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Esther (JPS Bible Commentary)

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Digital list price: $34.99
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The commentary approaches the Book of Esther from a fresh literary point-of-view. It includes essays entitled “When and Where Was the Book of Esther Written?”; “Sex and Spies”; “Rabbinic Interpretation”; and many others. Recipient of the Prize of the Minister of Science, Culture, and Sport [of the State of Israel] for classical literature for the year 5762 [2001].

This resource is available as part of the JPS Tanakh Commentary Collection (11 volumes).

Top Highlights

“Most scholars now date the writing of the Book of Esther to the late Persian or early Greek period, roughly between 400–200 b.c.e.” (Page xli)

“The tone of the book fits its purpose: a comic story for a carnivalesque holiday.” (Page xvi)

“Are the events recounted in it true? In other words, is the book historic ally accurate? Arguing against the book’s historicity is the fact that many things in the story conflict with our knowledge about Persian history or are too fantastic to be believable.” (Page xvi)

“In the Greek versions of Esther, which de-emphasize Purim, the comic elements are diminished. The Hebrew Esther and the festival of Purim bring us a uniquely irreverent and joyously optimistic celebration of Jewish identity and Jewish continuity.” (Page xvi)

“To govern a country in which a law could never be changed would make governing impossible” (Page xvii)

Praise for the Print Edition

This informative commentary ... dissects the Book of Esther and, by extension, the Jewish holiday of Purim. Berlin begins with a lengthy introduction, discussing Esther as comedy and as Diaspora literature; the introduction does a fine job of explaining the Persian period and its various art forms.

Publishers Weekly

Product Details

  • Title: The JPS Torah Commentary: Esther
  • Author: Adele Berlin
  • Series: JPS Torah Commentary
  • Publisher: Jewish Publication Society
  • Publication Date: 2001
  • Pages: 110

About Adele Berlin

Adele Berlin, a scholar of biblical and ancient Near Eastern literature, has developed the Biblical Studies program at the University of Maryland and has designed and taught courses on biblical narrative and poetry, ancient Near Eastern culture and literature, and methods of biblical interpretation.

About the Jewish Publication Society

The Jewish Publication Society of America was founded in Philadelphia in 1888 to provide the children of Jewish immigrants to America with books about their heritage in the language of the New World. As the oldest publisher of Jewish titles in the English language, the mission of JPS is to enhance Jewish culture by promoting the dissemination of religious and secular works of exceptional quality, in the United States and abroad, to all individuals and institutions interested in past and contemporary Jewish life.

Over the years JPS has issued a body of works for all tastes and needs. Its many titles include biographies, histories, art books, holiday anthologies, books for young readers, religious and philosophical studies, and translations of scholarly and popular classics. It is perhaps known best for its famous JPS Tanakh, the translation of the Hebrew Bible in English from the original Hebrew.

Sample Pages from the Print Edition

Sample pages: 1 | 2 | 3


2 ratings

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  2. GeoPappas



    While I usually greatly enjoy the JPS commentaries because they include a great amount of information from Jewish tradition, history, etc., I am a bit disappointed with this book. The author seems to believe that many of the Biblical stories are myths or fairy tales. Here is a quote from the book: "The story itself is implausible as history and, as many scholars now agree, it is better viewed as imaginative storytelling, not unlike others that circulated in the Persian and Hellenistic periods among Jews of the Land of Israel and of the Diaspora." Here is another quote from the book: " would be a mistake to equate the Ahasuerus of Esther with a historical figure. Ahasuerus is no more a real historical personage than the obviously pseudo-historical “king of Nineveh” in Jonah or “Darius the Mede” in Daniel. These impossible royal personages are indicators of a fictional mode." The author also calls Esther a "comedy", "farce" and "burlesque". Here are a few more quotes from the book: "Understanding the Book of Esther as a comedy allows us to recognize that the threat to the Jews is not real." "It is in this light that we should understand Esther. The largest interpretive problems melt away if the story is taken as a farce or a comedy associated with a carnival-like festival." Sorry, but I have read Esther a few times and don't remember ever laughing. But don't get me wrong, there is a lot of material in the book that is useful. I just wish the author didn't try to go out of their way to make the story of Esther into a myth or fairy tale.


Digital list price: $34.99
Save $7.00 (20%)