Studying Esther without the “how it got there” or what is its influence and application today. Let us take a moment and look at some interesting facts that lead up to and followed the time of Queen Esther.
To the right is a look at where Shushan is located. Here it is called SUSA. None-the-less it is just another name for Shushan. It I said that the tomb of Daniel is in this city. Other places claim his tomb but this one is the most likely because scriptures tell us Daniel spent time there as a government official under Darius (appointed ruler over Babylonian territory captured by the Persians and Medes. One may wish to examine the secular history around Daniel and Susa (Shushan). Go to http://www.biblesearchers.com/prophecy/daniel/daniel8-1.shtml for one good website for so doing.
Click on either Shushan, the capital in the Province of Elam and the River U’lai or Cyrus, Darius and Artaxerses are the same King of the Medes and the Persians according to the Seder Olam Rabbah. One may also wish to click on The Palace at Shushan or The Tomb of Daniel.
We disagree with some of this website’s conclusions, but it is mind tickling and an educational moment or two to read. It began as the capital of Elam. Elam was in the line of Shem (Noah’s son). Esther is from a line of Benjamites taken captive along with Judah. The time of Esther is about 140 years after Nebuchadnezzar dispersed and took captive the Judeans of Judah. Judah was dominated by many Benjamites and a significant population Judeans [Tribe of Judah] with a smattering of members from the other Tribes of Israel.
(Jeremiah 49:34-39) I will shatter Elam before their foes, before those who want to kill them; I will bring disaster on them, even my fierce anger,” declares the Lord. “I will pursue them with the sword until I have made an end of them. I will set my throne in Elam and destroy her king and officials,” declares the Lord. Yet I will restore the fortunes of Elam in days to come,” declares the Lord. Remember that one of the capitals of Persia was Susa of Elam.
Alexander the Great died in Babylon “city”. The Babylonian Empire had a second capital in Susa/Shushan. This is the setting of the Book of Esther. The Israelis who were originally Babylonian captives from Judah, but did not return to Judah when released, by choice remained in Babylon and later Persia. This was a significant population of mostly Benjamites and Judeans with some Levites.
AHA MOMENT: The two main Benjamite characters of the Book of Esther are Esther and Mordecai. Their names are corruptions of the Babylonian gods Isthar and Marduk. Esther’s Hebrew name was Hadassah which interestingly means Myrtle as in the myrtle tree of Zechariah’s vision in his book, chapter 1:1-17.
A 2nd Aha: Go back just a few years, maybe 60 years when Cyrus the Great released the Judean captives in his conquered lands, this included multiple tens-of-thousands of dispersed Northern Kingdom Israelites originally exiled by the Assyrians and living within the other conquered lands of Cyrus.
Why is history before, during, and after the Book of Esther so significant. Why is it even included in the Old Testament? We borrow from Robert Mock’s MD article The Festival of Purim his insightful questions.
“What if Esther did not exist, or she did not respond to the calling of God and be willing to give up her life for her people. Within eight years, Ahasuerus was assassinated by a courtier, Artabanus. No doubt, Ezra, the lawyer and scribe, was alive at the time of Esther. Fifteen years later, under the rule of Artaxerxes I, Ezra leads the second group of Jews back to the Holy Land in 458 BC. Was Artaxerxes I, the son of Esther and Ahasueras (Xerxes I)? Without Esther, would Ezra have been killed in the genocide? Without Ezra, would the compilation of the Tanach, the Old Testament, been completed? Without Esther, would Nehemiah, the governor, have been killed? Would the third migration back to Israel have never occurred? Maybe there would not have been enough Jews to migrate back to the Land”.
Esther and the Book of Esther may be the common denominator for each of the above scenarios offered by Dr. Robert Mock. There were many Persian kings but only a few have any role in God’s expressed interest in Israelites during the time up to and after Esther. It may be little more than a technicality in our review of whose who in this article but read on. This was a combined empire of the Medes and the Persians when it all began. Eventually the Persians conquered the Medes. When one runs across the name of Astyages, son of Cyaxares, he is NOT a king of the Medo-Persian Empire. He is the last king of the independent Medes in the Mede and Persian alliance. He ruled on his half of the empire 100 years after the time of Esther. This would be the far eastern borders of today’s Iran.
AHA MOMENT: The brother-in-law of Astyages was none other than Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and Daniel’s time. It was his sister who was the queen for which Nebuchadnezzar built the “Hanging Gardens” of Babylon. Talk about family in-fighting, Astyages was dethroned by Cyrus of Persia, his grandson. He lived out his life in Persia.
Another point of aha in the Book of Esther is the villain Haman. He is an Amalekite. He is in the line and Tribe of Amalec the grandson of Esau. A reading of the Book of Esther might leave one thinking that the dispute between Mordecai and Haman was simply personal. If that is so, then why would Haman seek the execution of all “Jews” in Persia even though there is doubt Haman knew Queen Esther was a Jewess? It goes much deeper. It goes all the way back to the feud between Isaac and Esau. They were then and remain today bitter enemies. It was the Amalekites of the Negev north of Egypt that refused Moses and the Israelites from Egyptian captivity of 400+years to pass through their lands in route to the lands of the Canaanites, Israel’s Promised Land.
The author of the Book of Esther is not identified. Most knowledgeable history buffs of the Bible conclude it must have been Mordecai who penned this Bible history. It is logical to conclude that one who was an eyewitness might be the author of greatest knowledge. Besides, Mordecai was significant to this book. His part was as important as was Esther if not a bit more so.
The events in the pages of Esther began around the 3rd year of Xerxes’ reign putting it around 583 B.C. They continued at least up to and after the twelfth year of Ahasuerus (Xerxes) most likely up to 573 B.C. Xerxes was assassinated assassination in 465 BC at the hands of Artabanus, the commander of the royal bodyguard. (Hmmm? Some bodyguard).
Let us close this part 2 of Esther with a quote from Charles Spurgeon.
“Oh! That you studied your Bibles more! Oh! That we all did! How we could plead the promises! How often we should prevail with God when we could hold him to his word, and say, ‘Fulfill this word unto thy servant, whereon thou hast caused me to hope.’ Oh! It is grand praying when our mouth is full of God’s word, for there is no word that can prevail with him like his own.” (Spurgeon)
JIV: This includes seeking wisdom and understanding [Colossians 1:9; NASB]
“For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding”
Rev. Dr. Jstark