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The Scroll of Esther


Authors: Jo Milgrom and Yoel Duman







Introduction

An examination of the artwork produced through the centuries on the scroll of Esther reveals a number of scenes from the narrative that have drawn most interest:

  • The opening banquet scenes and the fall of Vashti
  • The “toilet” of Esther
  • The fainting of Esther
  • Ahasuerus and his scepter
  • The triumph of Mordecai
  • The fall of Haman at Esther’s 2nd banquet
  • The hanging of Haman and his sons








The story of Purim in Dura Europos

When we turn back to the earliest extant artistic treatment of Esther, that of the third century synagogue of Dura Europos, we find, strangely enough, that only one of these typical scenes is used, while two other scenes appear whose subjects are not immediately apparent

 

The Purim Panel, Synagogue of Dura Europos

The Purim Panel, Synagogue of Dura Europos

On the left side of the panel is the oft-portrayed scene of Mordecai’s triumph. He sits astride a horse wearing royal robes and a crown. Leading the horse, Haman wears the costume of a defeated athletic contestant, in accordance with Persian iconography.
Four onlookers, at the center of the panel, raise their right hands in acclamation. Unlike all the other figures in this panel, they are dressed in Hellenistic style, provoking discussion regarding their identity. We suggest that this distinctive clothing identifies the onlookers as the Jews of Roman Dura, who have put themselves into the story of Purim. Dura Europos was on the limes of the Roman Empire with the Parthian/Sassanian Empire, so that the Jews of Dura naturally identified in particular with this biblical story that took place so close by. As in other cases, the Durene Jews expressed their personal involvement with biblical stories by putting themselves and their leaders in the midst of the biblical action. Here too they acclaim Mordecai’s triumph.
Regarding the throne scene at the right, we have found no parallel in artistic treatments of the Scroll of Esther.

 

 

Various suggestions have been made regarding which scene from Esther is being illustrated. Kraeling[1] cites and rejects the following: Esther 3: 8-15, Haman’s order of persecution; Esther 6: 1 – 3, Ahasuerus hearing of Mordecai’s discovery of the plot; the rescinding of the order of persecution; and Esther 9:20f., the inauguration of Purim. Kraeling adopts this last suggestion, but claims that it is based on the Targum to Esther 9: 1 – 14 , in which rather than asking for an additional day of revenge, Esther asks for authorization to announce a new holiday, i.e. Purim.
Kraeling further identifies the messenger, standing below Ahasuerus, as Mordecai, based on the royal arm band worn by this figure. But in our opinion, the messenger is too diminutive to be such a central character in the story.
Kraeling’s suggestion has the advantage of directly and immediately linking the picture to the actual celebration of Purim in this community on the border of the Persian empire. Even the placement of the mural next to the Torah shrine indicates how important this narrative was to the people of Dura, who saw themselves in these historical events.
This placement is, we think, the key to understanding the Purim panel; it should be analyzed not only by itself but also in the context of its horizontal register and the register`s components. As we find regarding the subject of the Ark, such contextual study leads us to new understanding of the individual panels. It has been noted[2] that the throne scene of the Purim panel bears similarities to the throne scene in the Infant Moses panel in the same register. We suggest that the parallels are even more extensive.

 

 

 

Pharaoh`s decree and the saving of Moses, Synagogue of Dura Europos

Pharaoh`s decree and the saving of Moses, Synagogue of Dura Europos

 

As Pharaoh decreed the persecution of the Israelites, so Ahasuerus gives the order to kill the Jews. As Moses is saved from imminent drowning and becomes Pharaoh’s “grandson” and heir presumptive, so Mordecai becomes the “viceroy”, wearing the king’s own clothing. Thus the two panels complement each other, both showing the movement from danger to victory: the Jews are threatened by a royal decree, but the Jewish hero is miraculously saved and elevated.
According to this interpretation, the figures in the throne scene are: Ahasuerus and Esther, each flanked by a servant; Haman, holding the royal insignia, to the kings right and the royal messenger, receiving the order of persecution. The hands of the king, Haman and the messenger form a triangle around the menacing document.

 

 

In fact, the two halves of the register are replete with symmetries. We observe three matching pairs of subject matter:

 

Moreover, Elijah’s victorious sacrifice parallels Ezekiel’s victorious announcement of the return to Zion.
What seems to be unpaired is the panel of David’s anointing by Samuel. However, this panel may be seen as paired with the Holy Ark itself, through the identification of the Torah shrine with the Ark of the Covenant , brought to Jerusalem by David.

Thus, the whole register deals with the place of prophets – Moses, Ezekiel, Samuel, Elijah and Mordecai (!) – as the mediators of Jewish survival.

 

 

From the above description of the Dura mural, it turns out that the people of Dura read Megillat Esther in a way that was very different from the reading of other artists and groups, both Jews and Christians, in all of the subsequent periods. Esther is not the major figure in Dura; she is literally a marginal figure. In order to see these differences in the understanding of the story of Esther, we will now look at paintings of some of its most widely treated scenes.

