֹלַדְתָּהּ כִּי מׇרְדֳּכַי צִוָּה עָלֶיהָ אֲשֶׁר לֹא תַגִּיד. (יא) וּבְכׇל יוֹם וָיוֹם מׇרְדֳּכַי מִתְהַלֵּךְ לִפְנֵי חֲצַר בֵּית הַנָּשִׁים לָדַעַת אֶת שְׁלוֹם אֶסְתֵּר וּמַה יֵּעָשֶׂה בָּהּ.||(יט) וּבְהִקָּבֵץ בְּתוּלוֹת שֵׁנִית וּמׇרְדֳּכַי יֹשֵׁב בְּשַׁעַר הַמֶּלֶךְ. (כ) אֵין אֶסְתֵּר מַגֶּדֶת מוֹלַדְתָּהּ וְאֶת עַמָּהּ כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּה עָלֶיהָ מׇרְדֳּכָי וְאֶת מַאֲמַר מׇרְדֳּכַי אֶסְתֵּר עֹשָׂה כַּאֲשֶׁר הָיְתָה בְאׇמְנָה אִתּוֹ.|
|Esther 2:2-11||Esther 2:12-20|
(2-3) The king's servants who attended him said, "Let beautiful young virgins be sought out for Your Majesty. Let Your Majesty appoint officers in every province of your realm to assemble all the beautiful young virgins at the fortress Shushan, in the harem under the supervision of Hege, the king's eunuch, guardian of the women. Let them be provided with their cosmetics."
|(12) When each girl's turn came to go to King Achashverosh at the end of the twelve months' treatment prescribed for women, for that was the period spent on beautifying them, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with perfumes and women’s cosmetics, and it was after that that the girl would go to the king, whatever she asked for would be given her to take with her from the harem to the king's palace.|
(7) The maiden was shapely and beautiful; and when her father and mother died, Mordechai adopted her as his own daughter.
(15) When the turn came for Esther, daughter of Avichayil, the uncle of Mordechai, who had adopted her as his own daughter, to go to the king, she did not ask for anything but what Hegai, the king's eunuch, guardian of the women, advised. Yet Esther won the admiration of all who saw her.
(8) When the king's order and edict was proclaimed, and when many girls were assembled in the fortress Shushan under the supervision of Hegai, Esther too was taken into the king's palace under the supervision of Hegai, guardian of the women.
|(16) Esther was taken to King Achashverosh, in his royal palace, in the tenth month, which is the month of Tevet, in the seventh year of his reign.|
(9) The girl pleased him and won his favor, and he hastened to furnish her with her cosmetics and her rations, as well as with the seven maids who were her due from the king's palace; and he treated her and her maids with special kindness in the harem.
(17) The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she won his grace and favor more than all the virgins. So he set a royal diadem on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.
(10-11) Esther did not reveal her people or her kindred, for Mordechai had told her not to reveal it. Every single day Mordechai would walk about in front of the court of the harem, to learn how Esther was faring and what was happening to her.
(19-20) When the virgins were assembled a second time, Mordechai sat in the palace gate. But Esther still did not reveal her kindred or her people, as Mordechai had instructed her; for Esther obeyed Mordechai's bidding, as she had done when she was under his tutelage.
- Shushan’s maidens – The opening section of each half focuses on Shushan's maidens, not mentioning Esther at all. In the first half, the king’s young servants propose gathering young girls and letting them be provided with cosmetics, whereas the parallel segment describes the idea in action – the gathering of the girls and a detailed description of the period spent beautifying them.
- Esther, the adopted daughter – After describing all of the maidens, the narrator shifts to a discussion of Esther and her special relationship to Mordechai. This is appropriate in the first half, the exposition of the characters. The repetition of this information in the description of Esther’s turn, in the parallel segment of the second half, surprises the reader. The repeated expression "who had adopted her as his own daughter" emphasizes the relationship between Esther and her cousin.
- The taking of Esther – The next stage, in both halves, describes the taking of Esther. In the first half, Esther is taken under the supervision of Hegai, and in the second half, she comes even nearer to the king, being taken to the palace.
