Esther: Introduction Part 2

Study the Times of Esther: Before and After

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
2021

Purim 2017 is Today –Sunday

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Purim banner, holiday greeting

­­Book of Esther… (Purim 2017 is March 11th and 12th)

In the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on its thirteenth day … on the day that the enemies of the Jews were expected to prevail over them, it was turned about: the Jews prevailed over their adversaries. – Esther 9:1

And they gained relief on the fourteenth (Adar/March), making it a day of feasting and gladness. – Esther 9:17

[Mordecai instructed them] to observe them as days of feasting and gladness, and sending delicacies to one another, and gifts to the poor. – Esther 9:22

Purim is a time of recalling the story and bible history of Haman, Mordechai, Queen Esther and King Ahasuerus; aka: Artaxerxes. As Jews of Judaism sit to eat and drink, there is no limit to how much they drink as long as Jews/Judaism do not misbehave (i.e. sin) for if they are drinking to fulfill the mitzvah, a mitzvah should not cause them to sin. There is no limit to how much they can sing, dance or relate insights into the strange but true story that took place a bit more than two thousand years ago. Purim centers on those who descended from the Babylonian captive Jews who did NOT RETURN to Jerusalem after being released from Babylon captivity; at that time called New Persia.

Ad d’lo Yada means that Jews/Judaism can drink until they no longer know the difference between blessed in Mordecai and cursed in Haman. Drinking to the point of being drunk is a point that Judaism is at odds with most other religions. In some religions alcoholic beverages are strictly forbidden and in other religions being drunk is forbidden. Judaism however makes it a mitzvah (which means only on this one day) and indeed Jews/Judaism must understand why!

The origin of Purim and the mitzvah of the festive seuda meal dates back to the majestic banquet that King Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes or Artaxerxes) made in the capital city Shushan; see Daniel 8:2. Ahasuerus was the king of one hundred and twenty-seven countries or city-states. He ruled the world from India to Africa. This banquet lasted one hundred and eighty days (six months!) and was to celebrate King Ahasuerus unification of his kingdom. Drinks were set out and all participants could enjoy as much as they desired; no one was forced to drink or to stop drinking.

The king drank so much that he became drunk. In his drunkenness he boasted of the beauty of Queen Vashti. He ordered her brought to him and his ministers naked, that all should realize that indeed she is the most beautiful woman in the world. Vasti not being drunk of course refused. The king was incensed that she refused his (drunken) request and he ordered her to be eliminated. How, we do not have those details but she is never again mentioned in scripture or secular records. We can use culture of that time to speculate. If one even dared to enter the presents of the King without being asked, it meant instant death.

JIV NOTE: Many modern day women libbers point to this instance of denying the request of a husband as creating the right of other wives to do the same thing as at this time in history. Those in the king’s court feared that would happen in Persia and demanded a quick and threatening punishment for Vasti. We still do not know of her punishment but knowing the now Arab and Islamic world from this same area, it was probably very severe even though she was probably right.

After her elimination the selection of the king’s new bride began (and subsequent queen). We know this was Esther. Mordecai was Esther’s uncle. After Esther was established as the queen he heard of a plot to kill the king. He reported it to Esther who reported it to the king who investigated and found it to be correct. The king had the would-be assassins executed. But somehow he ‘forgot’ to give a reward to Mordechai.

In the meantime, the wicked Haman the Amalekite, the greatest anti-Semite in his generation, had become appointed Prime Minister of the greater Persian Empire. He was a descendant of Amalek who had no historical love for the Jews having attacked them when they left Egypt; i.e. Amalek was a Canaanite descended from Ham.

Note that knowledge from our Old Testament college course connects a few dots with this information from the Book of Esther; i.e. Egypt, Israel, 12 spies in Promised Land, Amalekites giants and the wandering of Israel.

Haman had a huge ego and he wanted all to bow down before him when he became Prime Minister of Persia. Mordecai was the only one (and only Jew) that refused. This of course infuriated Haman. Haman began a plot to exterminate not just Mordechai, but also his people the Jews of Persia/Babylon.

Mordecai told Esther that she should realize that the reason God anointed her to become queen was in order to rescue her people. It was up to her to do something. She knew that the king’s weak spot was a good brew and although they did not have Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker in those times, they did have strong wine. She held a drinking party for King Ahasuerus and Haman. King Ahasuerus wondered why she invited Haman. He also noticed that Haman was feeling quite pleased with the high status accorded to him by the royal family of Persia (formerly known as Babylon; now Iran).

The king asked Esther the reason for the party and she declined to tell him telling him that at another party she will reveal her purpose. In the meantime the king went back to his palace a bit suspicious or at least quite curious of Haman.

The Old Testament tells us that very same night, the king could not sleep; Esther 6:1. He requested his scribe to read to him from the Persian archives. When the reader mentioned Mordecai and how he saved the king’s life he asked what reward had he been given. The reply was nothing. Ah ha, the king reasoned because he did not reward this man, no one has come forward to tell him what is going on between Esther and Haman. He wanted to know why Haman was invited to Esther’s party!?

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Haman had other plans for Mordecai the Jew who would not bow before him. He built a high gallows to hang him. Unfortunately for himself and fortunately for the Jews of Persia (today’s Iran), at the next drinking party that Esther arranged for Ahasuerus and Haman, she revealed to the king that Haman planned to kill her. She being a Jew was under the wicked Haman’s death decree to eradicate all Jews.

The king became infuriated. Being bit tipsy ran out of the room to think. Haman realizing his personal jeopardy and difficult predicament fell to his knees in front of the queen to beg for mercy, but being also a bit tipsy fell onto Esther. That was just as Ahasuerus re-entered the room. Imagine the shock of Ahasuerus  to see his top minister lying on top of the queen! He did not hesitate one moment to call for the guards to take Haman and execute him immediately. As the Bible tells us in the book of Esther, Haman was hung from the very gallows he planned to publicly hang Mordechai.  This was between 486 and 465 B.C. This is recorded in the bible and Persian records.

The events described in the Book of Esther began around the years 483–482 BCE, and concluded in March, 473 BCE. This is the same location from where Daniel had a vision (Daniel 8:2).

A quote from my Levite Priest friend in Tel Aviv: “Thus through drinking and drunkenness the Jews were saved from destruction. Therefore to commemorate the miracles that happened then, we today imbibe more than normal. Jews are generally not drinkers and therefore this is a difficult *mitzvah to perform. But when one considers that G-d directs the entire universe even to the point when each leaf that falls off from a tree it is guided by G-d to where it will land, we must realize that G-d will protect us if when we drink our desire is to fulfill the mitzvah of Ad d’lo Yada.”

*Mitzvah means “for one day only.”

P.S. Like manmade denominational rules, this is a Jewish celebration not ordered or sanctioned by God.

 

Murphy James