1. THE STORY OF QUEEN ESTHER-FACHTUEL OR FICTION
As a theologian and a firm believer in the authenticity of the Bible, I must face continual criticism. One of them concerns the story of Queen Esther. Scholars dump this beautiful, inspired story onto the rubbish heap of mythology.
Let me introduce to a powerful statement that the famous Bible writer, send to his young student Timothy:
All Scripture Is Breathed Out by God
2 Timothy 3:10 You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, 2Ti 3:11 persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. 2Ti 3:12 In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 2Ti 3:13 while evildoers and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2Ti 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 2Ti 3:15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 2Ti 3:17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
This “all Scripture” includes the Book of Esther as well. And what a gem of a young queen who was willing to die to save her nation, the Jews
One of the most important archaeological sites in Israel, is Qirbet Qumran. Until recently fragments of all the books of the Bible were found in the caves except the book of Esther. But then came the big surprise.
TELL THE STORY OF THE FRAGMENT
Archaeologists found a scroll in the Qumran caves that was unreadable as a result of a 2000-year-old wine spill. Due to the extensive staining, the scroll could not be opened or read. Curators stored it away in the archives, hoping that new technology might one day emerge to make the scroll legible.
Two such technological breakthroughs, serendipitously, discovered by chance, in a beneficial way just moments apart, have finally made reading this ancient, wine-soaked parchment possible.
A team of archaeologists and chemists at the Technion in Haifa, Israel Institute of Technology is a public research university located in Haifa. They discovered that the wine could be extracted from the parchment using a highly delicate process.
At the same time, researchers in the University of Bar Kamtza’s Center for Torah uMDMA
 Studies looked at recent scientific studies of the ability of psychedelics to enhance vision, and realized that they could be applied to the study of the scrolls.
 They found that microdoses of certain types of psychedelic mushrooms allowed the researchers to read and interpret otherwise unreadable ancient texts.
When the two teams combined their methods and applied them to this unreadable scroll, they were ecstatic to discover that it was a fragmentary copy of the Book of Esther, long thought to be the only biblical book not included in the sectarian library of Qumran.
At nearly 2,000 years old, this scroll is the earliest known textual witness for the Book of Esther. Following the traditional naming system for the scrolls, the document has been designated by scholars as 10QEst
After many days and nights of squinting at wine-soaked parchment, scholars were elated to find the Esther Scroll refer to the War Scroll (1QM), connecting the sons of Haman to the Sons of Darkness. The following fragment contains the ten sons of Haman.
Esther 9:10 The ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews—they killed; but they did not lay a hand on the plunder.
Before allowing Esther to tell her story I would like to show you some Esther related sites in Iran. Let’s start our journey at the ruins of the once world-famous city of Shushan.
I was walking among its ruins some of them started to tell me about one of the greatest dramas of redemption that took place here during the time of the Persian king called Xerxes. His Hebrew name is called Ahaseurus.
Another stone cried out that he divorced his wife Vashti and married the most beautiful women of the mighty majestic world empire of the Medes and the Persians, called Amestris. When you analyses the name you find her Bible name Amestris (am-ESTR-is).
Est 2:7 And Mordecai had brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther, his uncle’s daughter, for she had neither father nor mother. The young woman was lovely and beautiful. When her father and mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.
The name Hadassah means “myrtle.” The myrtle tree is referenced a handful of times in the Bible representing God’s blessing of life and fertility (Isaiah 55:13) and peace and well-being.
Isa 55:13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, And instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; And it shall be to the LORD for a name, For an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
The myrtle tree is in the eucalyptus family with stiff, leathery leaves that stay green year-round. It is a strong tree with a pleasant smell. And it is known to flourish in adversity, sprouting back after being chopped down and growing back stronger and lusher after being burned. In the Jewish context, it has come to represent the righteous.
Some of the of the ancient ruins told me about a death decree that was issued here. He said is quite a long, scary and cruel decree. If it would be executed, it would have been the greatest genocide in the history of mankind. He invites me to back and listen to story.
