Fun with the Bible: 7 Fun Facts About the Book of Esther This Purim

Rather than go through the entire book of Esther, which would be an enormous undertaking and not what Fun with the Bible is all about, I’m going to point out a few fun things about the biblical book of Esther.

1. It’s one of the scrolls, or megillot, that the Jews read in full at particular times throughout the liturgical calendar year.

2. In Judaism, the holiday surrounding the Book of Esther is called Purim, and it is a particularly fun holiday with partying, games, costumes and revelry, celebrated in a fashion much akin to Halloween. It is the one holiday during which it is sanctioned to get wasted – so wasted in fact, that you are not supposed to be able to tell the difference between the names of the good guy and the bad guy in the Purim story (think Carnival).

3. The bad guy in the story is named Haman, and in episode 309 of South Park, “Jewbilee,” some cryptic references to this arch-enemy of the Jews are made. Curiously, they have nothing to do with Purim. Haman, the king’s vizier, was planning on killing all of the Jews across Shushan (ancient Persia) because one Jew, Mordechai refused to bow down to him. Mordechai, using his niece who had recently married the king, managed to thwart Haman’s plan and have Haman killed instead. And in the general telling, that’s where the story ends. What people often leave out is that the Jews were able to rise up and kill 75,000 of their enemies on the same day (legally sanctioned by the king, fyi). Twisted and often ignored.

4. The holiday begins with the Fast of Esther, the name of Mordechai’s niece who helped save the Jews from Haman. Before executing her plan she fasted for three days. Jews commemorate this fast with one fast day of their own.

5. The book of Esther is the ONLY book in the Bible that doesn’t mention God in any way.

6. Strangely enough, the book of Esther is the only Old Testament book (the only books around at the time, mind you) not discovered at Qumran amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls.

7. My girlfriend’s name is Eszter (the Hungarian spelling of Esther), so I have a particular affinity for this book…if only for this reason.

If you’re celebrating, Happy Purim!

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Enjoy more Fun with the Bible posts.

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2 Responses

  1. Not arguing your information, just pointing out that Esther is one of two books that does not mention God, the other Being Song of Solomon.

  2. You are very right, Scott. Song of Solomon (a.k.a. Song of Songs) also does not mention the name of God. Rabbis do construe the words shalhevetyah (Song 8:6) and bi-tseva’ot (Song 2:7; 3:5) as names of God, and in fact, the Talmud considers the latter one of the names that once written cannot be erased. However, others interpret this word as the plural feminine form of the word gazelle, which is quite obviously a secular word and wouldn’t make it holy.

    Strictly speaking, you are definitely right, but many religious Jews would consider this good enough to count the book of Esther alone as the only book lacking a name of God, if not The Name of God. Since this blog is not a Talmudic one 🙂 but one that seeks to understand religion and holy texts from a historico-critical viewpoint, however, I will definitely defer to your comment. Thanks for bringing that up.

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