Saturday, March 03, 2007

Purim!

So Purim's arrived and I'm sure you're all wondering what I did with those 4 meters of red glittery cloth and the corset. Well, the truth be told, I didn't really have time to do terribly much with it at all, unfortunately. I was working all week on The Project From Hell (TM) (which has so far removed two weeks of my life and aged me at least as many years - and still has a week's worth of damage to inflict yet ...), and that meant that I was totally unable to sew. I made a valiant start, but was unable to get even close to making any sort of finish. So I have a half-made costume for next year :) As a result, I recycled a costume from six years ago. Luckily for me, I went to a party where absolutely no-one has known me for six years, so I was able to get away with it (what a relief that was)! The back-up costume was that of a court jester, which meant I got to wear chequered tights and a hat with bells on, which is always good for a laugh.

For those of you who weren't wondering, well, you probably should have skipped that first paragraph ...

Now, someone asked me to explain Purim.

Essentially, it's a sort of Jewish Halloween, except, of course, in all the ways that it isn't. Firstly, it's in late winter (the Gregorian date varies because, like all Jewish festivals, it is based on the lunar calendar) and this is patently not like Halloween, which is in late autumn (yeah, ok, fall ...). Secondly, you don't go around bugging people for tricks or treats, but you are supposed to send gifts of food to people, and to give alms to the poor. Thirdly, well, in fact, it's nothing like Halloween at all, except that you get to dress up.

Which is interesting, really, because there's very little in the actual Purim story that has anything to do with dressing up, per se.

The Purim story is based entirely on the Biblical book of Esther. In the Jewish cannon, Esther sits in the third section of the Bible, the section known as the Writings or, in Greek, the Hagiographia. In Hebrew these are known as the ktuvim - כתובים. These include the books of Proverbs and Chronicles, and Ezra and Nehemia, and also what are known as the five scrolls - or megillot - Ecclesiastes, Ruth, Lamentations, Song of Songs and Esther - each of which is read by Jewish communities at particular times of the year. Esther is the book which Martin Luther is apparently reported as having said that he "could have done without". It is perhaps fortunate for Esther that no-one was asking Luther at the time. Esther is also, by coincidence, the name of my aunt (but I think that everyone has an Aunt Esther, don't they? If you don't, you should do something about that).

Esther is not a Hebrew name - not originally anyway. The book itself tells us that Esther's Hebrew name was Hadassah - which is a derivation of the word hadas which means 'myrtle'. Those of you who don't have an Aunt Esther, possibly have an Aunt Myrtle, so you people are covered also.

Esther was Hadassah's Persian name. It was convenient that she had a Persian name, because the entire story took place in Persia. The story might not have worked as well, had her name been, say, Doris. The name Esther is, of course, nothing at all like the name of the Babylonian goddess Ishtar. Well, maybe a bit. And nothing at all like the name of the Canaanite goddess Ashtoret. Ok, maybe just a little bit. And nothing ... well, I might have to stop laboring that point.

"And it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus" - so the book starts. "Who?" I hear you ask. "Ahasuerus," the book says, and because it doesn't really expect you to know who that was, it goes on, "that same Ahasuerus who ruled over Persia and Media from India to Ethiopia (or, at least, from Hodu unto Kush - wherever they may be), in fact, over 127 provinces (yep, we counted them) ..." and so on.

"Wait!" I hear you ask. "What sort of a name, apart from a horribly unpronounceable one, is 'Ahasuerus'?" Well, it's the English version of the Latin version of the Greek version of the Hebrew name "Achashverosh" which, simply put, doesn't transliterate very well into any of the above languages.

But I see the scholarly amongst you still aren't at ease. I can see you flicking through wikipedia as we speak, looking through the list of Persian kings - the Achaemenids being the appropriate dynasty: Cyrus, Cambyses, Darius, Xerxes, Artaxerxes, Xerxes (again), Darius (again), three more Artaxerxes (let's face it, if you can pull it off, and if you've got the beard for it, it's a great name, and imagine it on a triple word score!). Not a single Achashverosh in sight!

Ah, but none of these names are actually Persian - they're all, in fact, Greek. Which is the reason for all the X's really. The Greeks loved a good game of scrabble.

