Esther 2:11-20

Here is the remainder of the section begun in the last post.

11Every day Mordecai would walk about before the court of the house of women, in order to know how Esther was doing and what would happen with her. 12When the turn of each young lady arrived to come to King Ahashverosh, at the end of her twelve months [spent] according to the law of women (because the days of their cleansings were fulfilled this way: six months were with the oil of myrrh, and six months were with spices and with the cleansings of women), 13at this [time], the young lady would go to the king. All that she asked was given to her to come with her from the house of women to the house of the king. 14In the evening she would enter and in the morning she would return to the second house of women, to the authority of Sha‘ashgaz, the eunuch of the king, who kept the concubines. She would not come again to the king unless the king delighted in her and she was called by name. 15When the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail, the uncle of Mordecai (who took [her] to himself as a daughter), arrived to come to the king, she did not seek a thing except what Hegai, the eunuch of the king, who kept the women, would say. And Esther continually received favor in the eyes of all who saw her. 16And Esther was taken to King Ahashverosh, to the house of his kingdom, in the tenth month (it is the month of Tebet), in the seventh year of his kingdom. 17And the king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she received favor and kindness before him more than all the other virgins. And he placed the turban of the kingdom on her head and caused her to rule instead of Vashti. 18Then the king prepared a great banquet, the banquet of Esther, for all his leaders and his servants,. And he made a provincial rest and he gave a gift according to the power of the king. 19When virgins were gathered a second time, Mordecai was sitting in the gate of the king. 20Esther did not declare her clan or her people, just as Mordecai commanded her, that is, Esther did what Mordecai said, just as she had been in [her] upbringing with him.

2:11 ‎‫וּבְכָל־י֣וֹם וָי֔וֹם מָרְדֳּכַי֙  מִתְהַלֵּ֔ךְ לִפְנֵ֖י חֲצַ֣ר בֵּית־הַנָּשִׁ֑ים לָדַ֙עַת֙  אֶת־שְׁל֣וֹם אֶסְתֵּ֔ר וּמַה־יֵּעָשֶׂ֖ה בָּֽהּ׃

The fact that Mordecai shows up outside the harem each day demonstrates his continued concern for her well-being.

וּבְכָל־י֣וֹם וָי֔וֹם מָרְדֳּכַי֙  מִתְהַלֵּ֔ךְ לִפְנֵ֖י חֲצַ֣ר בֵּית־הַנָּשִׁ֑ים. A null copula clause with its complement the Participle ms Hith √הלך. The Topic-fronting of the temporal adjunct PP בכל יום ויום is a common strategy for setting the scene of the main action or event of the clause. In contrast to the triggered inversion with finite verbs, fronting does not trigger inversion with null copulas. Thus, the subject‒null copula‒complement (participle) word order in this clause reflects the basic order for copula (including participle) clauses. In the Hithpael, the verb הלך means “to walk about, go to and fro” and so, by extension, “to live, behave” (HALOT s.v., CDH s.v., BDB s.v.). Here the participle is used for habitual action, and the sense is that Mordecai was typically present at the entrance to the בית הנשׁים. The לפני-PP adjunct specifies the locale of the “walking about.” The phrase כל יום ויום redundantly combine the quantified phrase כל יום “every day” with the semantically similar repetitive apposition יום ויום “day to day, daily.” It is doubtful that there is any additional nuance for the overspecified כל יום ויום; rather, it may simply reflect a change in conventions (see Introduction §§[Dating?]). On repetitive apposition, see comment on מדינה ומדינה in 1:22. A qameṣ is used under ו in יום ויום to indicate that the two nouns are a prosodic unit (see comment on 1:4). Semantically, the PP בכל יום ויום indicates that the action presented by the verb (null copula and participle) is habitual, i.e., it habitually (daily) occurred.

לָדַ֙עַת֙  אֶת־שְׁל֣וֹם אֶסְתֵּ֔ר וּמַה־יֵּעָשֶׂ֖ה בָּֽהּ. Inf constr Qal √ידע and yiqtol 3ms Niph √עשׂה. As with I-נ verbs, the infinitive construct in I-י/ו roots reflects the aphaeresis (“taking away”) of the initial root consonant and the subsequent addition of the ת. The result is a segholate structure, which in the case of the ידע with its guttural final consonant takes the a-a vowel pattern: דַּ֫עַת. On the form of the ל preposition and the reason for the ת suffix, see comment on לָתֵת in v. 9. The infinitival clause is a verbal adjunct specifying the purpose of the action denoted by the participle מִתְהַלֵּךְ: the infinitival clause gives the reason why Mordecai was spending his time at the gate of the house of women. The verb ידע is bivalent: here the subject is null (reconstructable as the subject of the higher clause, מרדכי) and the complement is a compound NP. In the compound complement, the first part is the NP את שׁלום אסתר and the second part a nominalized מה interrogative clause (this is also known as an “indirect question”; WO §18.2c). לדעת שׁלום of someone means to know about their well-being, i.e., “how they are doing” (cf. HALOT s.v. שָׁלוֺם; BDB s.v. שָׁלוֺם). Mordecai is at the gate because he wants to know how Esther is doing, if she is well, etc.

מַה־יֵּעָשֶׂ֖ה בָּֽהּ. Yiqtol 3ms Niph √עשׂה. Syntactically, the interrogative word מה represents both the subject of the passive (and thus monovalent) יעשׂה and the semantic patient. Transforming the clause into a bivalent Qal illustrates the full role of מה: “he (Hegai) did מה with her.” In an added semantic twist, though, the verb עשׂה (“to be done” in the Niphal) is used throughout the book of Qohelet as a semantically and syntactically agentless generic expression, “X happens” (see, e.g., Eccl 1:9; Fox 1999: 175; Murphy 1992: 11). Similarly, it may also mean “happen” here, as well as in 4:1. The PP בָּהּ is an adjunct to the passive verb and specifies more narrowly in what realm (here, to what entity) the action applies (WO §11.2.5e).