While walking on one of the greatest historical cities of antiquity I saw something that caught my attention.
Can you see the pyramid structure there? Let us walk a little closer.
It has been identified as the tomb of the prophet of Daniel.
During my visit here my thoughts went out to this young boy 17 year old Daniel who was exiled to Babylon. Eventually he was elevated from a very low status to royal dignity. And this is where he was laid to rest.
He reminded me of a young orphan girl who also came to royal dignity right here.
You are looking at a very important Persian alabaster jar. What kind of script do you detect?
The “Caylus vase”, a quadrilingual alabaster jar with cuneiform and hieroglyphic inscriptions in the name of “Xerxes, the Great King”. Cabinet des Médailles, Paris
Esther and Mordecai Shrine This resting place of two biblical figures, Esther and Mordecai, has been considered as a holy place for Jews since thousands of years ago. It is recorded that 50,000 Jews were living in Hamadan when Esther and Mordecai were buried there.
But my dear friend the story of queen Esther illustrates how a God of compassion restored His exile people to a new beginning.
I love the word “restoration.” As Adam and Eve lost their purity, their Eden home and reputation, so too did Juda lose their purity, their city of Jerusalem, their temple and their reputation.
In the Iraqi museum one can see a clay tablet mentioning the murder of Xerxes by his son
Can you recall a prophecy in the book of Daniel that knowledge concerning this profound book would increase? Daniel 12:4 knowledge would increase.
I am standing at the site where this prophecy 1260 year prophecy was fulfilled.
This is the exact spot where this huge stone with three different languages, repeating the same story was excavated. Merrill Unger in his book “Archaeology and the Old Testament” says that 1798 is the birth of the science of archaeology.
Outside this room where it was discovered, you can see a smaller replica of the Rosetta stone.
I found this display of the Rosetta Stone in the “Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.
Greek at the bottom, demotic in the middle and hieroglyphs on top. It took Jean Francois Champollion 22 years to complete the translation.
Suddenly certain names that were only mentioned in the Bible were discovered on the pyramids, temples and tombs. Many names like Pharaoh Necho and his grandson Pharaoh Hophrah and others were discovered in the hieroglyphs.
While looking at the original Rosetta Stone in the British Museum, my thoughts went out to another miraculous discovery. You know, God wants to supply us facts to strengthen our belief in the Bible.
Archaeologists discovered many beautiful Persian vases. But there was one who had some very interesting cuneiform and hieroglyphic writing on it. It is called the Caylus vase. Nobody could decipher it. But here is a very interesting story. Upon Caylus’s death in 1765, the vase was given to the Cabinet des Médailles collection in Paris.
But how do you decipher cuneiform script and how do you decipher hieroglyphs? Champollion was still working on the deciphering the Rosetta stone hieroglyphs.
In the 1760s, the expedition of Danish cartographer and explorer Carsten Niebuhr was able to copy various cuneiform inscriptions in several 2,000-year-old ruins and palaces in the antique Persian capital of Persepolis and return them to Europe. These inscriptions should serve as the basis of Grotefend’s decipherment work.
He is best known for his role in the decipherment of ancient cuneiform inscriptions, which up to Niebuhr‘s publications was considered to be merely decorations and embellishment. At Persepolis he painstakingly copied the cuneiform writing and had quite a large collection of the writings.
George Grotefend was the first person to successfully decipher Niebuhr’s inscriptions in the early 19th century. Luckily through the carefully copied inscriptions by Niebuhr, Grotefend could determine the two mentioned kings names ‘Darius‘ and ‘Xerxes‘.
Grotefend presented his deductions in 1802, but they were dismissed by the Academic community, and denied publication. He has proposed a reading of the cuneiform inscriptions on the Caylus vase since 1805, translating it quite accurately as “Xerxes rex fortis” (“Xerxes, the Strong King”, although it is actually “Xerxes, the Great King”). He was the first to make this suggestion.