The Persian names of these kings are somewhat different (and much harder to transliterate into Greek, Latin, English ...). Let's see. Cyrus: Kurush - not too much trouble there. Cambyses: Kambujiya (like a place in South East Asia - but not). Darius: Darayava'ush - getting tricky ... Xerxes: Khasharyasha - say WHAT? Artaxerxes: Artakhshathra ... Well, you can see why the Greeks just put in all those X's.

In fact, the name that comes closest to the Hebrew Achashverosh is Khasharyasha - or Xerxes. The reasons why are complex, but it is in fact not a bad match. It's certainly closer to the original than all those X's.

But I digress.

So, the big A is king of all the known world (or at least, the good bits of it, as far as he's concerned) and, as king of all the known world, he has a biyuuuuuuuuuuuuutiful wife called Vashti (so says the book. You won't find her name anywhere outside the Bible, but then again, women had a hard time breaking the headlines in those days at the best of times, so I'm not saying she didn't exist ... merely implying it ...). Vashti was so beautiful, that big A thought it would be a great idea if he showed her off to all his mates. So he arranged to hold a party and instructed Vashti that she would dance for his guests, wearing only her crown! (Shock! Horror!). The Queen was less than amused. In the first recorded act of feminism, she refused. But this was a world that wanted no truck with feminism, and she promptly lost her head for her troubles. Beautiful one day, dead the next.

But now the King was without a wife (unlikely, of course, given that he probably had a harem, but we shall not let the facts get in the way of the story, shall we) so he needed a new one! He put ads out everywhere. He sent messengers to all the corners of his realm. He called in Tyra Banks. Persia needed a new Top Model!

Now's the time to mention that this story falls exactly into the middle of the Babylonian exile. You remember? 586 BCE. Nebuchadnezzar comes to Jerusalem. Sacks the Temple. Sacks the Temple's staff. Carries away the king. And the Jews go and hang their harps on the trees by the Euphrates, providing inspiration for Bony M. Some time later, Nebuchadnezzar goes nuts and tries to eat the ground. Cyrus of Susa turns up in Babylon and claims it in the name of Persia. And the Jews who had, until then, been a little carried away, and quite upset for the most part, are suddenly subjects of the Persians with rights and everything.

So, remember Esther? She's the one the book's named after. She has an uncle called Mordechai who thinks his niece is a bit of a looker, and he sends her off to the talent quest in the Capital. The story doesn't specify what he tells her to do if she's asked to dance wearing only a crown in front of the king's friends - since apparently the king's a bit of a randy bastard who's likely to pull the same trick twice - one can only presume that she is encouraged to keep her wits about her, and her clothes on.

She wins, of course. It would be a pointless story if she didn't. And yey, now we have a Jewish Queen over Persia - EXCEPT that the king doesn't know she's Jewish. Her uncle, as well as telling her to keep her clothes on, tells her not to give away the fact that she's Jewish. Why? Well, we don't really know. Narrative imperative most likely. The rest of the story doesn't make sense unless she withholds this small, and probably at the time quite irrelevant, piece of information.

Now, the King had a vizier - as they always do. And as is the way with viziers, this one was EVIL! Not just evil. Not even Evil. This guy was really EVIL. So evil that his name is supposed to be drowned out at its mere mention. However, we can write it - it was Haman. If you feel the need, you may drown it out now by making whatever noises you find to be appropriate.

Now Haman's (boo hiss roar shatter thud) evilitude was not merely due to his having been cast as the campy villain. He in fact had a truly dastardly plan! One day, when he had the king's ear, at a time that it was fortunately attached to the king's head, he said to him something along the lines of "I know what'll cure what ails ya!". The king, who was trying to work out just where Hodu and Kush were, and exactly when Ethiopia had become part of the Persian Empire, was not paying terribly much attention, so his vizier went on: "Kill all the Jews!" the vizier cried. The king apparently looked at his vizier blankly, stared off into the middle distance, scratched himself, and said: "oh, ok then. Have a lottery to find out when we should do it. Now, where did we say that Kush place is again?"

The point of the lottery is sort of important, because that's where the name of the festival Purim comes from. Pur, we are told, is the Persian word for "lot" - as in "casting of". Purim is the plural. Lots. As in a lottery. But not for money this time, but rather, for the fate of an entire people. The lottery was held, the date was chosen - the 14th day of Adar - the twelfth month of the year ...

