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Was Esther Mordecai’s (Adopted) Daughter or His Wife?

Edwin Long's Queen Esther (1878)Over the past few years, any time I read an Old Testament passage—whether preparing a passage myself or listening to someone else—I always compare the Hebrew Masoretic Text (which is the basis for most modern Old Testament translations) with the Septuagint (or LXX, the 2nd century BC Greek translation of the Old Testament, primarily used by New Testament and Early Church writers). 

Most of the time, there’s not a significant amount of difference but the basic kind of variations to be expected when literature is translated from one language to another. However, occasionally, intriguing differences stand out, such as the one below I discovered recently.

A week ago Sunday, I was able to attend my home church in Louisiana with my mother for Mother’s Day. The sermon that morning was drawn from the second chapter of Esther, and it was v. 7 that jumped out at me when I compared it to the LXX using Accordance on my iPad. The pastor was reading from the New King James Version, which I will quote below as a decent English representation of the Hebrew text. I’ve included notes for a couple of words significant to this discussion.

“Mordecai was the legal guardian of his cousin Hadassah (that is, Esther), because she had no father or mother. The young woman had a beautiful figure and was extremely good-looking. When her father and mother died, Mordecai had adopted [לָקַח/laqach, literally “taken”] her as his own daughter [בַּת/baṯ].”

What jumped out when looking at the LXX was the replacement of בַּת (daughter) with γυνή/gynē (wife)! Mordecai had taken Esther as his wife? And technically, he had not taken Esther as his wife, but as the LXX indicates in the phrase, “ἐπαίδευσεν αὐτὴν ἑαυτῷ εἰς γυναῖκα,” Mordecai “had instructed/trained her to be a wife for himself.”

Compare the LXX with three English translations of Est 2:7—

Of course, at this point, I was no longer concentrating on the sermon but scrambling to look at commentaries to see if there was any mention of this major distinction in regard to Esther’s relationship to her cousin, Mordecai. I consulted a half dozen or so current biblical commentaries in Accordance, and none of them mentioned the discrepancy between the Hebrew and Greek versions of the Old Testament--until I looked at Levenson’s volume in the Old Testament Library series, where he writes

“The Greek version and rabbinic midrashim tend to see the relationship between Mordecai and Hadassah (Esther) as one of marriage, and ancient custom does indeed know of adoption in anticipation of matrimony (cf. Ezek. 16:1–14).”

There was a footnote in Levinson’s commentary on Esther that led me to the Babylonian Talmud where Neusner translates the appropriate section (Meg 13.1) as follows: 

VI.1 A. “...and when her father and mother died, Mordecai took her to himself as a daughter.”

B. One taught in the name of R. Meir: Do not read [it] “as a daughter” (le-vat), but rather as a wife (le-vayit).

C. And similarly it says, “and the poor man had nothing except one small lamb that he owned and fed, and it grew up together with him and with his children; it ate from his bread, and drank from his cup, and lay in his bosom, and it was like a daughter” (2Sa. 12:3). Because it lay in his bosom is it called a daughter (bat)? Rather [it should be called] a wife (bayit).

D. Here, too, [in Esther, the word “as a daughter” (bat) should be understood to mean] “as a wife” (bayit).

This is interesting because the rabbis are suggesting that the Hebrew, which obviously does not contain vowel pointing when they are reading it, should read Esther’s role not as daughter (בַּת/baṯ) but as wife (בַּיִת/bayit). Of course, my understanding of בַּיִת relates it to meaning househousehold, or family, so perhaps this is somehow synonymous with wife as Hebrew is usually more functional than ontological in its use of language. Or perhaps I'm "reverse-transliterating" Neusner's Hebrew incorrectly. If anyone can offer insight, I’d appreciate that in the comments. 

However, this matter of unpointed Hebrew would also explain why the LXX reads that Mordecai had instructed/taught (παιδεύω/paideuō) Esther rather than the Masoretic Hebrew understanding of taken (לָקַח/laqach). Obviously, the LXX translators understood the unpointed לקח as לֶקַח/leqaḥ (taught) rather than לָקַח/lāqaḥ (taken). 

Incidentally, I often hear the LXX criticized for being too interpretive of the Hebrew text, but the vowel points added to the Hebrew by the Masoretes are often just as interpretive. The LXX probably translates Esther 2:7 as it was understood in Jewish thought around 200 BC. This understanding is backed up by the later rabbinic testimony found in the Talmud. Evidently, by the time of the 10th century AD, Esther’s relationship to her cousin as wife and not daughter was either forgotten or re-interpreted when the Masoretic Hebrew text was finalized. 

