Bible / Esther / Wine

The Phrase משתה in the Book of Esther

Many English versions translate משתה generally as either “feast” (e.g., ESV, KJV, NKJV) or “banquet” (e.g., NASB, NIV, NRS, RSV, TNK) and understand משתה יין as functioning adverbially. The NASB, for example, understands this construct phrase as the act of drinking: “as they drank their wine at the banquet” (Esth 5:6; 7:2), and “drinking wine” (Esth 7:7, 8). This translation construes the noun as acting verbally, however the verb שתה is only employed thrice in Esther (3:15; 4:16; 7:1). Further, משתה occurs neither in the participle form (שתים) nor in the infinitive construct form (לשתות שתה) which does more accurately connote the act of drinking. משתה, therefore, is a noun every time throughout the book of Esther.

Some lexicographers understand משתה to be a feast with overtones or specificity of liberality in drinking. When the noun משתה stands alone it has flexibility in semantic range, but the lexical scope of משתה is narrowed down when coupled with יין, “wine” (as it is found in Esth 5:6; 7:2, 7, 8). While Koehler–Baumgartner translates משתה as “banquet with wine,” (bold by K-B) they deduce that the full construct, משתה יין, intensifies its adjectival meaning to denote a “bout of drinking.” Brown-Driver-Briggs, similarly, defines משתה יין as an “occasion for drinking, drinking–bout.” In this paper, then, משתה is defined as “drinking festival,” and משתה יין is referring to a “drinking–bout.”

Joshua Joel Spoelstra, “The function of the ‘משתה יין’ in the Book of Esther”, Old Testament Essays, vol. 27, no. 1 (2014), 287-288.