“And it happened, in the days of Ahasuerus –he is Ahasuerus who reigned from India even to Ethiopia, over a hundred and twenty seven provinces–
in those days when King Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom in Shushan the palace”
The Book of Esther is a magnificent literary masterpiece that narrates in detail a succession of apparently historical events. The style of writing of the scroll –or Megillah, as it is called in Hebrew– is that of a court chronicler, who strives to relate the events as they occurred without explaining the reasons. However, its placement in history is difficult to solve taking into account the documents and the evidence –or the lack of it– available to date. The precision with which the Achæmenid court is described would indicate that the author was an eyewitness, or a very knowledgeable person, with excellent documentation about the Kingdom of Persia in the time of Darius Hystaspes. However, there are other elements that suggest a later composition, in the Hellenic period, for which it is inferred that the second possibility is the most plausible: a writer with optimal knowledge of the place and moment in which the facts that he exposes develop, still a long time after they happened. Although it is a historical novel –that is, a fictional story set in a real historical setting– we can identify three of its main protagonists with people who actually existed.
In this essay we will distinguish the following aspects: literary, historical, allegorical and prophetic.
The Megillat Esther belongs to a literary genre that is unique in the Bible: it is a novel of intrigue, plenty of plot twists. The author, who should be a Jew, expresses himself as an official scribe of the Persian kingdom – and it is possible that he has adapted some real chronicle, since his descriptions of the life at the palace and its surroundings correspond to those that would have been narrated an eyewitness. The writer does not identify himself with any of the characters, nor with his people, but expresses himself in an absolutely neutral way, limiting himself to exposing the events: We are not told why Ahasuerus prepared the two banquets, what was the reason for which Vashti refused to appear, what punishment was applied to her (besides not being allowed to appear before the king never again), what motivated the conspiracy of Bigthan and Teresh, or why Mordechai ordered Esther not to reveal her origin. It is a drama in which a succession of incidents and contrasts brings the action to a climax.
The use of legal terminology with excess of pleonasms (1:22; 3:12,13) indicates that the author is or pretends to be an official chronicler, as well as the protocol nomenclature of officials and the concern to always mention the monarch’s title, calling him “ha-melech Ahashverosh” (king Ahasuerus), and also “Vashti ha-malkah” (queen Vashti) before she was deposed – only later is she called by her name alone.
It is significant that the day the decree of extermination was issued was the eve of Pesach (“the thirteenth day of the first month” -3:12-, being Nisan the first month -3:7-) and yet no allusion is made to the most important solemnity of the Jews, nor is there mention of the Temple of Jerusalem, whose construction would have been completed in the time elapsed between 1:22 and 2:1 – all these elements indicate the intentionality of the author in presenting himself as a scribe of the kingdom , foreign to the Jewish people.
The content of the story and its characters is notably Persian in origin and could well be a tale of Hazār Afsāna, a collection in the Farsi language which is better known in its Arabic version, the One Thousand and One Nights, in which there are many descriptions similar to those of Megillat Esther: sumptuous palaces and pompous banquets, whimsical and fickle kings, influenced by their viziers and disenchanted by their women, proclaims throughout the kingdom to select virgin maidens for the monarch and an exaggerated preparation with refined cosmetics before appearing in front in his presence, then one of them will stand out above all others for her beauty and wisdom and will conquer the heart of the king, as well as an evil man who will try to cause disgrace to the protagonists and ends up assassinated... all these elements are characteristic of the Persian literature and are present in the Avesta and the Shâhnâmeh, the Book of the Kings of Persia. Both of these works have to do with the legendary Kayanid dynasty, of dubious historicity, which would rather be a romantic version of the Achæmenids –to whom they presumably had preceded–. It is possible that the introduction of the Hazār Afsāna –the One Thousand and One Nights– was inspired by the Megillat Esther: the Persian tradition asserts that this collection of tales was written for Homāy, daughter and wife of Bahman, successor of Vištāspā (Hystaspes). According to the Shâhnâmeh, Homāy was also called Šīrāzād/Shahrāzād, and the eminent Persian historian Abu Ja’far at-Tabari states that her paternal grandmother was called Estār –who would have been the same as King Vištāspā’s wife, whose name was Hutaosā–, and likewise, the Arab geographer and historian al-Masʿūdī connects Homāy’s paternal grandmother with the children of Israel. In the Avesta, Humāiyā is the daughter of Vištāspā and Hutaosā. While the Persian authors at-Tabari and al-Bīrūnī agree that it was Homāy who was called Shahrāzād, the Arab writers al-Masʿūdī ed Ahmad al-Ya’qubi ascribe this name to her mother, Hutaosā. On the other hand, Ḥamza Eṣfahāni gives her the nickname Šemirān, , which is somehow linked to Esther.
The king Achashverosh of Megillat Esther is comparable in the Hazār Afsāna to the character of Šahrīyār, whose Persian name has a meaning very similar to that of Xšayaṛša, which is transliterated into Hebrew as Achashverosh. The story also begins with the removal (and execution) of the queen and the subsequent search for virgins to spend the night with the king, although each of them is then killed, until the beautiful and wise Šahrāzād manages to change fate of all the maidens of the kingdom by seducing the king. The stories of court intrigues, betrayals, banquets and massacres are repeated in different episodes of the thousand and one nights during which the narration is prolonged and it is possible to find different characters resembling Esther, Vashti, Ahasuerus, Mordechai or Haman, in similar situations. Of course, the Hazār Afsāna –One Thousand and One Nights– does not claim to be a work of historical character but a collection of fairy tales, even if some of its protagonists are identifiable with real people. However, it is possible to understand that between these stories and the Book of Esther there is a common origin in ancient Persian literature.
In the ancient history of Persia, myth and reality are intertwined, and in many cases it is difficult to distinguish the events that really happened from the legends which, to a certain extent, are plausible. The chronicles of the Kayanid dynasty show many similarities with those of the Achæmenids, lineage descended from Haxāmaniš, who also seems to be a legendary character that the kings of Persia present as the founder of their lineage. Both dynasties have many coincidences, as if they had led parallel lives, one in reality and the other in legend, alternating in turn in these situations. In the history of the Kayanids there appears a character whose existence is undoubted because it gave rise to a religion: Zaraθuštra, oy Zoroaster –if that was his name, or what his identity was, and if the facts attributed to him did really happen or not, it remains a mystery, but he certainly represents a prophet who spread that doctrine and managed to bring it to the court of Persia, because it was the religion that the Achæmenids professed. To identify the actors of the events referred to in Megillat Esther it is necessary to consider both narrative lines. It is also useful to keep in mind that the kinship relationships between the Achæmenids are in many cases hypothetical or doubtful –although incest seemed to be acceptable among the Persians of that time, or at least within the royal families– since the data provided by the Persian documents themselves are scarce and obscure, and the Greek authors do not contribute much to the clarification, but rather accentuate the confusion.
