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Search: Colloquium 36 (Fall 2019)

December 4 @ 1:00 pm - 1:50 pm


Esther before Ahasuerus by Artemisia Gentileschi
Oil on canvas
ca. 1630
(H: 208.3 × W: 273.7 cm)

The most famous woman painter of the seventeenth century, Artemisia worked in Rome, Florence, Venice, and Naples. This painting, among her most ambitious, recounts the story of the Jewish heroine Esther, who appeared before King Ahasuerus to plead for her people. She, thus, broke court etiquette and risked death. She fainted in the king’s presence, but her request found favor. The story is conceived not as a historical recreation but as a contemporary event. Initially Artemisia included the detail of a black boy restraining a dog—still partly visible beneath the marble pavement, to the left of Ahasuerus’s knee (Gallery label).

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York


Esther (including the introductions by Yair Zakovitch and Mary Joan Winn Leith) in NOAB

Topic of Discussion

Although the narrative settings for these books are centuries apart, they both concern the interactions of people of differing ethnic backgrounds. Ruth, a Moabite, marries into the family of Boaz and becomes the great-grandmother of David, and Esther, a Jew, enters the harem of the Persian king Ahasuerus and saves her people from a plot to destroy them because “their laws are different from those of every other people, and they do not keep the kings laws, so that it is not appropriate for the king to tolerate them” (3.8). They also concern social stratification based on gender and political rights. For our discussion, be prepared to share (1) your observations about how the stories address the issues of religious differences, (2) how these stories differ from others in the Hebrew Bible that also involve interactions between people of different religious or ethnic backgrounds, and (3) the role of Yahweh in the stories.


December 4
1:00 pm - 1:50 pm
Event Category:


Barret 216
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