Question:

Is there more to the book of Esther, beyond chapter 10, or does it end at verse 3?

Thank you.

Answer:

The Roman Catholic Church and the various Orthodox churches accept several additions to the Old Testament, among them is a set of additions to the book of Esther. These additions are only known to exist in Greek and were a part of the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. However, these additions do not appear in any of the ancient Hebrew manuscripts that we have.

"There are six items contained in these five sections.

  1. 11:2-12 prefaces the story with a dream in which Mordecai receives a premonition of the events that are to follow and gives a variant of the story of the plot against the king discovered by Mordecai, which is related in 2:21-23 and alluded to in 6:2.
  2. In 13:1-7 the text of the decree drafted by Haman in the king's name is supplied.
  3. 13:8-18 and 14:1-19 supply appropriate prayers offered by Mordecai and Esther as she prepares to enter the presence of the king to intercede for the Jews. In Mordecai's prayer is a pious explanation for his refusal to bow to Haman; Esther's prayer ends with the striking petition, 'And save me from my fear!'
  4. 15:1-16 is a much more elaborate account of Esther's preparation, entrance, and reception by the king than the brief statement in 5:1-2 which it replaces.
  5. 16:1-24 supplies the royal decree nullifying the original one against the Jews and making provisions for their self-defense. Here we learn the surprising fact that Haman is not a Persian but a Macedonian! (16:10) The edict also provides the explicit connection of this letter with the Feast of Purim (cf. the colophon 11:1).
  6. As the Greek Esther opens with an account of Mordecai's dream, so it closes with its interpretation and a note as to how it had been fulfilled. The appended colophon credits the Greek translation to one Lysimachus of Jerusalem.

Several discrepancies between the Greek and the Hebrew texts make it appear likely that the additions were made at a later time in order to clarify and 'correct' the older version (cf. 12:2 with 2:21-23; 12:5 with 6:3; 12:6 with 3:2-6; 16:10 with 3:1; 16:22-23 with 9:20-28)." [James King West, Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 456.]

Notice that the additions are supplements. They don't appear in the actual story of Esther, but seem to be given to fill in what someone thought were missing essential elements. One is that the Hebrew version of Esther doesn't directly talk about God or theology. The additions do so heavily as if to correct what someone thought was a flaw in Esther. The additions also make Haman into a Greek from Macedonia. But Esther 3:1 says Haman was an Agagite. This alteration would fit the Jewish mindset during days of the Maccabees who were battling the Greeks for control of Israel. However, this is also a mark dating the additions to be too lately written.

The information as to when the translation was done that appears in the additions gives us a hint as to when these additions were likely written:

"The date, however, helpfully records the year in which Dositheus brought the scroll to Alexandria. Unfortunately, every successor of Ptolemy I took the name Ptolemy, and several were married to a Cleopatra. Bickerman (1944: 346-47) determined that the translation was accomplished in 78-77 B.C.E., the fourth year of the reign of Ptolemy XII Auletes and Cleopatra V. The other popular date is 114-113 B.C.E., the fourth year of the reign of Ptolemy VIII Soter II and an earlier Cleopatra (Moore 1977: 250; Jacob 1890: 279-80). Bickerman rejects this possibility—as well as a third, Ptolemy XIII, the brother and husband of the famous Cleopatra—since the queen was acting in both cases as a regent for a younger Ptolemy in the fourth years of those reigns, and official documents listed Cleopatra first in those cases, unlike the colophon of Esther. In addition to two lively possibilities for the date of the translation, the colophon also preserves a name, Lysimachus—a resident of Jerusalem, probably with an Egyptian Jewish background (his father's name, Ptolemy, suggests this), thus perhaps explaining why the book should speak so well to the Egyptian Jewish situation, whither it was sent (Pfeiffer 1949: 311)." [David A. deSilva, Introducing the Apocrypha, p. 117.]

Notice that this would place the writing of the additions long after the actual book of Esther takes place by about 350 years or more. (Esther covers events from 483 to 473 BC.) They appear in the years of silence when there was no inspired prophet of God (Amos 8:11-12).

As with the other apocrypha, the additions to Esther contain errors. For example, in the addition Esther 11:2 Mordecai discovers the plot against the king in the second year of his reign, but Esther 2:16, 21 say that it happened during the seventh year of Ahasuerus' reign. We also have the change of Haman's national origin as noted earlier.

"Nonetheless, there are some major issues involving the chronology of the additions. The first one (A) introduces Mordecai as serving in the court under Artaxerxes. It also reports that he was among those taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. If Mordecai came in that first deportation under Jehoiachin, as the text states, it would have happened in 597 BCE. Artaxerxes reigned from 465-424 BCE. That would make Mordecai well over one hundred years old. Clearly, the author was not concerned with such historical facts" [Mary Jane Chaignot, "Additions to Esther," Bible Wise].

For all these reasons, the additions to Esther are rightly placed among the false writings and are not a part of the biblical canon.