Ahasuerus = God (Book of Esther)


So many people think that Purim story represents that point in time and place where God hides His [sic] face, decamps from the historical scene. But there He is, hiding in plain sight. God is Ahashuerus, the bumbling King, the capricious King. I have this on good authority. According to the rabbis in the  commentary Esther Rabbah 1, “Whenever in this book we find expression ‘to the king Ahasuerus,’ the text speaks of the actual king Ahasuerus; whenever we find just ‘to the king,’ it may be either sacred or profane.” In Esther Rabbah 3:15, the anger of King Ahasuerus is compared to the wrath of God, and in 10:1, a sleeping God is compared to the restless Ahasuerus. “Is God then subject to sleep?” the rabbis ask. “It can happen,” they know. Forget the difference between Mordechai the hero and Haman the villain. It’s the difference between this king and that King that makes the book of Esther such a theological grotesque. Somehow, we all bumble through…without a messiah!

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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2 Responses to Ahasuerus = God (Book of Esther)

  1. Has anyone written this up philosophically? I love Esther as a text in political philosophy but I did not know this piece of commentary. Seems like it might be the lynchpin of a beautiful interpretation.

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