Although the story in the Book of Esther is rather a romantic novel, we will analyze the possibilities of finding it a place in the kingdom of some Persian monarch, taking into account the data that the same book provides us, namely:
· The name of the king of Persia was Achashverosh (1:1)
· His kingdom extended from India to Nubia (Ethiopia), and included 127 provinces (1:1)
· The capital of the empire was Shushan (1:2)
· Imposed tribute “upon the isles of the sea“ – reference to Greece and the Aegean islands (10:1)
· He reigned at least thirteen years - at the beginning of the twelfth year of his reign, in the first month “Pur” was drawn and its effective application was stipulated for the last month, just before the beginning of his thirteenth year (3:7)
· The court consisted of seven princes from Persia and Media (1:14)
· In the third year of his reign, Achashverosh deposed Queen Vashti (1:3,21)
· In the seventh year of his reign, the king married Esther (2:16)
· IThe protagonist named Mordechai “the Jew”, of the tribe of Benjamin, was one of the deportees that King Nebuchadnezzar had transferred to Babylon together with Yehoyakin/Yekoniah (2:5-6), and was Hadassah’s cousin, who is Esther herself (2:7)
It is also necessary to estimate important omissions:
· The Temple is not mentioned at any time, neither Jerusalem nor Israel.
· No reference is made to the return of Babylon decreed by Cyrus, nor Ezra or Nehemiah are mentioned.
· There is no allusion to the Torah, nor to Moses, nor to the Prophets.
· The most notable omission: there is no mention of Elohim or His Name (although is hidden).
To establish a plausible historical picture, it is necessary to take into account the fact that our information on the Persian Achæmenid Empire is extremely scarce, since there are only four documents found: the Cyrus Cylinder, the Behistun Inscription, the Persepolis Administrative Archives and the Elephantine Papyri. However, the “official” chronology privileges the Greek writers, mainly Herodotus and his composition “Historíai”, Xenophon and his “Anabasis”, and the improbable tales of Ctesias the Cnidian in his work “Persika”, all these men wrote according to the information they managed to gather from different sources, mixing events with legends and often confusing the names of monarchs, sometimes fictitious. On the other hand, the Behistun Inscription is an engraving ordered by King Darius Hystaspes for his own glorification, so it is very likely that he had plagiarized or reinterpreted the facts, something that also the pharaohs used to do. Therefore, perhaps not all the events attributed to Darius “the Great” belong to him, but they could be achievements of previous monarchs. However, since it is not possible to determine which feats are attributable to him and which are not, we must take this document as a reference, since it is in any case more reliable than the chronicles of the Greek authors.
The first of the kings that we must discard as a candidate to be identified with Ahasuerus is Xerxes. Besides the weak argument in his favor, which is exclusively linguistic, that is the transcription of the Persian name –rather title– Hšayāŗšā/Kshayarsha, which in Hebrew would be Achashverosh, there would be some other peculiarities that would correspond to his personality according to the version of the Greek narrators, which would also be attributable to other kings. In fact, the characterization that Herodotus and the classical authors present of Xerxes is purely subjective and therefore devoid of historical rigor. Xerxes began his reign by planning revenge against the Greeks for the defeat of his father Darius in Marathon (490 BCE, conventional calendar), and in his fifth year he began his invasion of Greece, being subsequently defeated in Salamis (480 BCE). That battle was decisive in the context of the Greco-Persian Wars and Persia definitively lost control of Greece. This event is quite the opposite of the taxation on the islands mentioned in Esther 10:1. In the same initial period Xerxes had to suppress revolts in Egypt and Babylon, so it was not the right time to organize banquets, when he had nothing to celebrate, but he had to take care of maintaining order in his empire and preparing his military strategy for the conquest of Greece. Furthermore, the age that Mordechai and Esther would have had at the beginning of his reign makes it impossible that he could be this king.
Undoubtedly, the king who best meets the characteristics of Esther’s Ahasuerus is Darius Hystaspes:
· His kingdom extended from India to Nubia / Ethiopia (1:1)
· The capital of the empire was Shushan (1:2)
· Imposed tribute “upon the isles of the sea” – reference to Greece and the Aegean islands (10:1)
· He reigned over thirteen years (3:7); his government lasted thirty-six years.
· Established the court consisting of seven princes of Persia and Media (1:14)
Furthermore, the name of his favorite wife was Hutaosā, which in Hebrew can well be transliterated as Hadassah.
Darius “the Great”, son of Hystaspes –for whom he is called by both names, his and his father’s name, Dārayavauš Vištāspā in Farsi language–-, belonged to an Achæmenid line parallel to that of Cyrus, which did not have imperial rank and would have been entitled to the crown of Persia only in the absence of a male descent of Cyrus. For this reason, the death of Cambyses and Bardiyā, the two sons of Cyrus, raises some perplexities that compromise the credibility of Daríus’ autobiographical account of his rise to power, which he himself engraved in the Behistun Inscription. Aside from these suspicions, both the Bible and history present him as a good king.
Darius legitimized his right to the crown of Persia and Media by ensuring that Cyrus’ royal lineage would continue through him, marrying Hutaosā, daughter of Cyrus and sister and widow of Cambyses, and Artastūnā, presumably also Cyrus’ daughter, he also took Parmys/Uparmiyā, the only daughter of Bardiyā, and Phaidymē, who would have discovered Gaumata’s conspiracy and reported it to his father Otanes/Utāna, one of Daríus’ six companions in the coup d’état that brought him to the throne. Phaidymē, according to some sources, was Parmys’s aunt and Bardiyā’s wife, which would have made it easier for her to identify the imposter. Darius had at least two other wives, daughters of his generals. His marriages with Hutaosā and Uparmiyā, Cambyses’ widow and Bardiyā’s daughter respectively, dispel suspicions of conspiracy against the royal house of Cyrus and credit his version of the facts, since it is unlikely that the women themselves were to be accomplices against their own family.
Ahasuerus’ hesitant character in making decisions, showing himself dependent on the council of his princes (Esther 1:13-15; 2:2; 6:6) is consistent with the attitude of Darius, who established the presence of seven noble assistants of the king in court, six of whom were his companions who helped him rise to power, even though their names do not coincide with the seven princes mentioned in Esther. Darius’ six generals were called Utāna, Aspačanā, Gauburuva, Vindafarnâ, Bagabuxša, Vidarna. The main one among them seems to have been Otanes (Utāna), that could be equated with Memucan (or Mavjan in the Aramaic version).
Darius Hystaspes in his first year had an intense war activity, repressing the riots and restoring order throughout his empire. Once peace was consolidated in his second regnal year –in which he also authorized the resumption of the construction of the Temple of Jerusalem (Ezra 4:24)–, it is likely that he dedicated his third year to celebrating and giving banquets, especially considering his vain character.
Another aspect of his personality which coincides with that of Ahasuerus is, according to Herodotus, that Darius had the reputation of “merchant”, in the sense that he sought to obtain monetary profits from all that was possible, and this is also reflected in the offer of Haman to pay ten thousand silver talents to convince the king more easily (Esther 3:9).
