The Apocrypha – The Additions to the Book of Esther: The Cut Parts Add Little
One of the best presents I ever received was a battery operated radio (with a cassette player) when I was in second grade. I loved this present because I no longer had to borrow mom’s—the one with the 4 inch black and white TV screen she kept in the kitchen.
Back then, radio played more variety and less commercials—or at least it felt that way, for it seemed that I had to wait hours to hear the Duran Duran or Police song I was craving. Even better—the songs, at around 3 minutes, allowed for more songs in the station’s rotation. As I aged, I broadened my musical horizons, eventually discovering Metallica, U2, Cheap Trick, Tracy Chapman, INXS, and Crowded House (to name a few). On the radio, these artists’ songs conformed to the short length I‘d accepted as the standard. How was it that songwriters always ended up with songs of this length?
Well of course they don’t, but I didn’t realize this until I actually started buying—and listening to—full albums. Wow, Guns n’ Roses and Aerosmith songs had longer and more interesting bridges and solos; Metallica had entire sections excised for the radio (and video) while U2 had a few longer intro and outros.
But which versions are better? The short, edited ones or the as-intended album versions?
It’s impossible to make a blanket statement about this approach to editing, but I will say that sometimes the edited version is tighter yet still manages to convey the heft and intent of the artist simply by trimming parts of the song that offer little emotional relevance or are merely indulgent. As The Apocrypha’s “The Additions to the Book of Esther” demonstrates, the same can be said for Bible books.
Included in the Old Testament, the Book of Esther tells the story of a woman who, in a position of influence, places herself in mortal danger in order to persuade the king to spare the Israelites. Since this is one of my favorite Bible books, I was looking forward to reading more about this story—what additional angles existed? What depth of character had been excised? As it turns out, not much (if any).
Really, the only differences handle in more detail how Esther humbles her appearance before God (14:1-2), begs forgiveness on behalf of the Jews (6), and asks for help swaying the king (14:13). Once swayed, King Artaxerxes does have a new letter here, and although in it he admits to rash, rushed judgment with regards to his actions against the Jewish people (16:9), this idea is covered in the “edited” version. The ending, which covers an unrelated Purim letter being brought to Egypt, is also confusing, for it seems to be unrelated to Esther’s story (or what she accomplished).
As this Apocrypha book demonstrates, sometimes the edited version is just as good because it captures all the important elements of the work. Therefore, this book is really for only the right audience: a completest who wants to study every available resource in order to form as complete a picture as possible. Other readers should be fine without.it.