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Ahasuerus and Haman at Esther's Feast, by Rembrandt
Esther before Ahasuerus, by Franciszek Smuglewicz, 1778

Ahasuerus (Hebrew: אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ, Aẖashverosh; ʼĂḥašwērôš; Greek: Ασουηρος, translit. Asouēros in the Septuagint; or Latin: Assuerus in the Vulgate; commonly transliterated Achashverosh; cf. Old Persian: Xšayārša; Persian: اخشورش‎‎ Axšoreš; Ancient Greek: Ξέρξης Xerxes) is a name used several times in the Hebrew Bible, as well as related legends and Apocrypha. This name (or title) is applied in the Hebrew Scriptures to three rulers. The same name is also applied uncertainly to a Babylonian official (or Median king) noted in the Book of Tobit.

Contents

EtymologyEdit

 
Aert de Gelder, The Banquet of Ahasuerus
 
The wrath of Ahasuerus (anonymous), Rijksmuseum Amsterdam

The original name was Old Persian Xšayārša. This became Babylonian Achshiyarshu, borrowed into Hebrew as אחשורוש ʼĂḥašwērôš, and thence into Latin as Ahasuerus, the form traditionally used in English Bibles.[1][2]

The Persian name was independently rendered in Ancient Greek as Ξέρξης Xérxēs. Many newer English translations and paraphrases of the Bible[3] have used the name Xerxes.

Biblical referencesEdit

Book of EstherEdit

 
Esther before Ahasuerus, by Franc Kavčič 1815

Ahasuerus is given as the name of the King of Persia in the Book of Esther.[4] 19th century Bible commentaries generally identified him with Xerxes I of Persia.[5] The Greek version (Septuagint) of the Book of Esther refers to him as Artaxerxes, and the historian Josephus relates that this was the name by which he was known to the Greeks.[6] Similarly, the Vulgate, the Midrash of Esther Rabba, I, 3 and the Josippon identify the King as Artaxerxes. The Ethiopic text calls him Arťeksis, usually the Ethiopic equivalent of Artaxerxes. John of Ephesus and Bar-Hebraeus identified him as Artaxerxes II, a view strongly supported by the 20th century scholar Jacob Hoschander.[7] Masudi recorded the Persian view of events which affirms the identification and al-Tabari similarly placed the events during the time of Artaxerxes II despite being confused by the Hebrew name for the king. Esther Rabba and the Vulgate present "Ahasuerus" as a different name for the king to "Artaxerxes" rather than an equivalent in different languages, and the Septuagint distinguished between the two names using a Greek transliteration of Ahasuerus for occurrences outside the Book of Esther. Indeed, an inscription from the time of Artaxerxes II records that he was also known as Arshu understood to be a shortening of the Babylonian form Achshiyarshu derived from the Persian Khshayarsha (Xerxes). The Greek historians Ctesias and Deinon noted that Artaxerxes II was also called Arsicas or Oarses respectively similarly understood to be derived from Khshayarsha, the former as the shortened form together with the Persian suffix -ke applied to such shortened names.[7] On his accession however Artaxerxes II lost Egypt to pharaoh Amyrtaeus after which it wasn't part of the Persian empire anymore. In his Historia Scholastica [1] Petrus Comestor identified Ahasuerus (Esther 10:1-2) as Artaxerxes III who in agreement with Esther 1:1 reconquered Egypt.

Book of EzraEdit

Ahasuerus is also given as the name of a King of Persia in the Book of Ezra.[8] Modern commentators associate him with Xerxes I who reigned from 486 BC until 465 BC. Other identifications have been made for Cambyses II[9] or with Bardiya (Greek Smerdis) who reigned (perhaps as an imposter) for seven months between Cambyses II and Darius I.[10] The Elephantine papyri mention the high priest Johanan as a contemporary of Darius II.[11][12] The book of Ezra mentions him (Ezra 10:6) as a contemporary of the king who succeeded Darius (Ezra 4:6: Ahasuerus = Hebrew, Ezra 4:7: Artachsasta = Aramaic), suggesting he is Artaxerxes II.

