(ז) וַיְהִ֨י אֹמֵ֜ן אֶת־הֲדַסָּ֗ה הִ֤יא אֶסְתֵּר֙ בַּת־דֹּד֔וֹ כִּ֛י אֵ֥ין לָ֖הּ אָ֣ב וָאֵ֑ם וְהַנַּעֲרָ֤ה יְפַת־תֹּ֙אַר֙ וְטוֹבַ֣ת מַרְאֶ֔ה וּבְמ֤וֹת אָבִ֙יהָ֙ וְאִמָּ֔הּ לְקָחָ֧הּ מָרְדֳּכַ֛י ל֖וֹ לְבַֽת׃ (ח) וַיְהִ֗י בְּהִשָּׁמַ֤ע דְּבַר־הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙ וְדָת֔וֹ וּֽבְהִקָּבֵ֞ץ נְעָר֥וֹת רַבּ֛וֹת אֶל־שׁוּשַׁ֥ן הַבִּירָ֖ה אֶל־יַ֣ד הֵגָ֑י וַתִּלָּקַ֤ח אֶסְתֵּר֙ אֶל־בֵּ֣ית הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ אֶל־יַ֥ד הֵגַ֖י שֹׁמֵ֥ר הַנָּשִֽׁים׃ (ט) וַתִּיטַ֨ב הַנַּעֲרָ֣ה בְעֵינָיו֮ וַתִּשָּׂ֣א חֶ֣סֶד לְפָנָיו֒ וַ֠יְבַהֵל אֶת־תַּמְרוּקֶ֤יהָ וְאֶת־מָנוֹתֶ֙הָ֙ לָתֵ֣ת לָ֔הּ וְאֵת֙ שֶׁ֣בַע הַנְּעָר֔וֹת הָרְאֻי֥וֹת לָֽתֶת־לָ֖הּ מִבֵּ֣ית הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ וַיְשַׁנֶּ֧הָ וְאֶת־נַעֲרוֹתֶ֛יהָ לְט֖וֹב בֵּ֥ית הַנָּשִֽׁים׃ (י) לֹא־הִגִּ֣ידָה אֶסְתֵּ֔ר אֶת־עַמָּ֖הּ וְאֶת־מֽוֹלַדְתָּ֑הּ כִּ֧י מָרְדֳּכַ֛י צִוָּ֥ה עָלֶ֖יהָ אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹא־תַגִּֽיד׃
(7) And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter; for she had neither father nor mother, and the maiden was of beautiful form and fair to look on; and when her father and mother were dead, Mordecai took her for his own daughter. (8) So it came to pass, when the king’s commandment and his decree was published, and when many maidens were gathered together unto Shushan the castle, to the custody of Hegai, that Esther was taken into the king’s house, to the custody of Hegai, keeper of the women. (9) And the maiden pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily gave her her ointments, with her portions, and the seven maidens, who were meet to be given her out of the king’s house; and he advanced her and her maidens to the best place in the house of the women. (10) Esther had not made known her people nor her kindred; for Mordecai had charged her that she should not tell it.
Why does Mordecai ask Esther not to reveal her name?
The names Mordecai and Ester today sound very Jewish, but in reality, they are both names from Babylonian Gods, Marduk and Astarte. What does it mean to have two different names?
Are there times in your life in which you do not want to reveal your Jewish identity? How does that impact upon your life?
But Esther still did not reveal her birthplace or her people, as Mordecai had instructed her; for Esther obeyed Mordecai’s bidding, as she had done when she was under his tutelage.
Rabbi Yehuda differs and says: Hadassah was her real name. Why then was she called Esther? Because she concealed [masteret] the truth about herself, as it is stated: “Esther had not yet made known her kindred nor her people” (Esther 2:20).
ר' נחמיה אומר הדסה שמה ולמה נקראת אסתר שהיו אומות העולם קורין אותה על שום אסתהר
Rabbi Neḥemya concurs and says: Hadassah was her real name. Why then was she called Esther? This was her non-Hebrew name, for owing to her beauty the nations of the world called her after Istahar.
There are three different takes here on why Esther would not reveal her name. Who initiates her concealment in each of these takes? What are the different implications of these interpretations?
How do Mordecai's actions reflect on Esther's?
Mordecai's decision to "wear his Judaism" on his sleeve leads to dangerous results? Why do you think the author of the story portrays the plot in this way?
Why does Mordecai have to warn Esther?
Why would Esther continue to hide her identity?
What are the conflicts a Jew (or other minority) might feel when they have attained positions of power?
