Historicity of the book of Esther: The case of seven, thirteen and Hemerological Divinations  (1)


koot van wyk (DLitt et Phil; ThD)

Visiting Professor

Kyungpook National University

Sangju Campus

conjoint lecturer of Avondale College

16 September 2011


There is no way how the book of Esther could have been fabricated in a late date somewhere in the Hellenistic times, or later. The book of Esther, breaths the culture that existed in the fifth century BCE and earlier. All Assyriologists should be able to see that but beyond their own personal willingness or not to agree with the statements made in this article, we have to say there is evidence that the book of Esther actually came from the fifth century BCE.

An excellent source for analyzing Hemerologies is the one written by Ulla Susanne Koch, "Concepts and Perception of Time in Mesopotamian Divination" which was the paper presented at the Recontre Assyriologique in 2010 pages 1-26.

Divination was commonly practiced in Sumer, Akkad, Ur III period, Old Babylonian Period, Kassite period, Middle Assyrian period, Neo Assyrian and Neo-Babylonian periods and also in the courts of the Persian kings, including Xerxes, the king Ahasveros of the book of Esther.

Koch is very helpful since she studied many texts dealing with divination to make her conclusions. There are a number of "straight talk" rules that we have to lay down before we continue with this important subject. Before we compare the results of scholars on hemerologies of the Ancient Near East, especially the Babylonian and Assyrian ones, we need to say something about epistemology and methodology of the observer and one who makes conclusions.


1. The observer's conclusions are based upon his methodology which is the outcome of decisions made on the basis of his epistemology and mostly, his lifestyle or ontology navigate those decisions to polarize to what he likes and dislikes, accepts or wish to discard, thus affecting his epistemology.


2. If the observer is an atheist or nihilist, the conclusions will cut out any reality or inroads the transcedental can make to his empiricism, thus only the horizontal are investigated. The conclusions will thus be all parked in a humanistic existential limited horizontal plane, cutting out any transcedental or vertical aspect.


3. If the observer is a believer and the Scripture is the prime navigational orientation from the outside of his own existence, a Scripture that is accepted what it claims, namely that God met man and gave His own revelation to man in book form to him. Then the humanistic analysis of the data will answer only the false religions or false divinations of the Ancient Near East, but they cannot be a blueprint for the understanding of divinations in the form of prophecies in the Old Testament or New Testament for example.

Therefore, the use of Koch by citing the work by Pascal Boyer, Religion Explained. The human instincts that fashion gods, spirits and ancestors (London: William Heinemann, 2001) will be accepted by atheist and nihilistic scholars as the totality of reality of the phenomenon, whereas the believer will see this explanation by Boyer as just applicable [with reservations and criticism of Boyer that we will indicate below] to false religion and all religions that are not part of the religion explained in the Scripture, accepted as the only religion that holds true. Boyer holds that the innate cognitive constraints fit gods into the ontological category person, they are person-like and agents with whom we can interact, like us they hear, see, feel. Gods and humans interact as humans interact; gods take part in social congress and exchange" (Koch 2010: 4). The axiom of Boyer is an accepted axiom of delimiting our innate cognitive abilities by refusing the role played by the vertical revelation of the transcendental or God making inroads into our empiricism. If empirical senses and experience and self-existence is the only doors to data construction on a cognitive level, about gods, then the natural outcome is that our innate cognitive abilities constraints gods into the category of our own ontological limitations. The believer distinguish between false and true religion and the true religion is the blueprint since after the Fall of Adam and Eve God found them in the garden and kept dealing with them as His people. But deviations caused people shortly before the Flood and after to distort the truth or the true reality with substitutions, mixing pantheistic, naturalistic and other ideas with truth to get a similar phenomenon as the original primary but not the same as the original. They are thus secondary and treated as such by the believer. Thus, Boyer's theories do not work for the Biblical truth but only for Ancient Near Eastern religions, which are all false religions.

Thus, when we are going to approach the book of Esther as another Ancient Near Eastern document, it is a document with a difference. It is the truth, unblemished, with a strong vertical impact that affects the horizontal aspects of the book.

A second criticism against Boyer's paradigm, is that no one starts innate cognitive construction from a clean slate. Past theories, concepts, canonizations, cherished ideas, taboos, forms part of the educational makeup of the developing adult doing the construction. Truth and error is mixed and forms ingredients when the innate cognitive abilities wish to start creating concepts of their gods. What we mean by this is that the true religion as presented by Adam and Eve and successive generations, had also a role to play in the design of religion of Sumer and Akkad and Ur III and Old Babylonian times and later. Hugo Radau, the Assyriology scholar ca. 1900 made the blunder of thinking that the cart is in front of the horse, that Adam and Eve was invented and aligned with the true religion as presented in the Babylonian religions before the exile. Moses did not exist in the fifteenth century BCE according to Radau and thus Genesis was not composed from written Hebrew sources by Moses like the book of Adam and the book of Noah et al, but was fabrications from Babylonian sources. We suggest just the opposite. Once the deviation from the true religion of Adam and Eve was created in the days of Noah, after the Flood of 2523 BCE, it became a canon to be transmitted or emulated. The true religion was also preserved and that is why we have the Scriptures which contain this true religion of God. It is the only true religion. There is no space for pluralism, inclusivism in this scientific approach. For the Adventist scholar, it may be Boyer for the false religions, but for the Bible, Boyer is too limited a paradigm, to exclusive in scope and perspective, too one-sided. Combining the vertical and the horizontal with the vertical as primary and horizontal as secondary paradigm is a better option.

A background of what divination was in the religions of the Ancient Near East, is important to understand. The work of Koch is very helpful here.