2:12 ‎‫וּבְהַגִּ֡יעַ  תֹּר֩ נַעֲרָ֨ה וְנַעֲרָ֜ה לָב֣וֹא ׀ אֶל־הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵר֗וֹשׁ מִקֵּץ֩  הֱי֨וֹת לָ֜הּ כְּדָ֤ת הַנָּשִׁים֙  שְׁנֵ֣ים עָשָׂ֣ר חֹ֔דֶשׁ כִּ֛י כֵּ֥ן יִמְלְא֖וּ יְמֵ֣י מְרוּקֵיהֶ֑ן שִׁשָּׁ֤ה חֳדָשִׁים֙  בְּשֶׁ֣מֶן הַמֹּ֔ר וְשִׁשָּׁ֤ה חֳדָשִׁים֙ בַּבְּשָׂמִ֔ים וּבְתַמְרוּקֵ֖י הַנָּשִֽׁים׃

V. 12 indicates the timing of each woman’s visit to the king, as well as the ways in which each woman was beautified in preparation for her visit.

וּבְהַגִּ֡יעַ  תֹּר֩  נַעֲרָ֨ה וְנַעֲרָ֜ה לָב֣וֹא ׀ אֶל־הַמֶּ֣לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵר֗וֹשׁ. Inf constr Hiph √נגע, with the first נ of the root assimilated to the ג (see comment on vv. 9 and 10), and Qal inf constr Qal √בוא. The entire ב-PP/infinitive clause of the verse is a temporal adjunct to באה in v. 13. In the larger clause, it is a Topic-fronted scene-setting constituent. The Qal נגע is bivalent and typically means “to touch, strike (someone/thing), reach (something/where).” The Hiphil is either a trivalent causative, “cause (someone) to touch, reach (something/where)” (HALOT s.v.; CDH s.v.) or a bivalent (internal causative), “arrive (somewhere), in which the patient is assumed and identical to the agent and the only overt complement is locative. Here the subject of הגיע is תר נערה ונערה and the complement is not a locative NP but a movement ל-PP/infinitive clause, לבוא אל המלך אחשׁורושׁ: “each girl’s turn arrived to enter.” On the use of repetitive apposition for distributive meaning in נערה ונערה, see comment on 1:22.

תֹּר֩. Based largely on context, this noun must mean something like “turn”: “when the turn of each young lady came up.” The word is only used with this sense in Esther (here and in v. 15), in the Damascus Document (CD 14.11), and the Community Rule (1QS 6.11). The lexica do not explicitly connect this noun to the verbal root תור meaning “to seek out,” but instead suggest that it is a primary noun (a basic pan-Semitic word); but the etymology is simply unclear. The context in Esther 2, CD 14, and 1QS reasonably establishes that the semantic range of the word centers around “a turn.”

מִקֵּץ֩  הֱי֨וֹת לָ֜הּ כְּדָ֤ת הַנָּשִׁים֙  שְׁנֵ֣ים עָשָׂ֣ר חֹ֔דֶשׁ. Inf constr Qal √היה. The PP מקץ signals the terminus a quo (‘the end from which’) for the event in the higher clause (see JM §133e); that is, “at the end of (מקץ) the twelve months” each young lady’s time would arrive. The noun קץ, which is the complement of the preposition מן, is itself the bound head of an infinitival clause clitic host. The subject within the copular infinitive clause is the temporal NP שׁנים עשׂר חדשׁ, the complement is the PP לה, and the PP כדת הנשׁים is a verbal adjunct: “twelve months existed/passed for her (=each girl) according to the law of women.” With copulas, a ל-PP typically indicates possession, which is the case here. In the number phrase שׁנים עשׂר חדשׁ “twelve months,” the noun חדשׁ is in apposition to the preceding numeral (for the options in numeral syntax, see Introduction §). The normal word order with infinitival verbs is verb-subject, which appears both with full NP subjects or clitic subject pronouns. Here the order reflects the tendency for “lighter” constituents to precede “heavier” constituents, barring any other syntactic or pragmatic influences (see 1:5 on “heavy noun phrase shift”).

כִּ֛י כֵּ֥ן יִמְלְא֖וּ יְמֵ֣י מְרוּקֵיהֶ֑ן. Yiqtol 3mp Qal √מלא. Either כִּי or the Topic-fronted כֵּן trigger the inversion to verb-subject order. Parallel to the narrative flow of chapter 1, chapter 2 is interrupted in the midst of the action with a parenthetical comment introduced by כי כן (see introduction to chapter 1 and comment on Esther 1:13). The NP ימי מרוקיהן is the subject of the monovalent Qal verb ימלאו (on the valency of מלא, see comment on 1:5). This is the only use of מרוקים in the Hebrew Bible (there is also one use in the Dead Sea Scrolls [1Q38], but there is too little context to clarify the meaning of the word). The meaning is the same or similar to תמרוק, which is formed from the same root, מרק “to cleanse.” The context here strongly points toward an action noun, “cleansing,” rather than a concrete noun referring to an instrument (i.e., something used in the process of cleansing); see comment on v. 3.