For the sake of modern readers, I should probably mention that there really would not have been any scandal around the idea of cousins marrying each other at this time. Race and tribe would have been the most important factor, so the fact that Esther was already part of Mordecai’s family made her a seemingly ideal mate in a time of exile. Esther is referred to as a girl in both Hebrew (נַעֲרָה/naʿarāh) and Greek (κοράσιον/korasion) versions of the story, so she was probably fairly young. Since her beauty is also mentioned, she had probably reached marriageable age by the time she is taken from Mordecai, but presumably the marriage had not been consummated yet as she was deemed a suitable canidate for Xerxes' harem.

So by this point, I believe I’ve convinced myself that Esther probably was brought up by Mordecai to be his wife as opposed to his merely being her legal guardian until she was of marriageable age. And that makes the story even more tragic, doesn’t it? This reading certainly explains Mordecai’s angst over Esther as he continually loiters outside Xerxes’ harem (a dangerous thing to do) to see if he could find out how she was doing. Mordecai had not just lost a family member to a pagan king—he had lost his betrothed, someone to whom he had invested years of care and instruction, and he had lost his future. No doubt, Mordecai loved Esther on multiple levels; but in the end, his forced loss of her to a pagan king led to the salvation of the Jewish people in Persia. Mordecai’s personal loss was his people’s gain.


Protecting Your iPhone's Data at the US Border

Over the last couple of days, various news outlets have reported that there's been a significant increase in the request of mobile phone passwords when entering the United States, even for those who are natural-born US citizens. A few days ago, the Electronic Frontier Foundation posted "Digital Privacy at the U.S. Border: Protecting the Data On Your Devices and In the Cloud" which I recommend if you're concerned about this kind of issue. 

Here are a few specific tips for iPhone users (which is what I use, so sorry, no Android tips here) for protecting your device's data at the US border or when going through Customs. 

If you're an iPhone user and do not wish to have your phone searched (I assume on grounds of principle and not because you'd have anything that would actually incriminate you for something illegal), make certain you take a few precautions at any border crossing or going through Customs. 

Assuming you've bought your iPhone in the last three years, it is already encrypted. Thank you, Apple. However, your data is only as good as your Passcode. 

1. A Passcode should be required anytime your iPhone is accessed. If yours is not set to to ask for the Passcode, go to Settings: Touch ID & Passcode: Require Passcode: Immediately.

2. Your Passcode should be a minimum of 6 characters, and last year "experts" were saying 11 characters was the ideal length (they're saying 12 or more now). Regardless of the length, it should not be something that would be easily guessed if someone knows you. If your Passcode is the year you were born, married, graduated, etc., change it now. Settings: Touch ID & Passcode: Change Passcode

3. Your iPhone has a failed Passcode "self-destruct" feature that you may not know about. After 10 incorrect Passcode tries, it will erase all data--but you have to turn on this feature. To do so, go to Settings: Touch ID & Passcode: Erase Data.

4. If you use your fingerprint to unlock your iPhone, be certain to completely turn off/shut down your device before going through Customs or a border crossing. A shutdown requires a Passcode to be entered, so you can't be forced to use your fingerprint against your will. 

Always be polite and respectful, but realize that if you do not comply with requests, you may not get your iPhone back.

Fingerprint image courtesy of


Please Don't Make Me Go to the Shack Again!

With the release of the movie version of William P. Young's badly written and heretical The Shack now playing in theaters, I thought I would offer a link to my review of the book that I wrote in 2009. No, I have not seen the movie, but I can't imagine that it could possibly salvage the original material. 

Here's a link to my review from 2009:

"The Shack: A Review (sorry I couldn't think of a more clever title, because all the good ones have already been used)"


The Drone Debacle

In case you haven't seen it on my FaceBook page, here is my drone debacle from a couple of weeks ago. 

Kathy got me a Sharper Image DX-4 Video Drone for my birthday in November. According to the instructions, the drone is supposed to initially hover about three or four feet in the air. Mine didn't do that, though. It took off and kept climbing higher. It was supposed to only have a 150 foot height range to keep it from having to be registered with the FAA. Again, not so--this drone kept going up, went into the clouds, and was GONE!

Captured here is the drone's maiden and only voyage. Footage by Kathy Mansfield, Sonny Orren, and the drone posthumously named "Icarus." My thanks to Jason Ebeyer for editing the three video streams together.

No, the drone was never found. If my wife ever lets me have another one, I'll put my name and phone number on it before I fly it!




Accordance 12 Featured on Theotek Podcast #86

This past Tuesday night, Mark Allison, my co-worker at OakTree Software/Accordance joined Kevin Purcell, Wes Allen and me to show off the new features of Accordance 12. Mark was the perfect choice to show off the new features since he has been teaching our "What's New in Accordance 12?" webinar

Here's the YouTube posting of Theotek podcast #86. 

Also, check the Theotek website for full show notes for episode #86. 