[1] C.H. Kraeling, The Synagogue, (New York: Ktav, 1979), 162.
[2] Kraeling,. 171








The opening banquet scenes and the fall of Vashti

Antecedent to the main narrative is the downfall of the first queen, Vashti. This event is set in the opening scenes of state and public banquets. These events are frequently illustrated, especially in the context of the Speculum Humanae Salvationis, a medieval Christian multi-media “midrash” that links texts from the Old and New Testaments, and paraphrases and amplifies them pictorially. The banquet scenes in Esther represent archetypes of lavish worldly conduct. In some of the treatments, only men appear; in others, the queen too is present, seated together with the king or separately with her ladies. It seems that the variations depend on local custom.

Ahasuerus` Feast, Speculum Humanae Salvationis, Germany, Fifteenth Century

Ahasuerus` Feast, Speculum Humanae Salvationis
Germany, Fifteenth Century

Ahasuerus` Feast, Speculum Humanae Salvationis, France, Fifteenth Century

Ahasuerus` Feast, Speculum Humanae Salvationis
France, Fifteenth Century

Vashti’s fall is portrayed most ghoulishly in the Alba Bible, where she becomes less than human, with a tail and a horn, produced by an angel, according to Bab. Tal. Megillah 12b. and other sources, including the two aggadic Aramaic Targums.

Ahasuerus` Feast, The Alba Bible

Ahasuerus` Feast, The Alba Bible

The picture seems to have men and women feasting together in the same place, the men’s table balanced by the women’s table. But the presence of the naked and deformed Vashti together with the clothed and regal Vashti (above, left) clearly indicates that three scenes, which took place at different times and places, have been combined into a single plain. On the right is the king’s banquet with the males; on the left is the queen’s banquet. According to Esther 1:10, Ahasuerus summoned Vashti to his men’s club, ordering her to appear wearing her crown. Jewish Midrash concluded that this meant “wearing only her crown” – this is why she refused. In punishment for midrashically imagined acts of cruelty, she was struck with a variety of deformities and appears in the Alba Bible in this deformed and naked state.

Jewish tradition in general sees Vashti as a negative figure, casting her as the daughter of one of the last Babylonian kings – those responsible for the destruction of Solomon’s temple. Therefore, while the scroll of Esther itself leaves her departure unclear, midrash often executes her, thus ending the line of the Babylonian kings. Some modern readers and artists, however, have seen her differently. For example, she appears to be a heroic figure in Dore’s illustration, central and dignified.

 

The refusal of Vashti, Gustav Dore, France, 1865

The refusal of Vashti, Gustav Dore, France, 1865

In Ginzberg’s retelling of the midrashim in Legends of the Jews appears an enigmatic and unsubstantiated note that Vashti had given birth a week before being summoned by Ahasuerus. In any event, in Marc Chagall’s painting, Vashti is exiled by Ahasuerus, who stands imperiously before his throne .

The banishment of Vashti, Chagall, France, 1960

The banishment of Vashti, Chagall, France, 1960

Is Vashti holding a nursing infant? If so, the line of Vashti will not be wiped out.

Vashti, Murray Bloom

Vashti, Murray Bloom

Vashti, Siona Benjamin

Vashti, Siona Benjamin

 

Up to now, Vashti seems to be a marginal figure. In contemporary art, as well, Murray Bloom’s Vashti as the Venus de Milo is antique, passive and empty and based on the negative reading of Midrash. Her bruised breast reflects the tradition of punishment. A unique departure from this marginal role is seen in the work of Siona Benjamin, whose art talks about her own search for a home. She chooses biblical women who are almost unknown: Adah, Mahalat, Asnat, etc. Her most intriguing figure is Vashti, who is beautiful, distorted, tragic and angelic. Crouching and twisted, she peers into the battered sanctuary of Jewish history, depicted in black and white like an old postcard. She is an outsider as is Siona Benjamin, who merges foreign ethnic images that make sense in a Jewish context.








The fainting of Esther; Ahasuerus and his scepter

The next scene that artists love appears in two laconic verses from Esther 5, in which Esther anxiously enters the king’s presence uninvited, in order to thwart Haman’s plot to kill the Jews:

 

On the third day, Esther put on royal apparel and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, facing the king’s palace, while the king was sitting on his royal throne in the throne room facing the entrance of the palace. As soon as the king saw Queen Esther standing in the court, she won his favor. The king extended to Esther the golden scepter which he had in his hand, and Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter.

 

For the first time, we turn to scenes of interaction between Ahasuerus and Esther. The critical encounter, widely treated by artists, sees Esther in a faint, overcome by the possible consequences of her action. This fainting scene is totally absent in the Hebrew text of the Book of Esther, but created in the Septuagint and in Esther Rabba.

 

Tintoretto’s painting takes the biblical scene, expanded by the Septuagint and the Midrash and captures the drama, through the whirl of figures around Esther.

 

The Fainting of Esther, Tintoretto, 1548

The Fainting of Esther, Tintoretto, 1548

 

The arms of three ladies in waiting extend to support the queen, as a large group of courtiers look on in curiosity, surprise and concern. Ahasuerus is off-balance in his haste to reach his beloved queen. Behind the king and above him, ominously dark, stands Haman. A diagonal line carries the eye from Haman, to Ahasuerus, to Esther.