Haman (can you see why we're booing him?) rubbed his hands together with glee - as is the wont of dastardly fiends everywhere - and skipped off to scheme and plot, in accordance with the requirements of his employment contract. This time, his plot was truly dastardly! (Is he too camp? Should I tone down the camp? But it seems soooo appropriate ...)

Word of the plot reached Mordechai who was, to say the least, rather unhappy about the whole idea. But fortunately, as they say in good cooking shows everywhere, he had prepared in advance by putting his lovely niece Esther onto the throne.

He goes to visit her. "Esther!" he says, "you've gotta stop this verdict or we're all gonna die!!" Esther says - "But how can I? This is a king who chopped of his former wife's head!"
Mordechai says - "You've got to tell him that you're Jewish and that he'll be in effect killing you"
She replies - "But you said ..."
He says - "Never mind what I said!"
She says - "But - he chopped off his last wife's head!!"
He says - "You're our only hope Estherrrrrrrrrrrrrr!"

So, she goes and fasts for three days (though probably not for three nights as well), at the end of which she comes to the king, looking slightly ravenous, one can only assume.

He looks at her and says - "Oh, you're the Persian Idol - cool! Is it your turn tonight? Gosh you're slim!"
She looks sad and says to him - "I have a request"
He says to her - "Tell me your wish and I'll grant it - up to half the kingdom!"
She looks at him - "Half the kingdom?"
He nods - "Half the kingdom!"
She scrutinizes him - "Which half?"
He thinks for a moment - "Well, you can take your choice - if you can find out where Hodu and Kush are, you can have those. Otherwise, take the Medes - if you can deal with all the frankincense and myrrh that is."
She turns to him - "My king, my request is greater than that. Cancel the edict to kill the Jews!"
He looked at her and said - "But, it's already been signed and sealed and - oh my Persian deities, can you imagine the bureaucracy involved in cancelling that? And, well, why??"
She looks at the ground and says - "Because I am Jewish, and your edict will be killing me and my people".
"Damn," said the king. "That puts me in a bit of a bind really, because I kind of like you. Tell you what. We'll reverse the edict, punish Haman for being a particularly EVIL vizier (even though it's in his contract and it's surprising that he didn't try to poison me, or perhaps he did but that part of the story would take way too long to write in what has become too long a blog entry anyway), and make you and your uncle the heroes of the story for posterity, what do you think?"

And that is indeed what the story records as having happened.

The scroll then gets a bit manic. There is, in my view, a little too much gloating over the revenge part, but there you have it.

Of course, there are no records in Persian history of any of this. Not of Vashti. Not of Esther. Not of the plot - although the story itself actually mentions the fact of the plot being written into the king's annals. Not of the overturning of the plot. Not of the revenge against the plotters, nor of a mass conversion to Judaism which is supposed to have followed the whole story. But narrative imperative prevails, and it is, after all, a pretty good story.

And so, we dress up. Why? Because of mistaken identities, perhaps, but most likely, because Purim is a happy holiday, embodied in the age-old Jewish saying "they tried to kill us. They didn't succeed. Let's eat".

And we drink! We are instructed, in fact, to drink until we cannot tell the difference between "cursed is Haman" and "blessed is Mordechai". That's a lot of drink!

That, in the nutshell of what must have been a rather large nut, is the Purim story a la nominally challenged. Anyone who wants to read the full version can read it here (in English) or here (in Hebrew). You can make up your own minds as to whether my version is better or not!

Happy Purim!

17 Comments:

Anonymous noorster said...

Chag Sameach, darling! And just to start another 18-email argument, I thought it was "Ishtar." :)

03 March, 2007 20:20  
Blogger Savtadotty said...

This is vonderful! Nom, you have found your Calling: explaining in complete and accurate detail every Jewish holiday a la Monty Python. Can't wait for Passover.

03 March, 2007 22:31  
Blogger nominally challenged said...

Noorster - chag sameach!

Um ... "Ishtar" ... zat's vot I wrote, darlink.

Savta - Heheh, thanks. But I'm not ready to give up my day job just yet ... :) Glad you liked it!

04 March, 2007 02:01  
Blogger Suzanne said...

Who's Ahmadinedhad's wife? Perhaps..........

