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Esther (ĕsˈtər) [key], book of the Bible. It is the tale of the beautiful Jewish woman Esther [Heb., = Hadassah], who is chosen as queen by the Persian King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I or II) after he has repudiated his previous wife, Vashti. It tells how the wicked courtier Haman attempted to bring about the massacre of the Jews and how Esther and her cousin Mordecai thwarted him. Haman was hanged, and Mordecai became the king's chief minister. The feast of Purim commemorates this deliverance of the Jews, and is perhaps the reason for its inclusion in the canon of the Hebrew Bible. Extant Hebrew versions are different from those surviving in Greek. These latter are longer by several chapters, and are included in the Apocrypha as the "Additions to Esther." These additions were collected at the end of the book by Jerome for his edition of the Latin Bible (the Vulgate). The Hebrew version of the book, unlike the Greek, contains no mention of God. The Greek version is somewhat more anti-Gentile in sentiment than the Hebrew. Some critics date the book as late as 150 B.C. It is the only book of the Hebrew canon not represented among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

See C. A. Moore, Esther (1971); D. J. A. Clines, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther (1984). See also bibliography under Old Testament.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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