- Finding favor – Esther wins the favor of each of the two men she encounters, and the development is noteworthy. In the first half, Esther "won the favor" of Hegai, whereas in the second half, she "won the grace and favor" of the king. Moreover, the king "loves" Esther; with the narrator using a verb that conveys particularly strong emotion
- Hiding of nationality – The big surprise of this scene appears at the end of each half, with the repetition of the description of Esther’s relationship to Mordechai. In the first half, Esther refuses to divulge her nationality because of Mordechai’s command, and even in the second half – after being selected as queen – Esther continues obeying Mordechai. Here, the narrator emphasizes their connection in a most obvious manner: "as she had done when she was under his tutelage".
The literary structure of this representation intimates several messages hidden under the formal narrative surface:
- Esther versus the maidens – The beginning of each half stands in contrast with its continuation, highlighting how deeply Esther differs from all of the other maidens. The narrator devotes much detail to the numerous ways in which the girls could doll themselves up. Whereas the other women took advantage of the full range of possibilities at their disposal, Esther asked for nothing. The disparity between the portrait of "each girl’s turn" (v. 12) and Esther’s turn (v. 13) expresses the fundamental disparity between the worlds and values of the respective characters.
- Esther's success – Esther’s passivity contrasts with her sudden and overwhelming success. At first, Esther finds favor in Hegai’s eyes (v. 9), and even in v. 15, the narrator develops the events involving Esther by first saying: "Esther won favor in the eyes of all who saw her". Yet, in the description of the Achashverosh reaction to Esther, a new verb is utilized, quite surprising in the Shushanite context: “The king loved Esther more than all the other women” (v. 17). In light of the narrative’s portrait of the king, his being suddenly captivated by love for one of the women surprises the reader and, it seems, wins a point in Esther’s favor.
- Esther's personal tragedy – The unit’s structure and verbal texture also allude to Esther’s personal tragedy. The narrator mentions Mordechai twice, thereby forming a sort of literary inclusio for the story of Esther in the royal courtyard. Note the verb לקח which the narrator utilizes in each of these descriptions: Mordechai adopted ("לְקָחָהּ") her as his own daughter. The verb is soon repeated in the context of Esther's arrival at the palace: "Esther too was taken ("וַתִּלָּקַח") into the king’s palace". Employing the same verb directs the reader’s attention to the hidden tension between these two "takings" and to the personal tragedy which Esther undergoes.
Alternative Internal Structure – Chiasm
One can alternatively view the chapter as a chiasm, with an a-b-c-d-e-d-c-b-a structure:
|חיפוש תחליף לושתי||וְהַנַּעֲרָה אֲשֶׁר תִּיטַב בְּעֵינֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ תִּמְלֹךְ תַּחַת וַשְׁתִּי|
|לקיחת אסתר לבית המלך||וַתִּלָּקַח אֶסְתֵּר אֶל בֵּית הַמֶּלֶךְ אֶל יַד הֵגַי שֹׁמֵר הַנָּשִׁים|
|אסתר נושאת חן בעיני הגי||וַתִּיטַב הַנַּעֲרָה בְעֵינָיו וַתִּשָּׂא חֶסֶד לְפָנָיו|