;)

04 March, 2007 02:29  
Blogger nominally challenged said...

Suzanne - in the Purimspiel currently being acted out in Iran, AJ's been miscast. The program says he's playing the part of the king, but his actual role seems to be that of the vizier. Personally, I think he should get off the stage already ...

As for his wife - well, there's a presumption I'm not prepared to touch :)

04 March, 2007 08:03  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

I'm only sorry there is no picture of you in your costume to accompany this wonderful Purimshpiel. Next year!

04 March, 2007 12:17  
Blogger Nizo said...

*clapping*

Now that's an entertaining take on the Purim story.

...and thanks for taking the time to correct my Hebrew on my blog :-)

04 March, 2007 18:05  
Anonymous noorster said...

It voz an inside joke. And I still think you should have been my Tanach teacher.

04 March, 2007 20:22  
Blogger nominally challenged said...

Jennifer - I'll try to get my act together earlier next year :)

Nizo - (takes short bow) Thank you, thank you, you've been a wonderful audient.

Oh, and no sweat. You still write Hebrew better than a lot of people I know (many of whom can't write in any other language either ...)

Noorster - yes, an inside joke, and very well camouflaged, too ... :P Just kidding! I would last about 10 minutes as a Tanach teacher - it would probably take the authorities even less time than that to work out what I was up to. I prefer my role as internet re-educator. But thanks for the vote of confidence! :)

05 March, 2007 02:52  
Blogger Kiwi Boy said...

זה ממש מאוחר, אבל חג פורים שמח! מקווה ששתית הרבה יין :)

That was the funniest version yet.. I wonder what you'll make of Passover!
Islamic festivals are so much more boring than Purim - "Aw, salaam 'alaykum, Eid Mubarak to you too" *insert small talk/fake laughter here* "Bye."

Well-written :)

06 March, 2007 05:51  
Blogger nominally challenged said...

kiwi boy - קודם כל, תודה! היה באמת כייף, ואכן שתיתי יותר מדי. לא יין אלא קמפארי תפוזים, אבל עדיין - יותר מדי :)

And in fact, this blog entry was a direct result of the consumption of a little too much Campari and orange ...

Oh no, I can see now that I've created an expectation. This may not be a good thing ...

But thanks for dropping by and for letting me know you enjoyed your read. :)

06 March, 2007 08:15  
Blogger goodie girl said...

Oh, wow! That was a fantastic, absorbing, delightful read. I can't wait to read your take on Pesach. :)

btw - found your link on Israelidiary's blog. . . .

12 March, 2007 15:33  
Blogger nominally challenged said...

Hey Goodiegirl! Thanks for your comment :)

I can see the pressure is really on for me to write something about Pesach. Dang.

Or should that be "Gah!"

Anyway, I'm pleased I was able to amuse. That's always fun.

I liked reading your blog too. I especially like "shiksappeal". What a cool word!

Oh, and yeah, totally gotta heart The Diary.

13 March, 2007 03:35  
Blogger bullfighter6.2 said...

All this just to explain to an ignorant Goy-boy the delights of your corset sewing!

Excellent read.
I think I might need `Being Jewish for Dummies` though as I`m still slightly perplexed by it all!

I think the most hilarious image is of your unfinished Purim costume - dejected, thrown into the graveyard of Costumes of Purims Past, trailing its red glittery inards across the floor of your closet.

My wardrobe is horrendously uninspiring in comparison...

09 April, 2007 23:06  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have written book called "The Fourth Day: Why the Bible is Historically Accurate" (it is available at http://www.lulu.com/dmthompson. In one place I describe why I think Ahasuerus is not Xerxes but Cyrus the Great, here my rationale:
Darius I in the inscription on the Behistun Rock states that he comes from two lines of kings. So where does the line of kings split? I believe that it splits after Cyrus I. I also believe that Cyaxares is Cyrus I (a point I will prove later). The following is a genealogy of the Medes and Persians combining all the information from the inscriptions of Cyrus II and Darius I:

Phraortes I
Deiokes (Achaemenes)
Phraortes II (Teispes)
Cyaxares (Cyrus I)

At this point I believe Cyrus I has two sons, Astyages and Cambyses. The line of kings split through the bloodline of these two sons. Astyages line is as follows:

Arsames (Astyages)
Hystaspes
Darius I

Cambyses line is as follows:

Cambyses
Cyrus II

The king Ahasuerus in the Bible also gives some enlightenment into this genealogy. Most theologians believe that the name Ahaseurus refers to Xerxes and the rationale for this conclusion is as follows. (Note: I am not an expert on foreign languages. Much of the following discussion comes from an article by Rabbi Yaakov Klass entitled “Hu Akhashverosh, Who Was Akhashverosh?” from jewishpress.com, Posted 3/24/2005). Ahasuerus in the ancient Hebrew language would look like Akhashverosh. The original Persian name for Xerxes would look like Khshayarsh. These scholars argue that Khsharyarsh can be converted to Akhashverosh in two steps. First add an “a” in front of “Kh” and between “Kh” and “sh” to make the word more pronounceable then replace the “y” with “ve”. According to scholars his greek name, Xerxes, evolved in the following manner: Khshayarsh=Khshersh= Kserks+es=Xerxes.
Allow me to suggest a more alternative explanation that I believe is more straight forward.

Let’s suppose that Ahasuerus is the ancient Hebrew version of Cyrus. Unfortunately, everytime I have ever heard Cyrus pronounced in English the “C” sounded like a “S” and not like a “K” as it should be. Therefore in English it would better be spelled Kyrus so it could be pronounced properly. The Hebrew language version of Cyrus looks like Kowresh, or Kuresh. Kyrus is the Greek form of the word since Greek does not have a “sh” sound it uses “s” instead. The Strong’s Exhaustive dictionary states that the name Ahasuerus actually has two forms, a long form and a short form. The long form is Akhashverosh and the short form is Akhashrosh. (American English does this when we call someone Bob when their real name is Robert.) An “a” is put in front of foreign words used in ancient Hebrew so the original short form in Persian would be khashrosh. Khashrosh is amazingly close phonetically to Kowresh, Kuresh or Kyrus. Therefore I believe the short form of Ahasuerus is equivalent to Cyrus.

Is there a long form of Cyrus? I believe that Cyaxares or Kyaxares is the long form of Ahasuerus. If we remove the first letter “a” from Akhashverosh (since it is a foreign word in ancient Hebrew) we get Khashverosh in the Persian language. I believe “Kyax” is equivalent to “Khash”; “a” is equivalent to “ve”; and “res” is equivalent to “rosh”. It may be easier to visualize if we partition the words as follows, Kyax-a-res and Khash-ve-rosh. There is some historical justification to support this line of reasoning. The Apocryphal Book of Tobit refers to Ahasuerus as the king that assisted Nebuchadnezzar II in the destruction of Nineveh (Tobit 14:15): “But before he died he heard of the destruction of Nineveh, which was taken by Nebuchadnezzar and Ahasuerus; and before his death he rejoiced over Nineveh (Third Millenium Bible Translation)”. Historically Cyaxares is the king of the Medes that assisted Nebuchadnezzar II in the destruction of Nineveh, therefore Ahasuerus and Cyaxares must be the same name in different languages.

Therefore Ahasuerus refers to the name Cyrus and Cyrus has a short form and a long form, Cyrus and Cyaxares. I believe the idea that Ahasuerus is someone named Cyrus is much more plausible than someone named Xerxes.

I think the context of the Bible also favors this interpretation. Consider Esther 1:1-2:
“Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned from India even unto Ethiopia, over a hundred and seven and twenty provinces:) that in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan [Susa]…”
I believe the book of Esther insinuates there is a time when King Ahasuerus doesn’t sit on his royal throne in Susa by using the phrase “when King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in Susa…”. According to historians Cyrus II was king in Susa at one time but later moves his throne to Babylon. I believe the book of Esther is recording events prior to the capture of Babylon by Cyrus II and that Cyrus II is King Ahasuerus written about in the book of Esther. Now when you start to consider the ramifications of this scenario one very obvious question comes to mind, If Esther is the wife of Cyrus “Did Cyrus make the announcement to rebuild the Temple and Jerusalem to please his wife Esther?” If the answer to the question is “yes” then this “new” information regarding Ahasuerus is very significant indeed. This verse also speaks of Ahasuerus as if their was another king that went by that name. Could it be that the other Ahasuerus was Cyrus I? The following verse provides more evidence for Ahasuerus being Cyrus (Ezra 4:4-6): “Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building and hired counselors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius the king of Persia. And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.” Verse six continues the thought from verse five. Since the first verse mentions Cyrus and Darius, I believe that the writer uses the name “Ahasuerus” in the last verse to clarify that he is referring to Cyrus and not Darius. Ahasuerus and Cyrus appear to be the same name in two different languages.

