The Events of Purim

We have finally reached the day that became known as Purim. It begins in chapter 9 with the giving of the date, Adar 13. As the text says the edict of the king, the first edict, had given the people of the kingdom the hope of overpowering the Jews. However, the tables had turned due to the edict written by Mordecai in the name of the King and now the Jews were the stronger.

All over the kingdom of King Xerxes the Jews gathered to defend themselves against those who hated them. The Jews that are mentioned here would not only include those natural  born Jews, but also all those from other nationalities who had become Jews; their numbers had greatly increased.

There was also another factor involved in this battle, those who came to attack them were actually afraid of them. This reminds me of the account of Gideon when the Midianites actually attacked each other in their fear. There is also the account of when the Israelites were first entering the land of Israel and Rahab tells the two spies in Jericho that the hearts of the people were melting in fear because of them. They had heard what their God had done for them. Sound familiar? The people who attacked the Jews here in Esther might have come out to fight because of their hatred for the Jews, but they were also afraid of them because they knew what God had all ready done for them. So their hearts melted in fear and were defeated.

Scripture tells us in James 2:19 that even the demons tremble in fear. They know who God is and they know what he can do to them. Yet they still come out to fight. We also know from James 4:7 that when we submit to God and resist the devil he will flee from us. We see in Esther that the Jews had submitted to God and the enemy who is afraid of them is defeated.

Do you see the difference in the two types of fear that is mentioned? The first type of fear at the end of chapter 8 led to salvation while the second led to death. The first developed faith and love while the second flowed from hate. The first was out of a fear of the one true God and the other out of a fear of death and defeat. What a difference!

The nobles and officials of the kingdom even helped the Jews in their battle. Why? Because they feared Mordecai. I do not think this is the same fear as the one at the end of chapter 8 because there is no mention of them becoming Jews here. Rather their fear seems to have more to do with Mordecai’s power in the palace under Xerxes. Mordecai’s reputation went all throughout the land and his power increased greatly. You see, Mordecai had the king’s ear. They all knew of the influence Mordecai had. King Xerxes respected the views of Mordecai, if not sharing them himself, and took them to account. The fear here led to a respect of authority despite one’s own views.

The Jews were victorious over their enemies and even killed the sons of Haman and 500 men in the citadel of Susa itself. Please understand this. With all we have said above there were many in the citadel itself, where the King, Queen and Mordechai lived, that sought to kill the Jews. It would not surprise me if many of them were related to Xerxes, as well as, members of the Zoroastrian priesthood and if this was and unsuccessful coup. After all, if you are going to kill the Jews in the citadel would you not be going after the two most powerful Jews in the kingdom, the Queen and Mordechai, not to mention that Jew loving Xerxes who married not only outside the family but a Jewess and then aligned himself to her family instead of the other way around. If you are going to have any hope of survival in an attack in the citadel you are going for it all. You are going to kill the King.

When this is reported to Xerxes, I picture him in a war room getting updates on the battle, he turns to Esther his queen and makes a very interesting statement. Not only does he report the death of the five hundred and the 10 sons of Haman, but also wants to know how successful they had been in the rest of the kingdom. He and his wife are in this together. Then comes the ultimate statement and expression of love and trust. Xerxes says to Esther, “Now what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? It will also be granted.”(NIV)  Did you catch it? We have seen Xerxes make similar statements before, yet this one stands apart. Do you see why? He places absolutely no limit on her petition or request. He simply says, before he hears it, it is yours. He stands unequivocally beside her with no reservations at all. The ultimate show of trust and love! She is the apple of his eye and he will withhold nothing from her. Let that picture wash over you and then remember our King lavished his love on us.

Esther wants complete victory, not just a partial one. She wants to make sure all those who hate her people are gone from Susa. She asks, “if it pleases the king”(NIV) for another day of fighting in Susa. She also asks for the sons of Haman to be displayed for all to see. She wants all to know what happens to those who would defy the living God. It is interesting to note that when Xerxes is killed in a coup led by Zoroastrian priests and family members about 10 years later that it does not take place in Susa.

And so it pleased the king to grant by his command and edict another day of fighting in Susa. While those in the provinces, which remember included Israel, rested and feasted with great joy on the 14th of Adar – after killing 75,000 on the 13th – the Jews in Susa assembled again to fight and killed another 300 men.

