In Part I of our study on Esther and Joseph, we saw that Esther rises to prominence like Joseph, but also that Haman gains authority in Persia in the same way that Joseph did in Egypt; while Esther adopts the themes and language of the Joseph story, it does so to highlight the severity of the situation for Jews under Haman. The author of Esther then draws on Joseph’s story to show the reader that, unfortunately, things get worse before they get better.

The fate that Joseph suffers at the hands of his brothers foreshadows the threat that Haman makes against all the Jews of Persia. After Joseph’s brothers throw him into a pit, “Midianite traders… sold (מכר; machar) him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver (עשׂרים כסף; ‘esrim kaseph)” (Gen 37:28). While only one Hebrew gets sold into Egypt – and for only twenty silver pieces – in Esther all of God’s people are “sold” for far more than Joseph’s price. Haman states, “Let it be decreed that [the Jews] be destroyed, and I will pay ten thousand talents of silver (עשׂרת אלפים ככר כסף; ‘eseret ‘alaphim kikar keseph)” (Est 3:9)! In light of this Jewish persecution under Haman, Esther tells the king that, just like Joseph, “‘We have been sold (מכר; machar), I and my people, to be destroyed” (Est 7:4). The threat against Esther and her people is an even more severe version of what happened to Joseph.

In response to Haman’s threat, Esther engineers her people’s salvation, just as Joseph saves people from famine. Joseph tells Pharaoh to “appoint overseers (יפקד פקדים; yafked pekidim)… and let them gather (קבץ; kavats) all the food of these good years that are coming and store up grain” (Gen 41:34-35). The same Hebrew language describes Esther’s entry into the king’s harem, from which she emerges as queen and saves her entire Jewish people. The Persian king’s attendants tell him to “appoint overseers (יפקד פקדים; yafked pekidim)… to gather (קבץ; kavats) all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in Susa” (Est 2:3). On the one hand, “overseers” in Persia “gather” women like the “overseers” in Egypt “gather” grain (!), which highlights the Persians’ objectifying view of their female subjects in the story, as well as the level of adversity that Esther will need to overcome as a woman in the Empire. But also, just as the grain that Joseph decreed to be gathered in Egypt would save people from famine, the women gathered in Persia would include Esther — the one who would save her people from destruction. Thus, the author of Esther echoes the latter part of Genesis to alert the reader that, like Joseph, Esther will rise from lowly status to become the savior of her people.



  1. Dr Eeli we are approaching easter holiday please shed some light on Jesus's seven words on the cross. Especially the fourth one.

    Radebe Emmanuel.
  2. Hi Dr Schaser
    I can see the similarities and also that Joseph and Esther appear to be in reverse position, I thought after reading this that Haman assumed he was fit to Judge in the Lord's place because of wealth and power and his own devices were served on him
  3. The Bible I am reading at the moment (the Jerusalem Bible) describes Haman as a Macedonian in the decree of rehabilitation, is this a correct translation from Hebrew?
    • Good question, Jon. Haman is referred to as a Macedonian in one of the additions to the Greek version of Esther (see Greek Esther 8:12 [Addition E]). However, this detail is added by the Jewish-Greek translators/authors and does not appear in the original Hebrew text.
  4. Hi Prof. Many theories abound as to why Mordecai refused to bow to Haman as per the order of the King. One theory which stands out is that Haman was an Amalekite (an enemy of God and the Jews) and therefore Modercai could not see himself bowing to the enemy. I have read Esther and the text is silent on the reasons that led Modercai to bow to Haman. Am I missing something? May you assist with some reasons.
    • Yes, I've heard the Jew vs. Amalekite theory, among several others. The text is silent on the reason, but there are many similarities between Mordecai's refusal of Haman and Vashti's earlier refusal of Ahasuerus, for which the text similarly provides no rationale. The silence on the reasoning in both instances is one way by which the author gets the reader to compare all the elements of each refusal.
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  5. Thank you for this series, Dr. Schaser. It is very interesting to compare the similarities and the differences in the stories, as well as between the characters.

    One fascinating difference (maybe a similarity, in certain aspects) is that whereas Esther's solution the the threat (the threat of murder) involved the people asserting an element of freedom (freedom to use deadly force to defend their lives), Joseph's solution (collecting all the grain for seven years) to the threat of starvation led to the people of Egypt losing their own freedom and ultimately selling their own bodies as slaves to the state.

    Looking at the Haman/Joseph connection (sudden rise to lofty position of power), Haman effectively bought a nation of slaves (albeit the displaced nation of Israel) with money, whereas Joseph bought a nation of slaves (the Egyptian people) with grain.

    The people saved from murder in the Esther story gained favor in a later regime, such that the regime allowed them (the Jews) to leave and go back to Canaan (to re-establish Israel). The people saved from starvation in Joseph's story were two - the Egyptians who immediately became slaves and the Israelites who became royalty-adjacent (housed and fed by the royal court, living at the "top" of society). (Later, after Joseph's death, YHVH flipped the situation, with the re-elevation of the Egyptian people and the enslavement and hardening-for-the-exodus of the Israelite people.) Eventually, the similarity resumed and the Israelites were allowed (make that "allowed") to leave and return to Canaan (to establish Israel).


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