AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOKS OF THE APOCRYPHA. By W O E Oesterley D D Litt D. © W O E Oesterley 1935. First published S.P.C.K. 1935. - This edition prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram 2003.


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These Additions are six in number, comprising 107 verses not occurring in the Hebrew text.
[Swete, The Old Testament in Greek, p.257 (1900).]

They were inserted in the Greek Version of Esther with the twofold purpose of giving expression to the religious element so gravely wanting in the canonical Esther, and of providing some further details of events, which were considered to be insufficiently treated there.

In the Vulgate these additions are placed at the end of the canonical Esther, which "has had the effect of making them unintelligible".
In the Revised Version of the Apocrypha they are gathered together under the title:
"The Rest of the Chapters of the Book of Esther, which are found neither in the Hebrew, nor in the Chaldee".
But their respective positions in the text of the Septuagint Version of the canonical Esther are indicated in the margin.

Our first task must be to consider each addition in relation to the context in which it stands in the Septuagint.
We follow the Cambridge Septuagint in designating the additions by the letters A-F respectively.

The First Addition: (A = xi.2 -.6 in the Vulgate).

This stands at the beginning of the book, and is intended to be an introduction summarizing what follows in the first three chapters.
Religious notes are struck in A 9 (= xi.1 0):
"They then cried unto God...", and in A11 (= xi.12), where what is about to happen is ascribed to the will of God.

The addition consists of two sections:
Mordecai's dream (A I -10 (= xi.2-11), and the events which followed (A11-17 (= xi.12-.6)).
In his dream Mordecai perceived a great uproar on the earth, in the midst of which two dragons appeared ready to fight each other.
At the noise of their strife all nations prepared to fight against "the righteous nation",
but the people of the latter cried to God.
In answer to their cry there came a great river "from a little fountain",
whereupon "the light of the sun rose up, and the lowly were exalted, and devoured the glorious."
The two dragons are, of course, Haman and Mordecai, the little fountain is Esther (see Addition F).
In the second section it is told how Mordecai, on awaking, overheard two eunuchs who were hatching a plot against the king.
Mordecai reports this to the king, and is rewarded for his loyalty.
Upon this Haman, who was presumably in league with the conspirators, determines to avenge himself upon Mordecai.

Some inconsistencies between this Addition and the book itself may be noted:
According to the Addition, Mordecai was a "servitor in the king's court" in the second year of Artaxerxes (= Xerxes), whereas in ii.16 of the canonical book it is said that this was in his seventh year.
In the Addition, Mordecai notifies the king of the plot against his life,
but in ii.22 of the book itself Esther does this.
In the Addition, again, Mordecai is immediately rewarded for his fidelity;
in the canonical Esther he is at first altogether forgotten, and only after a lapse of time does he receive his reward.
And, once more, in the Addition,
Haman's animosity against Mordecai is due to the latter having discovered the plot against the king,
in consequence of which (according to the best reading) the eunuchs were put to death.
But in the canonical Esther Haman's bitterness against Mordecai is occasioned by the latter refusing to show due honour to Haman (iii.1 ff.).

These differences show that the Addition cannot originally have formed part of the book.

The Second Addition:(B = i.1-7 in the Vulgate).

This is inserted after iii.13 of the canonical Esther, and purports to be a copy of the decree of Xerxes mentioned, but not quoted, in Esth.iii.13-15.

The decree is sent, according to the tradition, to the princes of the one hundred and twenty-seven provinces of the kingdom.
In it the king declares it to be his purpose to rule his people peaceably, showing "equity and mildness" in his dealings with them.
He had, therefore, summoned his counsellors to give him advice.
At this conclave Haman, "who excelled in wisdom," and occupied the second place in the kingdom, warned the king that there was "a certain malignant people," who, having their own laws, set at defiance the royal commands.
Thereupon the king, following Haman's advice, had put forth his decree, according to which this people (i.e. the Jews) should be utterly destroyed by the sword, with their wives and children

"without all mercy and pity, the fourteenth day of the twelfth month of Adar of this present year."

The only point in this Addition at variance with the Septuagint, as well as the Hebrew, of the canonical Esther, is that in these the massacre is to take place on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month (iii.13; viii.12; ix.1, though in iii.13 of the Septuagint the day is not indicated).
In this Addition no religious note is sounded, which is hardly to be expected, the content being what it is.

The Third Addition: (C = i.8-18 and xiv.1-19 in the Vulgate).

This Addition consists of two distinct parts that follow immediately after iv.17 of the canonical Esther.