Caylus vase inscription according to Grotefend, with proposed translation “Xerxes, the strong King” (Xerxes rex fortis, column to the far right) now read “Xerxes, the Great King”. Initially published in German in 1815.
What about Champollion’s deciphering of the hieroglyphs? And this is the good news.
The Caylus vase is a jar in alabaster dedicated in the name of the Achaemenid king Xerxes I in Egyptian hieroglyph and Old Persian cuneiform. It was the key element in confirming the decipherment of Old Persian cuneiform by Grotefend, through the reading of the hieroglyphic part by Champollion in 1823.
The vase has a quadri-lingual inscription, in Old Persian, Babylonian, and Elamite cuneiforms, and in Egyptian hieroglyphs.
It was key in confirming the validity of the first decipherments of Old Persian cuneiform. It opened the door to the subsequent decipherment of all cuneiform inscriptions as far back as the oldest Akkadian and Sumerian inscriptions.
In effect the decipherment of Egyptian hieroglyphs was decisive in confirming the first steps of the decipherment of the cuneiform script.
More advances were made on Grotefend’s work and by 1847, most of the symbols were correctly identified. The decipherment of the Old Persian Cuneiform script was at the beginning of the decipherment of all the other cuneiform scripts, as various multi-lingual inscriptions between the various cuneiform scripts were obtained from archaeological discoveries.
The decipherment of Old Persian was notably useful to the decipherment of Elamite, Babylonian and ultimately Akkadian (predecessor of Babylonian), through the multi-lingual Behistun Inscription.
Please allow me to go back to time when Daniel was still alive. His work was not only limited to the Babylonian capital, but he also visited my hometown of Shushan. I often think of him when I read his book on the history of God’s people and how he was to convert Nebuchadnezzar to the worship of our God.
He made a prophecy in which my son Artaxerxes was involved. At a later stage I will tell you more about my marriage to Ahasuerus or Xerxes as he was also called.
Let me read you this prophecy:
Daniel 9:24 “Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy.
Daniel is referring to me and my people, the Jews, which are God’s chosen people who was to proclaim His character to the world. I read from the book of Ezekiel that a day in prophesy refers to a literal year.” I have assigned you 40 days, a day for each year.”
You also find the year-day principle in one of the books that our great prophet and deliverer Moses wrote:
Numbers 14:34 For forty years—one year for each of the forty days you explored the land—you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.’
In the next verse my prophet Daniel prophesied of the coming of the Messiah to solve the sin problem. Listen to this good news:
Daniel 9:25 “Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks;
This is one of the greatest Messianic prophecies in the Bible. It prophesied the exact date of the death of the Messiah.’ Is it possible that Ezra and Nehemiah understood this prophecy?
Daniel 9:26 “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself.
This verse tells me that He would come and die for my sins.
WHEN DID DANIEL RECEIVE THIS PROPHECY?
In my study of the writings of our prophets, I came across this interesting prophecy concerning the termination of our exile in Babylon and from other places. To Daniel time was of the greatest essence. Do you think we can pinpoint the time when Daniel prayed this prayer? Yes. It was at the time when Darius the Mede and Cyrus the Persian conquered Babylon. An event and a date that the Medes and the Persians and we as the Jews are still talking about.
Daniel studied the prophecy of Jeremiah 29:10-14. Let me read it to you:
Jeremiah 29:10,11 For thus says the LORD: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you and cause you to return to this place. For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Jeremiah 29:12,13 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
Jeremiah 29:14 I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the LORD, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive.
Daniel not only gave time related prophecies, but he also relied on time related prophecies by
Daniel was also acquainted with the prophecy of Isaiah 44:28,29 which was given by our beloved prophet Isaiah almost 200 years before the dramatic drying up of the Euphrates River and the fall of the Babylonian empire.