The Jews defeated their enemies but none of them laid their hands on the plunder. They were not after riches. They were after the right to live. They were after relief from their enemies. Yet God gave them a plunder they could have never imagined. Their tent had been enlarged with the coming in of new followers of Yahweh. He had truly blessed them with true fruit and a heart turned back to Him and His covenant.

May God rescue us from our enemy and enlarge our tent,

Vicky

For Her People

At the end of our last post Xerxes’ anger was subsiding and Haman was dead.  However, the real work was yet to come.  At the beginning of chapter eight, on the very day that Haman was hanged, we find King Xerxes and Queen Esther in court together and Esther officially presenting Mordecai to Xerxes and the court.  Xerxes not only accepted the Jewish girl as his wife, but also publically as his Queen in the full knowledge of what that meant.

A tremendous shift in power was made in this moment.  Mordecai becomes the King’s new confidant and trusted advisor.  The deceiving one is dead and the child of God takes his place.  The king no longer trusts the forces of evil, but is putting his trust and his confidence in the people of God.  Xerxes makes this change having all the information.  His wife is a Jew and the man who raised her, her adopted father, also a Jew, is now the one whom the king will rely on and trust.

Mordecai is also given great wealth.  The estate of Haman was given to Esther and she in turn gives the responsibility of the estate to Mordecai.  Mordecai is also robed in princely attire and given great honor.  This  is the Great Reversal within the book.  Mordecai, the Jew, becomes everything that the enemy had been and more.  He is not only given great honor and responsibility, but is publically seen as a member of Xerxes’ household.  Or should I say that Xerxes is publically seen as a member of Mordecai’s household, the very household Haman had sought to destroy.

However, even though Esther and Mordecai are now safe from danger there is still the matter of the people throughout the kingdom and the king’s edict.  Her people were still in danger because the edict was still in effect.

To address this, Esther once again finds herself on her knees before the king.  She would have had to step down off her throne as Queen and become just another subject to make such a request.  This time anger is not motivating Xerxes, but the cry and the heart of his wife.  She is begging for her people.  Her heart is exposed for she cannot bear to see her people suffer. 

She does not want to be like the last king of Judah, Zechariah, who was forced to see the death of his sons before losing his sight at the command of Nebuchadnezzar.  She wanted her people to be spared including those back in the land of Israel that Cyrus, Xerxes’ grandfather, had allowed to return.  She wanted her people, whom Darius, Xerxes’ father,  had allowed  to rebuild the temple to be able to protect themselves and all they had built.  After all, how could she stand by and watch all that be wasted?  How could he?  There was still so much at stake.

So Esther humbles herself before her king and husband in order to request the lives of her people.  She knows that he does not have the authority according to the laws of Persia to reverse the last edict, but she also knows there must be a solution.

Let us also remember that presenting herself in this way without an invitation would once again require the lowering of the king’s scepter.  However, this time there does not seem to be any hesitation on her part to do so.  Xerxes had proven himself to her and she was confident in his love for her.  And the scepter comes down and she stands to her feet.

She makes her appeal by saying these words, “If it pleases the king,…,and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me,…”(NIV)  She is reminding him once again that she does please him, that he does regard her with favor, or said another way, that the grace of the king is on her and that she pleases, pleases him. 

There is also the issue that the matter at hand is about right and wrong, good and evil.  She knows it pleases him to do the good and she trusts him to do it.  She is again showing her confidence in him as her king and her husband.

Xerxes gives Esther and Mordecai the authority to set things right and even hands over his signet ring to Mordecai.  I love the significance of that scene.  The King’s ring goes to the one whom God had intended it for. Mordecai is given the seal of the king.  I cannot help but think of the seal that the Messiah has placed in us, The Holy Spirit.  With His seal in us our security is fixed in Him and cannot be reversed anymore than an edict of the Persian kings that had been sealed with the king’s ring could be reversed.

Esther and Mordecai set out immediately to overcome the first edict with an edict of their own.  This new edict was to give the Jews the right to protect themselves against anyone who would follow the first edict and attack them, either as individuals or as armies.  They were also given the right to take the plunder of those who attacked them.  The latter is a privilege that they did not use.

