Esther and Joseph: beautiful people
In particular, the author of the book of Esther in part modeled his heroes on Joseph, as if to say: we can survive in the Diaspora if we act like our forefather Joseph. The plot of his story contains numerous parallels to that of Joseph’s story. Consider the following:
- A Jew rises to prominence in the foreign court.
- There is a downturn in the hero’s fortunes.
- Two courtiers challenge the king and are punished, and through them the hero becomes known to the king.
- The fortunes of the heroes are reversed through the king’s sleeplessness.
- The drama ends with a banquet where the invitees do not know the identity of the host.
- As a result, the heroes rise to even greater, royal power.
In case these parallels were lost on any particularly obtuse readers, the author included a few lines guaranteed to bring the Joseph story to mind. read the rest here
But in addition to this we read that Esther was יְפַת-תֹּאַר, וְטוֹבַת מַרְאֶה beautiful in form and fair in appearance, while Joseph was יְפֵה-תֹאַר וִיפֵה מַרְאֶה beautiful in form and beautiful in appearance. This he inherited from his mother who was יְפַת-תֹּאַר, וִיפַת מַרְאֶה also.
Esther had this in common with Joseph that her beautiful appearance made her vulnerable to the desire of a foreigner. Joseph was beautiful and desired by Potiphar’s wife. Esther ended up in the king’s harem while Joseph landed in prison. Both subsequently achieved power through their intelligence and were able to serve their own people.
Others who were labeled as beautiful in the Hebrew Bible are David, Absalom, Abigail and Tamar. For Absalom and Tamar this lead to an unhappy ending, but for David and Abigail it was perceived as a good thing. For Joseph and Esther beauty brought them to the attention of the powerful, and although this lead to misfortune, they were able to survive the initial misadventure and live to see a positive resolution.
Perhaps Driscoll and co. would not like the Hebrew Bible very much, since heroes are sometimes beautiful and sometimes strong, or both; and heroines are the same, sometimes beautiful and sometimes strong, and sometimes both.
Perhaps we will soon be able to read on Rachel’s blog a rabbi’s response to Driscoll’s interpretation.