שִׁשָּׁ֤ה חֳדָשִׁים֙  בְּשֶׁ֣מֶן הַמֹּ֔ר וְשִׁשָּׁ֤ה חֳדָשִׁים֙  בַּבְּשָׂמִ֔ים וּבְתַמְרוּקֵ֖י הַנָּשִֽׁים. These two null copula clauses give the content of כן “thus” in the preceding clause; that is, they describe the way in which the days of cleansing were fulfilled. Syntactically, both clauses are in apposition to כן. Both null copulas take a ב-PP complement and the subject of each is the temporal phrase specifying the number of months for each type of cleansing activity: “six months (was spent) with oil of myrrh” (contra Fox 2001:35 who sees the ב-PPs as indicating that the women were physically in the cleansing materials: “a chemical bath to which the maidens’ bodies were subjected”). For the appositional syntax of שׁשׁה חדשׁים, see comment on 1:1.

2:13 ‎‫וּבָזֶ֕ה הַֽנַּעֲרָ֖ה בָּאָ֣ה אֶל־הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ אֵת֩  כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֨ר תֹּאמַ֜ר יִנָּ֤תֵֽן לָהּ֙  לָב֣וֹא עִמָּ֔הּ מִבֵּ֥ית הַנָּשִׁ֖ים עַד־בֵּ֥ית הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃

V. 13 relates that each contestant is allowed to bring things with her to the king, at her request. We are not told what sorts of things might be brought, but this is not the point—rather, the point is to set up the statement in v. 15, where Esther relies on Hegai’s advice and takes nothing except what he suggests.

וּבָזֶ֕ה הַֽנַּעֲרָ֖ה בָּאָ֣ה אֶל־הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ אֵת֩  כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֨ר תֹּאמַ֜ר יִנָּ֤תֵֽן לָהּ֙. Participle ms Qal √בוא‎, yiqtol 3fs Qal √אמר‎, and yiqtol 3ms Niph √נתן. The adjunct PP בזה recapitulates the temporal clauses (…בהגיע… מקץ) of v.12 (so Paton 1908:179, 180-181; Moore 1971:23; contra Bush 1996:365). The fronted temporal phrases are separated from the main clause by the כי כן parenthesis and the בזה is a processing strategy used to signal clearly that the non-parenthetical syntax has been resumed. Syntactically, בזה is in apposition to the entire בהגיע clause in v. 12. The Masoretic accent on the final syllable of באה indicates that they understood this ambiguous morphological form to be a participle (rather than the 3fs qatal). The participle is the complement of a null copula, which is the main verb of the entire complex clause. The semantics of the clause are not habitual here (as they are in v. 11), but generic (see Introduction § and Cook 2005:118-119, 133; 2012: ##). Habitual statements require identifiable subjects (such as Mordecai in v. 11), whereas generic statements take generic subjects (such as “each young lady” here). That is, the generic reading of the predication is established by the distributive נערה נערה in v. 12, which is continued in the main clause by the definite הנערה, which in this generic context refers to an instance of the group established by נערה נערה. As a generic statement, the participle expresses something similar to a habitual except without an identifiable subject: “the young lady (whose turn it was) would enter …”

אֵת֩  כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֨ר תֹּאמַ֜ר יִנָּ֤תֵֽן לָהּ֙. Yiqtol (irrealis) 3fs Qal √אמר‎ and yiqtol (irrealis) 3ms Niph √נתן. The NP את כל אשׁר תאמר presents one of the rare examples of a subject of an intransitive or passive verb introduced by the object particle את (WO §10.3.2; see also Andersen 1971, Garr 1991, Müller 1995, and Kroeze 1997). The subject-verb order represents basic BH word order. The generic semantics of the main clause carries through to the subordinate verbs, making both yiqtol verbs, תאמר and ינתן, irrealis and generic, “would say” and “would be given.”

כָּל־אֲשֶׁ֨ר תֹּאמַ֜ר. Yiqtol 3fs Qal √אמר. Use of אמר here, literally “all [of that] which she would say,” has the contextually driven nuance of “mention” (HALOT Qal #3), “order” (HALOT Qal #6]), or even “desire” (BDB Qal #2). The head of the relative clause is the quantifier כל, which also corresponds by null resumption to the complement role within the relative for the verb תאמר.

יִנָּ֤תֵֽן לָהּ֙. Yiqtol 3ms Niph √נתן. The verb is trivalent in the Qal, and so by valency reduction associated with the passive, ינתן here is bivalent, taking as its subject the patient (the thing given = כל אשׁר תאמר) and its complement the ל-PP (the recipient of the thing given).

לָב֣וֹא עִמָּ֔הּ מִבֵּ֥ית הַנָּשִׁ֖ים עַד־בֵּ֥ית הַמֶּֽלֶךְ. Inf constr Qal √בוא. This purpose infinitive modifies the verb ינתן. The null subject is understood from context to be “all that she said,” since לבוא is Qal and thus means “to come” (not Hiphil “to bring”). Qal בוא takes one locative/goal complement, here the PP עד בית המלך. The two other PPs are verbal adjuncts, עמה an adjunct of accompaniment and מבית הנשׁים an adjunct specifying the origin or source.

2:14 ‎‫בָּעֶ֣רֶב ׀ הִ֣יא בָאָ֗ה וּ֠בַבֹּקֶר הִ֣יא שָׁבָ֞ה אֶל־בֵּ֤ית הַנָּשִׁים֙  שֵׁנִ֔י אֶל־יַ֧ד שַֽׁעֲשְׁגַ֛ז סְרִ֥יס הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ שֹׁמֵ֣ר הַפִּֽילַגְשִׁ֑ים לֹא־תָב֥וֹא עוֹד֙  אֶל־הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ כִּ֣י אִם־חָפֵ֥ץ בָּ֛הּ הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ וְנִקְרְאָ֥ה בְשֵֽׁם׃

After the contestant spent her night with the king, she would not return to the harem, but went instead to a second house, perhaps so that she could not discuss the details of her experiences with those whose turn had not yet come.