Poussin’s treatment of the same moment freezes in a tableau of emotional distance; only Ahasuerus’ red cloak evokes any excitement.

The Fainting of Esther, Poussin c.1655

The Fainting of Esther, Poussin
c.1655

 

In contrast, by viewing the scene from behind Ahasuerus, James Tissot invites us into the throne room, as participants in the event, witnesses to Esther’s faint and the king’s urgent response.

Other artists deal with the catharsis in this same scene, based this time on the Masoretic biblical text. While the scepter is already present in some of the fainting scenes, it stars in the flood of artistic treatments of the king’s benevolent reception of Esther. Midrashically, the scepter achieves ithyphallic prowess. The scepter is variously extended to Esther, laid upon her shoulder, touched cautiously/kissed gently by the queen.

 

Vie des femmes celebres, c. 1550

Vie des femmes celebres, c. 1550

Speculum Humanae Salvationis, 15th century

Speculum Humanae Salvationis, 15th century

 

Speculum Humanae Salvationis, 1450

Speculum Humanae Salvationis, 1450

Bible historiale, 15th century

Bible historiale, 15th century

 

Leipzig Mahzor , ca. 1320

Leipzig Mahzor , ca. 1320

Konrad Witz, early 15th century

Konrad Witz, early 15th century

 

Gregorio Pagani, ca. 1600

Gregorio Pagani, ca. 1600

Murray Bloom, Esther before the King

Murray Bloom, Esther before the King

 

As we have seen, the Purim painting of Dura Europos does not relate to these popular scenes. It does however include another scene, which took place in the very same location. The Durene painter had a different agenda and was not interested in trivia.








The triumph of Mordecai

Mordecai’s triumphal parade in Susa is without doubt the most widely treated scene from the scroll of Esther in visual art. This would seem to derive from it being a particularly significant point in the entire story. However, when reconsidered, this personal triumph has no real significance for the drama of the threatened extermination of the Jews. It is Mordecai’s reward for warning the king of the plot against his life, but it does not undermine Haman’s plan. Mordecai’s triumph scene takes place between Esther’s first and her second banquet for Ahasuerus and Haman. It seems like a mere distraction and a detour. We the readers are waiting for Esther to do something to stop Haman’s plan – the story of Mordecai’s triumph heightens our anxiety and increases suspense.

There is certainly an element of irony in this scene. Haman’s plan is about to go into high gear; he comes to the palace after having been honored by the queen with a private dinner with the royal couple. He is about to ask the king’s permission to hang Mordecai. Instead, he is relegated to the position of a stable boy whose job is to publicly laud his arch-rival. We, the readers, thoroughly enjoy his discomfiture.

The real turning point of the scroll of Esther is the second banquet, when Esther reveals that Haman is plotting to kill the Jews and herself. But this scene lacks visual interest; it’s just another of the many banquets, with people sitting around, holding a cocktail. Perhaps, as a result, artists have highlighted the preceding scene.

The triumphal scene begins the process of Haman’s fall and Mordecai’s rise, both of which the reader/viewer enjoys watching in slow motion. Parades are for the public enjoyment. Mordecai is now in the position of viceroy and Haman is his groom. Next, Haman’s wife will say explicitly that Haman is in trouble – if you (the reader) didn’t get it, she did.

Midrash goes even further by creating the figure of Haman’s daughter.
In this scene, she throws the contents of a chamber pot onto the head of her own father, mistaking him for Mordecai. When she discovers her mistake, mortified she kills herself.
This Midrash is illustrated, not surprisingly, in the Leipzig Mahzor, originating as it does in the threatened Jewish community of southern Germany in the 13th century.
The design of the painting leads the eye from Haman’s daughter atop the tower, to the streaming contents of the chamber pot (which manages to avoid Mordecai) landing full-face on Haman. This momentum leads us further to the body of Haman’s now dead daughter. The irony that Mordecai is wearing both a crown and his Jews’ hat is not lost on us. Although king for the day, he is still a Jew; such an amazing but fragile occurrence echoed deeply in the consciousness of the Jews of medieval Germany.


Leipzig Mahzor, ca. 1320

Leipzig Mahzor, ca. 1320


Rembrandt takes another tack. He, like the Durene artist and some others, accompanies Mordecai’s triumphal parade with crowd-lined streets.


Rembrandt, Triumph of Mordecai, ca. 1640

Rembrandt, Triumph of Mordecai, ca. 1640

Mordecai, Haman and the horse are central and highly illuminated through the wide archway. They are frozen momentarily, while the crowd seethes with excitement. But Mordecai is lost in thought about the future of the threatened Jews. He is physically present, but his mind is elsewhere.

The etching is noticeably divided between a darker left side and a lighter right side. The left side appears more “finished” than the right side, in which most of the figures are rudimentary. Although we might think that this division simply means that the piece is unfinished, it was, in fact, printed; its production is complete. Therefore, the unfinished look is a statement by Rembrandt on the event – it is a turning point, rather than an end point.

