[This is very fascinating. Humphreys is an excellent scholar. I think he's on to something when he raises this issue of Esther vs Ishtar. And as usual, Jews pervert and stuff up great concepts that existed before. Part of what Humphreys has also been touching on, relates to The Bible stuffing up the natural sexual drive of men and women that is healthy and critical to survival. He touches on that in a number of articles. Jan]
First target – the Sacred Feminine
"For, says the Scripture, "A woman is inferior to her husband in all things."
– Josephus, Against Apion 2.25.
The goddesses of love, fertility and motherhood were an early target of both Jews and Christians. Aspects of the rival cults which could not be assimilated were demonised.
Babylonian Ishtar, Queen of the Night and goddess of sex and war.
(c 1750 BC – British Museum).
Note the owls and hyenas (in some interpretations, lions).
This feisty goddess had a Jewish makeover which demoted her to the demon Lilith or Lilitu of Isaiah 34.14,15:
"Wildcats shall meet with hyenas,
goat-demons shall call to each other;
there too Lilith shall repose,
and find a place to rest.
There shall the owl nest
and lay and hatch and brood in its shadow."
Even within Judaism, an echo of the sacred feminine was retained when the consort of Yahweh metamorphosed into Sophia or "Wisdom". Now merely an "emanation of the one God", the personification had a female aspect.
Esther – or Ishtar?
The biblical heroine Esther, supposedly a Persian Jewess, derives from a myth about Ishtar.
During the period of Babylonian exile an obsequious Esther, a "pleasing virgin", replaces a queen who has refused to parade before the king’s drunken pals. Queen Esther can now intercede for the Jews.
The yarn of Esther has the Jews turning the tables on a courtier who is their sworn foe. They destroy "all who would assault them" throughout the Persian empire – and this includes "both little ones and women".
The slaughter of 75,000 enemies of the Jews forms the basis of the festival of "Purim", celebrated in 2007 on 3rd-5th March.
Esther’s meek compliance prompts the king to issue an edict instructing all his female subjects to "obey their husbands"!
"The book of Esther a fiction with a Persian setting; it presupposes the world of the Diaspora after 300 BC."
– Robin Lane Fox, The Unauthorised Version, p198)
The yarn of Esther also inspired the author of Mark’s gospel, where it is a drunken king Herod who offers reward to a "pleasing" erotic dancer:
"Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it. And he vowed to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom." – Mark 6,22,23.
In the original Esther story, it is a drunken king Ahasuerus who makes a startlingly similar offer:
"What is thy petition, queen Esther? and it shall be granted thee: and what is thy request? and it shall be performed, even to the half of the kingdom." – Esther 7.2.
In the original tale, the royal chamberlain Haman dies; in Mark’s copy John the Baptist!