The Rock of Behistun

The Rock of Behistun

Within the scholarly world there is much debate and disagreement as to the precise timing of the events recorded in the book of Esther. Without becoming too bogged down with minute details – yet in the spirit of providing good historical premise for you – let’s take a brief look at the two main lines of thought.

  1. The first group has the events of Esther taking place before the events we have just read in Ezra and Nehemiah. That is before Cyrus ever sets the Jews free and allows them to return to Jerusalem. This would place the timing sometime in the middle of the 70 years of captivity in Babylon. This group asserts that the King named in Esther was Darius the Mede (mentioned in Dan 5). This would date these events around 620 B.C. (ish). According to this perspective, Mordecai, the cousin to Esther, was taken into captivity with King Jehoiachin, and was the same Mordecai mentioned in Ezra 2:2 and Nehemiah 7:7 as part of the group of exiles who returned to Jerusalem some 59 years later with Ezra.

    Furthermore, this group believes it was Darius the Mede (Ahasuerus) who takes Esther as his wife – and she later gives birth to the infamous Cyrus who (now sympathetic to the Jewish cause from his mother) would set the exiles free. It is this view that was proclaimed in Jewish tradition by many of their Rabbis, and is adopted by Finnis Jennings Dake (among others) today.

  2. The opposing main view is that King Ahasuerus was actually King Xerxes – who reigned over the Perisan empire from 485-465 B.C. This would place the events of Esther about 35-40 years after the completion of the Temple and the walls in Jerusalem by Ezra/Nehemiah. This was the view supported by the 1st century Jewish historian Josephus, as well as the Septuagint – and many scholars today.

The reason for the confusion is that historically, the Persian kings were known more by titles then by actual names. The meaning of the “Ahasuerus” in Esther is “Mighty King” and can be seen given to many of the kings who ruled over Persia during her lifetime. As well, the title “Artexerxes” means “Great King” and was used by 4 other Persian kings through history.

To make matters even more confusing, there is a giant rock cleft rising about 1700 ft out of the desert floor on the road east of the ancient ruins of Babylon called the Rock of Behistun – and in 1846 it was finally deciphered as a list of the ancient line of the kings of Persia. Yet, another list found on what is known as the Cylinder of Cyrus only agrees with a portion of those listed on Behistun. So even the few archeological records in existence do not agree… the reason being that each engraving was subjected to the whim of the king who made them.

What we can be sure of is that whenever the events of Esther took place – they were monumental in the history of God’s people and just another example of amazing grace. As we shall see through this short book, God (once again) steps in and intervenes to ensure the line of David is preserved – just as He promised Abraham it would be.

God is always faithful to His promises… even today.

Be Fruitful & Multiply,