First, there is the prayer of Mordecai, in which he prays that the mourning and fasting of the Jews, mentioned in the immediately preceding verse of the canonical Esther, may be turned into feasting.
The passage is a beautiful one and breathes the deepest piety.
Beginning with an ascription of might to the Almighty, and emphasizing His creative work, the prayer continues:

"Thou knowest all things, and thou knowest, Lord,
that it was neither in contempt nor pride,
nor for any desire of glory,
that I did not bow down to proud Aman"

cp. iii.2, 3 of the canonical Esther).

It was Mordecai's refusal to bow down to Haman which was the cause of the latter's determination to destroy all the Jews (see Esth.iii.5, 6).

The second part of this Addition is the prayer of Esther.
She takes off her glorious apparel, putting on instead "the garments of anguish and mourning."
The prayer, which is somewhat drawn out, begins by recalling how in the past God had ever performed what He promised.
Then it tells of how the enemy threatens to destroy God's inheritance.
There follows the most impressive part of the prayer:

"Remember, O Lord, make thyself known in the time of our affliction,
And give me boldness, O King of the gods, and holder of all dominion.
Give me eloquent speech in my mouth before the lion
(i.e. the king);
And turn his heart to hate him that fighteth against us,
That there may be an end of him
(i.e. Haman),
And of them that are like-minded with him;
But deliver us with thine hand,
And help me that am desolate and have no other helper but thee, O Lord."


The Fourth Addition: (D = xv.4-19 in the Vulgate).

This Addition, which follows immediately after the preceding, gives in fuller detail the narrative in v.1, 2 (Septuagint and Hebrew).

It tells of how Esther, having ended her prayer, put on fitting apparel, and, attended by her two maids, appeared before the king.
He receives her in anger, whereupon Esther falls down in a faint.
It then continues to say that God changed the spirit of the king into mildness,

"who in an agony leaped from his throne,
and took her in his arms, till she came to herself again,
and comforted her with soothing words."

Esther responds with adulatory words; but she is overcome by the king's graciousness and again swoons away.
The Addition ends with the words:

"Then the king was troubled, and all his servants comforted her,"

after which the canonical text continues at v.3:

"Then said the king unto her..."

A few variations from what is said in the canonical Esther occur, but they are unimportant.

The Fifth Addition: (E = xvi.1-24 in the Vulgate).

In the Septuagint this Addition follows after viii.12.

This purports to be the copy of an edict of Xerxes, mentioned, but not quoted, in viii.13 of the canonical Esther.
It revokes the earlier edict, given in the second Addition.
After a somewhat diffuse passage showing the wickedness of Haman, who is called a Macedonian, he is accused of seeking the king's life in order to seize the throne.
And also of seeking the death of Mordecai,

"who saved our life,"

and of Esther,

"the blameless partaker of our kingdom, together with their whole nation."

The Jews are then praised as being the

"children of the most high and most mighty living God."

It is then commanded that

"ye shall aid them, that even the same day
(i.e. that on which the massacre of the Jews had been ordered by Haman),
being the thirteenth day of the twelfth month Adar,
they may defend themselves against those who set upon them in the time of their affliction."

Those who fail to obey the royal command

"shall be utterly destroyed with spear and fire."

Three special points are to be noted here:

  1. The prominence of the religious element;
    not only does the king recognize "the most high, and the most mighty living God,"
    but he adds that He "hath ordered the kingdom both unto us and to our progenitors in the most excellent manner".
    Further, it is said that Haman's punishment was the divine vengeance rendered according to his deserts.
    And, finally, the edict runs: "For Almighty God hath made this day to be a joy unto them, instead of the destruction of the chosen people."
  2. Haman is represented as a Macedonian, and therefore described as a foreigner.
  3. In verse 22 of this Addition it is said: "And ye shall therefore among your commemorative feasts keep it a high day with all feasting".
    The reference here is to the feast of Purim, so that the Persians are also required to keep this feast.
    This, by the way, is contrary to what is said in the canonical Esther (ix.20-28), where it is ordained to be observed among the Jews only in every city.

The Sixth Addition: (F = x.4-xi.1).

This Addition comes after x.3 of the canonical Esther; i.e. it forms the conclusion of the book.

It is an interpretation of Mordecai's dream recorded in Addition A:

"As for the little fountain that became a river ...
it is Esther ... and the two dragons are I and Amon."

