Esther 1:10-22

The next instalment is below. It is slightly longer than the normal post will be (13 verses), but I hated to chop an episode into parts.

Again, feedback is most welcome.

Episode 2—Vashti’s Removal (1:10-22)
10On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was glad due to wine, he ordered Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha and Abagtha, Zethar and Karkas, the seven eunuchs who served before King Ahashverosh, 11to bring Vashti, the queen, before the king in a royal turban, to show all the peoples and nobles her beauty, because she was pleasing of appearance. 12Then Queen Vashti refused to come at the word of the king, which was (communicated) by the hand of the eunuchs. So the king was exceedingly angry; his wrath burned him.13Then the king said to the wise men who knew the times (because thus was the manner of the king in the presence of all who knew law and judgment, 14the ones closest to him being Karshna, Shetar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memukan, the seven princes of Persia and Media who saw the face of the king, who sat first in the kingdom), 15“According to law, what is one to do with Queen Vashti, because she did not do the command of King Ahashverosh, which was (communicated) by the hand of the eunuchs?” 16Memukan said before the king and the nobles, “Not against the king alone did Vashti, the queen, transgress, but against all the nobles and against all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahashverosh, 17because the deed of the Queen will go out unto all women, causing [them] to despise their husbands with their eyes, when (others) say, “King Ahashverosh said to bring Vashti, the queen, before him, but she did not come.” 18And this day the noblewomen of Persia and Media will say that they heard the matter of the queen to all the nobles of the king, and contempt and wrath will be more than enough. 19If it pleases the king, let a word of the kingdom go out from him, and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media (and one shall not transgress [it]!), that Vashti shall not enter before King Ahashverosh and her royal position the king shall give to someone like her who is better than her. 20And let the announcement of the king, which he will make, be heard in all his kingdom (because it is great). Then all the women will give honor to their husbands, both great and small.” 21The word pleased the king and of the nobles, and the king acted according to the word of Memukan. 22And he sent documents to all the provinces of the king, (sending them) to each province according to its writing, and (sending them) to each people according to its language, so that every man would rule in his house and speak in the language of his people.

1:10 ‫בַּיּוֹם֙  הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י כְּט֥וֹב לֵב־הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ בַּיָּ֑יִן אָמַ֡ר לִ֠מְהוּמָן בִּזְּתָ֨א חַרְבוֹנָ֜א בִּגְתָ֤א וַאֲבַגְתָא֙  זֵתַ֣ר וְכַרְכַּ֔ס שִׁבְעַת֙  הַסָּ֣רִיסִ֔ים הַמְשָׁ֣רְתִ֔ים אֶת־פְּנֵ֖י הַמֶּ֥לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרֽוֹשׁ׃

The first episode serves to introduce Ahashverosh, his extravagant banquets, and Vashti. Vv. 10-12 move the reader to the next episode and the first plot complication: the king requests that Vashti come and display her beauty (vv. 10-11), but she refuses him (v. 12).

בַּיּוֹם֙  הַשְּׁבִיעִ֔י כְּט֥וֹב לֵב־הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ בַּיָּ֑יִן אָמַ֡ר. Inf Constr Qal √טוב and qatal 3ms Qal √אמר. The syntactic subject of the clause is null, though the antecedent of the null subject is provided by the המלך in כ-PP that precedes the main verb אמר. The ב-PP and כ-PP are both fronted as scene-setting (temporal) Topics: “in the seventh day” and “when the king’s heart was glad with wine.” The ordinal השׁביעי modifies the noun יום adjectivally. Ordinal numerals function as adjectives in contrast to cardinals, which are often in apposition to or bound to the quantified noun (see Introduction §). In the fronted כ-PP, the word טוֹב is an infinitive (though the form טוֹב is ambiguous and may also be taken as the adjective טוֹב, the context suggests that common preposition-infinitive pattern). The subject of the infinitive is לב המלך and the ב-PP is an adjunct indicating the means (“by/with wine”) or cause (“because/due to wine”) (WO §11.2.5d-e; JM §133c). The same expression occurs elsewhere in the Bible (e.g., 2 Sam 13:28) and is similar to the adjective construction in 5:9, הָמָן … . שָׂמֵחַ וְטוֹב לֵב “Haman … (went out) happy and good of heart.” The collocation of אמר and ל, which denotes “to say to,” has the connotation of “command ל-someone” or “to order ל-someone” in later texts (HALOT s.v.; DCH s.v.; BDB s.v.). The ל-PP is an adjunct, as it does with the normal meaning of אמר; that is, the idiomatic meaning of “command” does not affect the syntax. There are many cases where אמר appears without a PP indicating the addressee (for example, the infinitive clause באמרם in v. 17); we thus take the verb אמר to be bivalent, requiring a subject and a complement. The complement of אמר is most often direct speech, but may be an infinitive, as here with להביא in v. 11.

מְהוּמָן בִּזְּתָ֨א חַרְבוֹנָ֜א בִּגְתָ֤א וַאֲבַגְתָא֙  זֵתַ֣ר וְכַרְכַּ֔ס. In the list of seven names (whose etymology, together with the names in verse 14, has been discussed at length elsewhere; see Paton 1908:67-69; Gehman 1924:323-324; Duchesne-Guillemin 1953; Millard 1977:482-485; Fox 2001:20; Bush 1996:349), a ו conjunction appears between the last two items in the list (as we would find in English), but also between Bigtha and Abagtha, the fourth and fifth items (cf. the list in v. 14, in which ו never appears). This use of the ו is rare (WO §39.2.1b #3). It is conceivable that Bigtha and Abagtha were considered a pair for some unknown and contextually inaccessible reason, but it may also be that the use of the ו, as a front-edge phrase marker, was simply more variable than we often reconstruct from the dominant extant patterns.

שִׁבְעַת֙  הַסָּ֣רִיסִ֔ים. The numeral שׁבעת is bound to the quantified noun הסריסים (see Introduction §). The noun סריס means either “high official” or “eunuch.” The term often refers to a general official (see Gen 37:36 and throughout the Joseph story), but in Esther it is used for specific officials in charge of the king’s concubines (2:3, 14, 15; 4:4; etc.). It is likely that these officials would have been emasculated (Bush 1996:349).

הַמְשָׁ֣רְתִ֔ים אֶת־פְּנֵ֖י הַמֶּ֥לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרֽוֹשׁ. Participle mp Piel √שׁרת. The Piel שׁרת can be monovalent (“to minister”) or bivalent with either an NP complement (“to serve, attend X”) or, as here, a PP complement, את פני המלך אחשׁורושׁ, lit. “with the face of King Ahashverosh.” The PP את פני is much less common but similar in meaning to לפני or אל פני. With the verb שׁרת, the PP את פני is used only here and in 1 Sam 2:18. Otherwise, the PP that שׁרת takes as its complement is either a simple ל-PP (e.g., 2 Chr 13:10; 22:8) or לפני (e.g., 1 Chr 6:17; 16:37).