In the sixth year of his reign, the building of the Jerusalem Temple was completed (Ezra 6:15). In the same year, according to the Megillah, the girls among whom the king was to choose his new wife were summoned (Esther 2:12,16).
In the book of Ezra and Nehemiah, Darius is also called Artaxerxes, y and in the apocryphal First Book of Esdras he almost literally repeats the text of Esther 1:1,3, replacing the name of Ahasuerus with Darius:
And when Darius reigned, he made a great banquet for all his subjects, for all his family, and for all the princes of Media and Persia, and for all the governors, captains and lieutenants who were under him, from India to Ethiopia, over a hundred and twenty-seven provinces.
Therefore, there is sufficient evidence to conclude that Esther’s Ahasuerus is no other than Darius Hystaspes, Dārayavauš Vištāspā, also called Darius the Great.
Yet, as we have said before, in the Greek version of Esther, as well as Flavius Josephus, call Ahasuerus “Artaxerxes”.
Ahasuerus is Artaxerxes, namely, Darius the Great
The identity of king Artaxerxes is frivolously associated with those proposed by Greek historians, who use different names from the Scriptures. In the Hebrew Bible this name is found only in Ezra and Nehemiah and refers to two different kings (in the Greek version of the Book of Esther, the king is called Artaxerxes instead of Ahasuerus). The Artaxerxes of Ezra 4:7 is a king before that of Ezra 6:14 and 7:1 – the first one suspends the building of the Temple, the second authorizes Ezra to go up to Jerusalem, and sends himself an offering for the Temple, the construction of which had already been completed in the sixth year of Darius (Ezra 6:15). Based on the fact that the conventional chronology establishes that there were more than one Artaxerxes after Darius, most of the interpreters associate him with the first of them, the so-called Artaxerxes I – between him and Darius there would be an interval of 21 years, covered by Xerxes’ reign. This same king would also be the Artaxerxes from the Book of Nehemiah. So, we are not interested for this purpose in the identity of the first Artaxerxes, that of Ezra 4:7, but we will try to discover that of the latter one, that of Ezra 6:14 and 7:1. Let’s see the sequence of events:
Ezra 6:14 And the elders of the Jews were building. And they were succeeding through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built, and finished, according to the commandment of the God of Israel and according to the command of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes the king of Persia.
6:15 And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.
6:16 And the sons of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the sons of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy.
7:1 And after these things, in the reign of Artaxerxes the king of Persia, Ezra the son of Seraiah, the son of Azariah, the son of Hilkiah,
7:6 this Ezra went up from Babylon. And he was a skilled scribe in the Law of Moses, which Adonay the God of Israel had given. And the king granted him all he asked, according to the hand of Adonay his God on him.
7:7 And of the sons of Israel went up some of the priests, and the Levites, and the singers, and the gatekeepers, and the temple servants to Jerusalem in the seventh year of Artaxerxes the king.
7:8 And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, in the seventh year of the king.
7:9 For on the first of the first month, he laid the foundation in order to go up from Babylon, and on the first of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, according to the good hand of God on him.
7:10 For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of Adonay, and to do it, and to teach statutes and judgments in Israel.
7:11 And this is the copy of the letter which the king, Artaxerxes, gave to Ezra the priest, the scribe, a scribe of the words of the commands of Adonay, and of His statutes to Israel:
7:12 “Artaxerxes, king of kings, to Ezra the priest, a scribe of the Law of the God of Heaven, perfect peace, and now: &c.”
In 6:15 Ezra tells us that the Temple was finished in the SIXTH year of Darius, and it was dedicated with great solemnity. In 7:7-8 he tells us that in the SEVENTH year (of Artaxerxes), on the first day of the first month, Ezra and his companions depart from Babylon to go to Jerusalem to teach the commandments. No one doubts that the king Darius spoken of in this passage is Darius Hystaspes. The sixth year of his reign, according to conventional chronology, is 516 BCE. In that year the construction of the Temple was completed, and it was dedicated.
In the next chapter, Ezra decides to go to Jerusalem on the first day of the first month of the seventh year of “Artaxerxes”. If this were Artaxerxes I in official history, its seventh year is 458 BCE! That is to say, the Temple is finally built, after so many adventures and struggles against those who opposed the work... and Ezra waits 58 years to decide to go to Jerusalem! And how did he travel there, considering that he must be very old? And then in Jerusalem he is a legislator and he is in good health and very vigorous...
Obviously it is absurd to think that this Artaxerxes could be the king of the same name that the Greek novelists presented. Ezra in his book would make a silence of six decades, within which thirty years of the reign of Darius would have elapsed (to whom he could request permission to go to Jerusalem immediately, since the king was very well predisposed towards him, and would he not?) plus another 21 years of Xerxes’ reign (and absolute silence on Haman’s intrigues, given that they also attribute - wrongly, as we have already said - the events of the Book of Esther to Xerxes’ time), and would expect still others seven years to achieve his dream of going to Jerusalem... It doesn’t make sense, nor any logic. And after these 58 years of silence, Ezra very calmly writes, as if nothing had happened in all that time, “ve’ajar dvarim ha’eleh” - “after these things”, an expression that indicates an immediate succession to what was previously said.
Exegesis also requires logic, and one of the first obvious conclusions we can quickly come to is that the seventh year is the one that follows the sixth. Then we have other relevant indicators: the work was completed in the month of Adar (6:15), which is the last month of the Hebrew calendar as well as the Assyrian calendar, and also the one used by the Persians at that time. This takes place during the sixth year of Daríus’ reign. And in the month of Aviv, which is Nisan, they celebrated Passover (6:19), and this is called “the first month”. And in the seventh year of his reign, Ezra, having obtained the approval of the king to move to Jerusalem, does so departing on the first day of the month of Aviv, arriving in Jerusalem five months later. That is, only one year elapsed between the events of chapter 6 and those of chapter 7, or less, if the count of the years of the kings are considered from the first month of the year, as it was used then, regardless of the time that had reigned the previous year. That is, if a king assumed his mandate on Adar 29, that was his “first year”, and the next day, Nisan 1, his “second year” began. In this case, the elapsed time is only six months: in Darius’s “sixth year” Adar, the Temple is finished. On the first day of the first month of his seventh year, that is, a few days later, Ezra left for Jerusalem, and arrived five months later.
Thus, the Artaxerxes of Ezra is none other than Darius Hystaspes himself, who bore the title of Ardaxčašča, who is “great king” or “king of kings” (cf. Ezra 7:12, where the title is written in Persian and then translated into Hebrew, Artaxshasta melech m’lachim). But there are those who object that Ezra says in 6:14 “by the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia”, as if Artaxerxes were a third king. An adequate knowledge of Biblical Hebrew is enough to understand that this phrase responds to a common expression in this language, which is to repeat the same concept with different words, for which we quote other passages of Scripture:
“And the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria, and the spirit of Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria” (1 Chronicles 5:26) - Pul and Tiglath-Pileser are the same person.
