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Intersecting Identities and Persuasive Speech

The Cases of Judah and Esther

In: Biblical Interpretation
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The similarities between Judah’s speech before Joseph in Genesis 44 and Esther’s series of requests before Ahasuerus in the book of Esther provide an unusual opportunity for an intersectional exploration of multiple identities as reflected in persuasive discourse. The speeches of the two figures not only contain verbal similarities but also occur at decisive moments in the narratives, when hidden identities are revealed, and they even share a set of rhetorical tactics. Each speech unfolds in a setting where the speaker’s identity is shaped by a combination of intersecting factors involving class, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and relatedness. Judah and Esther both model ways in which Jews who inhabited these intersecting categories could shape social realities in their diasporic communities despite structural constraints on their status. Subtle differences between the rhetorical strategies of the two figures provide further clues to the ways in which persuasive discourse and intersecting identities mutually influenced one another.


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