Early 20th century folk artist, Moshe Shah Mizrahi, includes the scene of Mordecai’s triumph in his Purim shpiel. Haman, dressed as a Turkish janissary tooting on a boru trumpet, leads Mordecai’s steed. Mordecai gestures stiffly from upon the horse, which, like himself is crowned. On the arch above them and on the floating sign in the center, the inscriptions surprisingly are taken from a later chapter of the Megillah (chapter 8), in which the final triumph of Mordecai and the Jews is narrated. Thus, Mizrahi has transformed the tension-ridden turning point of the drama into the jovial happy ending. Finally, Mordecai and Haman are labeled with phrases not from Megillat Esther at all, but from Hasidic tracts to which Mizrahi, the Persian Jew, was exposed after he came to Jerusalem.


Moshe Shah Mizrahi, 1902

Moshe Shah Mizrahi, 1902


Murray Bloom, Concourse d`elegance

Murray Bloom, Concourse d`elegance

In Murray Bloom’s version of the triumphal scene, we see a diminutive Haman, a copy of an ancient Persian relief, walking forlornly in front of the huge carousel horse. Mordecai is an abstract figure, composed of flowing colors and geometrical patterns, between which we see the straps of the head and arm tefillin. In the upper left corner, there is a window, below which is a stain – symbolic remnants of the story of Haman’s tragic-comic daughter. Bloom’s interpretation of the scene is, in sum, purely iconic.

Finally, Aryeh Navon creates a cute chimera, composed of Mordecai, Esther, Ahasuerus, Haman and the horse. He has placed the figures thoughtfully to reflect their functions in the story: Haman deposed, Mordecai and Esther elevated, Ahasuerus wide-eyed and clueless. It’s almost a logo for Purim.

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Aryeh Navon









The hanging of Haman and his sons

Already in the Byzantine period, the scroll of Esther became a flashpoint between Jews and Christians; by the time of the Reformation, Martin Luther went so far as to suggest that this book be removed from the Protestant canon. Jewish-Christian animosity focused particularly around the “hanging” of Haman.

It is noteworthy, therefore, that in Jewish art, the hanging of Haman and his sons is one of the most commonly depicted scenes. In Christian art too, Haman’s execution is portrayed; however here hanging becomes crucifixion. Technically, this may simply derive from the fact that in the Septuagint (the Jewish Greek translation of the Bible), the word for hanging is translated here (uncharacteristically) as crucifixion. Lest one conjecture that this translation was introduced by Christian editors of the Septuagint, one should note that the Aramaic Targumim also regularly translate תלה (hang) as צלב (crucify).

Therefore, it seems that some Jewish traditions understood Haman’s hanging as a crucifixion. It seems likely that in this way, the archvillian Haman was conflated with Jesus. as a covert venting of Jewish anger against Christianity’s oppressive treatment of the Jews. One indication of this internecine tension is found in an edict from the Theodosian Code, dated 408 CE:

The governors of the provinces shall prohibit the Jews from setting fire to Haman in memory of his past punishment, in a certain ceremony of their festival, and from burning with sacrilegious intent a form made to resemble the sacred cross in contempt of the Christian faith, lest they mingle the sign of our faith with their jests; they should restrain their rites from ridiculing the Christian law; they will certainly lose what has been permitted to them up till now unless they refrain from unlawful actions. [1]

Whether or not Jews intended to mock Jesus and the cross, the edict indicates that this was the Christian perception.

This is the background to the several instances in Christian art of Haman’s hanging portrayed as a crucifixion. The intent seems to be to portray the cruelty of the Jews; as they crucified Jesus, so they crucified Haman. However, Haman is not made into a “type” or prefiguration of Jesus; on the contrary, he is understood by most Christian exegetes as the type of the anti-Christ. Therefore, even when portrayed on a cross, Haman is not in the same position as Jesus, and is not nailed to the cross.


History Bible, 1430

History Bible, 1430


Bible historiale, mid-14th century

Bible historiale, mid-14th century

Nonetheless, the use of the cross regarding Haman evokes associations with the supposed Jewish cruelty toward Jesus.


Of our collection of Haman crucified, Michelangelo’s pendentive (a triangular cameo linking the arched ceiling to the walls) in the Sistine Chapel is best known.


Michelangelo, The punishment of Haman

Michelangelo, The punishment of Haman


Here, the action begins at the right with Ahasuerus in his bed, attended by scribes who are reading to him the account of Mordecai’s saving of the king (Esther 6:1f.). Ahasuerus gestures, ordering Haman (standing in the door) to dress Mordecai (seated below him) for the triumphal parade. On the left, Esther accuses Haman of plotting to kill the Jews (Esther 7:6). Finally, at center stage is the climax: Haman is crucified. In all three parts Haman is identified by his yellow robe.

Jewish treatments of the punishment of Haman take a very different path.


Rothschild Miscellany, c. 1475

Rothschild Miscellany, c. 1475


Double Mahzor (Dresden), c. 1290

Double Mahzor (Dresden), c. 1290


Leipzig Mahzor, 1320

Leipzig Mahzor, 1320


The design of the tree on which Haman and his sons are hanged in the Leipzig Mahzor (and other medieval Hebrew illuminations) is derived from two Christian visual models: the Jesse tree, a visual genealogy connecting Jesse’s son, David, with Jesus and the Tree of Life.[2]


Ingeborg Psalter, ca. 1200

Ingeborg Psalter, ca. 1200


Simone dei Crocifissi, Dream of the Virgin, ca. 1350

Simone dei Crocifissi, Dream of the Virgin, ca. 1350


It is part of an intricate put-down of Christianity/Jesus, based, once again, on the translation of hanging as crucifixion and the interpretation of the tree as a cross. Further, in the Leipzig Mahzor, Haman’s daughter lies dead at the foot of the tree. She is a parody of the engendering figure (either Jesse or Mary) who is normally the root of the Christian tree. Thus, Jewish artists have adopted Christian iconography for the purpose of negating Christian continuity.