1:11 לְ֠הָבִיא אֶת־וַשְׁתִּ֧י הַמַּלְכָּ֛ה לִפְנֵ֥י הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ בְּכֶ֣תֶר מַלְכ֑וּת לְהַרְא֨וֹת הָֽעַמִּ֤ים וְהַשָּׂרִים֙  אֶת־יָפְיָ֔הּ כִּֽי־טוֹבַ֥ת מַרְאֶ֖ה הִֽיא׃

V. 11 continues the clause begun in v. 10, giving the content of the king’s command concerning Vashti. She is to appear before him in the royal turban, showing off her beauty for all to see (much like the showing off of the king’s riches and greatness in v. 4).

לְ֠הָבִיא אֶת־וַשְׁתִּ֧י הַמַּלְכָּ֛ה לִפְנֵ֥י הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ בְּכֶ֣תֶר מַלְכ֑וּת. Inf Constr Hiph √בוא. The verb אמר, in v. 10, takes an indirect speech clause complement, here the infinitive clause beginning with the ל-PP/infinitive clause להביא. An indirect speech complement to אמר is not common, but there is an increase of infinitive indirect speech complements with אמר in LBH (Miller 1996:127-128; see, e.g., 2 Chr 14:3). The verb בוא in the Hiphil is trivalent, with one complement for the person or thing brought (here את ושׁתי) and the second, locative complement (sometimes an NP, but usually a PP, as here with לפני המלך) for the place to which he/she/it is brought. For ושׁתי המלכה, see comment on v. 9. In the PP בכתר מלכות, the noun כתר is used in the Hebrew Bible only in Esther (here, 2:17, and 6:8). Though often translated “crown” (BDB s.v.), that term may be misleading: a כתר is more specifically a “turban” worn in the Persian style (HALOT s.v.; DCH s.v.; Keil 1873:328; Paton 1908:151; Moore 1971:9; Bush 1996:350), not a European style “crown” made with precious metals (cf. 6:8, where a כתר is worn by a horse). The bound relationship between כתר and מלכות is less likely possession, “turban belonging to the kingdom,” than attribution, “turban having to do with the kingdom,” that is, “royal turban” (attributive; WO §9.5.3b).

לְהַרְא֨וֹת הָֽעַמִּ֤ים וְהַשָּׂרִים֙  אֶת־יָפְיָ֔הּ. Inf Constr Hiph √ראה. This ל-PP/infinitive clause is an adjunct of the preceding infinitive להביא and indicates the intended purpose of the action: “to bring Vashti in order to show the people her beauty.”As in v. 4, Hiphil ראה is trivalent, “X [first person/agent] causes Y [a second person] to see Z [a third person or thing],” or more smoothly in English, “X shows Z to Y.”

כִּֽי־טוֹבַ֥ת מַרְאֶ֖ה הִֽיא. A null copula clause with the 3fs pronoun היא as the subject and the bound phrase טובת מראה as the copular complement. Note that the copular complement is fronted before the subject—not the basic order of subject-(copula)-complement. The fronting almost certainly is for Focus, to stress the extent of her beauty. The כי clause could be causal, reporting the reason for the king’s action (commanding the eunuchs to bring Vashti; so Paton 1908:149) or the reason for the people appreciating her beauty. But it may also be complement clause (WO §38.8d; MNK §40.9 II.1) in apposition to the second NP complement of להראות: “to show the peoples and nobles her beauty, i.e., that she was pleasing of appearance.” The function of the apposition would be to reformulate the second complement and so reinforce and strengthen the assessment of her physical beauty. Though both options are grammatical, we find the causal clause analysis simpler and preferable.

1:12 ‫וַתְּמָאֵ֞ן הַמַּלְכָּ֣ה וַשְׁתִּ֗י לָבוֹא֙  בִּדְבַ֣ר הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּיַ֣ד הַסָּרִיסִ֑ים וַיִּקְצֹ֤ף הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙  מְאֹ֔ד וַחֲמָת֖וֹ בָּעֲרָ֥ה בֽוֹ׃

V. 12 describes an essential event in the narrative, Vashti’s refusal of Ahashverosh, without which Esther would not have the opportunity to ascend to the throne and save her people, the Jews.

וַתְּמָאֵ֞ן הַמַּלְכָּ֣ה וַשְׁתִּ֗י לָבוֹא֙  בִּדְבַ֣ר הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ. Wayyiqtol 3fs Piel √מאן. At its core, the ו is simply a proclitic left (or front) edge phrase marker (Holmstedt 2013b). When it appears to have a semantic content, the meaning whichever of “and,” “or,” or “then” that is most appropriate (see Steiner 2000). While an adversative (“but”) sense may be felt by the reader, that is an implicature arising from the sequence of events and should not be read back on to the grammatical value of ו. As with many wayyiqtol occurrences, “and” or “then” are the most grammatically appropriate translation values. The verb מאן “to refuse” always appears in the Piel; it can be either monovalent or bivalent with an infinitive complement (e.g., in Exodus throughout: מֵאֵ֖ן לְשַׁלַּ֥ח הָעָֽם “he (Pharaoh) refused to send out the people”). Here it is bivalent, with the ל-PP/infinitive clause לבוא as the complement. For המלכה ושׁתי (“Queen Vashti”), see comments on vv. 2, 9. The PPבדבר המלך likely modifies the infinitive לבוא, but may also possibly modify the main verb תמאן. If it is the latter, the ב preposition would be adversative (WO §11.2.5d): “she refused …, against/contrary-to the word of the king.” However, מאן is never modified by a ב-PP elsewhere, which may indicate that the ב-PP be an adjunct to לבוא. Although verbs of motion like בוא often take a ב-PP with a spatial sense (WO §11.2.5b), here the דבר המלך is not a physical entity with spatial dimensions. Instead, the PP בדבר המלך may indicate instrument (“enter by the word of the king”; WO §11.2.5d; cf. 3:15) or manner (“enter in the manner of/according to the word of the king”; WO §11.2.5e) or, as is most probable, circumstance (“enter at the word of the king”; WO §11.2.5d).

אֲשֶׁ֖ר בְּיַ֣ד הַסָּרִיסִ֑ים. This relative clause modifies דבר המלך non-restrictively; it does not define the nature of the דבר but adds something important to the narrative about the דבר. The expression ביד “with the hand of” is often used metaphorically to indicate instrumentality, e.g., something is spoken “through” or “by” somebody (with the verb דִּבֵּר, see Exod 9:35; Lev 10:11; Num 17:5; Josh 20:2; 1 Kgs 8:53; without an explicit verb but associated with the NP דְּבַר־יהוה Mal 1:1; 1 Chr 11:3; 2 Chr 35:6; cf. also instances where דָּבָר is modified by a relative clause including דִּבֵּר בְּיַד, e.g., 1 Kgs 8:56; 2 Kgs 9:36; Jer 37:2; 2 Chr 10:15). Here Ahashverosh’s word was communicated to Vashti through or by means of the eunuchs (Fox 2001:18-19; see also 1:15; 3:13; 8:10). When messages are received second-hand, the specter of mis-communication looms (we think here of Gen 3:3, where the woman’s understanding of Yhwh’s prohibition in the garden—by necessity received second-hand, since she did not yet exist when it was given—differs from what he actually said to the man in Gen 2:16-17). So, we wonder: did the narrator specify ביד הסריסים in order to set up a darkly humorous context in which Vashti’s refusal was based on a miscommunication? Such subtleties (probably signalled in an oral setting by physical hints, such as gestures like winks or nods and changes in speech patterns, such as intonation and speed) seem to characterize Hebrew story-telling (e.g., Gen 2-3, Ruth 3-4).