Isaiah 4:27 Who says to the deep, ‘Be dry! And I will dry up your rivers’; (He is referring to the Euphrates River)
Isaiah 44:28 Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, And he shall perform all My pleasure, Saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,” And to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid.” ‘
But can you imagine the excitement of my people when the read this prophecy of a restoration of the Jews as a nation?
Daniel and my exiled Jews saw the fulfilment of this prophecy when the water level of Euphrates was suddenly dropping and diverted in a different direction.
DARIUS THE MEDE AND CYRUS
You can read the story of the night when the soldiers of the Medes and the Persians flooded the famous capital of the Babylonians.
Daniel’s skills were known to the ancient rulers and Darius the Mede made Daniel the chief administrator of the combined Medo-Persian empire.
During the next two years Cyrus organised the Phoenicia into four vasal states, while his uncle Darius the Mede cared for the newly established empire with the help of Daniel.
END OF THE 70 YEARS PROPHECY FOR THE RELEASE OF MY PEOPLE.
A little later when I will be relating my wedding with king Xerxes (Ahasuerus) and mention a miracle that happened when I fasted and prayed.
Daniel was waiting to experience one of the greatest prophecies concerning the release of my people from Babylonian rule. God saved his life all these years witness another exodus like the first one when we were slaves in Egypt.
The prophecy predicted that Cyrus would be the one who would release my people from Babylonian slavery. Not only that. Listen what else Cyrus would be doing for my people:
Isaiah 45:13 I have raised him up in righteousness, And I will direct all his ways; He shall build My city And let My exiles go free, Not for price nor reward,” Says the LORD of hosts.
How would these poor exiled Jews ever be able to return to Jerusalem and pay for a four- or five-months expensive journey. When at times I think of the way God led my people I am astonished how he did this in the past.
I cannot wait to tell you how God used me, a simple Jewish girl to save my people.
Let’s read about Daniel’s prayer for deliverance and how God answered his sincere agonising prayer:
Daniel 9:1 In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the lineage of the Medes, who was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans.
I need to explain something about the name of Ahasuerus. Daniel could have used the Median name of Astyages because he carried both names.
Daniel could have used the name Cyaxares 2 for Darius the Mede. What prevented him from doing it? Because a new empire was born, and king Cyaxares 2 the Mede, adopted a new throne name. Darius is a Persian name called Dārayavahush meaning “possessing goodness”, composed of the elements dâraya “to possess” and vahu “good”.
As a Jewish person like myself who are accustomed to our history, can discuss something of what happened here with different names given to different leaders.
But there was another king who also carried two names. Cambyses, the son of Cyrus also carried the name Ahaseurus.
After the death of Cambyses, my father-in-law, Darius 1 ascended the Medo-Persian throne. Like Cyaxares 11 changed his name to Darius the Mede, the new king, my father-in-law also had to adopt a new throne name. Guess who this name would be?
Darius. Why? The name means “possessing goodness.” A second reason for choosing Darius was the fact that the very first ruler of the new Medo-Persian kingdom was called Darius the Mede. So all that my father-in-law, was to drop the word “Medes”.
My husband’s throne name was Ahasuerus which means Lion-King. Two kings before him, Astyages the Mede and Cambyses used the king and it was decided by his father to call him the third Ahasuerus.
When I read some of these names in the book of Daniel, I realised that he was a brilliant accurate brilliant and inspired author. I can recommend his work.
Let continue reading from chapter 9 of his book:
Daniel 9:2 in the first year of his reign I, Daniel, understood by the books the number of the years specified by the word of the LORD through Jeremiah the prophet, that He would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem.
Daniel realized that the end of the 70 year exile of our people had come and the prophecy should go into fulfilment.
So what did he do? Exactly what I did when my people faced extinction as will explain a little later.
In both cases prayer solved the problem. I, Esther wants to recommend prayer if you are facing dangerous situations. Prayer shows are utter helpless and shows God omnipotence.
