Zhaba Zhournal
Monday, June 21, 2004 
The faux megillah 
The faux megillah
Okay, I've been away from a computer for a few days, so I've missed the "Madonna's new name" posting bandwagon; but, as I sit here with Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and the AMG Complete Word Study Dictionary: Old Testament on my hard drive (I've been converting them into and out of various files formats and transliteration systems till I can just about do Unicode Hebrew in my sleep), I've got a better-than-usual opportunity to look up the actual spelling and etymology of "Esther." Its Strong's number is 635, and Strong's transliterates it ’estêr; AMG has ’estēr. (If your browser's Unicode-friendly, the Hebrew is אֶסְתֵּר.) And, for one thing, it ain't Hebrew, okay? It is, to quote the pre-Iran Strong's, "of Persian derivation"; AMG begins the entry "The name of the Jewish queen Esther of Persia. Her name means 'star.'" The Hebrew word for "star"—the Biblical Hebrew one, anyway—is כּוֹכָב, transliterated something like kb (AMG) or káwkâb (Strong's), and it's a masculine noun. Not, in other words, related in any way to the word for "star" from which Esther is derived. Okay? But if an ancient Hebrew name is what she's looking for, there are some really lovely ones: Abishag, Oholibamah, Haggith, Eglah, Hazzelelponi...

(I know, I'm being snide. It's not Abishag's fault that her name sounds really bad in modern English, and Eglah couldn't do anything about having a name that means "heifer." I just wanted to point out that even an honest-to-YHWH Hebrew name doesn't necessarily make you sound cool. Especially if you're a Kabbalah-quoting poser.)

Ah, yes, the poser aspect. Taking the name of a virtuous Jewish woman doesn't make you virtuous or Jewish. And if you're neither virtuous nor Jewish, it's just insulting. She's certainly not going to make friends among either Christians or Jews by changing her name from The Mother Of Our Lord to The Queen Who Saved The Jews. (I started to say "savior," but you have to be careful using "savior" and "Jews" in the same sentence.) Although, come to think of it, there are probably plenty of Christians who'll be very happy that she'll no longer be a discredit to the name of the B.V.M.

(If I had to pick an Old Testament Hebrew name—other than the one I've already got [אֲבִיגַיִל, Strong's 26], I'd pick Deborah, the totally kick-ass prophetess and judge who led the Israelites when they, well, totally kicked the ass of Sisera and the Canaanite army (Judges ch. 4–5). There aren't many truly kick-ass women in the Bible; there are very cool women who do interesting things—I especially like Miriam, Ruth, Rahab, and, yes, Esther—but not many of them get to actually kick ass. [And the ones who do are kinda scary: don't you get the feeling that Jael enjoyed hammering the tent peg into Sisera's temple a little too much?])

[ at 11:44 AM • by Abby • permalink  ]

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