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Well-Respected Mordecai

 Part One: As ‘Marduka’

  

by

 Damien F. Mackey

  

 

And Mordecai the Jew was next in rank to King Ahasuerus. He was a man held in respect among the Jews, esteemed by thousands of his brothers, a man who sought the good of his people and cared for the welfare of his entire race.

Esther 10:3

 

 

Introduction

 

With the assistance of a significantly revised Neo-Babylonian dynasty through to the early Medo-Persian period, as set out in, for example:

If King Belshazzar made Daniel 3rd, who was 2nd?

 

https://www.academia.edu/23063639/If_King_Belshazzar_made_Daniel_3rd_who_was_2nd

 

I have been able historically to identify the King Belshazzar of Daniel 5 as King Evil-Merodach, son of Nebuchednezzar II ‘the Great’, and the un-named second ruler in Belshazzar’s kingdom as Jehoiachin (or Coniah), whom Evil-Merodach had exalted over the other princes in Babylon (2 Kings 25:27-30).

These are all historically verifiable kings.

Now, if Jehoiachin (Coniah) is also, as I have tentatively identified him:

Wicked Haman Un-Masked?

https://www.academia.edu/23014815/Wicked_Haman_Un-Masked

 

then that leads us into the Book of Esther, and to Mordecai, who, with Queen Esther herself, would expose the machinations of Haman.

Is there any evidence that this Mordecai, too, was a real historical person?

There may be. David J. Clines, in his article “The Quest for the Historical Mordecai” (https://www.academia.edu/2454296/The_Quest_for_the_Historical_Mordecai), writes of one “Marduka” in Susa during the Persian period whom various scholars have considered as a possible candidate for Mordecai. I am interested here in what Clines writes about these various opinions, since Clines himself seems pre-disposed to dismiss the Book of Esther as merely “a romance”:

 

…. it appears to be necessary to insist that evidence for a Persian official at Susa named Marduka, if that is really what we have, is next to useless in any debate about a historical Mordecai. For if on other grounds it seems probable that the book of Esther is a romance and not a historical record, it is quite irrelevant to the larger question of the historicity of the writing to discover that one of its characters bears a name attested for a historical person. Fictitious characters usually do.

 

Clines tells of these other estimations of Marduka:

 

In the standard works, commentaries, encyclopaedias and monographs, wherever the historicity of the Book of Esther is discussed, there is usually to be found some reference to the possible extra-biblical evidence for Mordecai. Here is an extract from a typical encyclopaedia article in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible:

 

Reference must be made to a single undated cuneiform document from the Persian period, found at Borsippa, which refers to a certain Marduka who was a finance officer of some sort in the Persian court at Susa during the reign of Xerxes I. While a connection between such an individual and the Mordecai of the book of Esther is in no sense established, the possibility of such a historical event as is related in Esther cannot be dismissed out of hand. ….

 

Carey A. Moore, the author of the Anchor Bible commentary on Esther, is a little more positive about the implications of the reference to Marduka. This official, who ‘served as an accountant on an inspection tour from Susa’, could be, he suggests, ‘the biblical Mordecai because, in all likelihood, Mordecai was an official of the king prior to his being invested in [Est.] 8.2 with the powers previously conferred on Haman’. To Moore, ‘at first glance all of this seems rather persuasive, if not conclusive’. While he is indeed careful to point out the uncertainties that surround the identification of Marduka with Mordecai, he nevertheless concludes that

 

since the epigraphic evidence concerning Marduka certainly prevents us from categorically ruling out as pure fiction the Mordecai episodes in the Book of Esther, it is safest for us to conclude that the story of Mo[r]decai may very well have to it a kernel of truth. ….

 

Robert Gordis, rather more boldly, appears to have no reservations whatever about the identification of Mordecai with Marduka. For him, the attestation of the names Marduka and Mrdk … is ‘the strongest support thus far for the historical character of the book’. …. He writes:

 

A Persian text dating from the last years of Darius I or the early years of Xerxes I mentions a government official in Susa named Marduka, who served as an inspector on an official tour … [T]he phrase yōšēb bĕša‘ar hammelekh, ‘sitting in the king’s gate,’ which is applied to Mordecai repeatedly in the book, indicates his role as a judge or a minor official in the Persian court before his elevation to the viziership.