This edict was also sent out on a specific date, Sivan 23.  This is important because it was shortly after Pentecost, the feast of the first harvest of the year.  Remember that the first edict went out at the time of Passover.  It had been about 2 months.  All of this had taken place in a little more than two months.  There was still about 10 months left to get the word out and for people to prepare, either way.

Her people were saved that day and Mordecai leaves the court in royal robes.  God is glorified by it all even though the book never mentions Him.  It is completely understood that the hero in the book is God Himself who reveals His power and plan through the orphan girl turned Queen and her adoptive father.  It pleased our King to save His people.

Our King Saves,

Vicky

The King’s Pleasure and Displeasure

So King Xerxes and Haman once again go to dine with Queen Esther and after the meal while they are reclining drinking their wine, just as many today have coffee after a meal, the king once again addresses the queen.  Wanting to finally hear her petition and request, he signaled to her that he is willing to grant it.  Remember, he has had the entire evening to contemplate whether or not he would be willing to grant what was sure to be a large request, even up to half his kingdom.  He must have loved and trusted her greatly to be willing to grant a large request before even hearing it.

 

Esther, the Queen, finally answers, but also prefaces her request.  “If I have found favor with you, oh king, and if it pleases your majesty…”  Remember our definition for favor and our discussion about being pleasing.  Both of those things still apply.  She is seeking his pleasure and reminding him that she does please him and is deserving of his favor and grace. 

Then came the petition and request.  She asks for her life and the sparing of her people.  She is finally identifying who she really is to her own husband.  She is a Jew.  If her people have been sold to destruction, slaughter, and annihilation, then so has she.  In doing so, she is choosing to stand with her people, which is more important to her than being the Queen of Persia. 

Who will the king choose?  The Jewish girl he married unknowingly or the Queen of Persia?  Will he deny who she really is and deem her guilty of treason for deceiving the king? 

Esther then says and does something profound – something other Jewish women of faith have done in the past.  She is about to stand in the gap, so to speak, and give her husband a very strong warning.  She is truly a daughter of Sarah and Rebekah.  Think on that a moment and hopefully one day we can discuss that as well.

 

She carefully lets him know that if they had merely been sold as slaves she would have said nothing.  But, then she begins to paint the real picture of danger that her husband has gotten himself into.  This danger is the danger of incurring the wrath of God. 

You see the words, “because no such distress would justify disturbing the king” could also be translated, “… but this adversary could not reckon the king’s loss.”  I believe the latter to be the better and more accurate translation and it definitely fits the context of the whole book better. 

Remember that Haman had offered to compensate the king through money and plunder for the annihilation of the Jews from his kingdom.  Also remember that Esther even knows the amount Haman offered.  However, that large earthly sum could not even begin to compare to the loss he would suffer at God’s hands for annihilating the people of God. 

Also, notice the word “our”.  She is not just saying that the enemy, Haman, is the adversary of her and the Jews, but of her husband as well.

 

Xerxes definitely gets the point and demands to know the identity of the adversary.  Who is the man who would oppose my wife, my Queen and her people and dare to come between me and my wife?  Who?

 

Esther then finally reveals the adversary and enemy.  Note that both words from the Hebrew can be translated adversary or enemy.  The one she would name is an enemy of enemies who is based on pure wickedness and evil.  It is the wicked Haman.

 

It was Haman.  The one Xerxes thought he could trust to have his back.  The one he had trusted to not betray him when there seemed to be enemies all around.  It was Haman who attempted to come between him and his wife and bring the wrath of God upon him.  Is there any greater betrayal?

 

Let’s not forget that Haman is setting right there listening to the king and queen as they begin to understand together that Haman has betrayed them.  You see, as long as they were apart and Esther was the only one knew the truth Haman was safe.  However, Haman was in real danger after the King and Queen came together and worked together as one.  Haman knew of the king’s love and respect for his wife and queen and that he would be willing to fight for her.

 

Make no mistake about it, our King is willing to fight and protect us as well.  The enemy knows that when we stand with Yeshua, stand together as Yeshua’s Bride in His will, then he is in trouble.  That is why he seeks to divide us so much and keep us separated from the will of our King.  We too are in a battle of annihilation and we must stand together with our King and identify our true enemy and shine light into his darkness.

