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Character and Ideology in the Book of Esther Paperback – October 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

The Halls-Bascom Professor of Hebrew Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 344 pages
  • Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company; 2 edition (October 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802848818
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802848819
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #553,368 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By J. F. McCord on June 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
Dr. Fox accomplishes many things in his treatment of Esther and brings along a few negatives. First of all, it would be foolish to not see this commentary and character analysis as one of the most creative, novel treatments of Esther to come to the Esther studies in English in some time. The utilization of the "close-reading" style of narrative criticism to get at the author's utilization of themes and characterization will enable most (if not all) to read this narrative in a fresh light.

Fox's honesty when dealing with the "heroine (?)" Esther is a must read for all traditionalists and those who read the story with gilded pages. The methodology on the whole is thorough, though there were a few areas that had me (and my seminar group along with me) scratching my head concerning certain inconsistencies in weighing data for conclusions. In certain areas said conclusions could be more prominent, with Fox sometimes settling to present the case for multiple options and not definitively defending a certain point of view. One may also find fault that Fox does not deal with any issues at length in Greek Esther(s) (eg Alpha text, LXX, etc) which may have helped inform certain aspects of his character portrait (eg, What does the Greek prayer of Mordecai addition (?) add to the earliest perceptions of him as character?), but this is his prerogative.

Despite little percieved problems, on the whole the book is excellent, and along with the JPS commentary by Adele Berlin and the monograph by JD Levenson I believe this book composes one third of the best and most recent mainstream Jewish scholarship on the Hebrew text.
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I would absolutely recommend this book for anyone wishing to thoroughly study the characters and content within the book of Esther. Evangelicals might have a difficult time working with Fox's conclusion (assumption) that the story must be a work of fiction, nevertheless his analysis of the The Scroll an intelligently written piece of literature meant to instruct and explain various bits of theology and tradition is well worth reading and considering. I thought his assessment regarding the silence/absence of God throughout the book of Esther was really spot on -- he strove to think as the author might have thought and thus produced an extremely viable conclusion: Esther helps us understand/construct a theology of the possible. It helps us act even when we're uncertain, and it doesn't treat uncertainty like a spiritual flaw. Instead, Esther is honest about our limitations in faith, and whispers about how we might yet act in accordance with God's will...even when we make decisions we're only hoping and praying are the best.
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