Joakim and Susanna’s progression to become Mordecai and Esther


Damien F. Mackey


“And Mordecai the Jew was next in rank to King Ahasuerus. He was a man held

in respect among the Jews, esteemed by thousands of his brothers, a man who

sought the good of his people and cared for the welfare of his entire race”.

Esther 10:3


With the assistance of a significantly revised Neo-Babylonian dynasty through to the early Medo-Persian period, I have been able historically to identify the wicked King Belshazzar of Daniel 5 as King Evil-Merodach, son of Nebuchednezzar II ‘the Great’, and the un-named second ruler in Belshazzar’s kingdom as Jehoiachin (or Coniah), whom Evil-Merodach had exalted over the other princes in Babylon (2 Kings 25:27-30).


These are all historically verifiable kings.


Now, if Jehoiachin (Coniah) is also, as I have identified him:


Haman un-masked

then that leads us into the Book of Esther, and to Mordecai, who, with Queen Esther herself, would expose the machinations of Haman.


Is there any evidence that this Mordecai, too, was a real historical person?


There may be. David J. Clines, in his article “The Quest for the Historical Mordecai” (, writes of one “Marduka” in Susa during the Persian period whom various scholars have considered as a possible candidate for Mordecai. I am interested here in what Clines writes about these various opinions, since Clines himself seems pre-disposed to dismiss the Book of Esther as merely “a romance”:


…. it appears to be necessary to insist that evidence for a Persian official at Susa named Marduka, if that is really what we have, is next to useless in any debate about a historical Mordecai. For if on other grounds it seems probable that the book of Esther is a romance and not a historical record, it is quite irrelevant to the larger question of the historicity of the writing to discover that one of its characters bears a name attested for a historical person. Fictitious characters usually do. ….


Clines tells of these other estimations of Marduka:


In the standard works, commentaries, encyclopaedias and monographs, wherever the historicity of the Book of Esther is discussed, there is usually to be found some reference to the possible extra-biblical evidence for Mordecai. Here is an extract from a typical encyclopaedia article in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible:


Reference must be made to a single undated cuneiform document from the Persian period, found at Borsippa, which refers to a certain Marduka who was a finance officer of some sort in the Persian court at Susa during the reign of Xerxes I. While a connection between such an individual and the Mordecai of the book of Esther is in no sense established, the possibility of such a historical event as is related in Esther cannot be dismissed out of hand. ….


Carey A. Moore, the author of the Anchor Bible commentary on Esther, is a little more positive about the implications of the reference to Marduka. This official, who ‘served as an accountant on an inspection tour from Susa’, could be, he suggests, ‘the biblical Mordecai because, in all likelihood, Mordecai was an official of the king prior to his being invested in [Est.] 8.2 with the powers previously conferred on Haman’. To Moore, ‘at first glance all of this seems rather persuasive, if not conclusive’. While he is indeed careful to point out the uncertainties that surround the identification of Marduka with Mordecai, he nevertheless concludes that


since the epigraphic evidence concerning Marduka certainly prevents us from categorically ruling out as pure fiction the Mordecai episodes in the Book of Esther, it is safest for us to conclude that the story of Mo[r]decai may very well have to it a kernel of truth. ….


Robert Gordis, rather more boldly, appears to have no reservations whatever about the identification of Mordecai with Marduka.

For him, the attestation of the names Marduka and Mrdk … is ‘the strongest support thus far for the historical character of the book’. …. He writes:


A Persian text dating from the last years of Darius I or the early years of Xerxes I mentions a government official in Susa named Marduka, who served as an inspector on an official tour … [T]he phrase yōšēb bĕša‘ar hammelekh, ‘sitting in the king’s gate,’ which is applied to Mordecai repeatedly in the book, indicates his role as a judge or a minor official in the Persian court before his elevation to the viziership.


The conclusion to be drawn is rather obvious:


That there were two officials with the same name at the same time in the same place is scarcely likely. ….


From Edwin M. Yamauchi we even gain the impression that the identification of Marduka with Mordecai has now become the consensus scholarly view:


Mardukâ is listed as a sipîr (‘an accountant’) who makes an inspection tour of Susa during the last years of Darius or early years of Xerxes. It is Ungnad’s conviction that ‘it is improbable that there were two Mardukas serving as high officials in Susa.’ He therefore concludes that this individual is none other than Esther’s uncle. This conclusion has been widely accepted. ….


Siegfried H. Horn concurs:


The result of this disco[c]very has been a more favorable attitude toward the historicity of the book of Esther in recent years, as attested by several Bible dictionaries and commentaries published during the last decade. ….


