It has often been suggested — and by often, I mean every single Pagan I have ever talked to has mentioned it, and half of the Jews who knew anything about Judaism have said it to me, personally, at least once– that the Book of Ester was actually a veiled myth about Marduk and Ishtar.
Can you blame them?
Purim is widely known to be a Jewish adaptation of a Babylonian drinking holiday. Just listen to the names, too. Mordechai and Esther. They sound like the dames of those two deities.
I decided to do some investigation into this Babylonian drinking holiday, and was lead back to an ancient Babylonian tale about how the hero, Marduk, defeated Tiamat. In it, there are indeed many similarities to the Purim story.
The antagonist, Tiamat, is terrorizing the good gods (or the ones that the reader is supposed to be rooting for). In the third tablet we learn,
17. “All the gods have turned to her,
18. “With those, whom ye created, they go at her side.
19. ”They are banded together, and at the side of Tiamat they advance;
20 . “They are furious, they devise mischief without resting night and day.
21. ”They prepare for battle, fuming and raging;
22. “They have joined their forces and are making war.”
“The gods” here are sort of a faceless multitude.
Likewise, in the Book of Ester, there is a faceless multitude waiting to do evil to the Jews:
“And the letters were sent by posts into all the king’s provinces, to destroy, to kill, and to cause to perish, all Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day, even upon the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which is the month Adar, and to take the spoil of them for a prey.” (Esther, 3:13)
In both, there is also a wine feast that is instrumental in swinging the tide of history over to the side of the “good guys.”
In the Enuma Elish, Tablet 3:
133. They made ready for the feast, at the banquet [they sat];
134. They ate bread, they mixed [sesame-wine].
135. The sweet drink, the mead, confused their […],
136. They were drunk with drinking, their bodies were filled.
137. They were wholly at ease, their spirit was exalted;
138. Then for Marduk, their avenger, did they decree the fate.
and in the Book of Esther:
“Now it came to pass on the third day, that Esther put on her royal apparel, and stood in the inner court of the king’s house, over against the king’s house: and the king sat upon his royal throne in the royal house, over against the gate of the house.
And it was so, when the king saw Esther the queen standing in the court, that she obtained favour in his sight: and 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 the kingdom.
And Esther answered, If it seem good unto the king, let the king and Haman come this day unto the banquet that I have prepared for him.”(Esther, 5:1-4)
An aside: Scepter? Do you mean his staff? His power rod? The big long thing he likes to have in his hand? Yeah. It’s tip. She touched it. Oh yes, the Jewish people went there.
The stories also have a very similar ending, too.
From the Enumah Elish (fourth tablet):
27. When the gods, his fathers, beheld (the fulfilment of) his word,
28. They rejoiced, and they did homage (unto him, saying), ” Marduk is king! ”
29. They bestowed upon him the sceptre, and the throne, and the ring,
101. He seized the spear and burst her belly,
102. He severed her inward parts, he pierced (her) heart.
103. He overcame her and cut off her life;
104. He cast down her body and stood upon it.
105. When he had slain Tiamat, the leader,
106. Her might was broken, her host was scattered.
107. And the gods her helpers, who marched by her side,
108. Trembled, and were afraid, and turned back.
109. They took to flight to save their lives;
110. But they were surrounded, so that they could not escape.
111. He took them captive, he broke their weapons;
112. In the net they were caught and in the snare they sat down.
113. The […] … of the world they filled with cries of grief.
And in the book of Ester:
“8:1 On that day did the king Ahasuerus give the house of Haman the Jews’ enemy unto Esther the queen. And Mordecai came before the king; for Esther had told what he was unto her.
8:2 And the king took off his ring, which he had taken from Haman, and gave it unto Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.”
“8:17 And in every province, and in every city, whithersoever the king’s commandment and his decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a good day. And many of the people of the land became Jews; for the fear of the Jews fell upon them.”
and then, just in case the Hebrew Mythos left it unclear as to who, exactly, is wearing the pants:
“And the king said unto Esther the queen, The Jews have slain and destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the palace, and the ten sons of Haman; what have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces? now what is thy petition? and it shall be granted thee: or what is thy request further? and it shall be done.
Then said Esther, If it please the king, let it be granted to the Jews which are in Shushan to do to morrow also according unto this day’s decree, and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged upon the gallows.” (Esther, 9:12-13)
Do not. Mess. With Jewish. Women. Ever.