 

The enemy knows his fate and knows it has already been decided.  Notice this was true of Haman as well and when the king gets up to leave in his rage, Haman begins to beg Esther for his life.  I believe the king leaves to seek some self-control.  He wants this rage and wrath to be properly directed and controlled. 

Let’s also not forget how skillfully Esther handled this.  Even though she made it clear that the king would suffer loss from incurring the wrath of God, she was very careful to point the responsibility and ultimate blame on Haman and not Xerxes.  I think that is the real reason she had Haman come to these banquets, so that when she finally revealed the truth she would have the enemy to point directly to.  I also find it interesting that Haman begs for his life from the one he sought to kill – knowingly or not.

 

Xerxes returned from the palace garden—where he had sought to think things through, to find Haman at the feet of his wife, a place that was forbidden to all except him.  The passage says that he “fell” to her feet.  I think you will find it interesting to know that the word “fell” can also be translated “to cast down oneself or lots, to die, to perish, to slay, or to smite out”.  This whole business started with the casting of lots.  I don’t think it is just a coincidence that that idea is also used here.  Haman knows in order to live he must cast himself down and die to what he wanted.

 

Once again Xerxes’ anger or hot displeasure spikes again and he even accuses Haman of attempting to molest the Queen right under his nose.  The word for “molest” can also be translated “to subjugate, to conquer, or to bring into bondage.”  The king was very aware of the position Haman was taking and what he was trying to accomplish.  His motives were clear.  How brazen was this enemy?

 

It is at this point we realize Xerxes might not have left the room just to calm down, but also to bring attendants to arrest and execute Haman.  We see Harbona, perhaps one of those who had escorted Haman to the banquet.  This would have given him the opportunity to learn of the gallows Haman had been built for Mordecai.  Harbona, speaks up and lets the king know about the gallows.  Then Haman, who is now under a covering, hears the order of the king for him to be hung on those same gallows.  The words his wife and friends had spoken to him of his ruin were quickly coming to pass.

 

Then the King’s anger subsided.  This subsided anger was the idea of allaying ones passions through secreting them, it was a flood abated.  The anger literally washed off of him.  Now there was work to be done.

 

In the Name of our King,

Vicky

Family Harmony

I want to focus today on what Memucan says about the women of the nobility and of the kingdom hearing of Vashti’s disobedience and the consequences.

16 Memucan said in the presence of the king and his officials, “Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king, but all the officials and the peoples who are in every one of King Ahasuerus’s (Xerxes) provinces. 17 For the queen’s action will become public knowledge to all the women and cause them to despise their husbands and say, ‘King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) ordered Queen Vashti brought before him, but she did not come.’ 18 Before this day is over, the noble women of Persia and Media who hear about the queen’s act will say the same thing to all the king’s officials, resulting in more contempt and fury….

20 The decree the king issues will be heard throughout his vast kingdom, so all women will honor their husbands, from the least to the greatest.” 21 The king and his counselors approved the proposal, and he followed Memucan’s advice. 22 He sent letters to all the royal provinces, to each province in its own script and to each ethnic group in its own language, that every man should be master of his own house and speak in the language of his own people. (HCSB)

Are these honest concerns that Memucan has?  I believe so.  He is asking Xerxes to make sure that harmony is maintained in the homes of the kingdom.  It is the understanding that the family is the basis of the society and that if the family breaks down then so does all of society.  He realizes that Xerxes’ home must change, but does not want to see that happen to the rest of the homes throughout the kingdom, especially the homes of the other nobles.

Memucan wanted to make sure that a possible revolution amongst the women was stopped before it had a real chance to take hold.  It is hard to blame him for this.  We have seen what the break down of the home has done to our own society.  It hasn’t been a pretty sight and too many kids are growing up without fathers or the attention from both parents that is needed in a young life.  Husbands and fathers are dismissed in our society as a fact of life that is no longer necessary.  This is simply not the truth.  A husband and father is necessary to a family and he needs to be respected by all within the family.

Memucan in wanting the women of the kingdom to respect their husbands.  As we studied in Ephesians this is what the man in a family needs, it is a natural need put in him by God.   We should not be alarmed that this was the major concern in this instance.  Memucan, whose wife was probably sitting right there with Vashti when she disobeyed Xerxes, is concerned that his wife and the wives of the other nobles might come home with new ideas that would make the family life more difficult and even confusing.  It had the potential of bringing great contempt and strife to the home, a lack of family harmony.