[1] Chapman, David W. Ancient Jewish and Christian Perceptions of Crucifixion (Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2008)

[2]
See Kogman-Appel, K. “The Tree of Death and the Tree of Life: The Hanging of Haman in Medieval Jewish Manuscript Painting,” Between the Picture and the Word
(Princeton: Princeton University/Penn State Press, 2005).









Back to Dura Europos

Having journeyed through the centuries of Jewish and Christian art on the story of Purim, we now return to our point of origin, the Purim panel from Dura Europos.

As we have pointed out, the hanging scenes are missing, as are scenes fraught with personal or national tension. The painting is not polemical and not accusatory, but celebratory – we were threatened, we survived. Since neither Christianity nor any other recognizable group was seen by the Jews of Dura as threatening, the painting does not reflect local angst, but rather feelings of joy regarding an historical event. As a result, Purim is a time of festivity and joy, not of settling scores, as it becomes for both Jews and Christians later on.


Article Sources:

Targum Rishon on Esther 1:1
It happened during the days of the wicked Xerxes, the Xerxes in whose days (the decree allowing) work on the house of the great God was revoked. It remained revoked until the second year of Darius on the advice of the sinful Vashti, daughter of Evil Merodakh, son of Nebukhadnezzar. Because she did not permit the rebuild­ing of the Temple, it was decreed she be executed in the nude. And because Xerxes listened to her advice, his life was shortened and his kingdom was split up. Previ­ously all peoples, nations, and (speakers of various) languages, and provinces were under his rule, but now they were no longer subjected to him.  In view of this fact, and subsequently, when it was revealed before the Lord that Vashti would be killed and that he was destined to marry Esther, who was a descendant of Sarah, who lived 127 years, he was given an extension and he ruled 127 provinces, from India to Western Ethiopia.
 
Targum Rishon on Esther 1:19
19. If it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree, and let it be written among the decree of the Persians and the Medes so that this decree never be altered, that Vashti did not come before the king; when she comes before the king, let the king decree that her head be removed, and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than her.
 
