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tradition and of the mode of celebrating the feast renders it probable that Purim is nothing but a

or less disguised form of the Babylonian festival of the Sacaea or Zakmuk.

In the first place, the feast of Purim was and is held on the fourteenth and fifteenth days of Adar, the last month of the Jewish year, which corresponds roughly to March. Thus the date agrees nearly, though not exactly, with the date of the Babylonian Zakmuk, which fell a fortnight later in the early days of the following month Nisan. A trace of the original celebration of Purim in Nisan may perhaps bé found in the statement that “they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman" in Nisan, the first month of the year. It has been suggested with some plausibility that the Jews may have shifted the date of Purim in order that the new and foreign festival might not clash with their own old festival of the Passover, which began on the fourteenth day of Nisan. Another circumstance which speaks at once for the alien origin of Purim and for its identity with Zakmuk is its name. The author of the book of Esther derives the name Purim from pur, “a lot,” 3 but no such word with this signification exists in Hebrew, and hence we are driven to look for the meaning and etymology of Purim in some other language. A specious theory is that the name was derived from an Assyrian word pulru, "an assembly,” and referred primarily to the great assembly of the gods which, as we have seen, formed a chief feature of the festival of Zakmuk, and was held annually in the temple of Marduk at Babylon for the purpose of determining the fates or lots of the new year ;* the august assembly appears to have been occasionally, if not regularly, designated by the very name puhru. On this hypothesis the traditional Jewish explanation of the name Purim preserved a genuine

1 We know from Josephus (Antiquit. 3 Esther iii. 7, ix. 26. ii. 10. 5) that in the month Nisan, This is the view of Zimmern the first month of the Jewish year, the (Zeitschrift für die alttestamentliche sun was in Aries. Now the sun is in Ilissenschaft, xi. (1891), p. 157 899.), Aries from March 20th or 21st to and it is favoured by Nowack (Lehre April 19th or 20th; hence Nisan buch der hebräischer Archäologie, ii. answers approximately to April, and 198 sq.). Adar to March.

Jensen, kosmologie der Babylonier, : Esther iii. 7.

P. 240 sq.

kernel of historical truth, or at least of mythical fancy, under the husk of a verbal error; for the name, if this derivation of it is correct, really signified not "the lots" but the assembly for drawing or otherwise determining the lots. Another explanation which has been offered is "that pūr or bir seems to be an old Assyrian word for 'stone,' and that therefore it is possible that the word was also used to signify ‘lot,' like the Hebrew 5712,‘lot,' which originally, no doubt, meant 'little stone.'”1 Either of these explanations of the name Purim, by tracing it back to the New Year assembly of the gods at Babylon for settling the lots, furnishes an adequate explanation of the traditional association of Purim with the casting of lots—an association all the more remarkable and all the more likely to be ancient because there is nothing to justify it either in the Hebrew language or in the Jewish mode of celebrating the festival. When to this we add the joyous, nay, extravagant festivity which has always been characteristic of Purim and is entirely in keeping with a New Year celebration, we may perhaps be thought to have made out a fairly probable case for holding that the Jewish feast is derived from the Babylonian New Year festival of Zakmuk. Whether the Jews borrowed the feast directly from the Babylonians or indirectly through the Persian conquerors of Babylon is a question which deserves to be considered ; but the Persian colouring of the book of Esther speaks strongly for the view that Purim came to Israel by way of Persia, and this view is confirmed by other evidence, to which I shall have to ask the reader's attention a little later on.

If the links which bind Purim to Zakmuk are reasonably strong, the chain of evidence which connects the Jewish festival with the Sacaea is much stronger.

Nor is this surprising when we remember that, while the popular mode of celebrating Zakmuk is unknown, we possess important and trustworthy details as to the manner of holding the Sacaea. We have seen that the Sacaea was a wild Bac

1 The explanation is that of Jensen, (i noos). I desire to thank the editors quoted by Nöldeke in Encyclopadia of the Encyclopatia Biblica for their Biblica, s.7'. « Esther." In Greek,

courtesy in allowing me to see Professor for a similar reason, the word for Söldeke's article in proof. “pebble” and

is identical

« vote

chanalian revel at which men and women disguised themselves and drank and played together in a fashion that was more gay than modest. Now this is, or used to be, precisely the nature of Purim. The two days of the festival, according to the author of the book of Esther, were to be kept for ever as “ days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor.” 1 And this joyous character the festival seems always to have retained. The author of a tract in the Talmud lays it down as a rule that at the feast of Purim every Jew is bound to drink until he cannot distinguish between the words “ Cursed be Haman” and “Blessed be Mordecai”; and he tells how on one occasion a certain Rabba drank so deep at Purim that he murdered a rabbi without knowing what he was about. Indeed Purim has been described as the Jewish Bacchanalia, and we are told that at this season everything is lawful which can contribute to the mirth and gaiety of the festival.? Writers of the seventeenth century assert that during the two days and especially on the evening of the second day the Jews did nothing but feast and drink to repletion, play, dance, sing, and make merry; in particular they disguised themselves, men and women exchanging clothes, and thus attired ran about like mad, in open defiance of the Mosaic law, which expressly forbids men to dress as women and women as men.3 Among the Jews of Frankfort, who inhabited the squalid but quaint and picturesque old street known as the Judengasse which many of us still remember, the revelry at Purim ran as high as ever in the eighteenth century. The gluttony and intoxication began punctually at three o'clock in the afternoon of the first day and went on until the whole community seemed to have taken leave of their senses. They ate and drank, they frolicked and cut capers, they reeled and staggered about, they shrieked, yelled, stamped, clattered, and broke

1 Esther x. 22.

? Buxtorf, Synagoga Judaica (Bale, 1661), pp. 554 sq., 559 sq.

