The Damsel Queen Esther

(c) Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
A usual portrayal of Salome…nubile, partially naked with some sort of veils. More later.

We saw in the last blog that Salome was not a “damsel;” i.e.; 12 years old as Mark defined “damsel.

And when the daughter of the said Herodias came in, and danced, and pleased Herod and them that sat with him, the king said unto the damsel, Ask of me whatsoever thou wilt, and I will give it thee. And he sware unto her, Whatsoever thou shalt ask of me, I will give it thee, unto the half of my kingdom…Mark 6 and Matthew 14

Calling Salome a “damsel” though and the phrase “half my kingdom” is a clue to what the group behind the author of Mark was telling those “with eyes to see.”[1] Mark must have known that Antipas was a Roman administrator of the Roman provinces of Galilee and Perea not a king. All the ruling Herod sons called themselves “king” among the Jews, but the “kingdom” was not theirs to give. The phrase, “half my kingdom,” is a direct link, however, to another story about another young queen.

Young Queen Esther

The Book of Esther in the Old Testament is the story of how even a young queen can play a role in saving her people and that she has a responsibility to do so. Esther’s beauty beguiled a foreign king who made her a Queen of the Persian Empire. Her story has its own book in the Old Testament.[2]

According to the story, Esther’s uncle Mordecai, a court official, heard that the Jews of the realm were in danger of being killed by a powerful anti-Semite who had the ear of the king. Mordecai and Esther were secretly Jews. Mordecai wants to help his people but he has to be discreet. He sent an intermediary from the court harem to get a message to Esther. He tells her to do the one thing that royal wives were allowed to do…petition the king…as we saw with Bathsheba and David:

 And Mordecai told the (intermediary)…to charge her that she should go in unto the king…to make request before him for her people. And Hatach came and told Esther (and)…Esther replied: “All the king’s servants…know, that whosoever…shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live: but I have not been called to come in unto the king these thirty days”… Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther,Who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

Then Esther bade them return Mordecai this answer. “Go, gather together all the Jews that are presently in Shushan, and fast ye for me…I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king…and if I perish, I perish…” On the third day, Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house…When the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court…the king held out to Esther the golden sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther drew near, and touched the top of the sceptre.

Then said the king unto her, What wilt thou, queen Esther? and what is thy request? it shall be even given thee to the half of my kingdom….The Book of Esther 4, 5:1-3

Esther invited the king to a banquet of wine in the palace garden where, after he’d had a few drinks, she made her petition to the king and the petition was granted and her people saved.

Mark uses the story of Esther—my theory—who petitioned the king for the LIFE of her people to draw a sharp comparison with Salome daughter of Herodias and granddaughter of Mariamne I who petitioned for the DEATH of John son of Elizabeth daughter of Aaron—at the same kind of wine banquet. Mark felt that she had been in a position to help John and did not. They were family, first cousins–my theory. And while Herodias had her reasons to side with Antipas who had a known track record with Rome, against Elizabeth and John and their backers, her daughter Salome, seemed to embody the point that their own royal women could not be trusted.

Essensdo not absolutely deny the fitness of marriage, and the succession of mankind thereby continued; but they guard against the lascivious behavior of women, and are persuaded that none of them preserve their fidelity to one man. Wars of the Jews II.VIII.2

The Missing Book of Esther

It is clear, though, that Herodias and Salome were hated by the writers of Mark and Matthew…and by those who left us the Dead Sea Scrolls. Of all the fragments of all the books of the Old Testament found among the Dead Sea Scrolls, only one book was missing; the Book of Esther. Scholars have concluded that it was missing because it didn’t refer to God, but maybe it was because their “Esther” betrayed them.

I will have more to say on Salome in chronological order…especially the tradition that she danced with seven veils.

 

Notes

[1] Mark 8:18 Having eyes, see ye not? And having ears, hear yet not? And do ye not remember? It is thought and stated that Jesus gave secret teachings to his disciples that he only told in parables to the masses.

[2] In the Book of Esther, when she was picked to be the queen, she was given “seven virgins out of the king’s house” as her handmaidens.

2 thoughts on “The Damsel Queen Esther

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