So secure is the identification of Mordecai with Marduka in his eyes that he can even invite us to reconstruct the personal history of Mordecai on the basis of what we know about Marduka:


It is quite obvious that Mordecai, before he became gatekeeper of the palace, must already have had a history of civil service in which he had proved himself to be a trusted official … the trusted councillor of [t]he mighty satrap Uštannu, whom he accompanied on his official journeys.


Since my re-setting of Mordecai’s engagement with Haman has it occurring far earlier than the standard time for it, in the reign of “Xerxes” (C5th BC) – and nearer to the return from Captivity – it thus becomes necessary to demonstrate a compatible revised chronology of Marduka.




Now there was a man that dwelt in Babylon, and his name was Joakim: And he took a wife whose name was Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah, a very beautiful woman, and one that feared God. For her parents being just, had instructed their daughter according to the Law of Moses. Now Joakim was very rich, and had an orchard near his house: and the Jews resorted to him, because he was the most honourable of them all.


Daniel 13:1-4



When in the process of searching for greater information about Mordecai in the Bible it occurred to me that a possible candidate for him might be Joakim the well-respected husband of Susanna. Admittedly, I have very little to go on here, considering the brevity of the information provided about Joakim in the Story of Susanna.


  • Joakim was apparently a Jew, as was Mordecai (Esther 2:5): “Now in the citadel of Susa there lived a Jew called Mordecai son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin …”, and a man of great standing.


  • Joakim, as “a man that dwelt in Babylon”, was apparently also of the Babylonian Captivity, as was Mordecai (2:6), “who had been deported from Jerusalem among the captives taken away with Jeconiah king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon”.


  • Joakim was a contemporary of a young Daniel, who figures prominently in the Story of Susanna (Daniel 13:45). Mordecai was taken into captivity about a decade after Daniel had been, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah” (Daniel 1:1).

{That does make for a very tight chronology for Daniel, though, who was apparently still “a young boy”, or a “young youth”, or “young man”, in the Story of Susanna}.


  • Joakim “was very rich”. Mordecai, according to The Legends of the Jews (V. 4), “became a wealthy man”.
  • Joakim, since his house was used for “matters of judgment” (Daniel 13:6), may himself have been a judge, as we found was likely the case with Marduka (= Mordecai?).
  • Joakim is a figure very much in the background in the Story of Susanna, in which young Daniel comes to the fore. And Mordecai, too, tended to work quietly behind the scenes, advising his niece, Queen Esther, whilst Haman and King Ahasuerus will take centre stage.
  • Joakim was well respected by many amongst the Jews, he being “the most honourable of them all”. And this we read similarly about Mordecai (Esther 10:1-3):


King Xerxes imposed tribute throughout the empire, to its distant shores. And all his acts of power and might, together with a full account of the greatness of Mordecai, whom the king had promoted, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Media and Persia? Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.

“The Talmud says that this must be a euphemism, since wives,

not daughters, sleep in men’s “bosoms”.”



Following on my identification of the well-respected Jew in Babylon, Joakim, with the Jew, Mordecai, and his wife Susanna, with Esther, I find further Jewish testimony in favour of Mordecai as the husband of Queen Esther. Thus, for instance, professor B. Barry Levy has written (

What was Esther’s Relationship
to Mordechai?

Biblical, Traditional, and Not-So-Traditional Interpretations

What was the biological relationship between Esther and Mordechai?  Were they cousins or uncle and niece? And was Mordechai Esther’s adoptive father or even her husband?

The Biblical Evidence: Cousins and Adoptive Father

The biblical text is straightforward (Esth 2:7):

אסתר ב:ז וַיְהִ֨י אֹמֵ֜ן אֶת־הֲדַסָּ֗ה הִ֤יא אֶסְתֵּר֙ בַּת־דֹּד֔וֹ כִּ֛י אֵ֥ין לָ֖הּ אָ֣ב וָאֵ֑ם וְהַנַּעֲרָ֤ה יְפַת־תֹּ֙אַר֙ וְטוֹבַ֣ת מַרְאֶ֔ה וּבְמ֤וֹת אָבִ֙יהָ֙ וְאִמָּ֔הּ לְקָחָ֧הּ מָרְדֳּכַ֛י ל֖וֹ לְבַֽת: Esther 2:7 He (=Mordechai) was foster father to Hadassah—that is, Esther—his uncle’s daughter, for she had neither father nor mother. The maiden was shapely and beautiful; and when her father and mother died, Mordechai adopted her as his own daughter.