Peter in I Peter 3 puts it like this:

1 In the same way, wives submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the Christian message, they may be won over without a message by the way their wives live 2 when they observe your pure, reverent lives. 3 Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes. 5 For in the past, the holy women who put their hope in God also beautified themselves in this way, submitting to their own husbands, 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You have become her children when you do what is good and are not frightened by anything alarming.(HCSB)

This is a perfect description of Esther and who we will see that she is as we go through our study.  She is one who with a quiet spirit, a spirit not in conflict with God or in inner turmoil, will bravely confront her husband in an alarming situation and even potentially deadly one for her.  It will be her character and her confidence in God that will win the attention of her husband.

So in the book of Esther we see the decree of Xerxes going out to every part of his kingdom.  It is important to note at this point that part of that kingdom was the land of Israel.  The decree went out and stated that the husband was to be the master of his own home.  In other words, to put it in Christian terms, that he was to be the head of his home.

The other issue in the decree is the idea of the native language of the man being the language of his home.  This may seem like a foreign concept to us today, but back in Xerxes’ day it was a real issue.  Speaking the language of the husband was another sign of respect for him and the heritage he would pass on to his children.

As for Xerxes, if you remember from his family tree, he was a Persian while Vashti was from the Median side of the family.  Two different languages would have been at issue here even in the household of the king.  In his decree Xerxes is making a stand for his heritage, his is the one that conquered Media, not the other way around.  It makes me wonder if Vashti’s response to him came back in Median instead of Persian.  Could she have been, in her own little way, claiming Median dominance over her Persian king?

This brings us to the end of chapter one in Esther.  It is important to note that between chapters 1 and 2 the Persian Greek War occurs.  When we resume in chapter 2 Xerxes has come home from a war he is losing, his men are still there.

Before we go to chapter 2, however, we will take a look at Zoroastrianism, the religion of the noble family.

In the quiet confidence of our Lord,

Vicky

Vashti’s Fall

In Esther 1 we find Xerxes the ruler of 127 Provinces and having a banquet for his officials, staff, military leaders, nobles and the officials of their province’s.  It is the fall of 483 B.C. and this banquet will last for 6 months in the winter palace, fortress or citadel of Susa. 

This first banquet in the chapter is believed to be more of a war council where Xerxes is planning and garnishing support for the upcoming campaign against Greece the coming year.  This strategic, planning council/banquet last until the spring of 482 B.C. and at the end of it another feast is thrown for all those within the citadel of Susa, both small and great.  At this time Vashti also gives a feast for the women of the citadel within the palace–many of them wives of the visiting men.

Both of these feasts were designed to last for seven days; excessive drinking was the norm.  They were also probably meant to celebrate the men going off to war. 

Notice that for the men’s feast we have many more details, describing the surroundings of the courtyard and the location of their feast.  The hanging linens were probably meant to block the wind and to also set up private chambers, as well as couches, where they could recline or even sleep during these days. 

At the end of these days, when he is high is spirits, Xerxes calls for Vashti to come to him in her crown.  He wishes to show her off and to probably fix her image in his own mind before leaving for war.  Vashti was either very pregnant, or had just given birth (to Artaxerxes), as well as, probably being high in spirits herself refuses his command.

This refusal sends Xerxes into a hot rage of displeasure.  Notice that word ‘displeasure’, it is very important to our study because as he looks for another he will be looking for the opposite.  As a matter of fact, both words used for Xerxes’ anger in 1:12 mean a displeasure. 

We do not have the reason for Vashti’s refusal, but suffice it to say, do not feel sorry for her.  By all accounts, she was an evil woman who worshipped the god of the underworld within the Zoroastrian religion.  Her heart leaned toward darkness and death, not one that sought what was best for her husband or his kingdom. 

We will discuss in an upcoming post the religion of the Persian Empire, Zoroastrianism, and how it fits into our story.

The men advising Xerxes are most concerned with the influence her attitude would have on the rest of the women in the kingdom. 

At this point it is important to note that his advisers are the seven who have greatest access to him, the highest ranking Persian and Median officials in the land.