“Bel is put to shame, Merodach is broken in pieces” (Jeremiah 50:2) - Bel and Merodach are the same.
So also here Ezra speaks of the same king, Darius Hystaspes, first by his name and then by his royal title. And besides this, to which Artaxerxes can he refer, by whose command the Temple would have been completed in the sixth year of Darius? It cannot be that of Ezra 4:7-24, since he suspended the construction, and it was not he who ordered the continuation of the work but Darius in his second year of government. Artaxerxes I of history, Darius’ grandson, probably was not born when the Temple was finished. There is no other possible king to whom it is possible to assign having given this order, other than Cyrus and Darius.
There is still no document known reporting the removal of any queen during the reign of Darius or another Achæmenid king. Her short story is reported in chapter 1 of the Book of Esther:
· She was the queen of Persia and beautiful in appearance (1:11)
· She organized a banquet for women only, in the royal palace (1:9)
· On the seventh day of the celebrations, the king, drunk with wine, ordered her to appear before him and his princes (1:11)
· Vashti refused to do so, disobeying the king (1:12)
· She was condemned to not appear before the king never again, and her title of queen was taken away from her (1:19)
The decree that allegedly succeeded this act, ordering that “every man should be ruling in his house” is far-fetched and only a drunken king could have approved it. If Darius has actually issued such an edict, he deserves a place on the list of the most ridiculous kings in history.
Vashti’s character is treated differently by the Babylonian rabbis, who hated her, and by those of Jerusalem, who portray her as a virtuous woman. Although the absurd speculations reported in the Midrashim about her are not worthy of the slightest consideration, in these treaties the reason why she refused to appear before the king and his companions is conjectured: in the provision quoted in 1:11 “to bring Vashti the queen before the king with the royal crown, in order to make known to the people and the princes her beauty; because she was beautiful in appearance”, they suggest that the order indicated that she should be presented “with the royal crown” as the only garment, without any other clothing. If that was the reason why Vashti refused to appear, her disobedience was justified; she was an honorable and highly respected woman who would not abase herself to satisfy the lecherous looks of the king’s drunken friends, and this is the opinion of the rabbis of Jerusalem. Those of Babylon, accusing her of all sorts of ignominies, claimed that in reality she did not want to show up because suddenly a skin disease appeared to her, or that a “tail” had grown her, a word used in a euphemistic way. Such hatred to her person responded to another false claim regarding her ancestry: that she was the daughter of Belshazzar, the last king of Babylon, deposed by Cyrus of Persia. This statement is unfounded and contrary to all the evidence, in particular historical and linguistic. According to Herodotus, the kings of Persia and Media, although they had several wives and many concubines, could only marry women from the six main Persian noble families – and this is true for both Vashti and Esther. It was illegal, under penalty of death, for anyone except the king, close relatives and eunuchs, to see royal wives and concubines, so the king himself was breaking the law and Vashti was justified in not wanting to grant him his demand. So, it is possible that the nature of the king’s order involved something immoral, because it would not have made sense to risk losing her position as queen if only she had been asked to show her face.
Another tradition says that Ahasuerus, once the effects of his intoxication had passed, urged the presence of his wife and his servants said: «You killed her!»; then he asked, «Why?»; thry answered to him, «You ordered her to come in front of you naked and she didn’t come». Then he admitted: «I have not done well. And who advised me to kill her?»“; and they said to him, «The seven ministers of Persia and Media». He immediately ordered them to be executed, and for this reason the seven princes are no longer mentioned in the Book of Esther (Midrash Abba Gurion, chapter 2, cf. Esther Rabbah 5:2).
According to the law of Persia, Vashti would not have been killed, but only deprived of her title of queen and relegated to being a concubine, and because of the same decree, the king would never have summoned her again and she would have remained segregated in the harem for the rest of her life.
Concerning the linguistic aspect, the name Vaštī has absolutely nothing to do with Babylonian or Aramaic, but is purely Persian and is related to Vahišta by etymology and meaning. In the Avesta, Vahišta conveys the meaning of “most excellent”, therefore, Vaštī brings the concept of “the best, the most excellent”. In Zoroastrianism, Aša Vahišta is one of the six Aməša Spənta, who together with Ahura Mazdā, the Creator, conform the “Seven Divine Spirits”, being Aša Vahišta who was present at Creation, equivalent to the Wisdom –Chokhmah– in Proverbs 8, or the Word in the Gospel. Aša Vahišta, “the best justice”, was the Entity that protected the fire and the guarantor of the moral and physical order of the world, for which the name of Vaštī implies a great virtue. The Nowrūz / Nō Rūz, festival, the Zoroastrian “New Year”, is dedicated to Aša Vahišta,and its celebration is close to that of Purim.
The first mention of Vashti (1:9) occurs following a verse in which the Hebrew term ‘V’hashtiya’ (1:8) is used only this time in the Scriptures, in reference to drinking, making wordplay with her name; this could be interpreted as an indication that the fate of the queen and her decision would be determined by the liquor, that everyone would drink “no one compelling, according to every man’s pleasure”, and that obviously neither the king nor his guests had any moderation in its consumption.
Although it is not reported that Darius repudiated any of his women, one of them responds to certain characteristics of Vashti: Irtašduna or Artastūnā, daughter of Cyrus (according to Herodotus). In the Persepolis Administrative Archives she is called duukšiiš “princess”, a title given to the king’s wives, and is said to have owned several palaces in different parts of Persia and used to organize banquets, on some occasions together with her son Aršāmā. Perhaps if this person is Vashti herself, she was allowed to lead an independent life, with the only requirement that she no longer present herself before her husband the king – although Herodotus claims that she was Darius’ favorite wife, to whom he had dedicated a golden statue.
Although the name Hadassah has a meaning in Hebrew, myrtle, it is actually the hebraization of a Persian name, that of the most illustrious of the queens of Persia, both in reality and in legend: Hatossa, or Hutaosā. Next, we will discuss the two queens that bore that name, as they both share characteristics with Esther.
Hadassah the Achæmenid
Hutaosā was the daughter of Koresh –Cyrus the Great– and of his favorite wife Kassandanē, and sister on both sides of Cambyses, Bardiyā and another daughter of Cyrus and Kassandanē whose name is uncertain. From her paternal line, Raṷxšnā/Roxana, was her sister and perhaps also Artastūnā, wives of Cambyses and Bardiyā respectively. Hatossa was the consort of her brother Cambyses together with her sister Roxana, and upon the death of their husband, she would have been confined in the harem of the impostor Gaumata, to prevent her from easily discovering that he was not her brother Bardiyā. Subsequently, after the coup d’etat that brought him to the throne of Persia, Darius Hystaspes took her as his main wife, thus legitimizing his right to reign, being he of an Achaemenid line different from that of Cyrus. Because of her descent and intelligence, Hatossa exerted a great influence on her husband and on the court, and as queen she received the rank of “Lady of Ladies”, a title that had only been assigned to Anāhitā, “virgin” deity of the fertility, identical to the Semitic Ishtar. The Achæmenids’ devotion to Anāhitā evidently survived their conversion to Zoroastrianism, to the point of introducing her into the monotheistic religion founded by Zarathustra. It should be noted that Hatossa receives the title reserved for Ishtar, a name equivalent to Esther.
