Was Esther considered a “woman of valor” the way Ruth and the wife in Proverbs were?

This question refers to the phrase “Eishet Chayil” used in Ruth, where it is sometimes translated “woman of power,” “virtuous woman,” or “good girl.” and in Proverbs 38, where is usually is translated “ideal wife.” First of all, though the phrase is not used in Esther, I think Hellenistic Jews (both male and female) were supposed to see from Esther that their very weakness in the face of their persecutors could be strength. Though she doesn’t pray, she fasts, which is a sign of holiness. The key moment is when her ‘Aman or protector Mordecai (which puns on Haman (Links to an external site.)) tells her that saving the Jews is the reason she has “come to power,” suggesting an invisible hand in events. And her reply, “If I perish, I perish,” shows her willingness to be martyred, which is also an important Hellenistic Jewish theme. 

On the other hand, Esther was also much reviled. The authors of the Dead Sea scrolls had every biblical text but Esther. St. Jerome and later Martin Luther wished the text had never been written. Medieval Talmudic literature was troubled by her as well. Why? Here’s a good summary from the Esther entry in the Encyclopedia of Jewish women: 

“The rabbis were troubled by Esther’s failure to live as a Jew: she has sexual intercourse with and marries a Gentile, lives in the Persian court, and does not follow Jewish dietary laws (the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, tries to remedy this by adding prayers and repeatedly invoking God, as well as having Esther declare that she loathes her present lifestyle). In addition, Esther has been taken to task by both female and male commentators for her apparent willingness to participate in Persian harem customs, and by Christian commentators for her evident bloodthirstiness in destroying Gentiles.” 

I should add that she doesn’t just marry a Gentile. She gets sex training in a harem. While I’ve said that biblical women were expected to use their sexuality for their people, by the middle ages female modesty was definitely the rule, as much in Judaism as in Christianity. Here’s an article on modesty in the Halakhic tradition (the Halakha was the law part of the Talmud): https://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/modesty-and-sexuality-in-halakhic-literature (Links to an external site.)

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