Esther and the Politics of Negotiation: Public and Private Spaces and the Figure of the Female Royal Counselor
Availability: In stock.
Emerging Scholars category: Bible
Release Date: Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Was Esther unique—an anomaly in patriarchal society? Conventionally, scholars see ancient Israelite and Jewish women as excluded from the public world, their power concentrated instead in the domestic realm and exercised through familial structures. Rebecca S. Hancock demonstrates, in contrast, that because of the patrimonial character of ancient Jewish society, the state was often organized along familial lines. The presence of women in roles of queen consort or queen is therefore a key political, and not simply domestic, feature.
Attention to the narrative of Esther and comparison with Hellenistic and Persian historiography depicting “wise women” acting in royal contexts reveals that Esther is in fact representative of a wider tradition. Women could participate in political life structured along familial and kinship lines. Further, Hancock’s demonstration qualifies the bifurcation of “public” (male-dominated) and “private” (female-dominated) space in the ancient Near East.
“This engaging work invites readers to view both the character and book of Esther in new, more complex ways. Situating Esther in light of Israelite and Greek literary traditions, it demonstrates how current models for understanding gender in ancient Israel tend to obfuscate rather than illuminate the ways in which gender and power are contingent and negotiable.”
—Claire Mathews McGinnis
Loyola University Maryland
“This learned but readable book demonstrates that social history and literary analysis can interact productively. It sheds valuable light not only on the book of Esther itself but on the role of women in ancient Israel more broadly, boldly challenging the sharp dichotomy between public and private realms. Highly recommended!”
—Jon D. Levenson
“Rebecca Hancock’s study of Esther breaks new ground by presenting a fresh paradigm to understand gender in the biblical world, one which moves beyond the old fashioned idea of public and private spaces and allows for a more fluid and complex role for women. This book should be read not only by those interested in Esther but by those interested in the wider topic of women’s roles in antiquity.”
McCormick Theological Seminary
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