Book of DanielEdit

Ahasuerus is given as the name of the father of Darius the Mede in the Book of Daniel.[13] Josephus names Astyages as the father of Darius the Mede, and the description of the latter as uncle and father-in-law of Cyrus by mediaeval Jewish commentators matches that of Cyaxares II, who is said to be the son of Astyages by Xenophon. Thus this Ahasuerus is commonly identified with Astyages. He is alternatively identified, together with the Ahasuerus of the Book of Tobit, as Cyaxares I, said to be the father of Astyages. Views differ on how to reconcile the sources in this case. One view is that the description of Ahasuerus as the "father" of Darius the Mede should be understood in the broader sense of "forebear" or "ancestor." Another view notes that on the Behistun Inscription, "Cyaxares" is a family name, and thus considers the description as literal, viewing Astyages as an intermediate ruler wrongly placed in the family line in the Greek sources. In the book of Daniel the king's name changes from 'king of the Chaldeans = Babylonians' to 'king of the Persians' which also occurred between the kingships of Darius I and Xerxes.[14] Furthermore the 120 satraps mentioned in Daniel 6:1 can be translated as 20 tribute owing satraps through who Darius I divided his kingdom.[15] Suggesting Ahasuerus refers to Darius I's father Hystaspes.

Book of TobitEdit

In some versions of the apocryphal or deuterocanonical Book of Tobit, Ahasuerus is given as the name of an associate of Nebuchadnezzar, who together with him, destroyed Nineveh just before Tobit's death.[16] A traditional Catholic view is that he is identical to the Ahasuerus of Daniel 9:1[17] In the Codex Sinaiticus Greek (LXX) edition, the two names in this verse appear instead as one name, Ahikar (also the name of another character in the story of Tobit). Other Septuagint texts have the name Achiachar. Western scholars have proposed that Achiachar is a variant form of the name "Cyaxares I of Media", who historically did destroy Nineveh, in 612 BC.

In legendsEdit

In some versions of the legend of the Wandering Jew, his true name is held to be Ahasuerus.[18] This is the name by which Immanuel Kant refers to the Wandering Jew in The Only Possible Argument in Support of a Demonstration of the Existence of God.[19]

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ KJV, NASB, Amplified Bible, ESV, 21st Century King James Version, ASV, Young's Literal Translation, Darby Translation, Holman Christian Standard Bible, etc.
  2. ^ Nichol, F.D., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 3, Review and Herald Publishing Association, (Washington, D.C., 1954 edition), p.459, "Historical Setting"
  3. ^ NIV, The Message, NLT, CEV, NCV, NIRV, TNIV, etc.
  4. ^ Esther 1
  5. ^ The Religious Policy of Xerxes and the "Book of Esther", Littman, Robert J., The Jewish Quarterly Review, 65.3, January 1975, p.145-148.
  6. ^ Ahasuerus at the JewishEncyclopedia.com
  7. ^ a b Jacob Hoschander, The Book of Esther in the Light of History, Oxford University Press, 1923
  8. ^ Ezra 4:5-7
  9. ^ Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible, as quoted by Bible.cc/ezra/4-7.htm
  10. ^ Clarke's Commentary on the Bible, as quoted by Bible.cc/ezra/4-7.htm
  11. ^ Pritchard, James B. ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, Princeton University Press, third edition with supplement 1969, p. 492
  12. ^ Bezalel Porten (Author), J. J. Farber (Author), C. J. F. Martin (Author), G. Vittmann (Author), The Elephantine Papyri in English (Documenta Et Monumenta Orientis Antiqui, book 22), Koninklijke Brill NV, The Netherlands, 1996, p 125-153.
  13. ^ Daniel 9:1
  14. ^ Roman Ghirshman, Iran (1954), Penguin Books, p 191.
  15. ^ Wilhelm Gesenius, Hebräisches und Aramäisches Handwörterbuch über das Alte Testament, 17. Auflage (1962), Springer-Verlag, p 392.
  16. ^ Book of Tobit, 14:15.
  17. ^ Maas, Anthony (1907). Assuerus. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved April 15, 2009 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02005c.htm
  18. ^ Andrei Oişteanu, "The legend of the wandering Jew in Europe and Romania.". Archived from the original on 2008-02-03. Retrieved 2008-03-12.  Studia Hebraica.
  19. ^ Kant, I. Der einzig mögliche Beweisgrund zu einer Demonstration des Daseins Gottes. 1763. AA 2:76

ReferencesEdit

External linksEdit

  Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Ahasuerus.