Win an Advance 2017 CSB Large Print UltraThin Reference Bible

I've acquired a second copy of the 2017 Christian Standard Bible (CSB) Large Print UltraThin Reference Bible that was given away to attendees of the 2016 ETS meeting in San Antonio last month. It is still in the box (taken out only to photograph) and all the pages are still stuck together--it's that new! A commentor on my previous blog post claims the Bible is goatskin, but I can't verify this as the ISBN (9781462743223) does not seem to appear anywhere on the Internet. 

Regardless, you can enter through the Rafflecoptor widget below. Postage is on me, but please, US entries only. 


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Click on the images below for a larger view:




2017 Christian Standard Bible (CSB): First Look [updated]

Earlier this week at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in San Antonio, attendees were presented with a free advance copy of the upcoming 2017 Christian Standard Bible (CSB). The edition given out, designated "CSB Large Print UltraThin Reference Bible," is a soft black imitation goatskin leather with two ribbon markers. 
The original Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) was first released in full in 2004 and revised in 2010. Interestingly, there is no reference to previous copyright dates on the copyright page of the CSB. I read from this that the CSB is being positioned not as an update to the HCSB, but a full replacement. 
I had an "off-the-record" conversation with one of the original HCSB translators. I don't feel comfortable communicating everything I was told, but he informed me that except for a stylist or two, the entire translation committee of the HCSB was replaced with an entirely new team. The edition of the new CSB handed out earlier this week does not list the translation team, but a cardstock page in the box referred to Dr. Thom Schreiner as "Co-Chairman, Translation Oversight Committee." Schreiner is a premier Evangelical scholar for whom I have great respect, and I will be interested to learn who else was on the committee. 
An employee of Lifeway told me that the text in the copy of the CSB given to attendees is very close to final form, but there may still be a "grammatical correction or two" before print copies go on sale in 2017. 
A few notes of interest:
  • All HCSB bullet notes have been removed. 
  • All 645 instances of Yahweh in the HCSB have been replaced with the more traditional LORD (all caps).
  • Surprisingly (to me), beer has (correctly) been retained for the Hebrew שֵׁכָר/šēḵār
  • Pronouns referring to deity are no longer capitalized. 
  • Thankfully, other than the changes in capitalization, John 3:16 is still correctly translated as "For God loved the world in this way [οὕτως/houtōs]: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life."
  • According to the former HCSB translator I spoke with, the new CSB uses the title Messiah much less often than the HCSB, which used it 116 times in the New Testament for Χριστός/Christos. Note, for instance, the use of Christ in Matt 1:16 of the CSB as opposed to the HCSB's Messiah.
  • Contractions have been retained in spoken dialogue. Whether they have been increased or decreased in frequency is unknown without an electronic text to search. 
  • The textual basis for the CSB is the BHS5 for the Old Testament and the NA28/UBS5 for the New Testament. 
  • The term "Optimal Equivalence" has been retained as a way of describing the HCSB as a median translation between Formal and Dynamic Equivalence. 
  • The introduction makes note that traditional words such as justification, sanctification, and redemption are used "since such terms have no other translation equivalent that adequately communicates their exact meaning." Interestingly, though, I discovered that the HCSB's use of proptiation in Rom 3:25 (ἱλαστήριον/hilastērion); Heb 2:17 (λάσκομαι/hilaskomai); 1 John 2:2 (ἱλασμός/hilasmos); 4:10 (ἱλασμός/hilasmos) has been changed to follow the NIV's lead with the phrase "atoning sacrifice" in all of the instances except Heb 2:17 where it is translated "to make atonement."

I have not had time to give a close look at the CSB, but from what I can see it is not a minor revision of the HCSB. Rather, as Lifeway seems to be positioning it, the CSB is new translation where every verse of its predecessor seems to have been up for change if necessary. Think NEB to REB, RSV to NRSV--or perhaps more appropriate in this case, RSV to ESV. 

And the ESV may be the actual catalyst in all this. The ESV has continued to gain in popularity and use in conservative American Protestant churches, so it's no surprise that the new CSB would be more traditional in a significant number of places than the HCSB (such as the Beattitudes in Matthew 5 reverting to the traditional "Blessed are..." formula of older translations). 

No doubt the HCSB has always used more natural English than the ESV, but perhaps the CSB is an effort to sound natural and retain a sense of the familiar at the same time, thus possibly allowing for more widespread use than it has received to date. 

My main quibble with the changes is the loss of Yahweh for the Divine Name (יְהוִה/YHWH). Yes, I know the arguments: we don't know the exact pronunciation, and use of the name is offensive to some with Jewish backgrounds. For the latter issue, a speaker needs to be sensitive to his or her audience. Neverthless, I have a problem with the use of the word Lord/LORD because (1) it is a title, not a name; and (2) it is a not a word in use outside religious circles in our culture and loses nearly all original meaning when used for God. 