In other words, his relatives.  There is really nowhere Xerxes could go to escape the family and the hold they had over him or the conspiracies that pervaded the family to replace him.  His family was everywhere. 

So he turns to the seven relatives he has allowed access to him; these are men he trusts.  It is one of them that advises him to issue a decree to depose Vashti and to give her position, which would have also included her property, to another.  She was never again to enter into the king’s presence, at least not at court.  Perhaps she could see him in other capacities, but not in any official capacity or with any position within the kingdom.

Remember it was the influence on their own wives that the nobles were concerned about.  Their wives would have been at the banquet with Vashti and again many would have been her relatives. 

This family as we saw in Xerxes’ family tree, is very intertwined.

Also keep in mind that the truly most powerful woman in the kingdom would also be at that banquet, Xerxes’ mother, Atossa, who would have still been alive. 

This behavior by Vashti, while directed toward Xerxes, could also have been directed toward Atossa in an attempt to replace her as the most powerful woman of the kingdom. 

The men wish to make sure that their wives do not get any ideas of overpowering them.  They are interested in maintaining the current level of respect and harmony in their homes, if not to also increase it.

Here we go from Xerxes’ displeasure to one of his nobles, Memucan, saying, “If it pleases the king”.  He is deliberately working to change the attitude of the king, he does not want that displeasure coming his way. 

He makes his suggestion about the decree and Vashti’s loss of the crown, but he does not stop there.  He goes on to suggest that another woman, one ‘better’ or ‘more worthy’ be put in her place. 

It would not surprise me if he already had someone in mind, perhaps his own daughter or granddaughter.  However, this suggestion would not have come as a foreign or unusual concept.  After all these men were experts in Persian/Median Law and knew the times, they knew their history. 

Remember Xerxe’s father, Darius, was also married before coming to the throne and then afterward married someone ‘more worthy’ of the position of Queen, Xerxes’ mother, Atossa.  His own family tree was all the evidence he would have needed to make such a decree and decision.

With that decision, the reign of Vashti ends within the reign of Xerxes.  She will see the light of honor again, however, under the reign of her son, Artaxerxes.

Be More Worthy,

Vicky

Xerxes’ Past

Today I want to start with the book of Esther.

The book itself was written between 470 and 430 B.C. making it one of the last Old Testament books written.  It was written either at the end of Xerxes reign or during the reign of his son Artaxerxes who ruled from 465 to 424 B.C.  It documents the only other festival given in Old Testament outside the books of Moses, the Festival of Purim.  It had been 1000 years since God gave the original seven festivals to the Israelites.  The record of Hanukkah is not found in the Old Testament although we do see it referred to in the New Testament as a festival that Jesus attended, called the feast of Dedication in John 10:22.

All we know about the life of Xerxes from the Greek Persian War on comes from two primary sources:  1) Heroddutus, the Greek historian, who wrote his histories between 431 and 425 B.C.  These writings included accounts of Xerxes part in the Greek Persian War, his affairs before he met Esther, the fact he allowed others to rule for him (in other words, he had Prime Ministers), and that after returning from the war he became involved in the intrigues of the harem;  2) The book of Esther.  We do not have any Persian sources from this time period of Xerxes life largely because his son Artaxerxes took power in a cue, a cue largely instigated by his mother and the religious leaders in the kingdom.

In the study of Esther by Beth Moore she says, “Biblical narratives commonly begin with ‘it happened’ but omit ‘in the days of’.  On the other hand, prophetic writings are often introduced as having occurred ‘in the days of King…’.  The Book of Esther unfolds, however, with the two intertwining.”  I firmly believe this is a historical account of this part of Esther and Xerxes’ life, but I also believe it is a book of prophecy.  Due to this we will approach the book from both perspectives.

We will begin with the historical background of the book.  I feel fairly confident in saying that most of us know the history and background of Esther and her people and how they came to be in Persia.  To sum it up quickly the people of Judah rebelled against God and God sent the Babylonians under Nebechanezar to defeat them and send them into exile.  After being in exile in the Babylonian lands for 70 years the Persian King, Cyrus, conquered Babylon.  He then gives the peoples who were taken in captivity by the Babylonians an opportunity to go home, this included the Jews.  However, many did not return to their homeland and stayed in the places where they had been carried off to.  This was the case for Esther’s family and her cousin Mordecai.

