Recent scholarship has shown a burgeoning interest in the narrative functions and implications of references to dress and adornment in the Hebrew Bible. Yet the many references to the various clothing items and associated acts of dressing and undressing in the book of Esther have been less explored. In fact, the book of Esther weaves a complex tapestry of garment imagery, and untangling this tapestry is essential to properly interpreting this text. Through dress, characters can communicate their conformity to certain conventional expectations, affecting the ways in which other characters relate and behave towards them. Characters can utilize dress to express their protest, or conversely hide their true intentions. Crucially, differences in clothing develop distinctions between the power and status of the various characters. Clothing therefore has discrete and important functions in the book of Esther, providing new access to understanding characterisation and plot.
In the book of Daniel, Daniel and his friends all adopt foreign dress to succeed in a foreign setting. We might understand this as a kind of colonization, wrought upon bodies. But this raises questions about their ethnic identity: can one remain Jewish if adopting and adapting to foreign embodied practices, including dress, adornment, and diet? By exploring embodied practices as an issue of ethnicity and identity formation in Daniel 1–6, we will argue that these stories make a bold claim about the embodied colonization of the foreign court: underneath their Persian garb, Daniel and his friends remain thoroughly Jewish after all.