Esther Made Queen & Ahasuerus/Xerxe

So is the king going to fire her, or whatever King do to queens?  He’s not going to behead her like King Henry the VIII did, is he?

Vashti
Vashti was Queen of Persia and the first wife of Persian King Ahasuerus in the Book of Esther, a book included in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and read on the Jewish holiday of Purim. She was banished for her refusal to appear at the king’s banquet to show her beauty as the king wished, and Esther was chosen to succeed her as queen.

In the Midrash, Vashti is described as wicked and vain. She is viewed as an independent-minded heroine in feminist interpretations of the Purim story.

In the Book of Esther
In the Book of Esther, Vashti is the first wife of King Ahasuerus. While the king holds a magnificent banquet for his princes, nobles and servants, she holds a separate banquet for the women. On the seventh day of the banquet, when the king’s heart was “merry with wine”, the king orders his seven chamberlains to summon Vashti to come before him and his guests wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty.

Vashti refuses to come, and the king becomes angry. He asks his advisers how Vashti should be punished for her disobedience. His adviser Memucan tells him that Vashti has wronged not only the king, but also all of the husbands of Persia, whose wives may be encouraged by Vashti’s actions to disobey.

Memucan encourages Ahasuerus to dismiss Vashti and find another queen. Ahasuerus takes Memucan’s advice, and sends letters to all of the provinces that men should dominate in their households. Ahasuerus subsequently chooses Esther as his queen to replace Vashti.

King Ahaseurus’s command for the appearance of Queen Vashti is interpreted by several midrashic sources as an order to appear unclothed for the attendees of the king’s banquet.

Historical identification
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Bible commentators attempted to identify Vashti with Persian queens mentioned by the Greek historians. Traditional sources identify Ahasuerus with Artaxerxes II of Persia.

Jacob Hoschander, supporting the traditional identification, suggested that Vashti may be identical to a wife of Artaxerxes mentioned by Plutarch, named Stateira.[3] Upon the discovery of the equivalence of the names Ahasuerus and Xerxes, Bible commentators began to identify Ahasuerus with Xerxes I and Vashti with a wife named Amestris mentioned by Herodotus, an interpretation accepted by most scholars.

Meaning of the name
The meaning of the name Vashti is uncertain. As a modern Persian name it is understood to mean “goodness” but most likely it originated from the reconstructed Old Persian *vaištī, related to the superlative adjective vahišta- “best, excellent” found in the Avesta, with the feminine termination -ī; hence “excellent woman, best of women”.

Hoschander proposed that it originated as a shortening of an unattested vashtateira which he also proposed as the origin of the name “Stateira”.

“After these things, when the wrath of king Ahasuerus was appeased, he remembered Vashti, and what she had done, and what was decreed against her.

Then said the king’s servants that ministered unto him, Let there be fair young virgins sought for the king:

And let the king appoint officers in all the provinces of his kingdom, that they may gather together all the fair young virgins unto Shushan the palace, to the house of the women, unto the custody of Hege the king’s chamberlain, keeper of the women; and let their things for purification be given them:

And let the maiden which pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti. And the thing pleased the king; and he did so.

Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name wasMordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite;

Who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah king of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away.

And he brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter: for she had neither father nor mother, and the maid was fair and beautiful; whom Mordecai, when her father and mother were dead, took for his own daughter.

So it came to pass, when the king’s commandment and his decree was heard, and when many maidens were gathered together unto Shushan the palace, to the custody of Hegai, that Esther was brought also unto the king’s house, to the custody of Hegai, keeper of the women.

And the maiden pleased him, and she obtained kindness of him; and he speedily gave her her things for purification, with such things as belonged to her, and seven maidens, which were meet to be given her, out of the king’s house: and he preferred her and her maids unto the best place of the house of the women.

Esther had not shewed her people nor her kindred: for Mordecai had charged her that she should not shew it.

And Mordecai walked every day before the court of the women’s house, to know how Esther did, and what should become of her.

The palace of Ahasuerus/Xerxes at Persepolis, called Hadiš in Persian, “dwelling place”, was twice as large as the Palace of Darius.

A terrace connected the two royal mansions, which are not very far apart.

Yet, compared to the palace of Darius, the house of Xerxes is badly damaged.

A likely explanation is that it received a special treatment when the Macedonian king Alexander the Great destroyed Persepolis in 330.

His men were especially interested in the palace of the man who had once sacked Athens.

This relief of the great king leaving the palace is an example of the destruction.

The damages from the right are partly due to natural causes, but the face has been destroyed with a hammer, and someone must have made a great effort to create a hole near the king’s ear.

It was probably meant for a piece of cork that would have been wetted with vinegar.

When heated, the cork would start to dilate and would ultimately blow the stone to pieces – a common practice in ancient stone quarries.