וַיִּקְצֹ֤ף הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙  מְאֹ֔ד. Wayyiqtol 3ms Qal √קצף. The verb is monovalent and means “to be angry” (HALOT s.v.; DCH s.v.; BDB s.v.). The item מאד is an adjunct and functions here as a scalar adverb indicating degree (in contrast to its more common use as an item adverb; WO §39.3.1i).

וַחֲמָת֖וֹ בָּעֲרָ֥ה בֽוֹ. Qatal 3fs Qal √בער. The expression חמה בערה ב, “wrath burned X,” is an idiomatic synonym for קצף and reinforces how angry the king was. The verb בער, “to burn,” is more often monovalent, “X burns/is burning,” but can also be bivalent, “X burns Y,” where a ב-PP marks the constituent effected or destroyed by the burning (HALOT s.v.; DCH s.v.; BDB s.v.). Here the ב-PP marks the referent of the 3ms clitic pronoun (i.e., the king) as the thing being burned. The subject-verb word order of this clause is an example of basic Hebrew word order. Departure from the past narrative wayyiqtol is a common technique for presenting simultaneous or parallel events. The non-use of the special narrative verb allows for the basic subject-verb order to emerge. There is no special pragmatic (Topic or Focus) marking on חמתו.

1:13 ‫וַיֹּ֣אמֶר הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ לַחֲכָמִ֖ים יֹדְעֵ֣י הָֽעִתִּ֑ים כִּי־כֵן֙  דְּבַ֣ר הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ לִפְנֵ֕י כָּל־יֹדְעֵ֖י דָּ֥ת וָדִֽין׃

The king responds to Vashti’s insulting refusal by conferring with his sages. Midway through the verse, the narrator breaks the flow of the story to describe the process of the king when legal matters were involved.

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ לַחֲכָמִ֖ים יֹדְעֵ֣י הָֽעִתִּ֑ים. Wayyiqtol 3ms Qal √אמר and Participle (bound) mp Qal √ידע. There is significant distance between אמר and the direct speech starting in v. 15 because of the extensive parenthesis beginning in this verse; nevertheless, the direct speech starting in v. 15 is the complement of bivalent אמר (contra NRSV’s translation of אמר as “to consult”). The masculine plural adjective חכמים is used substantivally, “wise men,” and functions as the complement of the preposition ל. The participle ידעי may be an agentive noun here, in apposition to חֲכָמִים: “the king said to the wise men, the knowers of the times.” However, it is also possible to analyze this as an unmarked relative clause, with the participle the complement of a null copula: “wise men, who (were) knowing the times.” Since many relative clauses are unmarked, i.e., lack an introductory שׁ ,אשׁר, or ה (see Holmstedt 2013a; WO §19.7b), and also since many participles are fundamentally related to adjectives (see Cook 2008), we see the relative clause analysis as the likelier analysis. The same two options also apply to ידעי דת ודין later in this verse and ראי פני המלך in v. 14, the latter of which is parallel to a ה-relative clause, supporting the argument that these are relative clauses. The verb ידע is bivalent and here takes the NPהעתים as its (cliticized) complement (on the bound relationship representing the valency of a verb and its complement, see WO §9.5.2, under the “adverbial genitive”).

כִּי־כֵן֙  דְּבַ֣ר הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ לִפְנֵ֕י כָּל־יֹדְעֵ֖י דָּ֥ת וָדִֽין. A null copula clause, with the NP דבר המלך the subject and the adverb כן the fronted copular complement. Although דבר often means “word,” it can also connote a “matter,” “affair,” or “thing” (HALOT s.v.; BDB s.v.); here the sense seems to be very generic, “thing,” which in context means “manner” (DCH s.v.). This כי clause intervenes between the verb אמר and its speech complement (v. 15). This is highly unusual word order and the disruptive nature of both the כי clause and v. 14 strongly suggest that both are parenthetical. The phrase כל ידעי דת ודין represents the quantifier כל bound to a null NP that is modified by an unmarked relative clause within which is a null copula and participial complement ידעי, which itself has a compound NP complement, דת ודין: “all (those) (who) (were) knowing law and judgment.” The noun דת is a Persian loanword (Persian dāta) meaning “order” or “law” (HALOT s.v.; cf. BDB s.v.), whereas דין is Semitic (Arabic dīn, Akkadian dīnu and dēnu) from the root דין, meaning “legal claim,” “judgement,” or “quarrelling” (HALOT s.v.; cf. BDB s.v.; DCH s.v.). The vocalization of the ו conjunction with a qameṣ is used when the conjoined nouns are considered one concept or unit (cf. comment on v. 6)—apparently דת ודין together cover the full range of law, legal behavior, and social order.

1:14 ‫וְהַקָּרֹ֣ב אֵלָ֗יו כַּרְשְׁנָ֤א שֵׁתָר֙  אַדְמָ֣תָא תַרְשִׁ֔ישׁ מֶ֥רֶס מַרְסְנָ֖א מְמוּכָ֑ן שִׁבְעַ֞ת שָׂרֵ֣י ׀ פָּרַ֣ס וּמָדַ֗י רֹאֵי֙ פְּנֵ֣י הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ הַיֹּשְׁבִ֥ים רִאשֹׁנָ֖ה בַּמַּלְכֽוּת׃

Continuing the parenthetical pause from the main story line, the narrator names and describes the seven individuals who advise the king on legal matters.

וְהַקָּרֹ֣ב אֵלָ֗יו כַּרְשְׁנָ֤א שֵׁתָר֙  אַדְמָ֣תָא תַרְשִׁ֔ישׁ מֶ֥רֶס מַרְסְנָ֖א מְמוּכָ֑ן. A small clause, with הקרב אליו as the subject and the compound NP list of seven names (on whose etymology cf. the sources cited in the comment on verse 10) as the complement (so Paton 1908:152). Small clauses lack their own inflected verb (overt or null). Moroever, they often lack even an uninflected verb to provide lexical content and valency, instead gapping into the position of the uninflected verb a null copy of the verb from higher clause. In this case, the understood verb is copular, since the preceding, higher clause is copular. The subject הקרב אליו is a complex noun phrase: the adjective קרב functions substantivally, “the close one,” and the PP אליו is internal to the NP. NP-internal PPs are restrictive modifiers; thus, the PP here provides a defining piece of information about the referent of קרב: this is not any “close one” but “the one whose close-ness is defined with regard to the king.” The compound complement then provides the names to identify these close advisors. Note the lack of ו before the last name of the list (cf. WO §39.2.1b; cf. comment on v. 10).