The law of Persia and Media required that the heir to the throne was the eldest son of the king, and therefore the succession belonged to Ašavazdah, son of Darius and the daughter of his general Gubaru, who was also the brother-in-law of the king, being the husband of one of Darius’ sisters; but Hatossa’s ascendant over the king determined Darius’ decision in favor of Kshayarsha, Xerxes, the eldest son of Hatossa and Darius. There were two reasons that validated this choice: Xerxes was Cyrus’s grandson, and he was the first son born to Darius being he king. Hatossa’s other three sons also gained privileged positions in the empire: Vištāspā, head of the Bactrian and Scythian troops, Masišta, general commander and satrap of Bactria, and Haxāmaniš, admiral of the Egyptian fleet. During the reign of her son Xerxes, she retained her power and authority as queen mother.
According to Herodotus, it was Hatossa who induced Darius to send an expedition to the shores of the Aegean Sea to ponder the possibility of conquering Greece. It is significant that in the Book of Esther it is only in 10:1, after Purim and once Hadassa had reached maximum power in the court, that “King Ahasuerus laid a tax on the land and on the isles of the sea”.
Hatossa was undoubtedly the most important queen in the history of the Persian Achæmenid Empire. She had decision-making power in the administration of the political and cultural affairs of the state, despite the fact that she legally could not have those rights.
Who was the Queen of Persia mentioned in Nehemiah 2:6, and why was she important? Was she Esther? Yes, surely, the fact that Nehemiah considered it relevant to write “the queen also sitting beside him [the king]” is because she had a special authority, favorable to the Jews – that queen to whom Nehemiah alludes was Hatossa.
Hadassah the Kayanid
In the Avesta, Hutaosā was the sister and wife of King Kavi Vištāspa, and the first woman to believe the preaching of Zarathustra, for this reason she is called āzātā, “of noble birth”. She convinced her husband to receive Zarathustra as an envoy, and Vištāspa recognized him as the true messenger of Ahura Mazdā, accepted him as a prophet and gave him a place in the court. Since then, his religion became official in the kingdom. Zarathustra intercedes for her in the following verse:
O good, most beneficent Drvâspa! grant me this boon, that I may bring the good and noble Hutaosa 2 to think according to the law, to speak according to the law, to do according to the law, that she may spread my Mazdean law and make it known, and that she may bestow beautiful praises upon my deeds.
–Yašt 9:26 –
Queen Hutaosā claimed that she believed in the message from Ahura Mazdā and her envoy since the beginning and was the first person in the royal family to adopt that faith. In this way, the name of this mythical queen became the most honorable in Persia and was given by the Zoroastrian believers to their daughters, among whom the most illustrious was the daughter of Cyrus the Great.
This same Hutaosā is the one who Abu Ja’far at-Tabari claims was called Estār, and who al-Masʿūdī relates to the children of Israel and gives her the title of Shahrāzād, similar to āzātā, the quality that describes her in the Avesta.
Whoever the legendary Hutaosā of the Kayanids was, she shares with the Biblical Hadassa having introduced a new monotheistic faith in the court of Persia.
In the Megillah it is written that Mordechai belonged to the deportees of Judah, was resident in Shushan and from the tribe of Benjamin, and presumably of the lineage of King Shaul (2:5). Having been part of the contingent that King Nebukadnezzar transferred to Babylon along with Yehoyakin/Yekoniah (2: 6), he must have been an elder when Darius ascended the throne.
Besides the Megillat Esther, we find this name in Ezra 2:2 and Nehemiah 7:7, and in both passages it refers to one of the men who returned with Zerubbabel from Babylon to Jerusalem. He can hardly be the same person as Hadassa’s cousin, since that Mordechai had returned to his homeland, so what would he do later in Shushan?
In the Persepolis Administrative Archives is mentioned who was an accountant inspector during the last phase of the reign of Darius and the beginning of that of Xerxes. This would be the closest indication to establish a possibility of identification with the biblical Mordechai, who would have been, according to the Megillah, elevated to an important degree since the thirteenth year of Ahasuerus’ reign (Darius Hystaspes). Would these documents be those mentioned in Esther 10:2 as the “Book of Chronicles of the kings of Media and Persia”? However, considering that Mordechai must have been more than eighty years old when the king named him second in the kingdom (Esther 10:3), he would have been an over centennial man at the death of Darius, and therefore too old to continue exercising his office at the beginning of the reign of Xerxes.
An attempt to conciliate the stories
In this study we have considered the only documents relating to the Persian Empire at the time when the history that concerns us should be placed –Megillat Esther, the Behistun Inscription and the Persepolis Administrative Archives, the Shâhnâmeh and the Avesta–, which provide three parallel stories.
How and when the Achæmenids converted to Zoroastrianism is an unsolved enigma, as well as the time when Zarathustra lived and what was his origin. In order to place the events of the Kayanid dynasty with those of Achæmenid in a historical context, the Zoroastrian scholars identified Kavi Vištāspa with Cyrus the Great –therefore, Hutaosā would be Kassandanē, his wife, or else Hutaosā would not have been Vištāspa’s wife but his daughter– and consequently, they attributed to the legendary Kayanid king the edict that allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem (Ṭabari, book I). They also credited Vištāspa of having established the seven imperial families of Persia (Ṭabari, I), which according to the official version of the story would have been the done by Darius Hystaspes.
If we take into consideration the elements analyzed here and try to organize them to formulate a hypothesis, we would have a complicated combination of protagonists who could be identified with different characters among the stories involved, considering that each of them is an expression of the point of view of the author and consequently, the reality could be different and not coincide in full with any of them, but partially with all. In all three stories there is a very important woman who is the queen: Hadassa/Esther the Jewess, Hatossa/Hutaosā the Achæmenid, Hutaosā/Estār the Kayanid, each of whom have in common exerting a significant influence on her husband, who is the king, Ahasuerus, Darius, Vištāspa, and a particular devotion to her God. In all cases, they are decisive in interceding in favor of people who supported a monotheistic faith, be it Judaism or Zoroastrianism.
From these postulates arise some conjectures:
If the Hadassah of the Megillah was not actually a Jewish woman, but the daughter of Cyrus the Great, perhaps it was she who led her father to the Zoroastrian faith, adopted as the official religion of the crown of Persia, or perhaps she had converted to the Judaism and for this reason her influence in the court of Darius was very valuable in encouraging the king to satisfy Nehemiah’s requests...