For one reason or another, the cork and vinegar were never used.

The main room had 36 columns and was surrounded by six smaller rooms: three to the east, and three to the west.

To the north was a portico, facing the Apadana. (Later, king Artaxerxes III Ochus constructed a palace between the two buildings).

The decoration of this portico was more or less identical to the palace of Darius: for example, there are reliefs of the king leaving his mansion, attended by people carrying a parasol and a fan.

An inscription, known as XPe, written in Old Persian, Elamite and Babylonian, says:

“Xerxes, the great king, the king of kings,

the son of king Darius, an Achaemenid.”

There are almost similar inscriptions which mention Xerxes’ father Darius (DPb). According to the inscription known as A1Pa, the palace was completed by Artaxerxes I Makrocheir, the son and successor of Xerxes.

The stairs from the palace of Darius to the interconnecting terrace belong to the best-preserved part of the complex.

The central part of these stairs show Ahuramazda (not Faravahar, as is often claimed), flanked by two sphinxes, an inscription and several soldiers, which are sometimes called “apple bearers” or Immortals.

Now when every maid’s turn was come to go in to king Ahasuerus, after that she had been twelve months, according to the manner of the women, (for so were the days of their purifications accomplished, to wit, six months with oil of myrrh, and six months with sweet odours, and with other things for the purifying of the women;)

Then thus came every maiden unto the king; whatsoever she desired was

 

given her to go with her out of the house of the women unto the king’s house.

In the evening she went, and on the morrow she returned into the second house of the women, to the custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s chamberlain, which kept the concubines: she came in unto the king no more, except the king delighted in her, and that she were called by name.

Now when the turn of Esther, the daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had taken her for his daughter, was come to go in unto the king, she required nothing but what Hegai the king’s chamberlain, the keeper of the women, appointed. And Esther obtained favour in the sight of all them that looked upon her.

So Esther was taken unto king Ahasuerus into his house royal in the tenth month, which is the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign.

And the king loved Esther above all the women, and she obtained grace and favour in his sight more than all the virgins; so that he set the royal crown upon her head, and made her queen instead of Vashti.

Then the king made a great feast unto all his princes and his servants, even Esther’s feast; and he made a release to the provinces, and gave gifts, according to the state of the king.

And when the virgins were gathered together the second time, then Mordecai sat in the king’s gate.

Esther had not yet shewed her kindred nor her people; as Mordecai had charged her: for Esther did the commandment of Mordecai, like as when she was brought up with him.

In those days, while Mordecai sat in the king’s gate, two of the king’s chamberlains, Bigthan and Teresh, of those which kept the door, were wroth, and sought to lay hands on the king Ahasuerus.

And the thing was known to Mordecai, who told it unto Esther the queen; and Esther certified the king thereof in Mordecai’s name.

And when inquisition was made of the matter, it was found out; therefore they were both hanged on a tree: and it was written in the book of the chronicles before the king” (Est 2:1-23).

1 The name Mordechai is of uncertain origin but is considered identical to the name Marduka or Marduku attested as the name of officials in the Persian court in thirty texts (the Persepolis Texts) from the period of Xerxes I and his father Darius, and may refer to up to four individuals, one of which might very well be the biblical Mordecai. 

The name is commonly interpreted as a theophoric name referring to the god Marduk with the understanding that it means servant/follower/devotee of Marduk in Aramaic.  The Book of Daniel contains similar accounts of Jews living in exile in Babylonia being assigned names relating to Babylonian gods. 

Ahasuerus/Xerxes

Ahasuerus/Xerxes was the son of Darius the Great, mentioned in Dan 9:1, the grandson of Cyrus the Great and the king of Persia mentioned in the book of Esther.  There is no doubt that he is the well-known historical Xerxes who reigned from 486-465 B.C.

The main support for this identification is to be found in the linguistic equivalence of the names of KJV “Ahasuerus” and the NIV “Xerxes.”  In addition, a close similarity has been noted between the character of the historical Xerxes and the character of the king of the Persians portrayed in the Book of Esther. 

There are also historical correlations.  The feast that was held in the 3rd year of the reign of Xerxes at Susa (Est 1:3) corresponds to an assembly held by Xerxes in his 3rd year in preparation for the invasion of Greece.  Herodotus states that Xerxes, following his defeat at Salamis and Plataea, consoled himself in his 7th year with the pleasures of the harem. 

This parallels the biblical account that relates that Ahasuerus replaced Vashti by marrying Esther in his 7th year (Est 2:16) after gathering all the fair young virgins to Susa.  The Xerxes of Ezra 4:6, whom were written accusations against the Jews of Jerusalem is in all probability the same Xerxes, though sometimes identified with Cambyses, son of Cyrus.

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