שִׁבְעַ֞ת שָׂרֵ֣י ׀ פָּרַ֣ס וּמָדַ֗י רֹאֵי֙ פְּנֵ֣י הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ הַיֹּשְׁבִ֥ים רִאשֹׁנָ֖ה בַּמַּלְכֽוּת. Participle mp (bound) Qal √ראה and (free form) Qal √ישׁב. This long noun phrase is in apposition to the list of seven names, echoing the structure of v. 10 (note also the aural similarities of סריס in v. 10 and שׂר here). The participial clauses, ראי פני המלך and הישׁבים ראשׁנה במלכות, are both the copular complement within null copula relative clauses that restrictively modify the head שׂרי פרס ומדי. That is, out of all the many princes, it is these seven that regularly saw the king and so had priority status (cf. Keil 1873:329). The first relative, with ראי, is unmarked, the second is a ה-relative clause. The bound form of ראי illustrates that the clitic host of a bound participle may also be the complement fulfilling the valency (the verbראה is bivalent, as is ידע, which is twice bound to its syntactic complement in v. 13).

1:15 ‫כְּדָת֙  מַֽה־לַּעֲשׂ֔וֹת בַּמַּלְכָּ֖ה וַשְׁתִּ֑י עַ֣ל ׀ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לֹֽא־עָשְׂתָ֗ה אֶֽת־מַאֲמַר֙  הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵר֔וֹשׁ בְּיַ֖ד הַסָּרִיסִֽים׃ ס

This verse returns to the main plot after the long parenthesis. The narrator recounts the king’s question for his sages: How was he to deal with Vashti’s disobedience?

כְּדָת֙  מַֽה־לַּעֲשׂ֔וֹת בַּמַּלְכָּ֖ה וַשְׁתִּ֑י. A null copula clause and an Inf Constr Qal √עשׂה. The null copula clause has a null, impersonal (generic) subject and the ל-PP/infinitive clause as the copular complement. The initial PP כדת is an adjunct to the null copula; it has been Topic-fronted in order to establish salient information up front, i.e., that the following discussion must take the law as its context (cf. Holmstedt 2010:9-10; Holmstedt 2009a:126-129). The interrogative מה is also fronted, from the complement position within the embedded infinitive clause. Rather than Topic-fronting, this מה has been fronted for Focus, which is typical with interrogative words, since they introduce an open variable that must be satisfied by the information in the answer. For the sake of comparison, the basic structure of this clause before all constituent movement would be לעשׂות מה במלכה ושׁתי כדת “(one) (is) to do what with the queen, Vashti, according to the law?”.

לַּעֲשׂ֔וֹת. The use of an infinitive construct verb with ל in a clause without a finite verb has been considered by some to be a “predicative infinitive” (cf. Eskhult 2000:90-91; Kieviet 1997; Kropat 1909:24-25; Leahy 1960:142; Qimron 1986 §400.02; Qimron 1994 §3.4.2; JM §123u-x and §124p; WO §36.3.2; §36.2.3f, g). That is, the infinitive takes finite meaning: “what will one do” rather than “what is one to do.” However, even in Qumran Hebrew (where the phenomenon is more possible than in LBH) it is unclear whether many infinitives are actually functioning as a main, finite verb or are complements of a null copula, as we analyze the infinitive here. On the “predicative infinitive,” see also comment on 3:14.

בַּמַּלְכָּ֖ה וַשְׁתִּ֑י. This is the second instance where Vashti’s title uses the same appositional structure as Ahashverosh (see comments on vv. 2, 9 and 12).

עַ֣ל ׀ אֲשֶׁ֣ר לֹֽא־עָשְׂתָ֗ה אֶֽת־מַאֲמַר֙  הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵר֔וֹשׁ בְּיַ֖ד הַסָּרִיסִֽים. Qatal 3fs Qal √עשׂה. This על-PP motivates the king’s question (on the causal use of על, see WO §11.2.13e). The אשׁר here does not introduce relative clause, but nominalizes the following clause as the complement of the preposition על. The PP ביד הסריסים may either be an NP-internal PP, “the by-the-hand-of-the-eunuchs command,” or an unmarked relative clause, “the command (that was) by the hand of the eunuchs”; semantically, the difference between the two syntactic options is negligible since both produce a restrictive modifier that identifies and defines the מאמר being mentioned. Given the parallel in v. 12 (where overt אשר is used), we prefer the relative analysis for the syntax. On the expression ביד see comment on v. 12. מאמר is a maqtal noun (√אמר, “to say”) that is used only in Esther (here, 2:20, 9:32) within the Bible, but frequently in Rabbinic Hebrew (34 times in the Mishna). It may reflect the borrowing of Aramaic מֵאמַר (Bergey 1983:100-101; cf. HALOT s.v.).

1:16 ‫וַיֹּ֣אמֶר מְומֻכָ֗ן לִפְנֵ֤י הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙  וְהַשָּׂרִ֔ים לֹ֤א עַל־הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙  לְבַדּ֔וֹ עָוְתָ֖ה וַשְׁתִּ֣י הַמַּלְכָּ֑ה כִּ֤י עַל־כָּל־הַשָּׂרִים֙  וְעַל־כָּל־הָ֣עַמִּ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֕ר בְּכָל־מְדִינ֖וֹת הַמֶּ֥לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרֽוֹשׁ׃

In this verse, the royal advisor, Memukan, suggests that Vashti has not wronged the king only, a trespass of great significance on its own; rather, she has wronged every man in the kingdom.

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר מוּמְכָן לִפְנֵ֤י הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙  וְהַשָּׂרִ֔ים. Wayyiqtol 3ms Qal √אמר. The verb אמר is bivalent (see comment on 1.10). Instead of the more common ל-PP to designate the addressee(s), here the לפני-PP may signal a public form of address. The complex preposition לפני (WO §11.3.1a) does not have a single NP complement here, but a compound NP—two NPs conjoined, המלך והשׂרים (WO §11.4.2a). The Ketiv (i.e., the letters written in the man body of the MT) reflect the name מוּמְכָן “Mumkan,” which differs from vv. 10 and 21 where we find מְמוּכָן “Memukan,” which reflects the Qere (the marginal consonants and the vowels in text). The Ketiv is almost certainly a scribal error, in which the ו was transposed with the second מ.