|אופן כניסת כל נערה ונערה אל המלך||וּבְהַגִּיעַ תֹּר נַעֲרָה וְנַעֲרָה לָבוֹא אֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ ... אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר תֹּאמַר יִנָּתֵן לָהּ לָבוֹא עִמָּהּ|
|הכניסה אל המלך||בָּעֶרֶב הִיא בָאָה וּבַבֹּקֶר הִיא שָׁבָה|
|אופן כניסת אסתר אל המלך||וּבְהַגִּיעַ תֹּר אֶסְתֵּר בַּת אֲבִיחַיִל דֹּד מָרְדֳּכַי אֲשֶׁר לָקַח לוֹ לְבַת לָבוֹא אֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ לֹא בִקְשָׁה דָּבָר|
|אסתר נשאת חן בעיני כל ראיה||וַתְּהִי אֶסְתֵּר נֹשֵׂאת חֵן בְּעֵינֵי כָּל רֹאֶיהָ|
|לקיחת אסתר לבית המלך||וַתִּלָּקַח אֶסְתֵּר אֶל הַמֶּלֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ אֶל בֵּית מַלְכוּתוֹ|
|מציאת התחליף לושתי||וַיֶּאֱהַב הַמֶּלֶךְ אֶת אֶסְתֵּר מִכָּל הַנָּשִׁים וַתִּשָּׂא חֵן וָחֶסֶד לְפָנָיו מִכָּל הַבְּתוּלֹת ... וַיַּמְלִיכֶהָ תַּחַת וַשְׁתִּי|
|And let the maiden who pleases Your Majesty be queen instead of Vashti|
|Esther too was taken into the king's palace under the supervision of Hegai, guardian of the women.|
|The girl pleased him and won his favor|
|When each girl's turn came to go to King Achashverosh... whatever she asked for would be given her to take with her...|
|She would go in the evening and leave in the morning|
|When the turn came for Esther, daughter of Avichayil, the uncle of Mordechai, who had adopted her as his own daughter, to go to the king, she did not ask for anything|
|Yet Esther won the admiration of all who saw her.|
|Esther was taken to King Achashverosh, in his royal palace|
|The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she won his grace and favor more than all the virgins. So he... made her queen instead of Vashti.|
According to this option, the chiastic structure serves to highlight how Esther surpassed expectations in becoming queen, differentiating herself from the other contestants.
- From pleasure to love – While the king looked to replace Vashti with "one who would please him", in the end he "loves Esther." Esther thus moves from under the supervision of Hegai, closer to the king.
- Gracing all – At first, Esther only finds favor in the eyes of Hegai, by the second half of the story she graces all who see her.
- Esther versus Persian maidens – The structure also highlights the vast gap between Esther and the other maidens. Most of the women, immersed in the superficiality of Persian culture, take advantage of the spices and make up at their disposal, immersing themselves for months. Esther, though, does not ask for anything.
Esther’s personal tragedy stands out in the comparison between this scene and a similar story in Bereshit 12, the taking of Sarah:
|לקיחת אסתר לבית המלך (אסתר ב')||לקיחת שרי לבית פרעה (בראשית י"ב)|
|קשרי משפחה בין בעל ואשה||וַיְהִי אֹמֵן אֶת הֲדַסָּה הִיא אֶסְתֵּר בַּת דֹּדוֹ כִּי אֵין לָהּ אָב וָאֵם... (ב:ז)||וַיִּקַּח אַבְרָם וְנָחוֹר לָהֶם נָשִׁים שֵׁם אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם שָׂרָי (יא:כט)|
|משפחה שגלתה מארצה||אֲשֶׁר הׇגְלָה מִירוּשָׁלַיִם עִם הַגֹּלָה אֲשֶׁר הׇגְלְתָה עִם יְכׇנְיָה מֶלֶךְ יְהוּדָה (ב:ו)||וַיֵּרֶד אַבְרָם מִצְרַיְמָה לָגוּר שָׁם (יב:יא)|
|תיאור מראה האשה||וְהַנַּעֲרָה יְפַת תֹּאַר וְטוֹבַת מַרְאֶה (ב:ז)||וַיֹּאמֶר אֶל שָׂרַי אִשְׁתּוֹ הִנֵּה נָא יָדַעְתִּי כִּי אִשָּׁה יְפַת מַרְאֶה אָתְּ. (יב:יא)|
|משרתי המלך מעודדים אותו לקחת לו אשה||וַיֹּאמְרוּ נַעֲרֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ מְשָׁרְתָיו יְבַקְשׁוּ לַמֶּלֶךְ נְעָרוֹת בְּתוּלוֹת טוֹבוֹת מַרְאֶה (ב:ב)||וַיִּרְאוּ אֹתָהּ שָׂרֵי פַרְעֹה וַיְהַלְלוּ אֹתָהּ אֶל פַּרְעֹה (יב:טו)|