According to the Megillah, Esther is the daughter of Mordechai’s uncle, and thus, Esther and Mordechai are first cousins. When she was orphaned, Mordechai adopted her. Ostensibly, that should close the matter, but as almost anyone who has visited a school at Purim time (or has discussed the matter with his children or grandchildren) knows, it is not that simple.

Mordechai as Esther’s Husband

תנא משום רבי מאיר: אל תקרי לבת אלא לבית. A Tanna taught in the name of R. Meir: “Read not ‘for a daughter’ [le-bat], but ‘for a house’ [le-bayit].”
וכן הוא אומר ולרש אין כל כי אם כבשה אחת קטנה אשר קנה ויחיה ותגדל עמו ועם בניו יחדו מפתו תאכל ומכסו תשתה ובחיקו תשכב ותהי לו כבת. Similarly, it says: But the poor man had nothing save one little ewe lamb, which he had brought up and reared; and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own morsel, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom, and was unto him as a daughter.
משום דבחיקו תשכב הוות ליה (לבת) [כבת]? אלא (לבית) [כבית] – הכי נמי לבית. Because it lay in his bosom, was it like a daughter to him? Rather what it means is like a wife; so here, it means a wife.

The Talmud presents a two-step argument.

  1. The term bat is understood as bayyit, which often carries the meaning “wife” in rabbinic exegesis. In fact, a common word for “wife” in the Talmud’s Aramaic is “דביתהו,” meaning “of his house.” The second generation Amora Yossi ben Chalafta, actually sites this as “good practice” (Ruth Rabba, parasha 2):
א”ר יוסי בן חלפתא מימי לא קריתי לאשתי אשתי ולביתי ביתי אלא לאשתי ביתי ולביתי אשתי R. Yossi ben Chalfta said: “Never in my life have I referred to my wife as ‘my wife’ or my house as ‘my house.’ Rather, [I always refer to] my wife as ‘my house’ and my house as ‘my wife.’”
  1. To support this reading, the Talmud sites Nathan’s parable of the poor man with his pet sheep, which he allowed to sleep in his “bosom” and treated like a “daughter.” The Talmud says that this must be a euphemism, since wives, not daughters, sleep in men’s “bosoms.” Hence we see that the word בת can refer to a wife.

A Linguistic Buttressing of the Midrash
Rabbi Meir presents us with an al tiqre-style midrash, which substitutes one word for a similar-sounding biblical one.

True, the words bat and bayyit don’t sound all that alike, but it may be that a phonetic variant is at work undergirding this midrash.  Specifically, certain pieces of evidence point us to the probability that in many dialects of Hebrew (and Aramaic) the yod was actually pronounced more like the glottal stop (a slight throat click) of an aleph than as an English Y.

  • Biblical proper names beginning with the letter yod were often rendered in other languages as if they began with aleph, suggesting that that is how they were actually pronounced. A good example is Yisra’el, transcribed as Isra’el in Greek, Syriac, Arabic, and other languages.[2]
  • Ancient Samarian ostraca spell “wine” as ין, not יין, though the Greek cognate oinos may be evidence of the yod’s presence.[3]
  • In various targumim we also find third-person imperfect verb forms that are spelled with initial aleph, not the expected yod.[4]
  • Mishnah Baba Qama 1:1 states כל שחבתי בשמירתו… as opposed to כל שחייבתי. The Talmud (b. BQ 6a) suggests that the tanna was a Jerusalemite and therefore spoke with a clipped yod.[5]Mordechai as Esther’s UncleThe same interpretation appears in Jerome’s Latin translation (the Vulgate), which says that Esther was the daughter of Mordechai’s brother (filiae fratris) in 2:7 and similarly refers to Avichayil, Esther’s father, as Mordechai’s brother (Abiahil fratris Mardochei). The Vulgate is the standard biblical text used by Catholics, and thus in the Catholic tradition Esther is described as Mordechai’s niece. As Josephus has not had the same effect on popular culture as the Vulgate, it seems likely that the Jewish sources that describe Mordechai as Esther’s uncle may have been influenced by the Catholic version of the biblical text, though they are probably not aware of this.Nevertheless, when we comb through rabbinic texts, we can see that many medieval rabbis (even some Ashkenazim) made use of “non-traditional” sources,[9] including the Septuagint, the Peshitta, the Apocrypha, and, yes, even the Vulgate.And again, along similar lines ( Rabbi,
    The Book of Esther says, “And he adopted Haddasah, i.e., Esther…and when her mother and father died, Mordechai took her to him as a daughter.” (Esther 2)Literally, then, the verse is saying that he married her.So, it’s not hard to see how the Talmudic Sages saw in this verse support for the oral tradition that says Mordechai, Esther’s cousin, was also her husband.
  • Why does it use the term “daughter?” The terms “sister” and “daughter” are common expressions of endearment, as we see in other places in the Torah (e.g., Ruth 2:8, Shir Hashirim 4:9) and Talmud (e.g., Shabbat 13b). The idea is that a husband and wife should develop a loving and giving relationship as one naturally has with one’s child and sibling.
  • There are three apparent snags in this verse. First, since the verse says that Mordechai “adopted Haddasah,” why does it seem to repeat the fact that he “took her to him as a daughter?” Isn’t that the same thing? Second, there is no legal status of “adoptive parent” in Judaism; that is, you raise an orphan girl in your home, but you don’t “take her as a daughter.” Finally and most notably, “took her to him” is always used in the Torah to refer to marriage.
  • Dear Delores Elliott,
  • We are confused. Some Rabbis contend that Esther was Mordecai’s wife and if she was, that raises a lot of legal questions and yet in Holy Scriptures we cannot find anything except that she was raised by him and that she was like his daughter! Help! Am I missing something here? Thank you so much. We enjoy your answers and have been collecting them in a notebook to refer back to for answers.
  • Delores Elliott from Courtenay, British Columbia wrote:
  • [End of quote]
  • Conclusion: Influence of Outside Sources
    If in the case of Esther and Mordechai, the use of the Vulgate is unintentional (i.e., picked up unconsciously from the surrounding culture, perhaps as a consequence of the age disparity between them).
  • Now among the many who were gathered together, there was found in Babylon a girl who had lost both parents and was being brought up in the home of her uncle (θεῖος‎), his name being Mordechai (Antiquities of the Jews, 9:198).[8]
  • No traditional rabbinic text claims that Mordechai was Esther’s uncle, but the idea has both popular currency[7] and support in early texts. The earliest source for this may be Josephus, who writes:
  • Thus, bat and bayyit may have been phonetically equivalent to the authors of the midrash, perhaps even sounding identical. Thus, to a listener, Mordechai taking Esther le-bat could have carried either or both of these meanings.[6]

