Bible Review 15:4, August 1999

Insight

Why Is Esther Missing from Qumran?

By Martin Abegg, Jr.Eugene UlrichPeter W. Flint

Bible Review

Of all the books of the Hebrew Bible, only Esther is not represented in the collection of scrolls unearthed in the Judean Desert caves overlooking the Dead Sea.a Among the 202 biblical Dead Sea Scrolls, not one scrap of Esther has been discovered.

Of course, the absence of such a small scroll might be attributed to nothing more than chance. However, certain evidence that has recently come to light reveals that the absence of Esther was no accident.

Among the scrolls left in the caves by the Dead Sea Scroll community is a group of documents known as the Qumran calendar texts. These documents chart festivals and holy days observed by the Jewish community that produced the scrolls. Their calendar consisted of 364 days, exactly 52 weeks, compared to the 354-day calendar of mainstream Judaism, and it included the biblical holidays of Passover, Shavuout (Pentecost) and Sukkot (Tabernacles). But curiously, the Jewish festival of Purim, which has its beginnings in the story of Esther, is missing.

Purim celebrates the deliverance of the Jews exiled in Persia from destruction by a royal minister. According to the Book of Esther, the Persian minister Haman had masterminded a plan to “destroy, massacre and exterminate all the Jews, young and old, children and women, on a single day, on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month—that is, the month of Adar—and to plunder their possessions” (Esther 4:13). Haman selected the date by drawing lots (Hebrew, purim).

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