Translated by Mordecai Housman
For this translation, I have delved into many of the Rabbinical Writings on the Book of Esther, and availed myself of the study devoted to it in the 2356 years since it was first written.
I have not translated literally, but rather conceptually. Instead of a translation, I have rendered the meaning of the verses, in clear and modern English. Each verse has been translated into an English sentence that means what the original Hebrew verse means.
I have also maintained the original chapter and paragraph divisions, as found in the original Hebrew text. To call attention to them I have added a subtitle before each. Please note that the subtitles themselves are not found in the original Hebrew, or in any other text of the Book of Esther I have encountered. They are purely my own. The idea of using such subtitles was first done, as far as I know, by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan (based on the Talmudic descriptions of the content of each paragraph) in his translation of the Pentateuch, and I have done my best to follow in his footsteps in this matter.
As this is to be a published text, G-d willing, I ask that no one use this, quote it in part or full, nor copy any part or all of it, without authorization from me.
Some Background History
The events detailed in the Book of Esther took place primarily in Shushan, the capital of King Ahasueraus’ empire. Shushan is the Hebrew form of the name Susa. Susa was in the area known as Eilam, in what is now Iran. Back then, it was called Bavel (Babylonia). It was, at that time, part of the empire of Persia and Media. Click here for a map of the area as it looked then. Susa is all the way at the bottom right of the map. (This map is taken, with some small modifications, from page 7 of Martin Gilbert’s Jewish History Atlas, published in London in 1969 by Weidenfeld and Nicholson.)
The events in the Book of Esther took place during the exile from Babylon. The first Holy Temple, built by King Solomon, was destroyed by the Babylonians, and the Jews were taken into exile into Babylonia. (For more details, see my capsule History of the Children of Israel.)
The Jews didn’t all stay there in Babylonia during this exile period. After a while, Jews wandered all over the map and settled in many areas. We find that the Book of Esther says that the decree affected Jews in «all of the empire,» so Jews must have lived in many far-flung provinces of the empire.