Babylonian Talmud Megilah 12a -b
Also Vashti the queen made a feast for the women in the royal house. It should have said, `the women`s house`.  Raba said: Both of them [Ahasuerus and Vashti] had an immoral purpose. This bears out the popular saying, He with large pumpkins and his wife with small pumpkins…
On the seventh day, when the king`s heart was merry with wine. Was then his heart not merry with wine until then? ? Rab said: The seventh day was Sabbath, when Israel eat and drink. They begin with discourse on the Torah and with words of thanksgiving [to God]. But the nations of the world, the idolaters, when they eat and drink only begin with words of frivolity. And so at the feast of that wicked one. Some said, The Median women are the most beautiful, and others said, The Persian women are the most beautiful. Said Ahasuerus to them, The vessel that I use is neither Median nor Persian, but Chaldean. Would you like to see her? They said, Yes, but it must be naked ? (For man receives measure for measure. This [remark] teaches you that the wicked Vashti used to take the daughters of Israel and strip them naked and make them work on Sabbath. So it is written, After these things when the wrath of the king Ahasuerus abated, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what was decided against her. As she had done so it was decreed against her.
And the queen Vashti refused. Let us see. She was immodest, as the Master said above, that both of them had an immoral purpose. Why then would she not come? R. Jose b. Hanina said: This teaches that leprosy broke out on her. In a Baraitha it was taught that Gabriel came and fixed a tail on her.
And the king was very angry. Why was he so enraged? Raba said: She sent him back answer: Thou son of my father`s steward, my father drank wine in the presence of a thousand, and did not get drunk, and that man has become senseless with his wine. Straightway, his wrath burnt within him.
And the king said to the wise men. Who are the wise men? The Rabbis. Who knew the times: that is, who knew how to intercalate years and fix new moons. He said to them: Try her for me. They said [to themselves]: What shall we do? If we tell him to put her to death, to-morrow he will become sober again and he will require her from us. Shall we tell him to let her go? She will lose all her respect for royalty. So they said to him: From the day when the Temple was destroyed and we were exiled from our land, counsel has been taken from us and we do not know how to judge capital cases. Go to Ammon and Moab who have remained in their places like wine that has settled on its lees. They spoke to him thus with good reason, since it is written, Moab hath been at ease from his youth, and he hath settled on his lees, and hath not been emptied from vessel to vessel, neither hath he gone into captivity. Therefore his taste remaineth in him, and his scent is not changed. Straightway [he did so, as we read], and the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish [etc.]. R. Levi said: Every name in this verse contains a reference to the sacrifices.
Babylonian Talmud Megilah 7a
R. Samuel b. Judah said: Esther sent to the Wise Men saying, Commemorate me for future generations. They replied, You will incite the ill will of the nations against us. She sent back reply: I am already recorded in the chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia. Rab and R. Hanina and R. Johanan and R. Habiba record [the above statement in this form]: (in the whole of the Order Mo`ed, wherever this set of Rabbis is mentioned, R. Johanan is replaced by R. Jonathan): Esther sent to the Wise Men saying, Write an account of me for posterity. They sent back answer, Have I not written for thee three times three times and not four? [And they refused] until they found a verse written in the Torah, Write this a memorial in a book, [which they expounded as follows]: ?Write this?, namely, what is written here and in Deuteronomy; for a memorial, namely, what is written in the Prophets; in a book, namely, what is written in the Megillah. The difference [between the first and second of these opinions] is also found between two Tannaim. Write this, what is written here. For a memorial, namely, what is written in Deuteronomy. In a book, namely, what is written in the Prophets.  So R. Joshua. R. Eliezer of Modi`im says: Write this, namely, what is written here and in Deuteronomy; for a memorial, namely, what is written in the Prophets; in a book, namely, what is written in the Megillah.
Rab Judah said in the name of Samuel; [The scroll] of Esther does not make the hands unclean. Are we to infer from this that Samuel was of opinion that Esther was not composed under the inspiration of the holy spirit? How can this be, seeing that Samuel has said that Esther was composed under the inspiration of the holy spirit?  It was composed to be recited [by heart], but not to be written. The following objection was raised: R. Meir says that [the scroll of] Koheleth does not render the hands unclean, and that about the Song of Songs there is a difference of opinion. R. Jose says that the Song of Songs renders the hands unclean, and about Koheleth there is a difference of opinion. R. Simeon says that Koheleth is one of those matters in regard to which Beth Shammai were more lenient and Beth Hillel more stringent, but Ruth and the Song of Songs and Esther [certainly] make the hands unclean! Samuel concurred with R. Joshua.
It has been taught: R. Simeon b. Menasia said: Koheleth does not render the hands unclean because it contains only the wisdom of Solomon. They said to him], Was this then all that he composed? Is it not stated elsewhere, And he spoke three thousand proverbs, and it further says, Add thou not unto his words? Why this further quotation? In case you might object that he composed very much, and what it pleased him to write he wrote and what it did not please him he did not write. Therefore it says, Add thou not to his words.
It has been taught: R. Eleazar said: Esther was composed under the inspiration of the holy spirit, as it says, And Haman said in his heart. R. Akiba says: Esther was composed under the inspiration of the holy spirit, as it says, And Esther obtained favour in the eyes of all that looked upon her. R. Meir says: Esther was composed under the inspiration of the holy spirit, as it says, And the thing became known to Mordecai. R.Jose b. Durmaskith said: Esther was composed under the inspiration of the holy spirit, as it says, But on the spoil they laid not their hands, Said Samuel: Had I been there, I would have given a proof superior to all, namely, that it says, They confirmed and took upon them, [which means] they confirmed above what they took upon themselves below. Raba said: All the proofs can be confuted except that of Samuel, which cannot be confuted. [Thus,] against that of R. Eleazar it may be objected that it is reasonable to suppose that Haman would think so, because there was no one who was so high in the esteem of the king as he was, and that when he spoke at length, he was only expressing the thought concerning himself. Against the proof of R. Akiba it may be objected that perhaps the fact is as stated by R. Eleazar, who said that these words show that to every man she appeared to belong to his own nation. Against R. Meir it may be objected that perhaps the fact is as stated by R. Hiyya b. Abba who said that Bigthan and Teresh were two men from Tarsis. Against the proof of R. Jose b. Durmaskith it may be objected that perhaps they sent messengers. Against the proof of Samuel certainly no decisive objection can be brought. Said Rabina: This bears out the popular saying, Better is one grain of sharp pepper than a basket full of pumpkins. R. Joseph said: It can be proved from here: And these days of Purim shall not fail from among the Jews. R. Nahman b. Isaac said, From here: Nor the memorial of them perish from their seed.
Targum Rishon Esther 5:1
Thereupon, Esther proceeded to speak as follows: Lord of the Universe, do not deliver me into the hand of this uncircumcised one, and let not the will of the wicked Haman be carried out against me as he did against Vashti, when he gave ad­vice to the king to have her killed as he wanted (him) to marry his daughter; thus when the maidens were assembled into the custody of Hegai, Haman`s daughter was there, and then it was determined from Heaven that each day she became defiled with excrement and with urine; her mouth also smelled exceedingly offensive, whereupon they hurried her out. For this reason it fell upon me to be married to him; and now, place me in a compassionate light before him that he should not kill me….
 