With that said, have you ever wondered about the other half of the story of Esther, Xerxes’ past.  His past is full on intrigue itself and one would be well served by knowing it.  The first readers of the book of Esther would have known the past of both Esther and her family and Xerxes and his family.  I would like to unfold his past for you today because I am confident that it will make this man’s life with Esther so much more clear and we will refer back to it time and time again in our study.

The history of Xerxes is the history of the Persian Empire.  Please excuse the chart, but is the easiest way for you to see the connections.

History of the Persian Empire

Kings of Persia

Achaemenes of Anshan @700 B.C.

son

Teispes of Anshan

sons

Cyrus I of Anshan                                         Ariaramnes of Persia

           son                                                                       son

   Cambyses I                                                           Arsames

           son                                                                        son

  Cyrus the Great                                                 Hystraspes

                                                                                           son

                                                                              Darius the Great

Kings of Media

Astyages (Xerxes)

             son                                                                 daughter

  Darius the Mede                                                  Mandane

   son                             daughter

Otanes                         Cassandane

Persia and Media Come Together

Cambyses I marries Mandane

son

Cyrus the Great

Becomes king in 559 B.C.

Becomes king of Media in 550 B.C. when he is crowned by his cousin Cassandane and then marries her.

Conquered Babylon in 539 B.C.

Cyrus the Great marries his First Cousin Cassandane

children

        Cambyses II             Smerdis             Atossa            Artystone

Cambyses II marries his sister Atossa – They have no children

Cambyses II is king from 530 B.C. to 522 B.C. – He dies on his way back from a campaign in Egypt.  Before he left for that campaign in Egypt he secretly killed his brother, Smerdis.  Since it was done in secret a usurper who looked a great deal like his brother, Gaumata, is able to take the throne when Cambyses dies.  To solidify his position as Smerdis, Gaumata marries Atossa (daughter of Cyrus and wife/sister of Cambyses), he also married another widow of Cambyses, Phaedymia (daughter of Otanes, Cambyses first cousin).  Gaumata feared Atossa and kept her prisoner in the harem, but Phaedymia was able to get word out to her father that Gaumata was a fake Smerdis.

The Conspiracy

Seven conspirators decide to take things into their own hands and reclaim the throne of the kingdom.  The two most powerful men of these seven were Darius, son of Hystraspes, and Otanes, son of Darius the Mede (you may recognize his name from the book of Daniel).  Darius was 28 at the time a general in the military, as well as a distant cousin of Cambyses II in the Achaemenid Dynasty line.  Otanes, being a Mede, allowed Darius to take the throne, but did get some concessions in exchange.

Darius killed Gaumata in 522 B.C. and took the throne.  Upon coming to the throne he solidifies his right to it through a series of marriages.  He was already married and a father at the time.

          1.  Atossa – Daughter of Cyrus the Great, widow/sister of Cambyses, widow of Gaumata.  She agrees to the marriage and is the most powerful woman in the kingdom.

          2.  Artystone – younger daughter of Cyrus the Great

          3.  Parmys – daughter of real Smerdis

          4.  Phaedymia – Daughter of Otanes, widow of Cambyses II and Gaumata

          5.  Daughter of Gobryas – Daughter of another co-conspirator

Therefore, Darius ends up with six wives, but only one is given the title of Queen, Atossa.

The other concession that Otanes received was not only the marriage of his daughter to Darius, but he also gets a wife.  Otanes receives in marriage a sister of Darius.  Therefore, Otanes becomes Darius’ father-in-law and brother-in-law.

             Otanes                    marries                    Darius’ Sister

                                       Their Daughter

                                              Vashti

        

           Darius                       marries                  Atossa – Queen

                                         Their Eldest Son

                                                 Xerxes

Xerxes and Vashti are first cousins through his father and second cousins through his mother (in other words, his mother, Atossa, and Vashti are also first cousins).  When Xerxes becomes king in 486 B.C. at the age of 35 he is already married to Vashti and a father.

             Xerxes                        marries                       Vashti

                                               Their Sons

                                                   Darius

                                                Hystraspes

                                               Artaxerxes I

Like I said we will be referring back to this family tree of Xerxes as we go along.  I hope it is already making some bells ring for you, but if not don’t worry we will talk about where all this fits in as we go.

Vicky