All that happened, as described in the book, was by the will of God, it is said;
the Addition concludes with the words:

"So God remembered his people, and justified his inheritance.
Therefore these days shall be unto them in the month Adar,
the fourteenth and fifteenth day of the month,
with an assembly, and joy, and with gladness before God,
throughout the generations for ever among his people Israel."

There follows then this subscription:

"In the fourth year of the reign of Ptolemy and Cleopatra,
Dositheus, who said he was a priest and Levite,
and Ptolemy his son,
brought the foregoing epistle concerning Phrurai
(i.e. Purim),
which they said was
and that Lysimachus, son of Ptolemy,
one of those
(dwelling) in Jerusalem, had translated it."

This subscription is clearly intended to apply to the whole of the book of Esther (cp. ix.29).

We shall refer to it again.


The Additions to the Book of Esther, which appear for the first time in the Septuagint, probably represent current material, i.e. they were not, in the first instance, written in literary form, but enlargements of the original story handed down orally.[For the haggadic material found in Josephus (Antiq.xi.184 ff.), see Jacob, in the Zeitschrift fur die A. T. Wissenschaft, for 1890, pp.262 f.]

These Greek Additions, however, formed the basis for an extraordinary growth of Esther legends, which show what an immense popularity the book enjoyed (doubtless the feast of Purim was in part responsible for this) in later times.
The various forms of the Esther legend, which appeared during the earlier part of the Middle Ages, though in substance they are, of course, much older, are as follows:
[See Ryssel, in Kautzsch, op. cit., i.195 f ; Prince, in the Jewish Encycl. v.234a; see also Erbt, Die Purinuage in der Bibel ... (1900).]

We have, first, the two Targums, i.e. translations or rather explanatory paraphrases in Aramaic, of the Hebrew Book of Esther.
It would seem that in both cases current material was utilized, and not merely the Septuagint additions.
Esther legends, it is likely enough, were known quite apart from these latter.
Of these two Targums, called respectively Targum Rishon ("first") and Targum Sheni ("second"), the former restricts itself to matter directly concerned with the Esther story.
But the latter contains material "not germane to the Esther story," and may be characterized as "a genuine and exuberant midrash." [They are both published by Lagarde in Hagiografa Chaldaice (1873); for the former see also Posner, Das Targum Rishon (1896), for the latter, Cassel, Das Buch Esther (1891).]

In their present form these belong, respectively, to about 700AD and 800AD.
Extracts from them are given by Fuller in Wace, op. cit. i.370 ff. see also Paton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Esther, pp.22 f. (1908). 

A Midrash on the whole of the canonical Esther (Hebrew) is contained in the Babylonian Talmud, tractate Megillah 10b-4a, dating from the sixth century AD.
Another Esther legend is contained in Pirke de Rabbi Eliezer, belonging to the eighth century AD. [An English translation is given in Gerald Friedlander's Pirke de Rabbi Elitzer, pp.396-409 (1916).]

Again, in the Sepher Josippon, written by Joseph ben Gorion (early tenth century AD), an Esther legend appears among a number of other legendary stories. [No modern edition of this work has been published, but Caster gives some extracts in The Chronicles of Jerahmeel (1899).]

Other mediaeval writings in which Esther legends occur are:
Midrash Megillath Esther, called also Haggadath Megilla (circa eighth century AD) [German translation in Horwitz's Sammlung Kleiner Midrashim (1881).];
Midrash Lekah Tob, about the eleventh century AD; [Published by Buber, Sifte di-Agadta (1880).] 
Midrash Tehillim, on Ps.x (known also, from its opening words, as Shoher Tob, "He that diligently seeketh good," Prov.xi.27), not later than the eleventh century AD [The Hebrew text is published by Buber, Midrash Tehillim (1891).];
and in the Yalkut ("collection") Shimeoni, a great collection of Midrashic material ranging over the entire Old Testament. [No modern edition has been published.]

The difference in content between these various forms of Esther legends and the Additions in the Septuagint lies in the exaggerative and often fantastic character of the former.
With the exception of what is said in the fifth Addition, that all the Persians are to keep the feast Purim, and that those who fail to do so are to be "utterly destroyed without mercy with spear and fire," the Additions are sober and often edifying, and there is but little to which exception can be taken.
It is very different with the later legends, which abound in exaggerations and absurdities.

