Ahasuerus (Ezra 4.6
; not the same as in Dan 9.1 or Tob 14.15
) is probably Xerxes I (486–465 BCE) whose Persian Empire from India (i.e., the Indus Valley) to Ethiopia (Heb “Cush,” modern Sudan and modern Ethiopia) included some twenty satrapies (Herodotus 3.89) subdivided into provinces.
Susa, Ahasuerus's winter capital in north‐western Iran, 400 km (180 mi) east of ancient Babylon. The citadel or acropolis was a fortified section of the palace.
The third year, 484 BCE. Greek writers mention fabulous feasts given by Persian kings. The banquet, with its exaggerated length of one hundred and eighty days (see Jdt 1.16
) is the first of several banquets at key points (
1.5,9; 2.18; 3.15; 5.7; 7.1; 9.17,19,22,31
Garden … curtains … couches, the extravagance emphasizes power and wealth.
Vashti, a Persian name, means “beloved.” There are no ancient references to a Queen Vashti; Xerxes I's queen was Amestris (Herodotus 7.61). Vashti's banquet for the women emphasizes the separate worlds of king and queen, a factor in Esther's later bravery, and sets the scene for a quasi‐comic
contest of the sexes.
A person merry with wine, especially a king (Prov 15.15
), may meet with disaster (see 5.9; 1 Sam 25.36; 2 Sam 13.28; Dan 5.2
An inversion of this event occurs when Esther, Vashti's replacement, violates the king's law by coming unbidden into his presence
The narrative turns satirical as the king's sages who knew the laws legalistically inflate a domestic dispute between husband and wife into a national crisis.
Only the Persian king's most trusted advisers had free access to the king (see 4.11
). The names here are Persian.
There is no evidence that the law of the Medes and the Persians was unalterable (
8.8; Dan 6.9,13
), but this narrative device provides tension between rigid legalism and true justice. The royal order is the first in a series of formal edicts (see 2.8; 3.12; 8.9–11; 9.20–22,29–32
By decreeing that all women must give honor to their husbands, the king ironically succeeds in drawing attention to his own inability to rule his wife. In further irony, his next wife,
Esther, will ultimately rule him.
Aramaic was the official language of Persian diplomacy, but pronouncements were also issued in the languages of subject peoples (see Ezra 6.3–5
). Letters, the Persian postal system was renowned (Herodotus 8.98).
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