I believe that King Ahasuerus has one more thing to teach us though. Consider Darius the Mede. Daniel 9:1 says, “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans…” If Darius the Mede is a son of Ahasuerus (Cyrus) he can’t be the son of the Cyrus of the book of Daniel (Cyrus II) for two reasons. Darius the Mede is too old (62 years of age) and Cyrus II is a Persian. Darius the Mede must be the son of Cyrus I (since Darius the Mede is Astyages and Cyrus I is Kyaxares then Herodotus has already confirmed this fact). Since Cyrus II ruled Babylon for 9 years and died when he was 50 years old, Cyrus must have been 41 years old when Darius the Mede died at age 62 (Darius the Mede died very near the first year of the beginning of the reign of Cyrus II). Since Cyrus II is 21 years younger than Darius the Mede and if Darius the Mede is related to him, then Darius the Mede could be an uncle to Cyrus II. Darius the Mede would have to be the Median King Astyages (son of Kyaxares otherwise known as Cyrus I).

14 April, 2007 17:55  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have written book called "The Fourth Day: Why the Bible is Historically Accurate" (it is available at http://www.lulu.com/dmthompson. In one place I describe why I think Ahasuerus is not Xerxes but Cyrus the Great, here my rationale:
Darius I in the inscription on the Behistun Rock states that he comes from two lines of kings. So where does the line of kings split? I believe that it splits after Cyrus I. I also believe that Cyaxares is Cyrus I (a point I will prove later). The following is a genealogy of the Medes and Persians combining all the information from the inscriptions of Cyrus II and Darius I:

Phraortes I
Deiokes (Achaemenes)
Phraortes II (Teispes)
Cyaxares (Cyrus I)

At this point I believe Cyrus I has two sons, Astyages and Cambyses. The line of kings split through the bloodline of these two sons. Astyages line is as follows:

Arsames (Astyages)
Hystaspes
Darius I

Cambyses line is as follows:

Cambyses
Cyrus II

The king Ahasuerus in the Bible also gives some enlightenment into this genealogy. Most theologians believe that the name Ahaseurus refers to Xerxes and the rationale for this conclusion is as follows. (Note: I am not an expert on foreign languages. Much of the following discussion comes from an article by Rabbi Yaakov Klass entitled “Hu Akhashverosh, Who Was Akhashverosh?” from jewishpress.com, Posted 3/24/2005). Ahasuerus in the ancient Hebrew language would look like Akhashverosh. The original Persian name for Xerxes would look like Khshayarsh. These scholars argue that Khsharyarsh can be converted to Akhashverosh in two steps. First add an “a” in front of “Kh” and between “Kh” and “sh” to make the word more pronounceable then replace the “y” with “ve”. According to scholars his greek name, Xerxes, evolved in the following manner: Khshayarsh=Khshersh= Kserks+es=Xerxes.
Allow me to suggest a more alternative explanation that I believe is more straight forward.

Let’s suppose that Ahasuerus is the ancient Hebrew version of Cyrus. Unfortunately, everytime I have ever heard Cyrus pronounced in English the “C” sounded like a “S” and not like a “K” as it should be. Therefore in English it would better be spelled Kyrus so it could be pronounced properly. The Hebrew language version of Cyrus looks like Kowresh, or Kuresh. Kyrus is the Greek form of the word since Greek does not have a “sh” sound it uses “s” instead. The Strong’s Exhaustive dictionary states that the name Ahasuerus actually has two forms, a long form and a short form. The long form is Akhashverosh and the short form is Akhashrosh. (American English does this when we call someone Bob when their real name is Robert.) An “a” is put in front of foreign words used in ancient Hebrew so the original short form in Persian would be khashrosh. Khashrosh is amazingly close phonetically to Kowresh, Kuresh or Kyrus. Therefore I believe the short form of Ahasuerus is equivalent to Cyrus.