According to Rabbinic traditions, the two lustful elders who accused Susanna were the same persons as two wicked judges referred to and named by the prophet Jeremiah (29:21-23):


“This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says about Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah, who are prophesying lies to you in my name: ‘I will deliver them into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and he will put them to death before your very eyes. Because of them, all the exiles from Judah who are in Babylon will use this curse: ‘May the Lord treat you like Zedekiah and Ahab, whom the king of Babylon burned in the fire.’ For they have done outrageous things in Israel; they have committed adultery with their neighbors’ wives, and in my name they have uttered lies—which I did not authorize. I know it and am a witness to it,’ declares the Lord”.



The colourful account of Susanna and the two elders is well summarised by Jennifer A. Glancy of the Jewish Women’s Archive:


Susanna: Apocrypha


The brief, self-contained story of Susanna appears in Greek but not Hebrew manuscripts of the Book of Daniel. Most modern editions of the Bible include it among the Apocryphal/ Deuterocanonical Books as Daniel 13. Although readers will respond to and remember most vividly Susanna and her predicament, the story’s conclusion emphasizes Daniel’s emergence as a young figure of wisdom. On account of this, some ancient Greek versions place the Book of Susanna before Daniel 1.


The text first introduces Joakim, a wealthy man living in the Babylonian diaspora (Greek for “scattered abroad,” Jews who lived outside Palestine after the Babylonian exile of 587 b.c.e.). Joakim, however, plays a minimal role in the unfolding of the story.


Mackey’s Comment: My earlier proposed identification of this Joakim with the great Mordecai:


Well-Respected Mordecai. Part Two: As Joakim, Husband of Susanna


will serve to open up, as this series progresses, some intriguing new possibilities.

Glancy continues with her commentary:


Susanna’s introduction defines her in terms of her relationships to two men, as wife of Joakim and daughter of Hilkiah, and tells that she is beautiful and righteous and was trained “according to the law of Moses” by her parents (vv. 2–3).


Joakim’s house functions as a courthouse for the Jewish community. Two elders who serve there as judges separately develop lustful feelings toward Susanna, whom they spy walking in the garden when the house empties at midday for the community to go to their own homes for lunch (vv. 8–12). One day the two elders catch each other lingering behind in order to watch Susanna, and they conspire together to entrap her (vv. 13–14).