בָּעֶ֣רֶב ׀ הִ֣יא בָאָ֗ה. Participle fs Qal √בוא (on the morphological ambiguity of the form באה, see comments on 1:17 and 2:13). The participle is the complement to a null copula, with היא as the subject. The pronoun היא refers back to each instance of the נערה נערה, and as such it and the participle are used to continue the genericity of the actions being described—that is, the same pattern occurred for each young woman. The PP בערב is a Topic-fronted temporal adjunct to באה.

וּ֠בַבֹּקֶר הִ֣יא שָׁבָ֞ה אֶל־בֵּ֤ית הַנָּשִׁים֙  שֵׁנִ֔י אֶל־יַ֧ד שַֽׁעֲשְׁגַ֛ז סְרִ֥יס הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ שֹׁמֵ֣ר הַפִּֽילַגְשִׁ֑ים. Participle fs Qal √שׁוב, which is the complement to a null copula with the subject היא, and participle ms Qal √שׁמר. The PPבבקר is a Topic-fronted temporal adjunct. The Qal ofשׁוב takes a locative/goal PP, here אל בית הנשׁים שׁני. The second אל-PP is in apposition (of attribution) to the first אל-PP (similarly, see vv. 3, 8). The NP שׁעשׁגז סריס המלך שׁמר הפילגשׁים recalls the description of Hegai in v. 3 (הגא סריס המלך שׁמר הנשׁים). As there, this NP has a head-appositive-relative structure, with סריס המלך in apposition to שׁעשׁגז and an unmarked relative (containing a null copula and participial phrase complement) modifying שׁעשׁגז (see comment on v. 3). On the expression שׁמר הפילגשׁים, see comment on v. 3.

בֵּ֤ית הַנָּשִׁים֙  שֵׁנִ֔י. The ordinal שׁני appears to modify בית either appositionally or adjectivally (it agrees in everything but definiteness). Moore asserts that שׁני is “grammatically unrelated to the rest of the verse” (1971:23). Fox proposes either to read שׁני as שֵׁנִית, with the ת lost from haplography with א of the following word אל (but this could only occur in paleo-Hebrew script, making it an unlikely solution) or simply to read שׁני as an alternative form of שׁנית. Either way, he takes it as a verbal adjunct, “they returned a second time” (2001:276; so Keil 1873:338). Similarly, Bush insists we must emend to הַשֵּׁנִי (i.e., so that it agrees with the noun in terms of definiteness) or take one of Fox’s two options (1996:365; cf. Paton 1908:181, who also offers these three options). The simplest solution is to recognize that adjectives need not always agree with the noun they modify in terms of definiteness (see Holmstedt 2013a:352), and so the ordinal שׁני modifies בית in the typical adjectival fashion.

לֹא־תָב֥וֹא עוֹד֙ אֶל־הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ. Yiqtol 3fs Qal √בוא. The verb is bivalent, with a null subject, a locative אל-PP as the verbal complement, and the adverb עוד as an adjunct. Here the narrator reminds the listener or reader about theme of “entering before the king” (see comment on v. 2 and introduction to chapter 1). This reminder may serve to establish this court rule firmly and so foreshadow the danger Esther puts herself in by going before the king without invitation (Levenson 1997:62).

כִּ֣י אִם־חָפֵ֥ץ בָּ֛הּ הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ. Qatal 3ms Qal √חפץ. The function word כי by itself can be used adversatively, to “restrict the immediately preceding clause” (WO §39.3.5d), that is, like English ‘but’ or ‘rather’ (cf. MNK §40.9 II.3). When combined with the conditional אם, ‘if,’ the result categorizes the following clause as an exceptive (WO §38.6): ‘but if,’ ‘unless,’ or ‘except.’ The compound particle triggers inversion to verb-subject order, and the light PP complement בה attaches to the verb and raises with it ahead of the subject המלך (see comment on v. 7).

וְנִקְרְאָ֥ה בְשֵֽׁם. Qatal 3fs Niph √קרא. The Niphal verb נקראה is monovalent, with a null subject (reconstructed as “any of the young women”) and the ב-PP as a manner adjunct.

2:15 ‎‫וּבְהַגִּ֣יעַ  תֹּר־אֶסְתֵּ֣ר בַּת־אֲבִיחַ֣יִל דֹּ֣ד מָרְדֳּכַ֡י אֲשֶׁר֩  לָקַֽח־ל֨וֹ לְבַ֜ת לָב֣וֹא אֶל־הַמֶּ֗לֶךְ לֹ֤א בִקְשָׁה֙  דָּבָ֔ר כִּ֠י אִ֣ם אֶת־אֲשֶׁ֥ר יֹאמַ֛ר הֵגַ֥י סְרִיס־הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ שֹׁמֵ֣ר הַנָּשִׁ֑ים וַתְּהִ֤י אֶסְתֵּר֙  נֹשֵׂ֣את חֵ֔ן בְּעֵינֵ֖י כָּל־רֹאֶֽיהָ׃

The narrator now addresses Esther’s turn to enter before the king. Wisely, Esther takes only what Hegai recommends.