A few examples may be given:
Esther is described as one of the four most beautiful women ever created, and she never grew old.
Her name Hadassah ("myrtle") is said to indicate that she was seventy-four years old when she married Ahasuerus.
This is deduced from the fact that the numerical value of the letters of this name in Hebrew make up seventy-four.
In arraying herself for the feast she was assisted by the Holy Spirit, and was accompanied into the royal presence by three angels.
Mordecai is said to have known seventy languages, and it is explained that the words of Ps.xxxvii.37 ("Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright, for the latter end of that man is peace") were written in reference to him.
In one of the stories Elijah is introduced.
He disguises himself as one of the royal chamberlains and counsels the king to have Haman hanged on a tree fifty cubits high, which had been taken from the Holy of Holies!

These few examples will suffice to show the difference in character between the Septuagint Additions and the later legends.
One can, however, well understand the purpose for which these wonder-tales were written.
The story of Esther tells of a wonderful deliverance of the Jewish people from an impending terrible persecution.
It was calculated, therefore, to be of great comfort and encouragement to them when, as so often happened in later days, repeated persecutions were their lot.
But the simple story, as originally told, was not thought to be sufficiently realistic.
People in dire distress will often be heartened and cheered by having their thoughts directed away from the cruel present.
And if the storyteller's imagination runs riot in exalting national heroes and degrading the persecutors, the effect on the hearers, downtrodden and despised, is very comforting.
This will account for the large number of Esther legends put forth in later days.


It has been maintained that the Additions were originally written in Hebrew or Aramaic, the present Greek form being a translation (E.g. Scholz, Kommentar uber das Buch Esther mit seinen Zusatzen, pp.xxi. ff. (1892); Kaulen, Einleitung in das Alte Testament, pp.271 f (1890); see also Willrich, in Judaica for 1900, p.15.);
That they formed part of the original Hebrew or Aramaic text;
And that, therefore, the present Hebrew book of Esther is an abbreviated form, while the Septuagint with its Additions represents the full form, the whole having been translated from a Hebrew or Aramaic original which contained the Additions.
One reason for this contention is that the later Esther legends, being written either in Hebrew or Aramaic, are based on early Semitic material that lay behind the whole body of the Esther stories, in both the Hebrew and the Septuagint forms.

Against this it must be urged that there is not the slightest evidence of the existence of Semitic originals of the Additions or other early material outside the canonical Esther.
Moreover, the Hebrew and Aramaic Esther legends referred to are all, as we have seen, of much later date than the Additions.
Besides which they are, in large measure, themselves based upon the Additions.
Finally, the Greek Additions do not bear any marks of translation.
There are always indications, which intrude themselves in a Greek writing translated from a Semitic original;
but nothing of the kind is to be discerned in the present instance.
The Hebraisms that occur are characteristic of all Jewish hellenistic writers;
they simply show that the writer was a Jew.

Both Fritzsche (Kurzgefasstes exegetisches Handbuch zu den Apokryphen des A.T., i.71 (1851-1860)),
and Fuller (In Wace, op. cit., i.365 (1888).], have shown that in the case of many passages of the Additions it is a difficult task to translate the Greek into Hebrew, which would not be so if Hebrew were the original language.
It may, therefore, be regarded as certain that the Greek form of these Additions is the original one.


The subscription that comes at the end of the Sixth Addition after the conclusion of the book (see above, p.188), tells us that the Greek translation was brought from Jerusalem to Egypt in the fourth year of king Ptolemy whose wife was Cleopatra.
It does not say, however, which of the fourteen kings of this name is meant.
As Ptolemy VI Philometor (181/0-145BC) was very friendly disposed towards the Jews, and permitted them to build their temple at Leontopolis, it has been supposed that this is the king in question, in which case the date would be 178BC.
[Ptolemy VI married a Cleopatra, but not in the fourth year of his reign, see Bevan, The Ptolemaic Dynasty, p.283 (1927)]

But, as Jacob has pointed out (Op. Cit., pp.278 f.)), the only Ptolemy who married a Cleopatra in the fourth year of his reign was Ptolemy VIII Lathyrus (117/6-108/7BC), which would make the date 114/113BC, if we are to be guided by this subscription.
[He married a second time in the fourth year of his reign, but the name of his second wife was also Cleopatra (Selene).] [See Jacob, op. Cit., pp.279 ff., who is followed by Ryssel, op. cit., i.196 f.]

There are, however, some reasons for doubting the reliability of what is said in the subscription.
To begin with, the vagueness of the reference to a Ptolemy and a Cleopatra, when a single word would have given the needed definiteness excites suspicion.
Then, the "he said," "they said," is also somewhat vague.
And the roundabout way in which occurences are described does not give the impression that the writer was certain about his facts.
But a more serious objection is the writer's assertion that the book was translated into Greek in Jerusalem and then brought to Egypt.