On a hot day Susanna decides to bathe in the garden (v. 15). She believes herself to be alone with her maids because the elders have concealed themselves (v. i6). When Susanna sends her maids away to bring ointments for her bath (vv. 17–18), the elders reveal themselves and try to coerce her into sexual relations. They say that, unless she lies with them, they will testify that she sent her maids away in order to be with a young lover (vv. 19–21). Susanna’s dilemma is this: to submit to the elders is to disobey the law of Moses, which she has been raised to follow, but to resist the elders is to invite the death penalty for adultery (Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22). She articulates her decision, “I choose not to do it; I will fall into your hands, rather than sin in the sight of the Lord” (v. 23). Susanna cries aloud, and so do the elders (v. 24). Their shouting attracts members of the household (v. 26), specifically identified as “servants,” who, when they hear the elders’ story, are “very much ashamed, for nothing like this had ever been said about Susanna” (v. 27).


Susanna’s trial occurs on the following day at her home, described as “the house of her husband Joakim” (v. 28). Susanna comes before the two elders and the people, accompanied by her parents, her children, and other unspecified relatives—her husband is not mentioned (vv. 29–30). The lascivious elders ask that she be unveiled so that they may continue to look at her (v. 32). Those who weep with her weep at this disgrace (v. 33), which in Theodotion’s version amounts to an unveiling of Susanna’s face. (The NRSV follows Theodotion, an alternate Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible.) In the Septuagint version, Susanna is stripped naked, in accordance with ritual Jewish law (Ezek 16:37–30; Hos 2:3–10). The elders proceed with their accusations (v. 34). They claim that they saw Susanna in the garden, embracing a young lover whose strength enabled him to elude them as they attempted to detain him; they further claim that Susanna has refused to cooperate in naming the lover (vv. 36–41a). Because of the credibility of the elders in the community, the assembly believes them and condemns Susanna to death (v. 41b).


No one offers testimony on Susanna’s behalf. She, however, turns to heaven for help, crying aloud to God that she is innocent (vv. 42–43). The text records, “The Lord heard her cry” (v. 44). Just as Susanna is being taken to her death, God stirs “the holy spirit of a young lad named Daniel” (v. 45). Announcing that he cannot be part of Susanna’s execution (v. 46), he asks the assembly for the right to cross-examine the elders (vv. 47–49). Before the reassembled court, Daniel separates the two elders and questions each about the location of the lovers’ intimacies. The first elder identifies a mastic tree (v. 54) as the site of the illicit coupling, and the second elder identifies an evergreen oak (v. 58). Daniel thus reveals their deceit and the innocence of Susanna, “a daughter of Judah,” a descendant of southern Judah (v. 57). The two elders are then sentenced to the fate they intended for their victim: death (v. 62).

[End of quote]


According to R. Charles, as cited at:


… the first half of the story rests on a tradition regarding two elders (Ahab and Zedekiah) who seduced certain women by persuading them that they would thus become the mother of the Messiah. This tradition has its origin probably in Jer 29:21-23, where it is said that Yahweh would sorely punish Ahab and Zedekiah because they had “committed villany in Israel,” having “committed adultery with their neighbours’ wives” ….


On the basis of all of the above, we may be able to give names to Susanna’s ill-fated accusers:


Ahab and Zedekiah.


The German orientalist, Georg Heinrich August Ewald (d. 1875), had thought that the account of the two lustful elders who were infatuated with Susanna must have been inspired by a Babylonian tale involving the goddess of love and two old men.




Once again, however, this is a case of biblical historians and commentators presuming that a given biblical story was inevitably dependent upon a pagan myth (or myths) of a similar theme.

At we read


Ewald (Geschichte(3), IV, 386) believed that [the story of Susanna] was suggested by the Babylonian legend in which two old men are seduced by the goddess of love (compare Koran 2 96). ….


Looking at this Koran (Qur’ān) reference, 2:96, I find:


And you will surely find them the most greedy of people for life – [even] more than those who associate others with Allah . One of them wishes that he could be granted life a thousand years, but it would not remove him in the least from the [coming] punishment that he should be granted life. And Allah is Seeing of what they do.


Whilst I myself am unaware of the Babylonian legend to which Ewald referred, I would find it very intriguing if this Babylonian “goddess of love” was Ishtar herself – as I think she must have been.


My reason for saying this will become clear later, as I proceed to develop a wider identity for Susanna in a biblical context.


Commentators have picked up some striking likenesses between the story of Susanna

(in the Book of Daniel) and the drama surrounding Queen Esther.



G.J. Steyn, for instance, has discovered some “striking similarities” between, not only Susanna and Esther – of relevance to this present series – but also including the Jewish heroine, Judith. Here I take just two short portions from Steyn’s most insightful article (pp. 167-168)








  • Esther requests that her people fast and pray three days and nights for her and then she will approach the king without being summoned by him – which is against the royal custom. If she then dies, she dies (4:16). Esther then uses her mightiest weapon, her beauty, as an instrument to save her people.