So, I think I’ve successfully proven that these two are roughly the same myth. Because the Enuma Elish is huge and fragmentary, let me give you a plot synopsis. For those interested, of course, the text can be found here:
Once upon a time, the world was ruled by Mother Earth. For some reason, a few of the male deities decided that this was not good. A wine feast was set, and during it, while all the gods were drunk, Marduk was appointed King, and charged to go and slay Tiamat and all the gods who supported her. Marduk slew Tiamat, and fear of Marduk fell upon her supporters. Marduk was merciful with them, and punished them, but didn’t slay them. Everybody does what Marduk says forever and ever.
I want you to notice who is conspicuously absent from the myth. WHERE IS ISHTAR? This myth sucks! It’s about a bunch of male deities raining domination on the Earth Mother. What the fuck?
Actually, I think even in ancient times, this must have been a pretty typical reaction for a Jew. I’ll explain why by telling you what happens in the Book of Esther. If the Book of Esther was a covert version of the Enuma Elish, then let me give you a plot synopsis, reconstructed as a Babylonian Myth.
(You can find it online here: http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Bible/Esther.html)
Once upon a time, the world was ruled by a careless and foolish male deity (let’s call him Apsu) who simply did whatever the evil gods around him told him to do. He most especially listened to Kingu, and Kingu essentially ruled everything.
Apsu had a consort, but Kingu told him to get rid of her, so he did. Then, Apsu was sad. He held a beauty contest and commanded that all of the goddesses come before him that he might choose who was the most beautiful, then force her to marry him.
Ishtar thought about it for thirty seconds, then said, “I’ve got this covered.”
Because she is Ishtar, she obviously was the sexiest, and soon she was made Queen of Heaven. Meanwhile, Marduk just kind of hung around outside not doing much.
Irritated with Marduk’s unwillingness to bow down to any other god, Kingu decreed that all the gods ruled by Apsu should destroy the Annunaki, thus sticking it to Marduk. Little did Kingu know that the King’s new bride was a princess of the Anunaki, and would not sit quietly while this occurred.
Ishtar, who had not been summoned by Apsu, went to him, and touched his penis. Apsu declared that she could consequently have whatever she wanted. She said that she was having a wine feast, and that Kingu should attend.
At the wine feast, Ishtar announced that she was one of the Anunaki, and that Kingu was trying to kill her. Apsu was furious. Kingu threw himself on Ishtar’s mercy, but Ishtar has no mercy, because she is Ishtar. Apsu ordered his guards to take the Queen’s enemy and have him executed, instantly.
Apsu then gave the rule of the Kingdom to Ishtar, who in turn, appointed Marduk in Kingu’s place.
The Goddess of Love and War used all the forces of the King to reign fiery blood and terror upon her enemies, and when Apsu asked what else she wanted, she declared that she wanted MORE bloodshed. Everyone either joined the Anunaki out of sheer terror, or died a horrible, bloody death.
Everyone lived happily ever after.
Read: Achoshverosh in place of Apsu, Esther in place of Ishtar, Mordechai in place of Marduk, and Haman in place of Kingu, and that is the story of Purim. Mother Earth is not slain, Ishtar is Queen, Marduk gets a position in the court. Male and female deities participate equally.
Babylonian mythology, fix’d.
But wait, there is more.
If you read the Book of Ester, someone, or maybe something, is conspicuously absent. Hashem is not mentioned in this story. Hashem’s consort, however, is.
“Thus said Hashem: ‘I recall for you the lovingkindness of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed Me into the wilderness, into an unsown land.’ ” (Jeremiah 2:2)
In this, Hashem makes clear the identity of Hashem’s spouse. Who was it that followed Hashem into the wilderness?
“And they took their journey from Elim, and all the congregation of the children of Israel came unto the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departing out of the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 16:1)
It is the Jewish people, the consort of Hashem, that is very much in evidence during this story. Is it any wonder, then, that where the Babylonians write about gods, our corresponding myth talks about us?
Look, too, at our Tauroctony myth. Where the “sacred cow” is slain by Hermes in the Greek Mythology (Homeric Hymn #4) and the Roman Tauroctony involves a god named Mithras, who is the corresponding figure in Hebrew mythology?
“And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing; and Moses’ anger waxed hot, and he cast the tables out of his hands, and broke them beneath the mount. And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it with fire, and ground it to powder, and strewed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.” (Exodus 32:19-20)
We, the Jewish people, are the gods of our own mythology, and on Purim, we are commanded by the customs of our people to, “make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions of food one to another, and gifts to the poor.” (Esther, 9:22)
Go, my friends: feast and drink like gods! Do not, however, forget those less fortunate than yourselves, for a good deity is thoughtful of those who are in need, or who are less powerful than themselves.