לֹ֤א עַל־הַמֶּ֙לֶךְ֙  לְבַדּ֔וֹ עָוְתָ֖ה וַשְׁתִּ֣י הַמַּלְכָּ֑ה. Qatal 3fs Qal √עוה. The verb עוה (“do wrong; commit iniquity”; DCH, s.v.; HALOT s.v.; BDB s.v.) rarely appears in the Qal (only here and Dan 9:5). Related to the noun עָוֹן, “iniquity,” the Qal verb is monovalent (as is the Hiphil verb). The adjunct על-PP conveys “disadvantage,” indicating the party who is harmed by the iniquity (WO §11.2.13c). The clause as a whole begins the direct speech complement to אמר. The negative לא typically functions on the clausal level and relates to the action or event described by a verb; when it is a clausal adverb it is adjacent to the verb and applies generally, ‘X action/event has not occurred’. Here the negative לא is distant from the verb, a signal that it is functioning as an item adverb (see WO §39.3.2a) and negates the PP על המלך לבדו; as such, the לא does not negate the verb (leaving the verbal action positively asserted) but excludes the applicability of the action/event to the item negated by לא, ‘X action/event occurred, excluding Y’. Omitting לבדו for the moment, the clause לא על המלך עותה ושׁתי would mean “Vashti transgressed, but not against the king.” The other item adverb, לבדו, which modifies the NP המלך, adds a critical element to the assertion, since it again shifts the scope of the statement, requiring that the set of offended members consists of more than one item, i.e., the King plus unstated others (which are specified in the next clause).

כִּ֤י עַל־כָּל־הַשָּׂרִים֙  וְעַל־כָּל־הָ֣עַמִּ֔ים. The particle כִּי here is adversative “but” (JM §172c; MNK §40.9 II.3; Aejmaleus 1986:200). The verb עָוְתָה is elided from the preceding clause: “Vashti, the queen, transgressed not against the king alone but (she transgressed) against all the nobles and all the peoples.”

1:17 ‫כִּֽי־יֵצֵ֤א דְבַר־הַמַּלְכָּה֙  עַל־כָּל־הַנָּשִׁ֔ים לְהַבְז֥וֹת בַּעְלֵיהֶ֖ן בְּעֵינֵיהֶ֑ן בְּאָמְרָ֗ם הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵר֡וֹשׁ אָמַ֞ר לְהָבִ֨יא אֶת־וַשְׁתִּ֧י הַמַּלְכָּ֛ה לְפָנָ֖יו וְלֹא־בָֽאָה׃

The speech of Memukan begun in v. 16 continues into v. 17. Memukan asserts that Vashti’s wrongdoing will affect all men because the women of the kingdom will emulate Vashti and follow her disobedient example.

כִּֽי־יֵצֵ֤א דְבַר־הַמַּלְכָּה֙  עַל־כָּל־הַנָּשִׁ֔ים. Yiqtol 3ms Qal √יצא. This כי clause provides Memukan’s motivate for what he asserted in v. 16 (on causal כי, see MNK §40.9 I.3; WO 38.4a). The verb יצא is bivalent, with a locative PP complement indicating either origin or destination (see also 1:19; 4:1, 6; 7:8; 8:15); if the locative origin is both obvious and semantically non-salient, it may be left null (see 3:15; 5:9; 8:14). Here the locative complement is explicit in the PP על כל הנשׁים, which indicates the destination or goal of the action. The כי triggers verb-subject order, which obscures the semantics of the yiqtol verb—it may be realis (“it will go out”) or an irrealis (“it shall/might go out”). If realis, Memukan expresses something he considers a future fact; if irrealis, he expresses a future potential. Given the exaggerated nature of Memukan’s predication, we suggest that the verb should be read as realis and so contributes to the humor of Memukan’s apocalyptic prediction. The noun דבר does not refer to any “word” of Vashti, since it is not narrowly what she said, but what she did (or, more accurately, did not do); thus, דבר here has the connotation of “deed” (as in, the concrete act of Vashti’s disobedience) or “matter” (as in, the event in general).

לְהַבְז֥וֹת בַּעְלֵיהֶ֖ן בְּעֵינֵיהֶ֑ן. Inf Constr Hiph √בזה. The Hiphil of בזה occurs only here in the Hebrew Bible. Since the Qal of בזה is bivalent, with either a NP complement (e.g., Gen 25:34) or ל-PP complement (e.g., 2 Sam 6:16), we expect the Hiphil to increase its valency by adding a second complement, that is, “to cause X to despise Y” (cf. BDB s.v.). But here there is only one obvious complement, בעליהן, and the PP בעיניהן appears best understood as an adjunct of manner (בעינים denotes “with their eyes,” but connotes “opinion, esteem” [DCH s.v., 3b]; see also 3:6). The trivalency of the verb is probably fulfilled by a null complement referring back to כל הנשׁים from the higher clause (cf. Paton 1908:155). The NPבעליהן refers to the women’s “masters” or “husbands.” The ל-PP/infinitive להבזות clause as a whole is an adjunct to יצא and “explains the circumstances of nature of a preceding action” (WO §36.2.3e, on the “gerundive” ל-infinitive).

בְּאָמְרָ֗ם הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵר֡וֹשׁ אָמַ֞ר לְהָבִ֨יא אֶת־וַשְׁתִּ֧י הַמַּלְכָּ֛ה לְפָנָ֖יו וְלֹא־בָֽאָה. Inf Constr and qatal 3ms Qal √אמר, and qatal 3fs Qal √בוא. The ב-PP/infinitive clause is an adjunct to the preceding infinitive, להבזות, and explains the circumstances for the women hearing about Vashti’s action, which will provoke the hearers (the women) to despise their husbands. We might expect the women to be the subject of the infinitive, passing the news on to each other and citing it as the excuse for their attitudes towards their husbands. However, if this were the case there would be no reason to shift from the 3fp clitic pronoun, which was just used on the two preceding words, to the 3mp clitic pronoun ם-, which is what occurs on the infinitive אמר. The pronoun shift suggests that the null subject of the infinitive is impersonal, that is, that it is not the married women who are saying this, but various people who are relaying the report to the women (contra Keil 1873:330; Paton 1908:155, 159; and Fox 2001:274). This seems supported by the next verse, which addresses the married women passing the news on to their husbands. The subject-verb order of the main clause in the direct speech, המלך אחשׁורושׁ אמר reflects the basic word order of BH (see Holmstedt 2005, 2009, 2011). Not only is there no initial element (e.g., כי, אשׁר, or a modal verb) to trigger verb-subject order, there is also no discernible pragmatic marking on the subject NPהמלך for Topic or Focus. Additionally, typological studies suggest that the environment of direct speech is a more likely context for basic word order examples, since narrative tends to be more syntactically complex (Holmstedt 2005:135-37). The ל-PP/infinitive clause להביא את ושׁתי המלכה לפניו is the indirect speech complement of the אמר—it is what Ahashverosh ordered to happen (on אמר with the connotation of “order,” see comment on v. 10). Note the morphology and word stress of the verb בָֽאָה. The qatal 3fs is morphologically identical to the fs Participle, but the two differ in the placement of the word stress: the qatal has word stress on the first (penultimate) syllable and the participle has it on the last (ultimate) syllable. The stress distinction between these two forms is one of the few times in BH that stress is phonemic.

1:18 ‫וְֽהַיּ֨וֹם הַזֶּ֜ה תֹּאמַ֣רְנָה ׀ שָׂר֣וֹת פָּֽרַס־וּמָדַ֗י אֲשֶׁ֤ר שָֽׁמְעוּ֙  אֶת־דְּבַ֣ר הַמַּלְכָּ֔ה לְכֹ֖ל שָׂרֵ֣י הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ וּכְדַ֖י בִּזָּי֥וֹן וָקָֽצֶף׃

Memukan’s apocalyptic prediction about the effect of Vasthi’s disobedience continues in v. 18.

