Mordecai and Esther (Esth 2:5-2:7)

“Now there was a Jew in Susa the capital, whose name was Mordecai, son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin. The family of Kish had been carried away from Jerusalem, among the captives carried away with King Jeconiah of Judah, whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had captured. Mordecai had brought up Hadassah, that is Esther, his cousin. She did not have a father or mother. She was the daughter of his uncle, Aminadab. Esther was fair and beautiful in appearance. When her parents died, he brought her up to womanhood as his own daughter.”

Mordecai was a Benjaminite, the same as King Saul, and thus part of Judah. His family was brought into captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon with the sitting king of Judah in 587 BCE. Things turned better for the captured Jews under the Persian kings, especially after King Cyrus in 539 BCE. This is about 50 years after that. Anyway, Mordecai’s uncle Aminadab and his wife had died, so that he took care of their young daughter Esther, who was his first cousin. He was either her foster father or adopted father, but really was a first cousin, since their father’s were brothers. Once again, there are slight differences between the Hebrew and Greek text. Aminadab was not mentioned in the Hebrew text, only in the Greek text. Also the Jewish name of Esther is only found in the Hebrew text as Hadassah, but not in the Greek text.

 

Mordecai (Greek text only)

“In the second year of the reign of King Artaxerxes the Great, on the first day of Nisan, Mordecai son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin, had a dream. He was a Jew, living in the city of Susa, a great man, serving in the court of the king. He was one of the captives whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had brought from Jerusalem with King Jeconiah of Judea.”

First you will notice there is no chapter and verse. To be honest, that was a medieval concept. The idea of chapter divisions began in the 9th century CE, but was codified in the 13th century CE with Stephan Langton. Finally in the 16th century, with the widespread use of printing, chapter and verse numbers became common. However, the problem here is that these additions are only in the Greek Septuagint edition of this work, while the official Hebrew version has chapter and verse numbers. The Jerusalem Bible puts these verses in italics, while the Oxford Bible calls them additions. I have decided to use the pre-medieval technique of using neither chapters nor verses, just simply the phrase “Greek text only.” I have inserted these texts where they are found in these 2 biblical additions.

Interesting enough, the setting is slightly earlier than Nehemiah and Ezra, but during the reign of King Artaxerxes the Great (465-424 BCE). It also takes place at the capital of Persia, Susa. Mordecai, like Nehemiah, was a Jewish court official. Apparently some of the captive Jews served the royal family in various positions. Once again, it is the Persians who are tolerant of the Jews. The text says that Mordecai was a captive taken in the Babylonian captivity of King Nebuchadnezzar, but that would put Mordecai over a 100 years old. He may have been a member of a Jewish family that was taken captive in 587 BCE. Unlike Tobit, who was a northern Israelite, Mordecai was a Benjaminite which puts him closer to Saul than David.

The list of the guilty Levites (Ezra 10:23-10:24)

“Among the Levites, there were Jozabad, Shimei, Kelaiah, which is Kelita, Pethahiah, Judah, and Eliezer. Among the singers there was only Eliashib. However, among the gatekeepers, there were Shallum, Telem, and Uri.”

Among the Levites, it was a smaller number who had married the foreign wives. There were only 6 Levites, 1 singer, and 3 gate keepers, for a total of 10, which were 6 less than the priests.

 

 

The response of the Levites (2 Chr 29:12-29:15)

“Then the Levites arose. Mahath son of Amasai and Joel son of Azariah, of the sons of the Kohathites arose. Of the sons of Merari, Kish son of Abdi and Azariah son of Jehallelel arose. Of the Gershonites, Joah son of Zimmah and Eden son of Joah arose. The sons of Elizaphan, Shimri and Jeuel also arose. Of the sons of Asaph, Zechariah and Mattaniah arose. Of the sons of Heman, Jehuel and Shimei arose. Of the sons of Jeduthun, Shemaiah and Uzziel arose. They gathered their brothers. They sanctified themselves. They went in as the king had commanded, by the words of Yahweh, to cleanse the house of Yahweh.”

The Levites responded positively. 2 people from each of the Levitical tribes arose from the Kohathites, the Merarites, and the Gershonites. The same was true for the 3 groups of singers or cantors, the sons of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun, all had 2 people stand up. On top of that, the sons of Elizaphan, Shimri and Jeuel also rose up. They gathered their brother Levites and sanctified themselves. Then they went in to cleanse the house of Yahweh. I wonder why they had not done more to sustain the house of Yahweh even in the face of indifference.