|בקשה מהאשה לא לחשוף את זהותה||לֹא הִגִּידָה אֶסְתֵּר אֶת עַמָּהּ וְאֶת מוֹלַדְתָּהּ כִּי מׇרְדֳּכַי צִוָּה עָלֶיהָ אֲשֶׁר לֹא תַגִּיד (ב:י)||אִמְרִי נָא אֲחֹתִי אָתְּ (יב:יג)|
|לקיחת האשה לארמון||וַתִּלָּקַח אֶסְתֵּר אֶל בֵּית הַמֶּלֶךְ (ב:ח)||וַתֻּקַּח הָאִשָּׁה בֵּית פַּרְעֹה (יב:טו)|
|המלך נותן מתנות לאיש||וּמׇרְדֳּכַי יָצָא מִלִּפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ בִּלְבוּשׁ מַלְכוּת תְּכֵלֶת וָחוּר וַעֲטֶרֶת זָהָב גְּדוֹלָה וְתַכְרִיךְ בּוּץ וְאַרְגָּמָן (ח:טו)||וּלְאַבְרָם הֵיטִיב בַּעֲבוּרָהּ וַיְהִי לוֹ צֹאן וּבָקָר וַחֲמֹרִים וַעֲבָדִים וּשְׁפָחֹת וַאֲתֹנֹת וּגְמַלִּים (יב:טז)|
|המלך מגלה את הקשר בין האיש ואשה||וּמׇרְדֳּכַי בָּא לִפְנֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ כִּי הִגִּידָה אֶסְתֵּר מַה הוּא לָהּ. (ח:א)||וַיֹּאמֶר מַה זֹּאת עָשִׂיתָ לִּי לָמָּה לֹא הִגַּדְתָּ לִּי כִּי אִשְׁתְּךָ הִוא. (יב:יח)|
|Taking of Esther to Achashverosh's Palace: Esther 2||Taking of Sarai to Paroh's Palace: Bereshit 12|
|Family relations |
|He was foster father to Hadassah—that is, Esther— his uncle’s daughter... and when her father and mother died, Mordechai adopted her as his own daughter (2:7)||Abram and Nachor took to |
themselves wives, the name of Abram’s wife being Sarai (11:29).
|A family exiled |
from its land
|Who had been exiled from Jerusalem in the group that was carried into exile along with King Yechonyah of Judah (2:6)||Abram went down to Egypt to sojourn there (12:10)|
|Description of |
the woman as
|The maiden was shapely and beautiful and when her father and mother died, Mordechai adopted her as his own daughter (2:7)||I know what a beautiful woman you are (12:11)|
|The king’s |
encourage him to
take a wife
|The king’s servants who attended him said, “Let beautiful young virgins be sought out for Your Majesty” (2:2)||Paroh’s courtiers saw her and praised her to Paroh |
|Man’s request of |
the woman not to
reveal her identity
or connection to
|Esther did not reveal her people or her kindred, for Mordechai had told her not |
to reveal it (2:10)
|Please say that you are my sister (12:13)|
|Taking of the |
woman to the
|Esther too was taken into the king’s palace (2:8)||...the woman was taken into Paroh’s palace (12:15)|
|The king bestows |
the man who
from the woman
|Mordechai left the king’s presence in royal robes of blue and white, with a magnificent crown of gold and a mantle of fine linen and purple wool (8:15)||And because of her, it went well with Abram; he acquired sheep, oxen, asses, male and female slaves, sheasses, and camels 12:16)|
|At the end of |
the story, the
king engages in
dialogue with the man
|Mordechai presented himself to the king (8:1)||Paroh sent for Abram and |
|The king discovers |
between the man
and the woman
|For Esther had revealed how he was related to her (8:1)||Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? (12:18)|
The similarity between the two stories is apparent and emphasizes that just as it would be difficult to present the story of Abram and Sarai as a successful Cinderella story, so Esther’s being taken to the king’s palace is more heartbreaking than happy. In essence, a comparison of the two stories shows the tragedy of Esther’s situation even more: after Hashem protects Sarai, she leaves unhurt and returns to Abram’s arms. Esther, though, remains in the Persian king’s palace for the remainder of her life.