וְֽהַיּ֨וֹם הַזֶּ֜ה תֹּאמַ֣רְנָה ׀ שָׂר֣וֹת פָּֽרַס־וּמָדַ֗י אֲשֶׁ֤ר שָֽׁמְעוּ֙  אֶת־דְּבַ֣ר הַמַּלְכָּ֔ה לְכֹל שָׂרֵי הַמֶּלֶךְ. Yiqtol 3fp Qal √אמר and qatal 3mp Qal √שׁמע. The NP הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה, “this day,” is a Topic-fronted scene-setting temporal adjunct. The fronted adjunct triggers verb-subject order, with the verb תאמרנה preceding the subject שׂרות פרס ומדי. The verb is either a realis yiqtol “they will say” or an irrealis yiqtol “they might/shall say,” corresponding to how we understand יֵצֵא in v. 17 (see comment on v. 17). The noun שׂרות is the plural of שׂרה, which means “princess” or “noblewoman,” and is the feminine version of שׂר, “noble.” The אשׁר clause is typically taken as a relative clause modifying שׂרות, i.e., the noblewomen … who heard. If so, it is likely a non-restrictive relative that does not define the women but simply keeps Vashti’s deed and its effects front and center. But the relative clause seems redundant, and it leaves the verb אמר without a complement. Most commentators and translators fill in the clause with a null complement referring back to the reported speech of v. 17, “the princesses … are saying this to all the princes” (Fox 2001:275, italics added). Instead, we suggest that the אשׁר clause is the complement of אמר (cf. Gordis 1976:46; Paton 1908:156; Clines 1984b:281-282; contra Bush 1996:351; on אשׁר introducing a speech complement, see Miller 1996:97-98). In this way, the verse makes a new assertion, that the noblewomen have picked up on the implications of Vashti’s disobedience. If so, then there is a tension heightening general-to-specific movement in vv. 17-18, with כל הנשׁים the issue in v. 17 and the more narrower (and more disturbing to the King and his court!) שׂרות the issue in v. 18. On את־דבר המלכה, see comment on v. 17. The ל-PP at the end of the clause is an adjunct designating כל שׂרי המלך as the speech recipient for the verb אמר (see comment on v. 10 above).

וּכְדַ֖י בִּזָּי֥וֹן וָקָֽצֶף. The wordכדי is the combination of the preposition כ and the noun דַּי “sufficiency” (HALOT s.v.; BDB s.v.; DCH s.v.). די is typically bound to a clitic host, with the bound form די, and means “sufficiency of” or “enough of.” Here the free form, which is used only here, Mal 3:10, and 2 Chr 30:3, indicates that, at least according to the Masoretes, כדי is the copular complement of a null copula clause, with the compound NP בזיון וקצף the subject: “and contempt and wrath (will be) according to sufficiency.” In other words, Memukan is saying that there will be ‘more than enough’ contempt toward men as a result of Vashti’s actions. The noun בזיון is from the root בזה and is a qatalān-pattern noun (JM §88Mb). The noun קצף “anger, wrath” is a qitl-pattern segholate noun (cf. with clitic pronoun, קִצְפִּי “my wrath”; see JM §88Ch on the qitl-pattern). The vocalization here (קָצֶף), with the qameṣ in the first syllable, indicates that the form is “pausal,” which may (and here, does) result in a vowel change from the “contextual” form (GKC §29; JM §32; Revell 1980).

1:19 ‫אִם־עַל־הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ ט֗וֹב יֵצֵ֤א דְבַר־מַלְכוּת֙  מִלְּפָנָ֔יו וְיִכָּתֵ֛ב בְּדָתֵ֥י פָֽרַס־וּמָדַ֖י וְלֹ֣א יַעֲב֑וֹר אֲשֶׁ֨ר לֹֽא־תָב֜וֹא וַשְׁתִּ֗י לִפְנֵי֙  הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵר֔וֹשׁ וּמַלְכוּתָהּ֙ יִתֵּ֣ן הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ לִרְעוּתָ֖הּ הַטּוֹבָ֥ה מִמֶּֽנָּה׃

As a solution to the plight that the men of the kingdom now imagine themselves in, Memukan suggests that Vashti be punished. Specifically, she should no longer be allowed to enter before the king (the very thing she refused to do, thus fitting the punishment to the crime); moreover, she should be stripped of her royal position as queen, and her position should be given to someone else.

אִם־עַל־הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ ט֗וֹב. A null copula clause, with a null subject (which cataphorically refers forward to the content of Memukan’s proposal), and the adjective טוב as the copular complement. Note that טוֹב could be parsed as either a ms adjective (“good”) or a qatal 3ms Qal √טוב. The PP על המלך is an adjunct to the copula and is Focus-fronted. This deferential idiom occurs only in Esther (see also 3:9, 5:4, 8; 7:3; 8:5; 9:13), Chronicles (1 Chr 13:2), and Ezra-Nehemiah (Neh 2:5, 7; cf. Bergey 1983:156). Elsewhere, the more common idiom Xטוב בעיני־ is used: with אם, see 1 Kgs 21:2; Jer 40:4; 42:6; Zech 11:12; in a non-conditional context with the adjective טוב, see Gen 16:6; 19:8; 20:15; Num 24:1; 36:6; Deut 6:18; Judg 10:15; 19:24; 1 Sam 1:23; 3:18; 11:10; 14:36, 40; 29:6, 9; 2 Sam 3:19; 10:12; 15:26; 19:19, 28, 38, 39; 24:22; 1 Kgs 21:2; 2 Kgs 10:5; 20:3; Isa 38:3; Jer 40:4; Zech 11:12; Mal 2:17; 1 Chr 19:13; 21:23; Prov 3:4; Esth 3:11; 8:5, 8; with the verb יטב, see Gen 34:18; 41:37; 45:16; Lev 10:19, 20; Deut 1:23; Josh 22:30, 33; 1 Sam 18:5; 24:5; 2 Sam 3:36; 18:4; 1 Kgs 3:10; Esth 1:21; 2:4 (2x), 9. Significantly, in the verbal construction there is often the overt subject דבר (see below in v. 21: וייטב הדבר בעיני המלך). Our analysis for this verse follows this basic pattern. The null subject does not function as a dummy or expletive pronoun, like English there and it, that is used simply to fulfill a requirement for syntactic subject but has no referential value. Indeed, BH does not use dummy pronouns. Rather, whether דבר or a null subject is used in this idiom, it refers either backwards or forwards to an item in the discourse world, or in many cases, an assertion or proposal (as here, referring forward to the next clause). It is also important to note that replacing בעיני with על appears to be a uniquely LBH phenomenon (cf. Bergey 1983).