The household and property chiefs (1 Chr 27:25-27:31)

“Over the king’s treasuries was Azmaveth son of Adiel. Over the treasuries in the country, in the cities, in the villages and in the towers, was Jonathan son of Uzziah. Over those who did the work of the field for tilling the soil was Ezri son of Chelub. Over the vineyards was Shimei the Ramathite. Over the produce of the vineyards for the wine cellars was Zabdi the Shiphmite. Over the olive and sycamore trees in the Shephelah was Baal-hanan the Gederite. Over the stores of oil was Joash. Over the herds that pastured in Sharon was Shitrai the Sharonite. Over the herds in the valleys was Shaphat son of Adlai. Over the camels was Obil the Ishmaelite. Over the donkeys was Jehdeiah the Meronothite. Over the flocks was Jaziz the Hagrite. All these were stewards of King David’s property.”

In a very meticulous way, there was someone in charge of every little thing. Here there are 12 distinct functions at the time of King David. King David had 3 men with the name of (1) Azmaveth,  1 was part of the “Thirty” warriors, while another was the father of some warriors. This Azmaveth son of Adiel was the man in charge of the treasury, but there were a number of Levites in the preceding chapter who seemed to be in charge of the treasury. It may be one and the same person. (2) Jonathan son of Uzziah was in charge of the country, cities, villages, and towers, quite a responsibility. He was not a relative of King David. (3) Ezri son of Chelub was in charge of the tilling of the soil. This name only appears here. Although there are a lot of people with the name of Shimei, this is the only mention of (4) Shimei the Ramathite. This Shimei from Ramah was in charge of the vineyards. This is the only mention of (5) Zabdi the Shiphmite who was in charge of the wine as well as (6) Baal-hanan the Gederite, the man from Geder who was in charge of the olive trees. (7) Joash was a friend of David that was in charge of the storage of oil. (8) Shitrai the Sharonite was in charge of the flock at Sharon, a place between Carmel and Joppa. This is the only mention of (9) Shaphat son of Adlai, who was in charge of the flocks in the valleys and (10) Obil the Ishmaelite who was in charge of the camels. Notice that he is not an Israelite but an Ishmaelite. (11) Jehdeiah the Meronothite, from a town called Meronoth was in charge of the donkeys. (12) Jaziz the Hagrite was in charge of some unspecified flocks. Most of these names are unique to this mention of the household of King David.

The sons of Jeduthun (1 Chr 25:3-25:3)

“The six sons of Jeduthun were Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah, and Mattithiah. They, under the direction of their father Jeduthun, prophesied with the lyre in thanksgiving and praise to Yahweh.”

Here Jeduthun represents the Merari Levites, instead of Ethan as in chapter 6 of this work. His 6 sons played the lyre and gave thanks and praise to Yahweh. There were 3 other people with the name of (1) Gedaliah, but (2) Zeri only appears here. There were a few others with the name of (3) Jeshaiah, mostly Levites. There were about 15 other people with the name of (4) Shimei. There were over 11 people with the name of (5) Hashabiah, mostly Levites. There were only 4 with the name of (6) Mattithiah in the biblical literature. They too were prophetic musicians, particularly the lyre.

The sons of Gershom (1 Chr 23:7-23:11)

“The sons of Gershom were Ladan and Shimei. The three sons of Ladan were Jehiel the chief, Zetham, and Joel. The three sons of Shimei were Shelomoth, Haziel, and Haran. These were the heads of the fathers’ houses of Ladan. The sons of Shimei were Jahath, Zina, and Jeush, and Beriah. These four were the sons of Shimei. Jahath was the chief. Zizah was second. However, Jeush and Beriah did not have many sons, so they became enrolled in a single family.”

This section is loosely based on Numbers, chapter 4. Gershom was the oldest son of Levi, the head of one of the three branches of the Levitical tribes. He had 2 sons, Libni and Shimei. However, here the first son is called Ladan. There were a lot of Levites with the name of Jehiel. However, this Jehiel was in charge of the treasures of the temple. Zetham and Joel just get mentioned as the brothers of Jehiel, twice. Shimei has 2 sets of sons, one set of 3 sons and then another of 4 sons. This Shelomoth seems to be over David’s treasures just like Jehiel. Haziel only appears here. This is the only mention of this Haran, although that was the name of a place also. In chapter 6 of this book, Jahath was the son of Libni or Ladan, not the son of Shimei as here. Zina and Zizah are interchangeable and only mentioned here. Jeush and Beriah seemed to form one separate clan.