וּבְהַגִּ֣יעַ  תֹּר־אֶסְתֵּ֣ר בַּת־אֲבִיחַ֣יִל דֹּ֣ד מָרְדֳּכַ֡י אֲשֶׁר֩  לָקַֽח־ל֨וֹ לְבַ֜ת לָב֣וֹא אֶל־הַמֶּ֗לֶךְ. Inf constr Hiph √נגע, qatal 3ms Qal √לקח, and inf constr Qal √בוא. On the form and valency of the infinitive הגיע, and on the noun תר, see comment on v. 12. On the noun דד, see v. 7. This temporal infinitive clause is very similar to the one in v. 12, with Esther as the subject. Esther is modified by the appositive בת אביחיל, within which the PN אביחיל is itself modified by the appositive דד מרדכי, within which the noun מרדכי is modified by a relative clause (for comparison, see Mordecai’s genealogy in v. 5).

אֲשֶׁר֩  לָקַֽח־ל֨וֹ לְבַ֜ת. Qatal 3ms Qal √לקח. On the phrase לקח לו לבת, see comment on v. 7. In this clause the NP complement לקח for the person/thing taken is syntactically null but can be reconstructed from the context as Esther.

לֹ֤א בִקְשָׁה֙  דָּבָ֔ר. Qatal 3fs Piel √בקשׁ. On the valency of Piel בקשׁ, see comment on v. 2. The NP complement דבר has here the meaning “thing,” not “word” (see comment on 3:1).

כִּ֠י אִ֣ם אֶת־אֲשֶׁ֥ר יֹאמַ֛ר הֵגַ֥י סְרִיס־הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ שֹׁמֵ֣ר הַנָּשִׁ֑ים. Yiqtol 3ms Qal √אמר, null copula, and participle ms √שׁמר. On the function of כי אם see the comment on v. 14. There is no explicit verb in the כי אם clause; rather, the verb from the previous clause, בקשָה, is gapped (as is the subject) into the exceptive clause: “except [she sought] what Hegai said.” In the context of the narrative, which is clearly set in the past, and the main verb qatal בקשׁה, the yiqtol יֹאמַר within the relative clause must also be set in the past. The imperfective semantics of the yiqtol can be understood in one of two ways: (1) past progressive (“what Hegai was telling her”); or (2) past habitual (“what Hegai would tell her“). The first option would mean Hegai was guiding her choice when her turn came; the second would mean Hegai was apt to give the girls advice and she was taking his. See Introduction §.

וַתְּהִ֤י אֶסְתֵּר֙  נֹשֵׂ֣את חֵ֔ן בְּעֵינֵ֖י כָּל־רֹאֶֽיהָ. Wayyiqtol 3fs Qal √היה, participle fs √נשׂא, and participle mp √ראה with 3fs clitic pronoun. As with all III-ה verbs, the wayyiqtol of היה is shorter than the yiqtol (= תִּהְיֶה in the 3fs), indicating the existence of two distinct prefix conjugations in Hebrew. The wayyiqtol is always associated with triggered inversion to verb-subject order. In this particular clause the copula היה has a participial complement; it is much more common for the participle to appear without the overt copula (see Miller 1999:9; see also ויהי אמן in v. 7), but in this case the wayyiqtol was required by the narrative context. The combination of the wayyiqtol copula with the participle results in past progressive semantics: Esther continually impressed people (see Cook 2012: 230-33). The expression נשׂא חן means “to receive favor” (cf. comment on v. 9; cf. also v. 17 and 5:2) and the adjunct PP contributes to the idiom by specifying the origin.

2:16 ‎‫וַתִּלָּקַ֨ח אֶסְתֵּ֜ר אֶל־הַמֶּ֤לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ֙  אֶל־בֵּ֣ית מַלְכוּת֔וֹ בַּחֹ֥דֶשׁ הָעֲשִׂירִ֖י הוּא־חֹ֣דֶשׁ טֵבֵ֑ת בִּשְׁנַת־שֶׁ֖בַע לְמַלְכוּתֽוֹ׃

V. 16 records the date of this important event, when Esther would win the king’s favor and ultimately become the new queen.

וַתִּלָּקַ֨ח אֶסְתֵּ֜ר אֶל־הַמֶּ֤לֶךְ אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ֙  אֶל־בֵּ֣ית מַלְכוּת֔וֹ. Wayyiqtol 3fs Niph √לקח. The wayyiqtol triggers inversion to verb-subject order. The first אל-PP is a locative adjunct to the verb, while the second אל-PP is in apposition to the first PP, specifying a locative goal that is more concrete than ‘to the king.’ On מלכות, see Introduction (§) and comment on 1:2.

בַּחֹ֥דֶשׁ הָעֲשִׂירִ֖י הוּא־חֹ֣דֶשׁ טֵבֵ֑ת. This temporal ב-PP is a second adjunct to the verb תלקח. The clarifying parenthesis הוא חדשׁ טבת “it (is) the month of Tebet” is null copula clause with subject הוא and NP complement (see 1:1 and 3:7). The PN טבת is the Hebrew version of Akkadian ṭebētu, the Babylonian name of the tenth month (Bush 1996:366), from the verb ṭebū “to sink down” (HALOT s.v.; cf. Paton 1908:182-183; Moore 1971:24).

בִּשְׁנַת־שֶׁבַע לְמַלְכוּתוֹ. This ב-PP is another temporal adjunct to the verb תלקח. The noun שׁנת is bound to the numeral (lit. “year of seven”; cf. 1:3; see Introduction §). Whereas in 1:3 the date is given with respect to the king’s “reigning” (an infinitive construct; cf. comment on 1:3), here it is given with respect to the king’s “kingdom” (a noun). The use of a ל-PP instead of a bound phrase is typical for dating formulas (cf. comment on 1:3). Notably, we only find a noun meaning “kingdom” as complement to ל in later texts (see Dan 1:1; 2:1; 8:1; 1 Chr 26:31; 2 Chr 3:2; 16:1, 12); in earlier texts, when a king’s reign is referred to, the king’s title or name or an infinitive construct √מלך is the complement of ל. Thus, the change in dating convention may be diachronically significant (cf. Bergey 1983:157-159).