"We know,"
says Jacob,
"how scanty and meagre the knowledge of the Greek language in Palestine was from the time of Eupolemos, a contemporary of the Maccabaeans, to that of Josephus and the New Testament writers. Josephus, especially, by his own confession, proves how extremely difficult it was for a native Palestinian to attain to a mastery of the Greek language.
But we have seen how that the translation of our book exhibits undeniably a knowledge and command of Greek."

Noldeke (Encycl. Bibl. ii.1405) answers this objection by saying that "the name of the translator Lysimachus, the son of Ptolemy, at once suggests an Egyptian Jew," implying, presumably, that Lysimachus had been residing in Jerusalem and had learned Hebrew, thereby being in a position to make the translation.
But this, after all, is only an assumption.

Jacob (Op. Cit., pp.274 ff.), moreover, shows by a careful examination of the language and thought that the Greek translation of the whole book of Esther, as well as of the Additions, can have been written nowhere but in Egypt.

A further objection is that the subscription comes at the end of the book, and applies, therefore, to the whole book, not merely to the Additions;
but these are later than the original book of Esther, which belongs, in all probability, to the earlier stages of the Maccabaean struggle.
[See Oesterley and Robinson, An Introduction to the Books of the Old Testament, p.137 (1934)]

The translation of such a favourite book is likely to have taken place not long after;
and the Additions may well have been inserted during the later stages of the Maccabaean period, approximately B.C. 130-125, possibly a little earlier.
Whether the Additions all come from a single hand is difficult to decide, but there does not seem to be any compelling need for postulating more than one hand.


"The Greek Book of Esther has come down to us in five main recensions.
And only through a comparison of these can one hope to restore the primitive form of the text."
[Paton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Esther, p. 31 (1908).]

And the same applies, of course, to the Additions that form an integral part of the Greek text.  

The first and most important recension is represented by the great uncials B א A, and the eighth or ninth century uncial N (Codex Basiliano-Vaticanus);
to these must be added the cursives 19, 55, 93, 108 (the last two contain also the Lucianic recension) and 249.
This, according to Paton, is the unrevised Greek text, and represents, upon the whole, the current form of this text in the Christian Church before later revisions were made.

The first of these revisions was made by Origen during the first half of the third century, and is represented by the cursive 93 (which contains, however, also the recension of Lucian, see below).

Next, there is the revision of Hesychius (second half of the fourth century);
it is represented by a number of cursives which differ in many instances from Cod. B;
they are, according to Jacob, divided into sub-groups; 74, 76, and 68, 120, while 236 stands by itself.

The revision, or rather recension, of Lucian belongs to the beginning of the fourth century;
it is represented in the cursives 19, 93, 108 (containing also the Hesychian recension);
the Lucianic text varies very greatly from other texts, so that it is more than a revision, rather a new edition.

The only version of any importance is the Old Latin.
[Publ. by Sabatier, Bibliorum sacrorum Latina versiones antique, seu Vetus Italica, i.796-823 (1751).]

As this was made in the middle of the second century, before the revisions just mentioned had been taken in hand, its witness to the earlier form of the Greek is of great value, especially as it follows the Greek closely.
It has, besides the Additions, many further insertions, evidently also translated from a Greek original;
but, according to Jacob, certain errors occur which point to an ultimate Hebrew or Aramaic source.
Paton notes instances in which the Old Latin has readings nearer to the Hebrew than those of any of the Greek recensions.

"These cannot be due,"
he says,
"to re-editing of the Latin from the Hebrew, but must be survivals of better Greek readings than any found in our present codices."

The Vulgate is of very little use, being often a paraphrase rather than a translation of the Greek.
[For full discussions on the MSS. and Versions, see Jacob, op. cit., pp.242-262, and Paton, op. Cit., pp.31-38]


Fritzsche, op. cit., i. 69 ff. (1851).
Fuller, in Wace, op. cit., i.361 ff. (1888).
Jacob, "Das Buch Esther bei den LXX," in Zeitschrift fur die A.T. Wissenschaft, 1910, pp.241 ff.
Scholz, Commentar uber das Buch Esther mit seinen Zusatzen und uber Susanna (1892).
Ryssel, in Kautzsch, op. cit., i.193 ff. (1900).
Andre, op. cit., pp.195 ff. (1903).
Streane, The Book of Esther (1907).
Paton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Book of Esther (1908).
Gregg, in Charles, op. cit., i.665 ff. (1913).