Or perhaps the prophet Zarathustra, of whom nothing is known and whose biography is legendary, was indeed an Israelite who introduced monotheism in the court of Cyrus... Could he be Prophet Daniel himself?
Concerning the queen’s identity, if Hutaosā was the daughter of Cyrus the Great, and if also Artastūnā, was, were then Esther and Vashti sisters?...
Summing it all up, we know that the history of the Kayanids is mythological, reported in the Shâhnâmeh, which was written by the poet Firdawsi towards the end of the tenth century CE, while the scarce documents on the Achæmenids are the work of Darius Hystaspes, and hence, lacking in objectivity, or else they are imprecise and confused versions given by the Greek narrators who collected different oral traditions that did not agree with each other and without being able to verify the facts; and finally, the Book of Esther, which for all of the above would be equally credible. Therefore, the events could have happened as follows: Hatossa, daughter of Cyrus –who is called “Messiah” in Isaiah 45:1– had believed the preaching of a prophet of Israel before her father took Babylon, and therefore converted to Judaism, she exercised her influence to decree the return of her adoptive nation to Jerusalem. Subsequently, being the wife of Darius, from her position in the royal court she continued to favor her people, and, out of gratitude, the people of Israel dedicated a novel to her in which she is the protagonist and heroine of the Jews.
It remains still unsolved without a historical explanation the crucial event in the Megillah, the decree of extermination of the Jews and its outcome, a highly unlikely fact in the Achæmenid Empire. No reasonable king would admit a proposal like that of Haman, nor a civil war in his kingdom provoked by an unfair edict – let alone Darius, who in the second year of his reign decreed and financed the reconstruction of the Temple of Jerusalem (Ezra 6:1-12,15), which was completed four years later, and himself sponsored Ezra to attend the inauguration in the seventh year of his rule (Ezra 7:12-27), at the same time that he would presumably be choosing Esther to make her his wife (Esther 2:16 ). Those who may have been able to authorize large-scale genocide were the Seleucids. During the domination of that Greek dynasty some novels were written in which they were indirectly alluded, but placing them in previous empires and personifying their monarchs as Assyrians in order to avoid that the work be censored or exasperated even more the hatred of the despots and their governors. This is how the fantastic tales of Judith and Tobias were born, full of inaccuracies and historical errors, probably because the authors lacked adequate information on the Assyrian Empire, or else they made them intentionally in order to make it understood that actually they were referring to Greek kings and ministers and not to those presented in the aforementioned works. Regarding the Book of Esther, the author perfectly describes the details of the Persian court and shows that he has exact and detailed information on the matter, so his intention may have been to convey an event that really happened, even if in a different context. An extermination decree may have happened, but in a limited territory and not in such large a scale as covering the whole empire, in one of the Seleucid domains, and the writer decided to create a romantic tale in which that fact was recorded and at the same time honor the Queen of Persia, she whom the Jews had to remember with respect and of whom nothing had been written yet. In this way, he brought together two totally different events separated in time and space, in the same work. In particular, the facts related to Haman and his intention to destroy the Jews could be connected to the campaign of the Seleucid general Nicanor, a fierce enemy of the Jews, who fell defeated in the battle of Adasa (Hebrew: Hadasah), near Jerusalem, on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, clash in which he lost his life and his head was exposed as a trophy. Since then, the Jews celebrated that day with great joy, and only in the Diaspora was it replaced by Ta’anit Esther.
. According to 2Maccabees 15:36, the commemoration of that festival was instituted on the 13th of Adar, “on the eve of Mordechai’s Day”, which would indicate that in the Hasmonean era Purim was already commemorated. However, there is no indication that Purim was observed during the Second Temple period, until long after its destruction. In fact, it is not mentioned in the Qumran Scrolls (among which there is not any copy of Megillat Esther, the only TaNaKh book absent from that collection of manuscripts), nor in the New Testament, nor in any other document of that time. In fact, Purim was promoted to national celebration by the rabbis of the Diaspora, and given the proximity to the day on which the defeat of Nicanor was commemorated, they unified both holidays by canceling the latter, which was replaced by the “fast of Esther”, who it did not happen in Adar but many months earlier, according to Esther 4:16, and was to last three days, not one. The purpose of this replacement was that the Jews would not observe or remember any of the Maccabees’ undertakings, considered usurpers of David’s throne because they did not belong to his lineage and therefore could not be recognized as legitimate kings of Judah. “Mordechai’s Day” during the Second Temple period was likely to have been an end of winter Babylonian festival adopted by the Jews of the Diaspora, and close to the Zoroastrian New Year, Nowrūz.
The Book of Esther has the characteristic of having an important symbolic meaning which is valid for two different religious systems: Judaism and Zoroastrianism. The work in its essence is a metaphor for the struggle between Good and Evil and also contains the paradox of the exaltation of two deities of Babylon: the names of the two main actors representing Good are Mordechai and Esther, are equivalent to Marduk and Ishtar respectively. Rabbi Nehemiah explains in the treatise Megillah 13a the following: “Hadassah was her original name; why then was she called Esther? Because the idolaters have compared her to the planet Venus, or Ishtar”.
To better understand the hidden meaning of the figures in this book, it is necessary to briefly explain some fundamental concepts of Zoroastrianism: this religion, at least in its origins, conceives the existence of only one God, Creator of all things and in turn, Principle Absolute of Good, whose name is Ahura Mazdā –that can be translated as Wise God–. From him emanated the Aməša Spənta, six divine “concepts” or “qualities” (not deities on their own right), and they are: Vohu Manah, ithe Good Thought, Aša Vahištā, the Best Righteousness or Best Truth, Xšaθra Vairya, the Desirable Dominion, Spənta Ārmaiti, the Creative Harmony or Holy Devotion, Haurvatāt, the Perfect Health, and Amərətāṯ, the Immortality, to them joins Spenta Mainyu, the Holy Spirit, son of Ahura Mazdā and “one with the Father“, by means of whom the Universe was created and is sustained, he is the Principle of Good and, together with the other six mentioned, comprises the Seven Spirits of the Creator. He is opposed by Angra Mainyu, or Ahriman, the adversary, Principle of Evil and father of lies, the prince of demons. During their lives, human beings must decide whether to be children of light or of darkness, that is, to be on the side of Good or on the side of Evil. All the works of a person’s life are written in the Book of Life, which will be consulted on Judgment Day to determine the final destination of everyone.
Before Zarathustra, the Persian religion was similar to that of other polytheistic peoples, especially those of India. In that system, Ahura Mazdā had a consort, Ārmaiti, who represented “Mother Earth” and was the protector of women who, like Earth, produce and feed life. Contrary to the deities of fertility, Ārmaiti was honored as the custodian of the virtuous woman, the mother of the family. There was a festival dedicated to her, where girls could court young men and choose their boyfriends – it was a celebration exclusive for women, as was Vashti’s banquet. Zarathustra did not admit the existence of other divinities outside the Creator and transformed Ārmaiti into a quality of Ahura Mazdā, that is, the first of the three female Aməša Spənta , Spənta Ārmaiti, becoming identified with the physical Creation, Nature, and with the Earth itself, to which it is immanent. Since Creation is in an intimate relationship with the Creator, Zarathustra metaphorically defined Ārmaiti as “daughter” of Ahura Mazdā, which later, perhaps in a misunderstood way, gave place to the permissiveness of incestuous marriage, because in popular consciousness she continued to be his consort.