2:17 ‎‫וַיֶּאֱהַ֨ב הַמֶּ֤לֶךְ אֶת־אֶסְתֵּר֙  מִכָּל־הַנָּשִׁ֔ים וַתִּשָּׂא־חֵ֥ן וָחֶ֛סֶד לְפָנָ֖יו מִכָּל־הַבְּתוּלֹ֑ת וַיָּ֤שֶׂם כֶּֽתֶר־מַלְכוּת֙  בְּרֹאשָׁ֔הּ וַיַּמְלִיכֶ֖הָ  תַּ֥חַת וַשְׁתִּֽי׃

Esther’s night with the king is successful, and he selects her to become the next queen. One plot complication is resolved, though the issue of Esther’s hidden Jewishness lingers.

וַיֶּאֱהַ֨ב הַמֶּ֤לֶךְ אֶת־אֶסְתֵּר֙  מִכָּל־הַנָּשִׁ֔ים. Wayyiqtol 3ms Qal √אהב. The verb אהב in the Qal (“to love”) is bivalent, taking an NP complement (את אסתר). To express comparison Hebrew often uses the preposition מן in its comparative function (GKC §133; WO §14.4; JM §141g-h): thus, here יאהב … את אסתר מכל הנשׁים means “he loved Esther more than all the women.” The מן comparative logically implies there were other women whom the king also loved (Fox 2001:37-38; cf. Bush 1996:366).

וַתִּשָּׂא־חֵ֥ן וָחֶ֛סֶד לְפָנָ֖יו מִכָּל־הַבְּתוּלֹ֑ת. Wayyiqtol 3fs Qal √נשׂא. On the expression נשׂא חן וחסד (“to receive favor and kindness”), see comment on v. 9 (cf. v. 15, v. 17, and 5:2). As with the previous clause, the adjunct מן-PP expresses comparison: “she received favor and kindness… more than all the virgins”; the comparison implies that the NP הבתולות refers to the ‘other virgins’ (i.e., other than Esther, who was technically in the same category).

וַיָּ֤שֶׂם כֶּֽתֶר־מַלְכוּת֙  בְּרֹאשָׁ֔הּ. Wayyiqtol 3ms Qal √שׂים. The verb שׂים in the Qal (“to set,” “to place”) is always trivalent: here it takes an NP complement (the thing set or placed; here כתר מלכות) and a locative PP (the place in which it is set or placed; here בראשׁה). The phrase כתר מלכות recalls the scene in 1:10-12, where the king asks Vashti to come wearing the “turban of the kingdom,” but she refuses (Levenson 1997:62). Esther, the antitype to Vashti, now occupies that role (see introduction to chapter 1). On the meaning of כתר, see comment on 1:11. On מלכות, see comment on 1:2 and Introduction (§).

וַיַּמְלִיכֶהָ  תַּחַת וַשְׁתִּי. Wayyiqtol 3ms Hiph √מלך with 3fs clitic pronoun. The Hiphil מלך is the causative of the Qal (see 1:1) and is bivalent (“to cause someone to reign”). This clause marks the fulfillment of what was suggested by the king’s young servants in v. 4.

2:18 ‎‫וַיַּ֨עַשׂ הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ מִשְׁתֶּ֣ה גָד֗וֹל לְכָל־שָׂרָיו֙  וַעֲבָדָ֔יו אֵ֖ת מִשְׁתֵּ֣ה אֶסְתֵּ֑ר וַהֲנָחָ֤ה לַמְּדִינוֹת֙  עָשָׂ֔ה וַיִּתֵּ֥ן מַשְׂאֵ֖ת כְּיַ֥ד הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃

Paralleling the first feast thrown by the king in 1:3, Esther is given a feast in honor of her coronation. Whether by convention or as an ad hoc act of largesse, Ahashverosh also grants the entire kingdom a release (perhaps from taxes) and bestows gifts.

וַיַּ֨עַשׂ הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ מִשְׁתֶּ֣ה גָד֗וֹל לְכָל־שָׂרָיו֙  וַעֲבָדָ֔יו אֵ֖ת מִשְׁתֵּ֣ה אֶסְתֵּ֑ר. Wayyiqtol 3ms Qal √עשׂה. On the valency and semantics of עשׂה, see 1:3. On the form ויעשׂ, see 1:21. The complement of the bivalent verb is the NP משׁתה גדול. The masculine adjective גדול matches the gender ofמשׁתה, in which the ה is part of the root, not the feminine ending (see comments in 1:3, 9). This clause recalls the first drinking-feast mentioned in 1:3: עשׂה משׁתה לכל שׂריו ועבדיו (on the structural significance of this, see introduction to chapter 1). The NP את משׁתה אסתר is in apposition to משׁתה earlier in this verse: ‘the king prepared a banquet…, that is, the banquet of Esther’ (on the types of apposition, see 1:2).