Midrash Rabbah - Esther IX: 1
NOW IT CAME TO PASS ON THE THIRD DAY, THAT ESTHER PUT ON (V, I) her most beautiful robes and her richest ornaments, and she took with her two maidens, placing her right hand on one of them and leaning on her, as is the royal custom, while the second maiden followed her mistress bearing her train so that the gold on it should not touch the ground. She put on a smiling face, concealing the anxiety in her heart. Then she came to the inner court facing the king and she stood before him. The king was sitting on his royal throne in a robe adorned with gold and precious stones, and when he lifted up his eyes and saw Esther standing in front of him he was furiously angry because she had broken his law and come before him without being called. Then Esther lifted up her eyes and saw the king`s face, and behold his eyes were flashing like fire with the wrath which was in his heart. And when the queen perceived how angry the king was, she was overcome and her heart sank and she placed her head on the maiden who was supporting her right hand. But our God saw and had mercy on His people, and He took note of the distress of the orphan who trusted in Him and He gave her grace in the eyes of the king and invested her with new beauty and new charm. Then the king rose in haste from his throne and ran to Esther and embraced her and kissed her and flung his arm around her neck and said to her: ?Esther, my queen, why dost thou tremble? For this law which we have laid down does not apply to thee, since thou art my beloved and my companion.? He also said to her: ?Why when I saw you did you not speak to me? Esther replied: ?My lord the king, when I beheld you I was overcome by your high dignity.?
Josephus Antiquities Book XI, Chapter 6
3. Now the king had made a law, that none of his own people should approach him unless he were called, when he sat upon his throne and men, with axes in their hands, stood round about his throne, in order to punish such as approached to him without being called. However, the king sat with a golden scepter in his hand, which he held out when he had a mind to save any one of those that approached to him without being called, and he who touched it was free from danger. But of this matter we have discoursed sufficiently.

Babylonian Talmud Megillah 15b
And stood in the inner court of the king`s house. R. Levi said: When she reached the chamber of the idols, the Divine Presence left her. She said, My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me. Dost thou perchance punish the inadvertent offence like the presumptuous one, or one done under compulsion like one done willingly? Or is it because I called him dog, as it says, Deliver my soul from the sword, mine only one from the power of the dog? She straightway retracted and called him lion, as it says. Save me from the lion`s mouth.
And it was so when the king saw Esther the queen. R. Johanan said: Three ministering angels were appointed to help her at that moment; one to make her head erect, a second to endow her with charm and a third to stretch the golden sceptre. How much [was it stretched]? ? R. Jeremiah said: It was two cubits long and he made it twelve cubits ? Some say, sixteen, and some again twenty-four. In a Baraitha it was stated, sixty. So too you find with the arm of the daughter of Pharaoh, and so you find with the teeth of the wicked, as it is written, Thou hast broken [shibarta] the teeth of the wicked, and Resh Lakish said in regard to this, Read not shibarta but shirbabta [Thou hast prolonged]. Rabbah b. Ofran said in the name of R. Eleazar who had it from his teacher, who had it from his teacher, [that the sceptre was stretched] two hundred [cubits].
Midrash Tehilim 22
But be not Thou far from me, 0 Lord (Ps. 22:20). Esther said, "O Lord pity me and have compassion for me." The end of the verse, 0 my Hind, haste Thee to help me, means, according to R. Johanan, that Esther said: "As at the Red Sea, when swift as a hind, Thou didst haste to help my forefathers, haste Thee also this day to help me."
In that instant, an angel came down from heaven and struck Ahasuerus in the face, saying: "Wicked one, thy lady stands outside, while thou art seated here inside." Note that it is not written "When the king," etc., but After the king had seen Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favor in his sight(Esther 5 :2) - that is, Esther obtained favor in the sight of Ahasuerus against his will and not because of the good­ness of his heart.
[Then The king held out to Esther the golden scepter that was in his hand (ibid.)]. R. Tahalifa said: We have a tradition that Ahasuerus` scepter was lengthened in that instant by thirty-two cubits. And the second miracle was even greater than the first, for, as Esther drew nearer, the scepter shrank back to its former length.
R. Isaac said: If the scepter of a mere mortal brings life to an entire people, how much more life does the scepter of the Holy One, blessed be He, bring, for it is written Tend Thy people with Thy scepter(Micah 7:4).
 
Septuagint Addition  to Esther 5
And it happened on the third day, as she ceased praying, she took off the garments of service and put on her glory.  Then, when she had become majestic, after calling upon the all-seeing God and savior, she took along two of her attendants; on one she leaned gently for support, while the other followed, holding her train. She was radiant with the full flush of her beauty, and her face looked happy as if she were cheerful, but her heart was in anguish from fear. When she had gone through all the doors, she stood before the king. He was seated on the throne of his kingdom, clothed in the full array of his splendor, all covered with gold and precious stones. And he was most terrifying.  And when he raised his face inflamed with glory, he gazed at her in the full flush of anger. The queen staggered, her color turned pale from faintness, and she collapsed on the head of the attendant who went before her. Then God changed the spirit of the king to gentleness, and alarmed, he jumped from his throne and took her in his arms until she was quieted. He kept comforting her with soothing words and said to her, “What is it, Esther?  I am your brother. Take heart!  You shall not die, for our ordinance is only for the common person Come here. Then he lifted the golden rod and placed it on her neck; he welcomed her and said speak to me. She said, I saw you lord like a divine angel, and my heart was shaken from fear of your glory. For you are marvelous, lord, and your face is full of grace. And while she was speaking she fell from faintness. Then the king and all his servants were troubled, and they reassured her.