 

The conclusion to be drawn is rather obvious:

 

That there were two officials with the same name at the same time in the same place is scarcely likely. ….

 

From Edwin M. Yamauchi we even gain the impression that the identification of Marduka with Mordecai has now become the consensus scholarly view:

 

Mardukâ is listed as a sipîr (‘an accountant’) who makes an inspection tour of Susa during the last years of Darius or early years of Xerxes. It is Ungnad’s conviction that ‘it is improbable that there were two Mardukas serving as high officials in Susa.’ He therefore concludes that this individual is none other than Esther’s uncle. This conclusion has been widely accepted. ….

 

Siegfried H. Horn concurs:

 

The result of this disco[c]very has been a more favorable attitude toward the historicity of the book of Esther in recent years, as attested by several Bible dictionaries and commentaries published during the last decade. ….

 

So secure is the identification of Mordecai with Marduka in his eyes that he can even invite us to reconstruct the personal history of Mordecai on the basis of what we know about Marduka:

 

It is quite obvious that Mordecai, before he became gatekeeper of the palace, must already have had a history of civil service in which he had proved himself to be a trusted official … the trusted councillor of [t]he mighty satrap Uštannu, whom he accompanied on his official journeys.

 

[End of quotes]

 

Since my re-setting of Mordecai’s engagement with Haman has it occurring far earlier than the standard time for it, in the reign of “Xerxes” (C5th BC) – and nearer to the return from Captivity – it thus becomes necessary to demonstrate a compatible revised chronology of Marduka.

Part Two:

As Joakim, Husband of Susanna

 

Now there was a man that dwelt in Babylon, and his name was Joakim: And he took a wife whose name was Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah, a very beautiful woman, and one that feared God. For her parents being just, had instructed their daughter according to the Law of Moses. Now Joakim was very rich, and had an orchard near his house: and the Jews resorted to him, because he was the most honourable of them all.

 

Daniel 13:1-4

 

 

 

When in the process of searching for greater information about Mordecai in the Bible it occurred to me that a possible candidate for him might be Joakim the well-respected husband of Susanna. Admittedly, I have very little to go on here, considering the brevity of the information provided about Joakim in the Story of Susanna.

 

  • Joakim was apparently a Jew, as was Mordecai (Esther 2:5): “Now in the citadel of Susa there lived a Jew called Mordecai son of Jair, son of Shimei, son of Kish, of the tribe of Benjamin …”, and a man of great standing.

 

  • Joakim, as “a man that dwelt in Babylon”, was apparently also of the Babylonian Captivity, as was Mordecai (2:6), “who had been deported from Jerusalem among the captives taken away with Jeconiah king of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon”.

 

  • Joakim was a contemporary of a young Daniel, who figures prominently in the Story of Susanna (Daniel 13:45). Mordecai was taken into captivity about a decade after Daniel had been, “In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah” (Daniel 1:1).

{That does make for a very tight chronology for Daniel, though, who was apparently still “a young boy”, or a “young youth”, or “young man”, in the Story of Susanna}.

 

  • Joakim “was very rich”. Mordecai, according to The Legends of the Jews (V. 4), “became a wealthy man”.
  • Joakim, since his house was used for “matters of judgment” (Daniel 13:6), may himself have been a judge, as we found (in Part One) Marduka (= Mordecai?) likely was.
  • Joakim is a figure very much in the background in the Story of Susanna, in which young Daniel comes to the fore. And Mordecai, too, tended to work quietly behind the scenes, advising his niece, Queen Esther, whilst Haman and King Ahasuerus take centre stage.
  • Joakim was well respected by many amongst the Jews, he being “the most honourable of them all”. And this we read similarly about Mordecai (Esther 10:1-3):

 

King Xerxes imposed tribute throughout the empire, to its distant shores. And all his acts of power and might, together with a full account of the greatness of Mordecai, whom the king had promoted, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Media and Persia? Mordecai the Jew was second in rank to King Xerxes, preeminent among the Jews, and held in high esteem by his many fellow Jews, because he worked for the good of his people and spoke up for the welfare of all the Jews.

 

 

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