I am studying the book of Esther in preparation for a sermon next Sunday. Since the good folks at Crossway have released the entire book of Esther from the ESV Study Bible, it provides an opportunity to compare some of the study notes from these new study Bibles.

ESV Study Bible:

2:22—23 hanged on the gallows. A practice known from ancient records. Cf. Ezra 6:11. the chronicles. A record of significant events in the king’s reign (e.g., 1 Kings 14:29).

NLT Study Bible:

2:23 impaled on a sharpened pole (literally hanged on a tree, or hanged on wood): This phrase has traditionally been translated hanged on a gallows, but inscriptions from ancient Persia show that impalement was a standard form of execution. Xerxes’ father, Darius I, claimed to have impaled 3,000 Babylonians when he conquered Babylon. Sometimes criminals were executed first and then displayed on a stake, as with the execution of Haman’s sons (9:5-14).

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I am really surprised that the ESVSB simply left this phrase alone. For ESVSB’s great depth in other places, this is a “miss” in my opinion. “Hanged on the gallows” implies to the average reader a visualization from a western movie with people being hung by rope. The Hebrew word translated “gallows” literally means “wood” as the NLTSB points out. The ESVSB at least makes a reference to Ezra 6:11 which speaks of being impaled on wood. I think it is important for a note to be made that gallows could merely be sharpened wood for impaling. The NLTSB does well and I am disappointed that the ESVSB did not give a similar explanation.

As an aside notice the change the TNIV makes from the NIV on this verse:

NIV: And when the report was investigated and found to be true, the two officials were hanged on a gallows.

TNIV: And when the report was investigated and found to be true, the two officials were impaled on poles.

While the TNIV is likely a good improvement, “poles” in our society probably conjures an image of a metal pole. I think it would have been good to translate the phrase as “impaled on wooden poles” just to keep the text clear.

3 Comments

  1. I checked the RSV and I see that also reads “gallows”. So I assume the ESV translators chose not to change the reading when they were revising the old RSV, for whatever reason. Maybe they will in an upcoming revision.

    That’s one of the things I like about what Tyndale is doing with the NLT – it’s far easier to read, yet in many cases it is actually more “accurate”.

  2. Thanks, Gary. It is interesting that the NRSV also uses “gallows.” I guess no one wanted to change from the traditional reading.

  3. Thanks Brent. I was reading Esther this morning in the NLT and was surprised\disappointed to see that the NLT translated this as “impaled”, rather than “hanged”. I did a Google search to see if anyone had commented on this. Now that I’ve read your comments I’m pleased to see that the NLT actually has it right.