  • Judith took a similar decision as Esther by going voluntarily into the presence of the very man who seeks to destroy her people. She went forth, out of the city gates and down the mountain (10:9-10). Her beauty gave her entry past the soldiers (10:14, 19, 23), right into the tent of Holofernes, the chief captain of the Assyrian army (10:17, 20-21). She stays three days in the camp (12:7) and beheaded Holofernes the fourth night, passing again by the Assyrian soldiers.


  • Susanna knows very well that whatever her decision would be, she is destined to die (Sus 1:22). She “sighed” (… Sus 1:22) and “cried with a loud voice” (… Sus 1:24). She chose to turn down the advances of the two elders rather “than to sin in the sight of the Lord” (… Sus 1:23).






Esther approached God in her moments of fear and anxiety and expressed her trust in God. This becomes clear from the contents of her prayer in LXX Addition C (14:1-19): “… she prayed to the Lord God of Israel, and said: O my Lord, you alone are our King. Help me in desolation – not having a helper, but you. For my danger is in my hand (… 14:3-4); “You are righteous, O Lord!” (… 14:7); “O King of the gods and of all powers” (… 14:12).


Judith confesses her trust in the Lord when she spoke to the elders of the city … (Jud 8:20). Her trust in God surfaces again in her prayer … (Jud 9:7-8).


Susanna too, approached God in her moment of fear on her way to be executed. She prays to the “everlasting God” (… Sus 1:42) who knows all secrets and who knows the false witness that was borne against her (Sus 1:42-43).


Having previously (Part Four) touched briefly upon the similarities between the story of Susanna (in the Book of Daniel) and the drama narrated in the Book of Esther, I take matters a step further here, testing a possible identification of Susanna with Esther.




Those “striking similarities” between Susanna and Esther, previously noted, might lead one to consider whether there might even be an actual identification of person here as well.

I seem to find solid arguments for and against such a conclusion.




The connecting link between the two dramas may be (if accurate) my identification of Joakim with the great Mordecai:


Well-Respected Mordecai. Part Two: As Joakim, Husband of Susanna


Such a connection, however, would also raise some real queries with regard to Queen Esther.

She, generally considered to have been a


  1. beautiful (2:7)
  2. young
  3. virgin, (2:2)
  4. raised as a daughter by Mordecai (2:7), would now, all of a sudden, need to be significantly reconsidered as a, still


  1. beautiful, but
  2. not so young,
  3. married woman
  4. with kids (“her children”, 1:30 Sus. RSV).


Such an apparently unorthodox reconsideration of the famous biblical queen is not, however, without its support (at least regarding Esther’s marriage to Mordecai) in Aggadic tradition. According to, for instance, Tamar Meir’s article “Esther: Midrash and Aggadah”, this tradition “casts the Biblical narrative in a different light”:


The Babylonian tradition maintains that Esther was Mordecai’s wife. Esth. 2:7 states: “Mordecai adopted her as his own daughter [literally: took her le-vat],” which the midrash understands as: Mordecai took her le-bayit, that is, as a wife (BT Megillah loc. cit.). This exegesis casts the Biblical narrative in a different light. Esther was taken to the royal harem despite her being married, which further aggravated her sorry condition. This also leads to a different understanding of Mordecai’s involvement, as he walks about in the royal courtyard out of concern for his wife.

[End of quote]


There may have been some unusual situation here.

And there was indeed, according to an article, “Thematic irony in the story of Susanna”


Ironic expressions in episode one (vv. 1−14)


This first episode consists of the introduction to Susanna (1−4), which includes the introduction of her family, her husband and the two elders (5−6), as well as the emergence of the conflict (7−14). In particular, it focuses on Susanna’s beauty and godliness on the one hand and the elders’ wickedness on the other hand. In this comparison lies the irony. The episode contains, as will be demonstrated shortly, remarkable ironic words, expressions and incidents. Most of these ironic utterances consist of the reversed use of social conventions.

The first ironic expression concerns the relationship between Susanna and her husband, expressed by the verb λαμβάνω [to take, to acquire] (cf. v. 2). There is no doubt that, in the context of the ancient Jewish patriarchal society, this verb portrays a marital relationship between husband and wife in terms of possessor and possession (Di Lella 1984:332−334, 1995:39; see also Liddell & Scott 1996:1026; Delling 2000:5; Bauer et al. 2000:583). In this environment, λαμβάνω would normally indicate the ascendancy of the husband over his wife and presupposes the insertion of the woman in her husband’s family (Fuller 2001:339) and not the contrary.