וַהֲנָחָ֤ה לַמְּדִינוֹת֙  עָשָׂ֔ה. Qatal 3ms Qal √עשׂה. The word הנחה, which is a hapax legomenon, is derived from √נוח “to rest”; the morphology is the same of both the Aramaic Haphel infinitive (BDB s.v.; HALOT s.v.) and the Mishnaic abstract noun associated with the Hiphil (Segal 1927:113-14; HALOT s.v.). The context supports the latter analysis, since the word is the complement of the verb עשׂה, which typically takes NP complements rather than infinitival complements. The noun הנחה “resting” refers either to a holiday, since a day of feasting would possibly be a national holiday, or in light of the next clause (the giving of royal fits) perhaps a release from taxes (cf. Paton 1908:184-185). The order complement-adjunct-verb is not basic. Typically when two non-subject constituents precede the verb, they have both been fronted, either as a Topic-Focus pair or a Focus-Focus pair. The NP הנחה has not been previously introduced and so cannot be a Topic, though it does make good sense as a Focus-fronted constituent, i.e., in a surprising act of generosity “a rest (the king) made.” But it is difficult to discern a contextually sensible reason for a second Focus on למדינות—to whom else would the king give a rest? It may be that the ל-PP is not a verbal adjunct indicating the beneficiary of Ahashverosh’s act, but is an NP-internal modifier of הנחה. As such, what the king granted was a provincial rest. On NP-internal modifies, see 1:14, 15; 2:9.

וַיִּתֵּ֥ן מַשְׂאֵ֖ת כְּיַ֥ד הַמֶּֽלֶךְ. Wayyiqtol 3ms Qal √נתן. The Qal of נתן is usually trivalent (see comment on 1:19; cf. 2:13), requiring a subject, an NP complement, and ל-PP complement. Here there is no overt ל-PP complement; however, given the verb’s strongly consistent valency pattern, it is likely that we should understand a null complement reconstructable from the context, perhaps “for his leaders,” “for his servants,” or “for his provinces” (or all three); see comments on 3:14, 15. The feminine noun משׁאת comes from the verbal root נשׂא, “to lift,” and denotes the act of event of “lifting up,” which by extension may connote “tribute, present” (HALOT s.v.). The morphology follows the maqtil nominal pattern, with assimilation of the initial נ of the root and the addition of the feminine ת suffix: *manśiʾ+t > *maśśiʾt > (?) maśśʾit > maśśʾét. The noun is singular, though often it is translated as plural “gifts” (no doubt because interpreters understand the unstated recipient of the gift(s) to be plural). On the phrase כיד המלך, see comment on 1:7.

2:19 ‎‫וּבְהִקָּבֵ֥ץ בְּתוּל֖וֹת שֵׁנִ֑ית וּמָרְדֳּכַ֖י יֹשֵׁ֥ב בְּשַֽׁעַר־הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃

V. 19 mentions a second gathering of virgins. It is not clear whether we are to understand another gathering of women to the king’s harem, or a gathering of the initial contestants to a new location, or something else.

וּבְהִקָּבֵ֥ץ בְּתוּל֖וֹת שֵׁנִ֑ית וּמָרְדֳּכַ֖י יֹשֵׁ֥ב בְּשַֽׁעַר־הַמֶּֽלֶךְ. Inf constr Niph √קבץ and participle ms Qal √ישׁב. The ב-PP/infinitive clause (בהקבץ בתולות שׁנית) is a fronted temporal adjunct for the main clause, ומרדכי ישׁב בשׁער המלך. See 2:8 for a similar fronting construction, where the main verb is a wayyiqtol. Whereas the ו between the fronted constituents and the main clause in 2:8 is necessitated by the wayyiqtol form, here the ו serves a simple processing function, to demarcate the front edge of the clause and so make the adjunct fronting clear.

וּבְהִקָּבֵ֥ץ בְּתוּל֖וֹת שֵׁנִ֑ית. Inf constr Niph √קבץ. On the valency of Niphal קבץ, see comment on v. 8 and on the meaning of בתולות, see comment on v. 2. The ordinal שׁנית is here used adverbially as “a second time.” This reference to a second competition after Esther was chosen, even though the king seemed greatly satisfied with Esther in vv. 17-18, is difficult to interpret. We could emend the text to שֹׁנוֹת, “various” (Ehrlich 1914:114; Paton 1908:192; Moore 1971:29; but cf. Fox 2001:277) or discard it with the Alpha Text (Levenson 1997:63; but cf. Paton 1908:187, by the principle of lectio difficilior, the Masoretic Text may be taken as earlier). Alternatively, it could be that the second gathering refers to moving the original women to a different location (Fox 2001:38, 277; but cf. Keil 1873:341, Paton 1908:186-187, and Bush 1996:372, esp. on the definiteness of בתולות). Finally, it is possible that the text is here relating a new (i.e., a second) gathering of virgins to be the king’s concubines (Keil 1873:341; Paton 1908:186-187; Bush 1996:372).

וּמָרְדֳּכַ֖י יֹשֵׁ֥ב בְּשַֽׁעַר־הַמֶּֽלֶךְ. Participle ms Qal √ישׁב. On the valency of ישׁב, see comment on 1:2. It is likely that “sitting in the gate of the king” is idiomatic for “holding a government office” (so Fox 2001:38). There is significant evidence (see Bush 1996:372-373) for identifying the “gate of the king” as the physical location where the royal court met; by metonymy, this locative reference came to refer to the court itself (this is similar to the English case where the “White House” often refers idiomatically to the executive branch of government). The null copula (which has a default past value due to the narrative context) and participial complement in the main clause combine to produce a past progressive semantics. The resulting nuance is that was sitting in the king’s gate when this second gathering of virgins occurred.

2:20 ‎‫אֵ֣ין אֶסְתֵּ֗ר מַגֶּ֤דֶת מֽוֹלַדְתָּהּ֙  וְאֶת־עַמָּ֔הּ כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר צִוָּ֥ה עָלֶ֖יהָ  מָרְדֳּכָ֑י וְאֶת־מַאֲמַ֤ר מָרְדֳּכַי֙  אֶסְתֵּ֣ר עֹשָׂ֔ה כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר הָיְתָ֥ה בְאָמְנָ֖ה אִתּֽוֹ׃ ס

Again, the text tells us that Esther did not reveal her ethnic background to anyone (cf. v. 10). Just as she was obedient to Hegai (and presumably the king, implied by the disobedience of Vashti whom she replaced), Esther is ultimately obedient to Mordecai, who has had her obedience since childhood.

אֵ֣ין אֶסְתֵּ֗ר מַגֶּ֤דֶת מֽוֹלַדְתָּהּ֙  וְאֶת־עַמָּ֔הּ. An ‎אין copula clause, participle fs Hiph √נגד, and qatal 3ms Piel √צוה. On the meaning and valency of נגד, see comment on v. 10. Note the assimilation of the נ of the root: *mangid+t > maggédet. The negative copula אין is bound to the clausal subject, אסתר. (A study of the word order of אין and ישׁ clauses is a desideratum in BH grammatical research.) The use of אין with a participle complement is similar to participle phrase with overt copula היה (see comment on ותהי נשׂאת in v. 15 and ויהי אמן in v. 7); the difference between the two constructions is that with אין the copula is inherently negated and temporal frame of reference is inferred from the context (as with null copulas). The participial semantics in this clause appear to signal the durative nature of the activity; that is, whenever the question arose, Esther never revealed her origins. The syntax and vocabulary of this clause (including the relative) echoes v. 10 (cf. Levenson 1997:61); in v. 10, Esther does not make it known that she is a Jew in the “house of women,” whereas here she withholds her ethnicity while in the king’s dwelling. On the meaning of מולדת see v. 10.

כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר צִוָּ֥ה עָלֶ֖יהָ  מָרְדֳּכָ֑י. Qatal 3ms Piel √צוה. On the trivalency and meaning of Piel צוה, see v. 10. The אשׁר after prepositions often nominalizes the following finite verbal clause so that it might be an acceptable complement for the preposition (Holmstedt fc ##). However, in this case, צוה is then left with unfilled valency, “Mordecai commanded her [what?]”. Therefore, here the אשׁר introduce a null head relative clause here, with the content of the null head reconstructed from the context, “(the command) that Mordecai commanded her”. Compare the syntax of the similar statement in v. 10, מרדכי צוה עליה אשׁר לא תגיד, where the אשׁר clause relays the content of the command: “Mordecai commanded her that she should not tell.” The null head of the relative also functions by null resumption as the first complement (what was commanded) of the verb within the relative clause and the על-PP is the second complement, specifying whom was commanded. The presence of the relative אשׁר triggers inversion to verb-subject order. Note also that the light על-PP raises with the verb above the subject (see comment on v. 7).

וְאֶת־מַאֲמַ֤ר מָרְדֳּכַי֙  אֶסְתֵּ֣ר עֹשָׂ֔ה. Participle fs Qal √עשׂה. The semantics of the participle in this clause are habitual: “Esther was (in the habit of) carrying out Mordecai’s command.” On the semantic range and valency of עשׂה, see comments on 1:3, 5. Here, עשׂה means “to do” or “to observe” and takes the NP complementאת מאמר מרדכי; the connotation of עשׂה מאמר seems to be that Esther “did what Mordecai said.” The content of this clause overlaps somewhat with the clause immediately preceding it, and the explanation for this apparent redundancy lies in the word order. The complement of the participle is raised to the front of the main clause for Focus (no inversion occurs because the word order of null copula clauses is not affected by syntactic triggers). The complement is Focus-marked to highlight Esther’s past, present, and presumably future modus operandi: she does what Mordecai (above anyone else) says. The contrast inherent to the Focus may foreshadow the tension in chps. 4 and 5, where Esther risks her life by following Mordecai’s urging and violates court rules to appear before the king uninvited. The overlap in meaning also suggests that the ו at the front edge of this clause falls under what WO call the “epexegetical” use (§§33.2.2, 39.2.4). However, it is not that waw carries any such “epexegetical” function; rather, context indicates that the second clause is a clarifying appositive to the previous clause. On מאמר, see 1:15.

כַּאֲשֶׁ֛ר הָיְתָ֥ה בְאָמְנָ֖ה אִתּֽוֹ. Qatal 3fs Qal √היה. The use of היתה here is copular, the null subject represents Esther, the PP באמנה is the copular complement, and the PP אתו is an adjunct. This clause supports the idea that the verse describes Esther’s modus operandi: “according to [the manner] that [Esther] was in [her] upbringing with him.” In other words, she obeyed him in this matter (not telling anyone about her ethnic identity) just as she had obeyed him throughout the years that he raised her. The word אמנה is a hapax legomenon. It is either a noun from the root אמן (Keil 1873:341) and meaning “care, guardianship” (HALOT II אָמְנָה) or “bringing up, nourishment” (BDB אָמְנָה) with an understood 3fs pronoun, or it is the infinitive construct of אמן with the third feminine singular clitic pronoun (with the typical mappiq to mark the ה as the pronoun) and means “her upbringing” (so Driver 1954, Moore 1971:30, and Bush 1996:371; cf. DCH אָמְנָה II; Fox 2001:277). In the latter analysis, the 3fs clitic pronoun must be the verbal complement, “bringing her up,” and so the null infinitival subject could only be Mordecai: “in [Mordecai’s] bringing her up with him”. This is very awkward Hebrew syntax; we consider the first option, that אמנה is a noun, to be more likely.

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