3 Buxtorf, op. cit. p. 559 ; Schickard, quoted by Lagarde, “ Purim," p. 54 sq., Abhandlungen der kön.

Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften
Göttingen, xxxiv. (1987).

Compare Bodenschatz, Kirchliche Verfassung der heutigen Juden (Erlangen, 1748), ii. 256. For the rule forbidding men and women to exchange garments, sce Deuteronomy xxii. 5.

each other's heads with wooden hammers till the blood flowed. On the evening of the first day the women were allowed, as a special favour, to open their latticed window and look into the men's synagogue, because the great deliverance of the Jews from their enemies in the time of King Ahasuerus was said to have been effected by a woman. A feature of the festival which should not be overlooked was the acting of the story of Esther as a comedy, in which Esther, Ahasuerus, Haman, Mordecai, and others played their parts after a fashion that sometimes degenerated from farce into ribaldry. Thus on the whole we may take it that Purim has always been a Saturnalia and therefore corresponds in character to the Sacaea, as that festival has been described for us by Strabo.

But further, when we examine the narrative which professes to account for the institution of Purim, we discover in it not only the strongest traces of Babylonian origin, but also certain singular analogies to those very features of the Sacaean festival with which we are here more immediately concerned. The book of Esther turns upon the fortunes of two men, the vizier Haman and the despised Jew Mordecai, at the court of a Persian king. Mordecai, we are told, had given mortal offence to the vizier, who accordingly prepares a tall gallows on which he hopes to see his enemy hanged, while he himself expects to receive the highest mark of the king's favour by being allowed to wear the royal crown and the royal robes and thus attired to parade the streets, mounted on the king's own horse and attended by one of the noblest princes, who should proclaim to the multitude his temporary exaltation and glory. But the artful intrigues of the wicked vizier miscarried and resulted in precisely the opposite of what he had hoped and expected ; for the royal honours which he had looked for fell to his rival Mordecai, and he himself was hanged on the gallows which he had made ready for his foe.

In this story we seem to detect a reminiscence, more or less confused, of the Zoganes of the Sacaea,

J. J. Schud:, Jüdische Werkwür. ta's (London, 1896), p. 261 599. digkeiten (Frankfort and Leipsic, 1714), I have to thank my learned friend Dr. ii. Theil, pp. *309, *314, *316, iv. S. Schechter for bringing both these Theiles die ii. Continuation, p. 347 : works to my notice. J. Abrahams, jiwish Life in the Middle


in other words, of the custom of investing a private man with the insignia of royalty for a few days and then putting him to death on the gallows or the cross. It is true that in the narrative the part of the Zoganes is divided between two actors, one of whom hopes to play the king but is hanged instead, while the other acts the royal part and escapes the gallows to which he was destined by his enemy. But this bisection, so to say, of the Zoganes may have been deliberately invented by the Jewish author of the book of Esther for the sake of setting the origin of Purim, which it was his purpose to explain, in a light that should reflect glory on his own nation. Or, perhaps more probably, it points back to a custom of appointing two mock kings at the Sacaea, one of whom was put to death at the end of the festival, while the other was allowed to go free, at least for a time. We shall be the more inclined to adopt the latter hypothesis when we observe that corresponding to the two rival aspirants to the temporary kingship there appear in the Jewish narrative two rival queens, Vashti and Esther, one of whom succeeds to the high estate from which the other has fallen. Further, it is to be noted that Mordecai, the successful candidate for the mock kingship, and Esther, the successful candidate for the queenship, are linked together by close ties both of interest and blood, the two being said to be cousins. This suggests that in the original story or the original custom there may have figured two pairs of kings and queens, of whom one pair is represented in the Jewish narrative by Mordecai and Esther and the other by Haman and Vashti.

A strong confirmation of this view is furnished by a philological analysis of the names of the four personages. It seems to be now generally recognised by Biblical scholars that the name Mordecai, which has no meaning in Hebrew, is nothing but a slightly altered form of Marduk or Merodach, the name of the chief god of Babylon, whose great festival was the Zakmuk; and further, it is generally admitted that Esther in like manner is equivalent to Ishtar, the great Babylonian goddess whom the Greeks called Astarte and who is more familiar to English readers as Ashtaroth. The derivation of the names of Haman and Vashti is less certain,

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