Is there a long form of Cyrus? I believe that Cyaxares or Kyaxares is the long form of Ahasuerus. If we remove the first letter “a” from Akhashverosh (since it is a foreign word in ancient Hebrew) we get Khashverosh in the Persian language. I believe “Kyax” is equivalent to “Khash”; “a” is equivalent to “ve”; and “res” is equivalent to “rosh”. It may be easier to visualize if we partition the words as follows, Kyax-a-res and Khash-ve-rosh. There is some historical justification to support this line of reasoning. The Apocryphal Book of Tobit refers to Ahasuerus as the king that assisted Nebuchadnezzar II in the destruction of Nineveh (Tobit 14:15): “But before he died he heard of the destruction of Nineveh, which was taken by Nebuchadnezzar and Ahasuerus; and before his death he rejoiced over Nineveh (Third Millenium Bible Translation)”. Historically Cyaxares is the king of the Medes that assisted Nebuchadnezzar II in the destruction of Nineveh, therefore Ahasuerus and Cyaxares must be the same name in different languages.

Therefore Ahasuerus refers to the name Cyrus and Cyrus has a short form and a long form, Cyrus and Cyaxares. I believe the idea that Ahasuerus is someone named Cyrus is much more plausible than someone named Xerxes.

I think the context of the Bible also favors this interpretation. Consider Esther 1:1-2:
“Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned from India even unto Ethiopia, over a hundred and seven and twenty provinces:) that in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan [Susa]…”
I believe the book of Esther insinuates there is a time when King Ahasuerus doesn’t sit on his royal throne in Susa by using the phrase “when King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in Susa…”. According to historians Cyrus II was king in Susa at one time but later moves his throne to Babylon. I believe the book of Esther is recording events prior to the capture of Babylon by Cyrus II and that Cyrus II is King Ahasuerus written about in the book of Esther. Now when you start to consider the ramifications of this scenario one very obvious question comes to mind, If Esther is the wife of Cyrus “Did Cyrus make the announcement to rebuild the Temple and Jerusalem to please his wife Esther?” If the answer to the question is “yes” then this “new” information regarding Ahasuerus is very significant indeed. This verse also speaks of Ahasuerus as if their was another king that went by that name. Could it be that the other Ahasuerus was Cyrus I? The following verse provides more evidence for Ahasuerus being Cyrus (Ezra 4:4-6): “Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building and hired counselors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius the king of Persia. And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.” Verse six continues the thought from verse five. Since the first verse mentions Cyrus and Darius, I believe that the writer uses the name “Ahasuerus” in the last verse to clarify that he is referring to Cyrus and not Darius. Ahasuerus and Cyrus appear to be the same name in two different languages.

I believe that King Ahasuerus has one more thing to teach us though. Consider Darius the Mede. Daniel 9:1 says, “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans…” If Darius the Mede is a son of Ahasuerus (Cyrus) he can’t be the son of the Cyrus of the book of Daniel (Cyrus II) for two reasons. Darius the Mede is too old (62 years of age) and Cyrus II is a Persian. Darius the Mede must be the son of Cyrus I (since Darius the Mede is Astyages and Cyrus I is Kyaxares then Herodotus has already confirmed this fact). Since Cyrus II ruled Babylon for 9 years and died when he was 50 years old, Cyrus must have been 41 years old when Darius the Mede died at age 62 (Darius the Mede died very near the first year of the beginning of the reign of Cyrus II). Since Cyrus II is 21 years younger than Darius the Mede and if Darius the Mede is related to him, then Darius the Mede could be an uncle to Cyrus II. Darius the Mede would have to be the Median King Astyages (son of Kyaxares otherwise known as Cyrus I).

14 April, 2007 17:56  
Blogger nominally challenged said...

Bullfighter - I think the most hilarious image is of your unfinished Purim costume - dejected, thrown into the graveyard of Costumes of Purims Past, trailing its red glittery inards across the floor of your closet.

You have no idea how true to life that image actually is ...

I'm happy to have been able to elucidate you, even if it was to the point of yet greater confusion. As the saying goes, though, 'if you can't dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit'. If I have managed to do either of these, then I consider my work done :)

Anonymous - Thank you for your erudite post. And thank you for posting it twice. I fear we may have missed some points had you only posted it once.

Not very funny though, is it ...?

15 April, 2007 02:09  

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