Vulgate to Esther 5:2
And when he saw Esther the queen standing, she pleased his eyes, and he held out toward her the golden scepter, which he held in his hand and she drew near, and kissed the top of his scepter.
Babylonian Talmud Megillah 16a
Let nothing fail of all that thou hast spoken. Then took Haman the apparel and the horse. He went and found [Mordecai with] the Rabbis sitting before him while he showed them the [ritual] rules of "the handful". When Mordecai saw him approaching and leading the horse, he became frightened and said to the Rabbis, This villain is coming to kill me. Get out of his way so that you should not get into trouble with him. Mordecai thereupon drew his robe round him and stood up to pray. Haman came up and sat down before them and waited till Mordecai had finished his prayer. He said to him: What have you been discussing? He replied: When the Temple stood, if a man brought a meal-offering he used to offer a handful of fine flour and make atonement therewith. Said Haman to them: Your handful of fine flour has come and displaced my ten thousand talents of silver. Said Mordecai to him: Wretch, if a slave acquires property, whose is the slave and whose is the property? Haman then said to him: Arise and put on this apparel and ride on this horse, for so the king desires you to do. He replied: I cannot do so until I have gone into the bath and trimmed my hair, for it would not be good manners to use the king`s apparel in this state. Now Esther had sent and closed all the baths and all the barbers? shops. So Haman himself took him into the bath and washed him, and then went and brought scissors from his house and trimmed his hair. While he was doing so, he sighed and groaned. Said Mordecai to him: Why do you sigh? He replied: The man who was esteemed by the king above all his nobles is now made a bath attendant and a barber. Said Mordecai to him: Wretch, and were you not once a barber in Kefar Karzum? (For so a Tanna stated: Haman was a barber in Kefar Karzum twenty-two years.) After he had trimmed his hair he put the garments on him, and said to him, Mount and ride. He replied: I am not able, as I am weak from the days of fasting. So Haman stooped down and he mounted [on his back]. When he was up he kicked him. He said to him: Is it not written in your books, Rejoice not when thine enemy faileth? He replied: That refers to an Israelite, but in regard to you [folk] it is written, And thou shalt tread upon their high places.
And proclaimed before him, This shall be done to the man whom the king delighted to honour. As he was leading him through the street where Haman lived, his daughter who was standing on the roof saw him. She thought that the man on the horse was her father and the man walking before him was Mordecai. So she took a chamber pot and emptied it on the head of her father. He looked up at her and when she saw that it was her father, she threw herself from the roof to the ground and killed herself.  
Midrash Rabbah - Esther X: 5
5. Another comment on THEN TOOK HAMAN THE APPAREL AND THE HORSE, etc. He came to Mordecai and said to him: ` Rise and dress yourself. What an ill fate is mine! Yesterday I was busy erecting a gallows for him, and God is preparing for him a crown! I was preparing for you ropes and nails, and God prepares for you royal apparel. I was going to request from the king permission to hang you, and he has bidden me mount you on horseback. Rise and dress.? He then did to him all the things we have mentioned above. As he was riding he began to extol God, saying, I will extol Thee, O Lord, for Thou hast raised me up, and hast not suffered mine enemies to rejoice over me. O Lord my God, I cried unto Thee, and Thou didst heal me; O Lord, thou broughtest up my soul from the nether-world; Thou didst keep me alive, that I should not go down to the pit (Ps. XXX, 2 ff.). What did his disciples say? Sing praises unto the Lord, O ye His godly ones, and give thanks to His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, His favour is for a lifetime; weeping may tarry for the night, but joy cometh in the morning (ib. 5 f.). What did the wicked Haman say? Now I had said in my security: I never shall be moved. Thou hast established, O Lord, in Thy favour my mountain as a stronghold--Thou didst hide Thy face; I was affrighted (ib. 7 f.). What did Esther say? Unto Thee, O Lord, did I call, and unto the Lord I made supplication: What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise Thee? Shall it declare Thy truth? (ib. 9 f.). What did the congregation of Israel say? Hear, O Lord, and be gracious unto me.... Thou didst turn for me my mourning into dancing, etc. (ib. 12 f.). And what did the Holy Spirit say? So that my glory may sing praise to Thee, and not be silent; O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto Thee for ever (ib. 13). Haman`s daughter looked from the window to see the hanging, but when she saw Mordecai on horseback and Haman proclaiming before him, ` Thus shall be done to the man, etc., she threw herself to the ground and killed herself. 
Targum Rishon Esther 9
12. Then the king said to Queen Esther: In the fortress of Susa, the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred men, and the ten sons of Haman; re­maining in all the provinces of the king; what have they done? What is (now) your request and it will be granted to you, and what is your plea even now, and it will be done. 13. Said Esther: If it pleases the king, let permission be granted to­morrow as well to the Jews who are in Susa to make holiday and rejoicing, as it is fitting to do on the day of our miracle, and let Haman`s ten sons be hanged  on the gallows! 14. Whereupon the king ordered this to be done, and sentence of judg­ment was given in Susa, and the ten sons of Haman were impaled.
 
Midrash Leviticus Rabbah 13: 5
R. Judah b. R. Simon said: The last Darius was the son of Esther, clean from his mother`s side and unclean from his father`s side.