Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives. The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version. At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture. To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.
Questions & Observations
I have heard this story quite a lot, but never in the detail that the Bible is providing. It’s such a thorough account that I don’t have any deep questions, just technical ones.
Q. (Esther 1:1): Xerxes has such a huge territory from India to Ethiopia. I can’t imagine how they would rule that many people over a long distance. They must have had quite an organized structure of assistants.
A. These kings set up puppet regimes throughout the empire. We will see this again in the NT, when the leaders such as Herod ruled Israel, but served the Emperor of Rome. This is also why the decrees were so important: they were used to proclaim the king’s orders throughout the vast empire.
Q. (1:3-4): How did Xerxes get so much authority so fast? In his third year as ruler, he threw a banquet for royalty that lasted 180 days. And just to imagine the accommodations — they didn’t have Holiday Inn back then. I just wonder if there were inns or if Xerxes housed them all.
A. Xerxes is king of the Persian Empire, which took over the Babylonian Empire from Nebuchadnezzar’s descendants. So he got his great authority by inheriting it from the king before him, but he also very likely had to demonstrate his authority as some sort of under ruler, usually a general. Inns and such places would have been commonplace in major cities of this time, as they are today. Many times people in this area would use caravans to move large amounts of people and goods, and set up camps in the areas outside (or sometimes inside) a city.
Q. (2:12): Twleve months of beauty treatments? This would never go today, not in my home anyway. Who has time for that? In a whole year, they would look older.
A. I honestly have no idea how to respond to this. I’m just going to move on.
Q. (2:21): I don’t remember this part of the story. It’s great to know more about Mordecai. The whole eunuch thing is hard to accept. The way the Bible refers to them as eunuchs and not just by name makes it sound like they are a separate “breed.”
A. I realize you’ve had some trouble with this concept, but it would have been accepted practice in the day. It’s quite clear from the story that even the eunuchs in Xerxes’ empire could become powerful men, as we see in the man who controlled the entire harem for the king.
Q. (3:10): Why did Xerxes hand over the signet ring to Haman? I don’t understand what authority is given to whomever has the ring.
A. The signet ring had a raised design on it, which was the mark of the king. In an era, as we have discussed, of great distances between king and country and vast empires, the power of the king’s seal must be understood as incredibly important. Xerxes, by giving Haman the ring, is basically allowing him to write decrees as though he is the king, because he can use the ring to seal royal letters and decrees. That’s the real power of signet ring: basically being able to sign the king’s “name” onto something.