יֵצֵ֤א דְבַר־מַלְכוּת֙  מִלְּפָנָ֔יו. Yiqtol (irrealis) 3ms √יצא. Following the conditional אם, the irrealis semantics of the main verb apodosis are clear: “if X occurs, then Y shall occur.” On the valency of יצא, see comment on v. 17. The form of יצא represents the morphology of I-ו/י prefix verbs, which use the yaqtil pattern (JM §41e, §75c; Blau 2010:221-222): *yayṣiʾ > *yêṣiʾ > yêṣéʾ. Both the fronted subordinate conditional protasis (אם על המלך טוב) and the irrealis of יצא trigger verb-subject order. The semantics of the bound relationship in דבר מלכות is probably one of attribution, hence “a royal word” (see comment on כתר מלכות in v. 11). The doubly compound preposition מלפניו consists of the preposition מן and the already complex preposition לפני, resulting in “from before” (WO §11.3). Here מלפני indicates the presence of the king as the origin of movement, rather than the destination that would be signalled by לפני alone.

וְיִכָּתֵ֛ב בְּדָתֵ֥י פָֽרַס־וּמָדַ֖י וְלֹ֣א יַעֲב֑וֹר. Yiqtol (irrealis) 3ms Niph √כתב and Qal √עבר. The Qal of כתב is bivalent, taking a subject and NP complement. The Niphal is the simple passive and so reflects a valency decrease, in which the NP complement of the Qal becomes the subject of the Niphal. The subject is null and coreferential with דבר המלכות from the previous clause. The clause ולא יעבור is a parenthesis, signalled by the switch in semantics (Niphal to Qal, positive to negative) and agent—to a null, impersonal subject, “one shall not transgress (it).” The complement of the bivalent עבר is null and also refers back to the proposed law. The parenthetical aside affirms the proposed status of the law, that it shall be inviolable. On the use of irrealis yiqtol versus irrealis qatal, see Introduction §§:XX.

אֲשֶׁ֨ר לֹֽא־תָב֜וֹא וַשְׁתִּ֗י לִפְנֵי֙  הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵר֔וֹשׁ. Yiqtol 3fs Qal √בוא. Both the אשׁר and the negative לא trigger the verb-subject order. The subject of the bivalent motion verbבוא is the NP ושׁתי and the complement is the locative PP לפני המלך אחשׁורושׁ. This אשׁר clause functions syntactically as an appositive to דבר המלכות. It provides the content of theדבר by specifying what event or action Memukan suggests be made into law—that Vasthi would be banned from the royal court. Although the epithet המלכה appears without the PN ושׁתי in vv. 16 and 18, with no apparent difference from the phrase ושׁתי המלכה, the use of the ושׁתי without the title המלכה here is literarily significant. In vv. 9, 11, 12, 15, 16 and 17 the term המלכה is used with ושׁתי and in vv. 17 and 18 המלכה is used alone but refers to Vashti; however, beginning in v. 19 ושׁתי is never again paired with המלכה (cf. 2:1, 4, and 17), signalling that Vashti is being deposed from her royal position (cf. Moore 1971:11; Fox 2001:22).

וּמַלְכוּתָהּ֙ יִתֵּ֣ן הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ לִרְעוּתָ֖הּ הַטּוֹבָ֥ה מִמֶּֽנָּה. Yiqtol (irrealis or jussive) 3ms Qal √נתן. This clause continues the content of Memukan’s proposal and, as such, is the second, conjoined half of the compound clause nominalized by the אשׁר (so also Bush 1996:351). The NP complement מלכותה is fronted for Topic and signals a shift from Vashti to her status, though it also maintains continuity by virtue of the 3fs clitic pronoun. The fronted Topic NP triggers the verb-subject word order. The verb נתן is trivalent, with an NP complement (indicating the thing given, here מלכותה) and a ל-PP complement (indicating the recipient, here לרעותה הטובה ממנה). The word רעות, “fellow (female), (female) neighbour, (female) companion” (DCH, s.v.; cf. HALOT s.v.), does not imply that Vashti’s successor had to be her friend or live next to her, or even be someone she knew. Rather, it refers to someone within the same group or of the same social status (Paton 1908:157). רעות specificies that the chosen woman must be of the appropriate qualities and status to qualify to be a queen, hence our translation “someone like her.” A phrase like הטובה ממנָה is typically understood as an attributive adjective, with the ה matching the definite status of the רעות, which is definite due to the clitic pronoun. However, the addition of the comparative PP ממנה, which syntactically relates to טובה, strongly suggests that the more accurate syntactic analysis of this type of construction is ה-relative clause, with a null subject, null Copula, and the Adjectives as the copula complement: lit. “her-fellow who (she) (is) good more-than-her.”

1:20 ‫וְנִשְׁמַע֩  פִּתְגָ֨ם הַמֶּ֤לֶךְ אֲשֶֽׁר־יַעֲשֶׂה֙  בְּכָל־מַלְכוּת֔וֹ כִּ֥י רַבָּ֖ה הִ֑יא וְכָל־הַנָּשִׁ֗ים יִתְּנ֤וּ יְקָר֙  לְבַעְלֵיהֶ֔ן לְמִגָּד֖וֹל וְעַד־קָטָֽן׃

Along with punishing Vashti, Memukan proposes that the news of this punishment be proclaimed throughout the entire kingdom. By making an example of Vashti, Memukan hopes to forestall the imagined empire-wide disobedience of women.

וְנִשְׁמַע֩  פִּתְגָ֨ם הַמֶּ֤לֶךְ אֲשֶֽׁר־יַעֲשֶׂה֙  בְּכָל־מַלְכוּת֔וֹ. Qatal (irrealis) 3ms Niph√שמע. The use of an irrealis verb triggers verb-subject word order. The overt subject is פתגם המלך and the ב-PP בכל מלכותו is a locative adjunct to the verb נשׁמע. In contrast to v. 19, where the irrealis yiqtol verbs יִכָּתֵב andיֵצֵא are used, here an irrealis qatal is used. Irrealis yiqtol, qatal, and jussive all fit the context of this passage. The irrealis qatal signals a contingency relationship (continuing the sense of the previous verbs; Cook 2012a:250; cf. Bush 1996:351), whereas neither the irrealis yiqtol nor jussive explicitly signals contingency. The noun פתגם (“decision” or “announcement”) is a borrowing from Persian. It may have entered Hebrew via Aramaic (HALOT s.v.; Moore 1971:11). Alternatively, it may reflect the author’s consciously use of a Persian word for stylistic reasons, to contribute to the Persian ambiance of the story (see Introduction §). The relative clause אשׁר יעשׂה modifies פתגם and, though it may seem superfluous, it is perhaps intended to affirm that the king himself will issue the report.

כִּ֥י רַבָּ֖ה הִ֑יא. This clause is a parenthesis (so also Paton 1908:158). The כי does not provide temporal or causal information relating to the main verb נשׁמע, but relates directly to the preceding quantified NP כל מלכותו. That is, the כי clause grounds the inclusion of the word “all” in the preceding phrase—the author says “in all his kingdom” instead of “in his kingdom” because the kingdom is so large that it must be specified that the whole kingdom is in view here. Or the כי clause may reflect “incidental courtly flattery” (Fox 2001:23; cf. Keil 1873:332). Within the כי clause, the 3fs pronoun is the overt subject, the copula is null, and the copular complement is the adjective רבה. The word order reflects the Focus-fronting of the complement and signals that Memukan is contrasting his view of the kingdom with other potential views (i.e., it is a normal size, it is small). For similar word order, see טוֹבַת מַרְאֶה הִיא in v. 11.