Having taught from the HCSB at church for the last decade, I will give the CSB the benefit of the doubt and begin using this advance copy immediately in that setting in an attempt to really give it a fair shake. I especially look forward to an electronic version in Accordance so that I can more easily compare the CSB with the HCSB, which I somehow feel had too short of a lifespan in the big picture. 








60 Pounds Down

Yesterday, I officially passed the 60 lb. mark in regard to my weight loss. Most people are sensitive regarding how much they weigh, but these days, I'm happy to tell you my weight. But you need to know the previous weight first: on January 5, 2016, I weighed 265.5 lbs.(which is actually not my highest weight ever) according to my WiThings scale. Yesterday morning, I weighed 205.3 (I weighed myself twice to make certain).

Two and a half years may seem at first like a long time to lose "only" 60 pounds, and it's understandable that I've pursued this goal harder in some weeks than others. It's also true that in 2015, I gained back about half the weight I had lost to that point and really had to put the brakes on and get serious. Having said that, though, everyone who seems to know what they're talking about says that losing weight slowly is healthier for one's body and the best way to increase the odds against gaining weight back. 

I did all this following the health principles in the Daniel Plan. I've not written anything about the Daniel Plan here on This Lamp, primarily because I've only blogged in short spurts over the last few years. But maybe it's time to talk about the Daniel Plan, losing weight, and getting healthy. I've had a lot of time to think on the subject, so I'll break that down into shorter reads in the upcoming posts

Political Advice for a Future Antichrist*

"For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect."

Mark 13:22, NIV

I've read the above verse many times and wondered, What would it take to deceive the elect? Well, I believe I've figured it out! So, if there's a false messiah or future antichrist reading this, here's a little help for your campaign of persuasion. 


Dear Future Antichrist,

I can't tell you how to gain a following among Christians all over the world, but I have learned a couple of things about my own culture that may help you. If you want to reach at least some of the conservative Christians in America, make certain you have these two bases covered. Nothing else matters except these two issues. 

(1) You must promise to protect Second Amendment rights. It doesn't matter whether you really value or follow through on this; just make certain everyone believes you will. 

(2) You must proclaim that you're now pro-life. Your previous position, words, and actions don't matter. All you have to do is say that you're pro-life now, and and you will have unquestioning followers. 

These are the only two check boxes that evidently matter. If you can convince your followers that you hold these two things dear, you will have full impunity to say and do anything you want. As long as you cover your bases in these areas, your followers will support you regardless of anything that happens afterwards, in spite of how preposterous your words and actions really are. 

Good luck (not really),



*Let me be perfectly clear: no, I do not actually believe any of the candidates currently running for office are "the Antichrist" (none of them have enough charisma and charm to qualify). However, I do believe many of the actions seen in today's politics (across party affiliations) are, indeed, antichrist (lower case "a")--that is, in opposition (ἀντίχριστος) to the person and work of Christ (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3; 2 John 1:7). And I'm saddened as to how some people can forego all discernment to uncritically ignore grossly bad behavior and past history as long as a prominent individual proclaims (with no evidence of sincerity) to value a couple of prominent hot button issues. 

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law."

Galatians 5:22-23, HCSB (emphasis added)




Where We Might Get Our First Glimpse of the New CSB

In yesterday's post, "2017 Christian Standard Bible (CSB): Everything We Know So Far," I mentioned that, so far, I've not been able to find any examples of the new text except for Revelation 22:6a that reads identically the same as that in the HCSB.

It may be that we have to wait until January, the stated date for the launch of the new CSB, but there may be a couple of earlier possibilities. The first is simply speculation on my part: the November meetings of the Evangelical Theological Society in San Antonio might be an appropriate opportunity for Lifeway to reveal portions, or perhaps even all, of the new translation.

However, a more likely place we will probably see examples of the new CSB is in Lifeway's own curriculum, which is published quarterly and months in advance. I teach from Lifeway's Explore the Bible curiculum at church, and we are currently in the summer quarter, which runs through the end of this month. The Fall quarter begins in September, and the Winter quarter begins in December. However, all of this literature is released months in advance. In fact, much of the Winter material--at least some of the digital content--is already available. However, I determined yesterday that the current HCSB is used through the Winter quarter.

On Lifeway's Explore the Bible Facebook page, I asked if we would see a switch over to the new CSB in the Spring 2017 quarter material. Since the reply was public, I am repeating it here:

"Yes, at this point, we plan to introduce CSB content into our materials beginning with spring 2017. We are a part of the CSB soft launch."

Since churches have to order cubiculum months in advance, and the digital versions are made available first, I would not be surprised to see samples of the new CSB in this content sometime in the next few weeks. If this does happen, and if I find any examples of note, I'll post them here.