Helge Bezold

Violence and Empire: Hasmonean Perspectives on Imperial Power and Collective Violence in the Book of Esther

Volume 10 () / Issue 1, pp. 45-62 (18)
Published 15.06.2021

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Scholars have often thought that the book of Esther adopts an anti-imperial outlook through its depiction of the (Persian) Empire as allowing the total annihilation of the Judean people. This paper will provide a more nuanced interpretation. By deconstructing the idea that Esther is characterized by imperial anti-Judean hostility, this article sheds light on the sophisticated ideological reflection in the book on the potential for fruitful interactions between Judean elites and the imperial court. In particular, an analysis of Esther 8–10 shows how Judean elites can be integrated into the imperial court and thereby co-opt and imitate aspects of imperial power, including mechanisms of collective violence. Building on recent scholarship on the influence of Hasmonean ideology on the book of Esther, this paper argues that there are striking similarities with the book of 1 Maccabees in regard to its conceptualization of collective violence and imperial power.

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