In 114 or 113 BCE, a Jew named Dositheus showed up in Egypt, carrying with him a Greek document which he called “the Letter of Purim.” He claimed this document “was genuine and had been translated by Lysimachus the son of Ptolemy, one of the residents of Jerusalem.”
This “Letter of Purim” is in fact a translation of the Book of Esther, and it’s come down to us in the ancient Greek Bible called the Septuagint. It contains several episodes–dreams, prayers, royal letters–missing from the Hebrew Esther, seemingly added as antidotes to the God-lessness of the original book. These are now found in the collection known as the Apocrypha, under the title “Additions to the Book of Esther” (Add. Esther for short).
The Greek Book of Esther begins with a prophetic dream, ends with its interpretation.
“In the second year of the reign of Artaxerxes the Great, on the first day of Nisan, Mordecai the son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, had a dream. He was a Jew, dwelling in the city of Susa, a great man, serving in the court of the king. He was one of the captives whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had brought from Jerusalem with Jeconiah king of Judea. And this was his dream:
“Behold, noise and confusion, thunders and earthquake, tumult upon the earth! And behold, two great dragons came forward, both ready to fight, and they roared terribly. And at their roaring every nation prepared for war, to fight against the nation of the righteous. And behold, a day of darkness and gloom, tribulation and distress, affliction and great tumult upon the earth! And the whole righteous nation was troubled; they feared the evils that threatened them, and were ready to perish. They they cried to God; and from their cry, as though from a tiny spring, there came a great river, with abundant water; light came, and the sun rose, and the lowly were exalted and consumed those held in honor.” (Add. Esther 11:1-11.)
Compare this, polite reader, with the Zohar’s myth of the “Doe of the Dawn,” which I translated in the second installment of this post. At least 1400 years intervene between the Zohar and Lysimachus’s Greek translation of Esther. But the two have so many details in common, I can’t doubt they’re the same.
1) Two great dragons fight each other. Zohar: “As she [the Doe of the Dawn] travels in the Mountain of Darkness, a certain crooked snake appears at her feet and travels at her feet … the Blessed Holy One prepares for her another snake; he incites the two snakes against each other and she is saved.”
2) The “righteous nation” cries to God, and is answered. Zohar: “She goes up to the top of a high mountain, enwraps her head between her knees, and moans over and over again. The Blessed Holy One hears her voice and is filled with mercy, and takes pity on the world. … When the time comes for her to give birth, she moans and emits cry after cry. … The Blessed Holy One hears her and appears beside her.”
3) “Abundant water” flows from a tiny spring. Zohar: “[The snake] comes and bites her twice on her genital … water comes out, and all the animals in the mountains drink it. This is what is indicated by the Scripture: ‘And Moses lifted up his hand, and smote the rock with his rod twice, and water came forth abundantly … ‘”
4) All this happens just before sunrise. The Zohar’s story takes place “when the morning is about to come, when it is still night and the darkness starts to brighten. … When the darkness of the morning lifts away and the day brightens, she departs and is no longer seen.”
The Greek Book of Esther begins with the dream. It ends with its interpretation:
“And Mordecai said, ‘These things have come from God. For I remember the dream that I had concerning these matters, and none of them has failed to be fulfilled. The tiny spring which became a river, and there was light and the sun and abundant water–the river is Esther, whom the king married and made queen. The two dragons are Haman and myself. The nations are those that gathered to destroy the name of the Jews. And my nation, this is Israel, who cried out to God and were saved.'” (Add. Esther 10:4-9.)
“The river is Esther.” If I might be permitted a small suggestion, I think it’s the spring that is Esther. One of the multiple guises in which the Goddess manifests Herself.
She’s the spring. She’s the Doe. She’s Moses’s rock. She’s Venus, planet and goddess. She’s Ishtar. She’s Esther. The circle closes.
by David Halperin
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