Friday, August 11, 2023

The name ESTHER has a long and fascinating history. The name seems to be etymologically related to the stars beginning all the way back with the Babylonians, Akkadians, and Assyrians, who worshiped a female deity named Ishtar. Ishtar was previously worshiped by earlier Mesopotamians as Inanna, goddess of love, beauty, sex, war, justice and political power. She was associated with the planet Venus and was known as the "Queen of Heaven" (cf. Jeremiah 7:18; 44:17–19, 25). The Old Persian language preserves the word stāra for "star," which is similar to the Greek word ἀστήρ (astēr), also meaning "star." Thus, Esther likely means "star," if not something related more directly to Ishtar or Venus.

However, because the biblical book of Esther was written during the Greek period, and set during the Persian period, Esther 2:7 says that Esther's actual name was הדסה (Hadassah), but that she took a Persian name, אסתר (ʾEster), in order to conceal her Jewish identity (cf. 2:10). Coincidentally, the Hebrew root סתר (s-t-r) means "to conceal," but this appears to be a highly selective etymology (especially given the choice of the Hebrew letter samekh instead of śin) devised to disguise the fact that hers was a common Persian name—either the word for "star" or the name of the deity Ishtar.