The use of λαμβάνω in this case, however, seems to contradict these established patriarchal practices.

In actual fact, the relationship between Susanna and her husband, as depicted in the story, does entail the prominence of the woman. Firstly, according to the story, Jewish identity is related to the practice of the Law of Moses, piety (Kanonge 2009a:381). It is strange that nothing is said about Joakim’s piety. Besides, Susanna has a genealogy, or at least her father is named, but Joakim’s father does not appear (Moore 1977:94). In Biblical traditions, ‘genealogies can express social status, political power, economic strength, legal standing, ownership …’ (Wilson 1979:19). To have no genealogy is to be less important in a community. It seems, from this story and specifically from verse 63, that Susanna is more important in the community than her husband. In fact, according to the abovementioned verse (63), she is not inserted in her husband’s family, but the contrary is assumed. According to Archer (Ilan 1993:55), women named after their father were either ‘divorced or widowed’. This is not the case here. Indeed, Susanna is being prioritised here at the expense of her husband. It is remarkable that the normal familial order, as accepted in patriarchal societies, is changed with the reading as follows: Σουσαννας μετὰ Ιωακιμ τοῦ ἀνδρὸς αὐτῆς [Susanna with Joakim her husband]. This order is unusual in patriarchal traditions where the husband is supposed to take the lead in everything. There is an overturned use of social conventions.





Susanna, living as she did during the Babylonian captivity of the Jews, would seem to have been far too early for her – according to conventional estimations – to be identifiable as Queen Esther, supposedly living deeply into Persian history.





My streamlined version of the Chaldean to Medo-Persian history, though, as outlined in this series and developed elsewhere, for example in:


Aligning Neo-Babylonia with Book of Daniel. Part Two: Merging late neo-Assyrians with Chaldeans




If King Belshazzar made Daniel 3rd, who was 2nd?


has greatly shortened the chronological distance between king Nebuchednezzar II ‘the Great’ and the Medo-Persians, with Nebuchednezzar’s death occurring, now, only a handful of years before the emergence of Darius the Mede – he, in turn, being my choice for the Book of Esther’s great monarch:


King Ahasuerus


Darius the Mede was already an old man when he came to the throne (Daniel 5:31): “So Darius the Mede received the kingdom at about the age of sixty-two”.

He, I have identified with king Cyrus. See e.g.:


Was Daniel Twice in the Lions’ Den?


Any consideration of the age of Queen Esther – which will be an issue in this present article – may need to factor in the age of the Great King whom she married.

Although historical chronology is no longer a major issue according to my revised context, the actual age of participants in the drama – the young Daniel, and lovely Susanna in connection with Queen Esther – will be. It has already been determined that Queen Esther, if she were also Susanna, would have been a married woman with children of her own, and, hence, not a virgin. That her husband was none other than Mordecai himself – which comes as quite a surprise – is borne out, though, as we have learned, by an Aggadic tradition.


Ages of Daniel, Susanna (and Esther)


Taking the Vulgate Latin version of the story of Susanna in the Book of Daniel, we find Daniel himself described as puer junior, which would appear to indicate an extremely young male, and which is translated as “young boy”. According to my Latin dictionary junior equates with juvenis. Though this description tends to indicate a male up to the age of 17, it is “frequently used of older persons … 20th – 40th year”.


That gives us a lot more leeway in the case of Daniel.


Say he was, as some estimate, 14-15 years of age when taken into captivity, his intervention in the case of Susanna could have occurred – in light of the above “20th-40th year” – as late as approximately the 25th year of Nebuchednezzar II.

Susanna, with children, must have been, say, 20 at the time, and, if so, about 38 at the death of Nebuchednezzar. By about the 3rd year of Ahasuerus (Esther 1:3), when she – if as Esther – was chosen, she would have been in her 40’s – likewise when married in the 7th year (2:16).


King Ahasuerus would have been, by then (his 7th year), nudging 70.


The Vulgate gives the females chosen for the king as (Esther 2:3) puellas speciosas et virgines.

The Septuagint Greek has, for the same verse, κοράσια (young women) άφθορα, which can mean “unblemished”. When Tamar (Themar) is called a “virgin” in the Greek II Kings 13:2, the word used is a different one, “parthenos” (παρθένος).

Esther herself is never directly referred to as a virgin. She is pulchra nimis et decora facie (“exceedingly beautiful and becoming”).

In Esther 2:7, “Esther [is] … quoque inter ceteras puellas”. The Latin word puella (singular) may indicate married or not.

And in Esther 2:9, the short-list is now septem puellas speciosissimas (“seven most beautiful women”).

