Esther 2.19-20: Scribal Slips or Narrative Necessities?

  • Penelope Barter (Speaker)

    Activity: Talk or presentation typesInvited talkScientific


    This paper examines how MT Est 2.19-20 offers vital clues for the comprehension of the characters, relationships, and events in the following narrative, contrary to traditional characterisations of this text as an unfortunate textual jumble. Many commentators have noted the puzzling ‘second’ (šēnît) gathering of the virgins and the repetition of Esther’s silence from Est 2.10 and have emended the text (C. A. Moore); explain that šēnît is a marginal notation regarding this doublet which has since slipped into the main body of the text (W. Rudolph; D. J. Clines); or simply propose that the text is corrupt (L. B. Paton; A. Berlin). In contrast, this paper offers a reading of Est 2.19-20 which makes sense of the text as it stands and suggests that this peculiar arrangement is in fact vital for the reader’s interpretation of what follows. I argue first for the originality of šēnît, elaborating upon Michael V. Fox’s reading of Est 2.19a as a post-coronation gathering of 'virgins' into the second harem, before demonstrating that the combination of Est 2.19a with the parenthetical statement of Est 2.20 establishes a framework for the relationships between Esther, Mordecai, and the king on which the rest of the book hinges.
    Held atHebrew Bible Research Seminar (University of St Andrews), United Kingdom
    Degree of RecognitionLocal


    • Bible
    • Esther
    • narrative
    • composition