Do you feel the necessity to reveal or hide your identity at certain critical moments?
In the end, Esther reveals her identity to King Ahashverosh and thereby saves her people.
What gives her the motivation to do so in the end?
Presentation of Mordekhai and Esther in Chapter 2
Prof Yonatan Grossman
Why did [Mordekhai] command Esther not to reveal her national identity? The question is even more puzzling when we consider that Mordekhai himself reveals the fact that he is a Jew: "For he had told them that he was a Jew" (3:4). This being so, why did he command Esther not to reveal her Jewish identity to those who would ask?...
Why, then, does Esther avoid revealing her ethnic identity? I believe that Bush's (World Bible Commentary, Esther) suggestion is correct: the simplest explanation for Esther's avoidance of revealing her national identity is related to the basic experience shared by many people when they find themselves in a foreign country. The immediate inclination of a foreigner – especially if we are speaking of a Jew living in an anti-Semitic country – is to hide one's Jewish identity. Mordekhai, concerned for the welfare of his adopted daughter, asks her not to reveal that she is Jewish, to try to act like a local girl. This sows the seeds for the background to the national struggle that is going to develop upon publication of the decrees of the anti-Semitic Haman.
But even after we have considered the various different solutions proposed to answer this question (and there are more, in addition to those mentioned above), it is clear that the text itself offers no clue as to the meaning of the concealment of Esther's national identity. The reader hears nothing, either from Mordekhai or from the narrator, and it seems that the concealment of the motive plays an important role in the molding of the reader's experience in this scene. The very fact that Esther's identity is hidden is important for the story, from two different perspectives. First, this fact will play a role in the development of the plot, when it turns out that Haman and his advisors have no idea that Esther is Jewish. Secondly, Esther, in this context, represents a mirror image of the situation of the Jewish nation as a whole. At the beginning of the story they hide their Jewish identity, participating in the feasts of the Persian king ("For all the people who were in Shushan, the capital" – 1:5) and even going by Persian names (Mordekhai, Esther). During the course of the narrative Esther will reveal her Hebrew identity when she stands before the king to plead for her people; reflecting back on the nation, they too will return to their identity when they decree a fast for themselves and afflict themselves. In this context, the narrative emphasizes the hiding of Esther's Jewish identity not because of its reason or purpose, but rather as the point of departure for a narrative in which the issue of Jewish identity in exile is one of the key themes to be explored throughout the text.
(1) In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and laid siege to it. (2) The Lord delivered King Jehoiakim of Judah into his power, together with some of the vessels of the House of God, and he brought them to the land of Shinar to the house of his god; he deposited the vessels in the treasury of his god. (3) Then the king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief officer, to bring some Israelites of royal descent and of the nobility— (4) youths without blemish, handsome, proficient in all wisdom, knowledgeable and intelligent, and capable of serving in the royal palace—and teach them the writings and the language of the Chaldeans. (5) The king allotted daily rations to them from the king’s food and from the wine he drank. They were to be educated for three years, at the end of which they were to enter the king’s service. (6) Among them were the Judahites Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah. (7) The chief officer gave them new names; he named Daniel Belteshazzar, Hananiah Shadrach, Mishael Meshach, and Azariah Abed-nego. (8) Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the king’s food or the wine he drank, so he sought permission of the chief officer not to defile himself, (9) and God disposed the chief officer to be kind and compassionate toward Daniel. (10) The chief officer said to Daniel, “I fear that my lord the king, who allotted food and drink to you, will notice that you look out of sorts, unlike the other youths of your age—and you will put my life in jeopardy with the king.” (11) Daniel replied to the guard whom the chief officer had put in charge of Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, (12) “Please test your servants for ten days, giving us legumes to eat and water to drink. (13) Then compare our appearance with that of the youths who eat of the king’s food, and do with your servants as you see fit.” (14) He agreed to this plan of theirs, and tested them for ten days. (15) When the ten days were over, they looked better and healthier than all the youths who were eating of the king’s food. (16) So the guard kept on removing their food, and the wine they were supposed to drink, and gave them legumes. (17) God made all four of these young men intelligent and proficient in all writings and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding of visions and dreams of all kinds. (18) When the time the king had set for their presentation had come, the chief officer presented them to Nebuchadnezzar. (19) The king spoke with them, and of them all none was equal to Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah; so these entered the king’s service. (20) Whenever the king put a question to them requiring wisdom and understanding, he found them to be ten times better than all the magicians and exorcists throughout his realm. (21) Daniel was there until the first year of King Cyrus.