Notwithstanding, the most revered female deity in the whole region of Persia and Media was Arədvī Sūrā Anāhitā, or simply Anahita, identical to Sarasvatī of India and equivalent to the Semitic Ishtar. There were more temples and shrines dedicated to her than to any other Persian entity, even after the advent of Zoroastrianism, which established a monotheistic paradigm. The ministers of the Anahita cult were the Magi, the caste called “Chaldeans” in Daniel 2:2; 4:7; 5:7. Anahita survived Zarathustra’s religious reforms, becoming an emanation of Ahura Mazdā and losing her goddess rank, though not her intrinsic divinity. She could still be worshiped under the name of Anāhīd, but with the awareness that it was an aspect of Ahura Mazdā and not a true divinity by itself. This practice would be similar to the subsequent development of the veneration of the Virgin Mary in Catholicism. Anahita was also called “our lady” and “immaculate”. The Achæmenid devotion to her evidently subsisted after the conversion of this dynasty to Zoroastrianism, and it appears that they used their royal influence to adopt it in that religion. Anahita received a special reverence for being subsequently identified as the daughter of Ahura Mazdā. Anahita, as well as Ishtar, was associated with the planet Venus and its two daily appearances, the morning and the evening. All these elements are present in the Book of Esther, as will be seen later on.
The claim that in the laws of Persia “every decree or law which the king enacts may not be changed” (Esther 1:19; 8:8; Daniel 6:15) must not be understood literally, but in the Zoroastrian concept, every design by Ahura Mazdā it is immutable, and although instigated by the Principle of Evil cannot be removed, it can only be countered by greater actions performed by the Principle of Good. Royal decrees could be changed (Ezra 6:11). In the Megillah’s account all things exist in relation to their opposites and events turn out to be contrary to what was expected – this dialectical approach is the very essence of Zoroastrianism.
The story begins with large banquets that can symbolize the Creator’s joy for his original Creation, having seen that everything He had done was good. The king and his seven ministers represent Ahura Mazdā and his Aməša Spənta, and the deposed queen is a figure of Ārmaiti, who had her own feast for women and, stripped of her divinity, was reduced to a simple quality, being segregated like an odalisque in the king’s harem. But in its place emerges, like the planet Venus in the morning, Ishtar, which then hides and reappears at dusk, when she reveals her identity. –Concealment is one of the recurring motifs in the Megillah also in the Jewish interpretation–. She does not belong to the king’s people; she is a “foreign divinity” who introduces herself into his kingdom. And although she has only become an aspect of Ahura Mazdā, she was not eclipsed as Ārmaiti, who took the form of one of his Aməša Spənta. Ishtar/Anahita was not relegated to the king’s “harem”, she retained her own cult.
Then Haman appeared, impersonating Ahriman, the enemy who tries to destroy all the Good Creation, and his appearance on the scene occurs in the first month of the year (Esther 3:7), consulting the Magi on the most propitious days for carrying out his evil plan, and the lot fell to the last month (Esther 3:13), causing the anguish of the righteous throughout the year: this sequence represents the pitfalls of Evil from the beginning of Creation, and all the suffering it causes in the world until the end of time, when in the last battle it will be defeated by Good, being the year a figure of humanity’s life span. The queen, who had been hidden for a month from the presence of the king (Esther 4:11) asks supporters of the Good to fast three days and three nights (Esther 4:16), allegory of death and resurrection (Genesis 22:4; cf. Hebrews 11:19; Jonah 1:17), to achieve triumph over Evil.
Haman had made a 50-cubits high (75 feet) wooden gallows in his own home: an absurd height in an absurd place. The meaning of this is that the final battle will be waged in the heavens, but in the territory and domain of Evil. Whoever is hanged on that gallows will define humanity’s destiny: either Evil will conquer heaven, as is its intention (Isaiah 14:13-14), or Good will prevail and will strip Evil of all its power.
The king’s sleepless night is a literary resource to represent the moment when the Supreme God consults the Book of Life, where the good works of the righteous are recorded and will be rewarded. On the Day of Judgment, the destruction of all Evil will depend on the actions of the righteous, who bring Good to victory. This is the reason why the king appears incapable of revoking any decree he has issued, because fate is at stake among human beings, who must seek the Good. This is a fundamental principle in Zoroastrian theology: bad thoughts, words and actions cannot be canceled, they can only be expiated by good works that go beyond them.
The author’s wit, a Jew disguised as a Persian chronicler, adapted this story, which clearly illustrates the thinking of Zarathustra’s followers, and turned it into a Jewish epic novel. He hides not only his own identity, but all his characters represent others, and even the God of Israel is veiled between the lines of the narrative. The protagonist of the story, as we have seen, was the daughter of Cyrus the Great, and obviously she was not Jewish and for this reason the writer resorts to presenting her as an orphan, adapting her Persian name to the Hebrew Hadassah. Apparently, she displaced Artastūnā, the banquet organizer, who may have been her sister –and here we find another parallel with Ārmaiti and Anāhīd, both “daughters of Ahura Mazdā”.
Since the king of Persia is undoubtedly Darius the Great, esteemed by the Jews and considered a good king
–he authorized to continue the construction of the Temple (Ezra 6:7-12) and granted Nehemiah the reconstruction of the walls of Jerusalem and named him governor of Judah (Nehemiah 2:6; 5:14; 13:6)–, the writer hides his true identity and calls him Achashverosh, because he needed to caricature him and present him as a fool, vain and fickle, resorting to the name used by Ezra in reference to Cambyses (Ezra 4:6). And for another of the purposes of his work, he needed a protagonist belonging to the tribe of Benjamin and the house of Shaul –maybe because that was the author’s lineage–, and he found in Mordechai the appropriate one. That his name and that of the queen represent two Babylonian deities can only be circumstantial, if there is a possibility that anything throughout the plot was left to chance.
Then, Haman, the “Agagite”, who actually had to be the personification of some Seleucid (probably Nicanor) and obviously did not live in the times of the Achæmenid Empire but much later, was the right individual to embody the enemy and settle a pending account that King Shaul had left open. And since all the things in this novel are masked, the nickname Agagite means Amalekite, and as such, a sworn enemy of the people of Israel. This does not imply an ethnic descent (since Agag theoretically had no descendants) but an attitude that in our times is called anti-Semitism. On the other hand, if the name of the wicked father, Hammedatha, for the Persian narrator evokes the conspirator Gaumata, usurper of the throne, for the Hebrew that name, although very different in writing, would have an assonance with Ašməddāy/Hammadāy (Asmoeus), a demon ridiculed in the apocryphal literature, whose name derives from the Persian aēšma-daēva, two terms found in the Avesta, although not together, and whose meaning would be “demon of wrath”.