וְכָל־הַנָּשִׁ֗ים יִתְּנ֤וּ יְקָר֙. Yiqtol (irrealis) or jussive 3mp Qal √נתן. The verb is masculine, although the subject כָל־הַנָּשִׁים is feminine (cf. Moore 1971:11). See v. 19 on the valency of נתן. On the meaning of יְקָר (“honor”) see comment on v. 4.

לְמִגָּד֖וֹל וְעַד־קָטָֽן. On the expression and the compound preposition, see comment on v. 5. The PP is an NP-internal modifier: it modifies בַעְלֵיהֶן not the verb. Rather than indicating some quality of the action of “giving honor,” the NP-internal PP delimits the scope of the NP it modifies. In this case, the scope is quite broad, covering husbands from all social classes.

1:21 ‫וַיִּיטַב֙  הַדָּבָ֔ר בְּעֵינֵ֥י הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ וְהַשָּׂרִ֑ים וַיַּ֥עַשׂ הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ כִּדְבַ֥ר מְמוּכָֽן׃‫

As is the case elsewhere in Esther (2:2-4; 3:8-11), the king is portrayed as taking the first advice offered to him by others (here Memukan), rather than deciding on a plan of action for himself.

וַיִּיטַב֙  הַדָּבָ֔ר בְּעֵינֵ֥י הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ וְהַשָּׂרִים. Wayyiqtol 3ms Qal √יטב. The quote beginning in v. 16 ended at the end of v. 20, returning to the narrator’s voice and the narrative past wayyiqtol in this verse. On expressions involving something being “good” (either the adjective טוֹב or the verb יטב) “in the eyes of” someone (בְּעֵינֵי), see comment on v. 19 and 3:6. The expression essentially means “they liked what he said.” The noun דבר in this and the next clause has the connotation of “plan, advice.”

וַיַּ֥עַשׂ הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ כִּדְבַ֥ר מְמוּכָֽן. Wayyiqtol 3ms Qal √עשׂה. Here the verb עשׂה has the meaning “to do” or “to act, behave” (on the various meanings of עשׂה, see comment on v. 3). The כ-PP is the complement of the bivalent verb and provides the content of the behavior. The use of the approximating כ signals that what was actually done followed the essential outlines of Memukan’s proposal (on כ for approximations, see WO §11.2.9b and #2).

1:22 וַיִּשְׁלַ֤ח סְפָרִים֙  אֶל־כָּל־מְדִינ֣וֹת הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ אֶל־מְדִינָ֤ה וּמְדִינָה֙  כִּכְתָבָ֔הּ וְאֶל־עַ֥ם וָעָ֖ם כִּלְשׁוֹנ֑וֹ לִהְי֤וֹת כָּל־אִישׁ֙  שֹׂרֵ֣ר בְּבֵית֔וֹ וּמְדַבֵּ֖ר כִּלְשׁ֥וֹן עַמּֽוֹ׃ פ

Chapter 1 closes with the dissemination of documents containing the decree concerning Vashti to the whole kingdom. The decree establish the authority of men within their households. The problem identified by Memukan—that women everywhere may act up like Vashti—is thus addressed. And yet, significant elements of the story, such as the lack of a queen, remain unresolved and are left for the next episode to address.

וַיִּשְׁלַ֤ח סְפָרִים֙  אֶל־כָּל־מְדִינ֣וֹת הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ. Wayyiqtol 3ms Qal √שׁלח. The verb שׁלח, when it has the sense of “to send” (rather than “to stretch out”; cf. HALOT s.v.; BDB s.v.; DCH s.v.), is trivalent, with a subject (here null), an NP complement indicating the item sent (here ספרים), and a locative PP complement for the place to which the sending is directed (here אל כל מדינות המלך). A ספר is “something written” (HALOT s.v.), whether a scroll, letter, or just a document in general (as here). It is implied that these are official documents containing the new law and its implementation (i.e., the selection of a new queen).

אֶל־מְדִינָ֤ה וּמְדִינָה֙  כִּכְתָבָ֔הּ וְאֶל־עַ֥ם וָעָ֖ם כִּלְשׁוֹנ֑וֹ. If these two אל-PPs were alone, they would be appositive to the preceding אל-PP, אל כל מדינות המלך. However, the presence of ככתבה and כלשׁונו complicate the syntax. Clearly the אל-PPs relate syntactically to the action of sending, but so do the כ-PPs. And yet each כ-PP also relates in some way to only the preceding אל-PP; that is, ככתבה only relates to אל מדינה ומדינה, and כלשׁונו only relates to אל עם ועם. For this to happen, we must interpret these two pairs as constituents in two reduced adjunct clauses from which the verb, subject, and first complement are elided. In each אל-PP, the repetition of a noun appositively after itself, e.g., מדינה ומדינה, is a strategy for indicating distribution, diversity, or emphasis (WO §7.2.3); both cases of apposition are used for distribution (see also 2:11, 12; 3:4, 12, 14; 4:3).

לִהְי֤וֹת כָּל־אִישׁ֙  שֹׂרֵ֣ר בְּבֵית֔וֹ וּמְדַבֵּ֖ר כִּלְשׁ֥וֹן עַמּֽוֹ. Inf Constr Qal √היה, Participle ms Qal √שׂרר and Participle ms Piel √דבר. The ל-PP/infinitive clause is an adjunct to main verb וישׁלח and provides the purpose of the activity. Although it is often the case with ל-PP/infinitives that the subject is null, here it is overt, כל אישׁ. The copular complement consists of the two Participles, שׂרר and מדבר, conjoined to created a compound complement. The verb שׂרר, “to rule, reign” (HALOT s.v.; cf. BDB s.v.; DCH s.v.) is related to the nouns שׂר and שׂרה. Although the verbal examples are sparse, it appears that Qal שׂרר can be either monovalent (Isa 32:1) or bivalent. If bivalent, it takes an על-PP complement (Judg 9:22) or ב-PP complement (as here, with בביתו). The Piel דבר is also often bivalent, though the complement is typically an infinitive clause; the PP indicating the addressee is an adjunct. In this clause there is neither an adjunct indicating the speech recipient nor an infinitive complement, indicating that the verb is monovalent. The כ-PP is an adjunct indicating the manner of speaking. Why specify a manner of speaking as part of the purpose of sending the letters? The point may be about authority: if a family resulted from intermarriage, the man’s language, not the woman’s, should be the one spoken by the entire family (Keil 1873:332; Paton 1908:161-162; Fox 2001:23; Bush 1996:352; Levenson 1997:52; cf. Neh 13:23-24). Thus, the purpose of the sending of the documents is (A) that every man would rule in his house, and (B) that every man would have authority in his house specifically in the matter of which language is spoken.

%d bloggers like this: