Jim West on Mordecai

Jim West at Zwinglius Redivivus has posted the January 2011 Biblical Studies Carnival. The Biblical Studies Carnival is a collection of the best of the best posts written by bibliobloggers during the month of January.

Among the posts Jim selected for inclusion in the January 2011 Biblical Studies Carnival was my post on the tomb of Mordecai. That post was about a report in the Iranian press accusing Mordecai of killing thousands of Iranians. That report reflects the present animosity that exists between Iran and Israel.

In the introduction to my post, Jim wrote:

Claude Mariottini describes a report on the tombs of Esther and Mordecai. Mordechai [sic] … taken into captivity in the late [sic] 500’s and still alive when Xerxes rules… now that’s an achievement!

I would like to say a few words about what Jim wrote.

First, I believe that the Iranian view about Mordecai’s tomb reflects local traditions that say that Mordecai was buried in a local place in Iran. The tradition about Mordecai’s tomb is similar to the traditions related to the tomb of Absalom in the Kidron Valley and the tomb of the prophet Zechariah.

Second, Jim places Mordecai among the people who went into exile in 597 B.C.: “Mordechai [sic] … taken into captivity in the late [sic] 500’s and still alive when Xerxes rules… now that’s an achievement!”

His statement is based on the literal reading (since when does Jim read the Bible literally?) of Esther 2:5-6:

Now there was a Jew in Susa the capital whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, a Benjaminite, who had been carried away from Jerusalem among the captives carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away.

Interpreted literally, the text indeed says that Mordecai was taken into exile in 597 B.C., the same year king Jehoiachin (also known as Jeconiah) was taken captive to Babylon. Since Xerxes (called Ahasuerus in the book of Esther) became king of Persia in 486 B.C. and ruled for 21 years, until 465 B.C., Mordecai would have been at least 115 years old when Xerxes became king.

The problem with this interpretation is that the text of Esther 2:5-6 should not be interpreted literally. For instance, the “who” (Hebrew ’asher) of verse 6 is not clear. It could be said that it was Kish who was taken into captivity with Jeconiah. If this is the case, Kish would be the great-grandfather of Mordecai and Shimei his grandfather. If this interpretation is correct, then Mordecai was born in exile.

Another possibility is to view the brief genealogy of Mordecai in Esther 2:5-6 as describing his ancestral family, in the same way that Jesus is said to be “the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1). It is a fact that David was not the literal father of Jesus. If this is the correct interpretation of Esther 2:5-6, then Jair was an ancestor of Mordecai, not his father.

A third possibility, taken by some ancient Jewish writers, is to say that Mordecai became a royal official at the age of 125. This view is possible, but doubtful. Finally, some scholars believe that the narrative in Esther is not historical and point to the chronological problem raised by the genealogical data in Esther 2:5-6. It seems that Jim’s view of Mordecai falls into this last camp.

As for me, I say that the tomb may or may not be Mordecai’s real tomb. I believe, however, that Mordecai and Esther were born in exile and that he was not carried into exile early in the sixth century B.C. (not late, as Jim wrote).

I wish Jim had selected one of my studies on Amos for the Biblical Studies Carnival.

Claude Mariottini
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary

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4 Responses to Jim West on Mordecai

  1. Anonymous says:

    >For instance, the “who” (Hebrew ’asher) of verse 6 is not clear. It could be said that it was Kish who was taken into captivity with Jeconiah. If this is the case, Kish would be the great-grandfather of Mordecai and Shimei his grandfather. If this interpretation is correct, then Mordecai was born in exile.For what it's worth, the above seems like the most logical & natural reading to me.Pax,John

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  2. Greg says:

    >I've occasionally enjoyed some things West had to say, but I was put of by his desire to automatically accept the more liberal interpretations of events and people in scripture almost all the time.It seemed the Bible, along with any interpretation that attempted to reconcile its parts with archeology in a reasonable way, was wrong every time. He would never explain his reasons why, either, so I wasn't even able to learn from him.I have found your blog very enjoyable to read these past few years, Dr. Marionttini, and this post is a good reason why!Please keep up the good work!

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  3. >John,I agree with you that this interpretation is good. This has been the approach taken by many scholars. However, the second possibility is also a viable way of reading the text.Either way, we agree that Mordecai was born in exile.Claude Mariottini

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  4. >Greg,Thank you for visiting my blog and for your words of encouragement. I try to present a holistic approach to the Bible because I believe that Bible is the Word of God with a message for us today.Claude Mariottini

    Like

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