The outstanding woman, Esther, had made an early impression (2:8-9):


Esther also was taken to the king’s palace and entrusted to Hegai, who had charge of the harem. She pleased him and won his favor. Immediately he provided her with her beauty treatments and special food. He assigned to her seven female attendants selected from the king’s palace and moved her and her attendants into the best place in the harem.


Presumably eunuch Hegai’s action was prompt and ‘immediate’ because he had appreciated the true quality of Esther, and not because – as necessitated in the case of the woman who went to the plastic surgeon because she had a wrinkled face and crow’s feet (but came out with wrinkled feet and a crow’s face) – she had lost her looks. Women in their 40’s can still be beautiful.


Having accounted for the tricky matter of age, those similarities between the story of Susanna and the Book of Esther that we have already discussed – and those between Susanna and Esther – can now really kick in.

In both cases we encounter a beautiful and pious woman, a Jew (cf. Susanna 13:57; Esther 2:7), who had been taught the Law by her parents (cf. Susanna 13:3; Esther 14:5), who, as we read previously, trusted fully in the Lord, and was prepared to die rather than to compromise herself.


My conclusion in this series has been that the Susanna in Daniel became Queen Esther. But this conclusion now presents us with three names: Susanna, Hadassah and Esther, since, as we are informed (Esther 2:7): “… Hadassah … was also known as Esther”.



Making Sense of the Names


There are a stream of similarities running through the Story of Susanna and the Book of Esther.

The Story of Susanna commences (13:1):


“Now there was a man that dwelt in Babylon, and his name was Joakim …”.


Whilst, according to Esther 2:5:


Now there was in the citadel of Susa a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, named Mordecai …”.


In this series I have identified, as one, this “Joakim” in Babylon with this “Mordecai” in Susa.

The Babylonian (Chaldean) era had come and gone and Joakim, now as Mordecai, lived under a Medo-Persian king, in Susa. The great man had two names, the one Hebrew, Joakim (i.e., Yehoyaqim,יְהוֹיָקִם , “raised by God”), and the other his given Babylonian name: “The Talmud (Menachot 64b and 65a) relates that his full name was “Mordechai Bilshan” (which occurs in Ezra 2:2 and Nehemiah 7:7). Hoschander interpreted this as the Babylonian marduk-bel-shunu meaning “Marduk is their lord”, “Mordecai” being thus a hypocorism”.


In the same way we can account for the name, “Esther”, the foreign name given to our heroine in Babylonian captivity (as in the Story of Susanna). The name is generally considered to derive from the Mesopotamian goddess (of fertility, love, war, sex and power), Ishtar, the same as the biblical Astarte. Previously, I had referred to Ewald’s view that the account of the two lustful elders, who accused Susanna, had its counterpart in a legend involving the Babylonian “goddess of love”, who I presumed to be Ishtar. Thus I wrote:


Whilst I myself am unaware of the Babylonian legend to which Ewald referred, I would find it very intriguing if this Babylonian “goddess of love” was Ishtar herself – as I think she must have been. My reason for saying this will become clear later in this series, as I proceed to develop a wider identity for Susanna in a biblical context.


My conclusion would be – unlike Ewald’s – that the Babylonian legend had derived from the Story of Susanna. And this Susanna, I have argued, became Queen Esther, whose name arose from the pagan “goddess of love”, Ishtar.


Regarding the name, “Hadassah”, at least one scholar, as I recall (though I no longer have the reference), had argued that it was simply a Hebrew version of Esther. I think that that might be stretching things, however. More likely, Hadassah was the woman’s Hebrew name, meaning “myrtle (tree, sprig)” – just as Mordecai had an original Hebrew name before his being given a Babylonian name as well.


That leaves us to account for the name “Susanna”, literally meaning “lilly”.

One is reluctant to suggest that the woman had two Hebrew names, Hadassah and Susanna.

A possibility, I think, is that Susanna might be a name added retrospectively, and referring to the fact that Hadassah-Esther had become, in the Medo-Persian period, the queen of Susa. Hence Susanna, “She-of-Susa”. Again a hypocorism.

Susan is a feminine given name, from French Susanne, from Late Latin Susanna, from Greek Sousanna, from Hebrew Šošanna, literally meaning “lily“,[1] a term derived from Susa (Persian: Šuš), a city in southwest Iran that was the ancient capital of the Elamite kingdom and Achaemenid empire.[2]


Perhaps further strengthening my identification of Susanna with Queen Esther (= Ishtar) may be the Babylonian “goddess of love” legend, reminiscent of the account of the two elders, and the possible reference, in the name, “Susanna”, to the capital city of Susa, where Esther reigned.


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