In the author’s view, the forces of Good are identified with the Jews, and those of Evil with their enemies, embodied in the Amalechite Haman. The mission of the children of light is summarized in Esther 8:17 - “And many of the people of the land became Jews, for the fear of the Jews fell on them”: The certainty of the triumph of the Good would convince many to review their way and follow the ways of Justice. However, mass proselytism in Judaism had its beginnings in the Hasmonean period, which is another indication that the Megillah was composed at that time.
The Book of Esther represents a parody of Zoroastrianism, which got rid of one pagan deity to replace it with another, but in turn shows how Judaism also introduced a Babylonian festival among its celebrations, for which inclusion is taken as reference this literary work. In the Book of Esther things are not what they seem to be, people are not who they are said to be, and events have happened in other ways, in other places and at other times. For this reason Purim is a holiday celebrated in disguise.
After having analyzed all these things and considerrd the particular characteristics of this book, one wonders if there is any reason that justifies its inclusion in the Scriptures. Of all the things hidden in this novel, even the Name of God is veiled from sight, and even a prophecy that was fulfilled a few decades ago.
In the Megillah there is apparently no reference to God, neither as YHVH nor as Elohim, and indirectly, there is only one expression that insinuates an allusion to Him:
“For if you are completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance shall rise up to the Jews from another place”.
–Esther 4:14 –
However, He is present secretly, and His Name is also written, albeit not in a visible way.
We do not refer to the Bible codes, which are parallel messages written in TaNaKh through sequences of letters, and through these codes we can find the Name YHVH also in the Book of Esther. Rather, we will mention only four acrostics in which the Name is visible without need of doing any mathematical calculation:
These are four sentences pronounced by four different people and with the following characteristics:
· In each case the four words are consecutive.
· There are no two acrostics with the same construction, but each one is composed in a structure different from the others.
· Each sentence is pronounced by a different person. The first from Memukan (1:20); the second from Esther (5:4); the third from Haman (5:13); the fourth by the author (7:7).
· The first two acrostics make a pair, in which the Name is formed by the initial letter of each word.
· The last two acrostics make a pair, in which the Name is composed of the last letter of each word.
· The first and third acrostic make a pair, in which the Name is written backwards.
· The second and fourth acrostic make a pair, in which the Name is written in the normal way.
· The first and third, in which the Name is spelled backwards, are pronounced by Gentiles.
· The second and fourth, in which the Name is written in the normal way, are pronounced by Jews.
· The acrostics in which the Name is formed by the initial letter of each word refer to initial events; while the acrostics in which the Name is formed by the final letter of each word refer to final events.
(The transliterations in the table correspond to the value of each letter, they are not phonetic).
“HI’ VEKOL HANASHIM YITTENU”
“YABO’ HAMELECH VEHAMAN HAYOM”
“ZEH ’EYNENV SHOVEH LY”
“KY KALETHAH ELAYV HARA’AH”
· First acrostic: formed from the initial letter of each word, the Name is written backwards because HaShem is dismantling human advice:
1:20 “all the wives shall give” [their husbands honor]; in Hebrew it says:
“HI’ VEKOL HANASHIM YITTENU”, whose initials form “HVHY”, the Name written backwards.
· Second acrostic: formed from the initial letter of each word, the Name is written in a normal way because HaShem is encouraging Esther to take an initiative:
5:4 “let the king and Haman come”; in Hebrew it says: “YABO’ HAMELECH VEHAMAN HAYOM”, whose initials form “YHVH”, the Name of the fourth Invisible Guest at the banquet.
· Third acrostic: formed from the last letter of each word, the Name is written backwards because HaShem decreed the end of Haman:
5:13 “all this is no gain to me”; in Hebrew it says: “ZEH ’EYNENV SHOVEH LY” whose final letters form “HVHY”, the Name written backwards.
· Fourth acrostic: formed from the last letter of each word, the Name is written in a normal way because HaShem had determined the end of that wicked one.
7:7 “evil was fulfilled against him” [by the king]; in Hebrew it says: “KY KALETHAH ELAYV HARA’AH” whose final letters form “YHVH”, who was the one who had actually decreed evil for Haman.
Besides the hidden name of HaShem in the Book of Esther, there is also a secret prophecy in the following passage:
“And in Shushan the palace the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred men.
And they killed Parshandatha, and Dalphon, and Aspatha,
and Poratha, and Adalya, and Arydatha,
and Parmashta, and Arysai, and Arydai, and Vayezatha,
the ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the one distressing the Jews. But they did not lay their hands on the spoil.
On that day the number of those who were killed in Shushan the palace was brought before the king.
And the king said to Esther the queen, The Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the palace, and the ten sons of Haman. What have they done in the rest of the provinces of the king? And what is your petition, and it is given to you? And what further request, and it will be done?
And Esther said, If it pleases the king, let it be given to the Jews in Shushan to do tomorrow also according to this day’s decree; and let Haman’s ten sons be hanged on the wooden gallows”.
The Jews had killed Haman’s ten children. Why would Esther ask that they be hanged if they were already dead? Here we find one of the most surprising prophecies in the Bible. Before explaining it, we will make another observation on how the names of Haman’s children were written in the Megillah: these, instead of continuing the normal writing course, are listed in a column, each name at the beginning of each line and therefore, in the end, the conjunction “v’et”, that is, “and”. In the list of the names of the ten, not only is this vertical order particular, but there are letters written in a different size than the others, in the first, seventh and tenth names: three of them are smaller; the tav in Parshandatha, the shin in Parmashtha and the zayin in Vayezatha, and the sum of these letters is equal to 707; moreover, the initial vav in this last name is bigger than the other letters and its value is 6. This strange key indicates a year: 707 of the sixth millennium, that is 5707 of the Hebrew calendar, and it is the year 1946/47 EC. In the image below, those letters are marked in red.
Esther asked the “king” that “tomorrow” the ten sons of Haman be hanged on the gallows. When is that “tomorrow”, and which “king” did she ask? For this reason there is a space between each of the names and the conjunction “v’et”, a space that must be filled with the names of those ten who would have been hanged in the future time encoded in the letters. On October 16th 1946, following the Nürnberg trials, ten of the Nazi criminals were sentenced to be hanged and were executed. It was the month of Tishri 5707. In chapter 9 of Esther we can find hidden the name of the month, Tishri, in addition to the words “Amalekite”, “Aryan”, “Nazi”... Finally, the ten sons of Haman were executed, in Tishri 5707, and that is why Esther asked that “tomorrow” be hung on gallows. Again, it is confirmed that in the Book of Esther things are not what they seem to be, people are not who they are said to be, and events have happened in other ways, in other places and at other times, as it has been said in the previous chapter.