Monday, November 1, 2010

Ahasuerus


The Mystery of the Lost Ark: Part 8


Upon completion of Jerusalem’s second temple, the Jews on Elephantine Island, in the land of Syene, were awaiting the reconstruction of the wall around the Holy City before returning the Ark to its rightful resting place.  It took the Babylonians one and a half years to breach the wall around Jerusalem.  The wall played an integral part in protecting Jerusalem, the temple, and ultimately the Ark against invaders. 

Darius the Great was succeeded by his son who was the seventh member of the dynasty to become king of Persia.  Not only would he become richer than his father but wealthier than all his predecessors combined.  His name was Xerxes, the Ahasuerus of the book of Esther.

In 482 BC, his third regnal year, he threw a banquet for the Who’s Who of Persia and Media. He displayed the wealth and splendour of his majesty for 180 days after which he held a seven day banquet in the palace courtyard open to everyone in the capital of Susa, from the richest to the poorest.

The courtyard was filled with luxuriant gardens and stunning, mosaic walkways created of marble, mother of pearl, and purple, crystal-laden, Egyptian stone.  Guests were seated around marble columns on couches of gold and silver and treated to the finest wine which was lavishly served in cups of pure gold.

Simultaneously, Queen Vashti gave a banquet for the women inside the king’s palace.

On the seventh day, when Xerxes and his guests were merry with wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs, who served as his attendants, to bring Vashti before him with her royal crown so he could display her physical beauty, for she was truly a genetic wonder.  Now it was against Persian custom for a woman, let alone a queen, to appear in public.  Thus Vashti refused the king’s command.

As a result, Xerxes flew into a rage and summoned his seven wise counsellors, princes of Persia and Media.  He asked them what was to be done, under the law, with a queen who refused to obey the command of her king. 

They replied that a man is the master of his own household and that tales of Vashti’s conduct would surely permeate the entire kingdom resulting in all women, rich or poor, showing disrespect towards their husbands.  As a deterrent, they advised the king to issue an edict to be written into Persian law, thus rendering it irrepealable.  It would read that because Vashti refused to come at the king’s command, she would no longer be summoned into his presence.  Furthermore, she would be demoted in the royal harem and her position filled by another, more worthy than she.  And so it was decreed.  Letters were sent to all 127 Persian provinces outlining the king’s edict that a man is lord over his own house. 

So the quest began for the most voluptuous woman in the kingdom, a maiden whose divine pulchritude could quell the broken heart of a king.  Men were appointed to scour all 127 provinces for the most ravishing virgins in Persia.  Their bountiful bevy was then transported to Susa and placed under the tutelage of Hegai, the king’s eunuch.

Now among the bevy of beauties, chosen for the harem of virgins, was a lovely Jewess from Susa by the name of Esther.  She was the ward of her cousin, Mordecai, who became her legal guardian at the time of her parent's death.  On his advice, she kept her ethnic origin a secret.

Esther didn’t play the harlot.  It was the Persian custom for a maiden to enter the king’s chambers from the harem of virgins.  Then, after spending a nuptial night consummating their marriage, she emerged as the king’s wife.  That very next morning, she was sent to the second harem, the harem of concubines, to live with his lower ranking wives.  However, she might never set foot in His Majesty’s chambers again, unless expressly summoned by him. 

Like all maidens, it was necessary for Esther to undergo the Persian beautification ritual before entering the king’s palace.  Her body was pampered for six months with oil of myrrh followed by another six months with the finest exotic spices and cosmetics that money could buy.  As a result, Esther’s body became impregnated with the most celestial fragrances known to man. 

In the tenth Jewish month, in the seventh year of the king, an enchanting Esther entered the palace of Xerxes, emperor of Persia, who wore the diadem of 127 nations.  She pleased the king more than all the other virgins.  Xerxes rewarded Esther by making her his new chief wife and queen of Persia.

6 comments:

  1. The Persian kings: Teispes, Cyrus I, Cambyses I, Cyrus the Great, Cambyses II, (Gaumata the usurper), Darius the Great who was the 3rd cousin of Cambyses II, & Xerxes, 7th king of the dynasty.

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  2. Teispes, Cyrus I, & Cambyses I ruled the tiny state of Anshan (Parsa/Parsumash). Cyrus the Great’s accession year was 559 BC. From those humble beginnings, he built the Persian Empire.

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  3. Related Articles: click Persia, Haman the Terrible, & The Seventh Cataract on the sidebar.

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  4. The inscriptions of the Achaemenid kings, which included Xerxes, were written in trilingual cuneiform e.g. Old Persian, Elamite, and Akkadian. Xerxes is a Greek name which represents the Old Persian Khsayarsan, meaning “ruling over heroes” or “he who rules over men.” It was translated Iksersa in Elamite and Ahsi’arsu in Akkadian. In Hebrew the name was rendered ’ahasweros, translated Ahasuerus in the English Book of Esther. Ahasuerus was identified in the Septuagint, Josephus, Jewish Midrash, and the Peshitta as Artaxerxes. However modern historians have no doubt that Ahasuerus was Xerxes (485-465 BC), son of Darius the Great. See Edwin Yamauchi, "Persia and the Bible" pp. 130 & 187.

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  5. Scriptural references: 2 Kings 25:1-4; Jeremiah 39:1-2; 52:4-7; Esther 1-2:17

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  6. Esther 2:6 - The relative pronoun, who, is a translation of the Hebrew word, 'aser, which refers not to the first name in the series but rather the last name in the series. Hence Mordecai's great-grandfather, Kish, was the one exiled with Jeconiah a.k.a. Jehoiachin in 597 BC.

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