Let’s continue listening to what Daniel wrote:
Daniel 9:3 Then I set my face toward the Lord God to make request by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. Dan 9:4 And I prayed to the LORD my God, and made confession, and said, “O Lord, great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and mercy with those who love Him, and with those who keep His commandments,
Dan 9:5 we have sinned and committed iniquity, we have done wickedly and rebelled, even by departing from Your precepts and Your judgments. Dan 9:6 Neither have we heeded Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings and our princes, to our fathers and all the people of the land.
Dan 9:7 O Lord, righteousness belongs to You, but to us shame of face, as it is this day—to the men of Judah, to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and all Israel, those near and those far off in all the countries to which You have driven them, because of the unfaithfulness which they have committed against You.
Dan 9:8 “O Lord, to us belongs shame of face, to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. Dan 9:9 To the Lord our God belong mercy and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him. Dan 9:10 We have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants the prophets.
Dan 9:11 Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him.
Dan 9:12 And He has confirmed His words, which He spoke against us and against our judges who judged us, by bringing upon us a great disaster; for under the whole heaven such has never been done as what has been done to Jerusalem.
Dan 9:13 “As it is written in the Law of Moses, all this disaster has come upon us; yet we have not made our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities and understand Your truth.
Dan 9:14 Therefore the LORD has kept the disaster in mind, and brought it upon us; for the LORD our God is righteous in all the works which He does, though we have not obeyed His voice. Dan 9:15 And now, O Lord our God, who brought Your people out of the land of Egypt with a mighty hand, and made Yourself a name, as it is this day—we have sinned, we have done wickedly!
When I read Daniel’s prayer and his confession, I could resonate. I realised that I was as guilty as the rest of my Jewish nation. But we serve a loving, forgiving and extremely kind God.
Listen to the rest of the prayer:
Dan 9:16 “O Lord, according to all Your righteousness, I pray, let Your anger and Your fury be turned away from Your city Jerusalem, Your holy mountain; because for our sins, and for the iniquities of our fathers, Jerusalem and Your people are a reproach to all those around us. Dan 9:17 Now therefore, our God, hear the prayer of Your servant, and his supplications, and for the Lord’s sake cause Your face to shine on Your sanctuary, which is desolate.
Dan 9:18 O my God, incline Your ear and hear; open Your eyes and see our desolations, and the city which is called by Your name; for we do not present our supplications before You because of our righteous deeds, but because of Your great mercies. Dan 9:19 O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and act! Do not delay for Your own sake, my God, for Your city and Your people are called by Your name.”
When I read this heartfelt prayer of Daniel I could see tears rolling down from that old face. And God touched my heart as well and my tears start falling.
How long did God wait before He answered Daniel’s prayer?
Dan 9:20 Now while I was speaking, praying, and confessing my sin and the sin of my people Israel, and presenting my supplication before the LORD my God for the holy mountain of my God, Dan 9:21 yes, while I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel, whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, reached me about the time of the evening offering.
Dan 9:22 And he informed me, and talked with me, and said, “O Daniel, I have now come forth to give you skill to understand. Dan 9:23 At the beginning of your supplications the command went out, and I have come to tell you, for you are greatly beloved; therefore consider the matter, and understand the vision:
You know when Esther the sinner read the words “greatly beloved” I was very excited. To think that God loves us even if we have departed from Him. This meant so much to me when I came back to God.
Now we come to the Seventy Weeks prophecy where I was involved. My son was involved in this event.
Dan 9:24 “Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy.
Dan 9:25 “Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times. Dan 9:26 “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself.
Do you realise what Daniel is telling us sinners about this cut off, His death, not for Himself, but for us.
I never knew that the words “That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince,” was going to be issued by my son, Artaxerxes.
Dan 9:27 Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.
I thought He turned His back on us sinful Jews. But here is the promise that God will make an end of sacrificing a lamb because He the Lamb of God will become our sacrifice.
We are first going to look at the message of Daniel 10. It has a special message not only to Persia, but to all future world powers.
Ezra made sure that the book of Esther finally find a place among the other books of the old Testament.