Ahasue'rus (Hebrew Achashverosh', אֲחשׁיֵרוֹשׁ, prob. the Hebrew form of Xerxes; Tobit 14:15, Α᾿σύηρος), the name, or rather the title, of three or four Median and Persian monarchs in the Bible. SEE MEDIA; SEE PERSIA. The true native orthography of the name Xerxes, long a subject of dispute (Simonis Lex. V. T. p. 580; Jahn, Einleit. ins A. T. p. 299; Pott, Etymol. Forsch. 1, 65; Hyde, Rel. Vet. Pers. p. 43), has recently been brought to light from the cuneiform inscriptions of Persepolis (Grotefend, in Heeren's Ideen, 1, 2, pl. 4), where it is written khshyarsha (Niebuhr, 2, p. 24), or Ksharsa (Lassen, Keilschr. p. 23), which seems to correspond to the modern Persian shyr-shah, lion-king (Gesenius, Thes. Heb. p. 75), corresponding nearly to the interpretation, ἀρήϊος, given by Herodotus (6, 98). It may be of service here to prefix a chronological table of the Medo- Persian kings from Cyaxares to Artaxerxes Longimanus, according to their ordinary classical names. The Scriptural names conjectured to correspond to them are added in italics. SEE CUNEIFORM INSCRIPTIONS; SEE HIEROGLYPHICS.
1. Cyaxares, king of Media, son of Phraortes, grandson of Deioces, and conqueror of Nineveh, began to reign B.C. 634. "Ahasuerus" 4.
2. Astyages his son, last king of Media, B.C. 594. "Ahasuerus" 1.
3. Cyrus, son of his daughter Mandane and Cambyses, a Persian noble, first king of Persia, 559. "Cyrus."
4. Cambyses his son, 529. "Ahasuerus" 2.
5. A Magian usurper, who personates Smerdis, the younger son of Cyrus, 521. "Artaxerxes" 1.
6. Darius Hystaspis, raised to the throne on the overthrow of the Magi. 521. "Darius" 2.
7. Xerxes, his son, 485. "Ahasuerus" 3.
8. Artaxerxes Longimanus (Macrocheir), his son, 465-495. "Artaxerxes" 2.
1. The first Ahasuerus (Sept. Α᾿σούηρος, Theodotion Ξέρξης) is incidentally mentioned in Da 9:1 as the father of Darius (q.v.) the Mede. It is generally agreed that the person here referred to is the ASTYAGES SEE ASTYAGES (q.v.) of profane history. (Jehring, in the Biblioth. Brem. 8, 565 sq.; Bertholdt, Excurs. zum Daniel 2, 848 sq.) According to others, however (Rawlinson's Herodotus, 1, ess. 3, § 11), his father, Cyaxares (q.v.), is meant, as in Tobit 14:15.
2. The second Ahasuerus (Sept. Α᾿σσούηρος) occurs in Ezr 4:6, where it is said that in the beginning of his reign the enemies of the Jews wrote an accusation against them, the result of which is not mentioned (Havernick, Einleit. 2, 1:296). Chronologers have been very much divided in identifying this prince with those mentioned in profane history (Prideaux's Connection; Gray's Key; Tomline's Elements; Hale's Analysis; Ussher's Annals); so much so that some author or another has sought to identify him in turn with each personage in the line of Persian kings, unless it be Cyrus and Smerdis. The form of the word favors Xerxes, but this is inconclusive, as it is rather a title than a distinctive proper name. The account of Josephus (Ant. 12, 6) favors the popular identification with Artaxerxes Longimanus, but his testimony is mere opinion in such a case, and this king is elsewhere mentioned in this very book of Scripture (Ezr 7:1) by his usual name. The order of time in the sacred narrative itself requires us to understand CAMBYSES SEE CAMBYSES (q.v.), son of Cyrus, who came to the throne B.C. 529, and died after a reign of seven years and five months. His character was proverbially furious and despotic. Much confusion has been caused by mistaking this Ahasuerus for the following (Stud. u. Krit. 1847, 3, 660, 669, 678).
3. The third Ahasuerus (Sept. Α᾿ρταξέρξης) is the Persian king of the book of Esther. The chief facts recorded of him there, and the dates of their occurrence, which are important in the subsequent inquiry, are these: In the third year of his reign he made a sumptuous banquet for all his nobility, and prolonged the feast for 180 days. Being on one occasion merry with wine, he ordered his queen, Vashti, to be brought out, to show the people her beauty. On her refusal thus to make herself a gazing-stock, he not only indignantly divorced her, but published an edict concerning her disobedience, in order to insure to every husband in his dominions the rule in his own house. In the seventh year of his reign he married Esther, a Jewess, who, however, concealed her parentage. In the twelfth year of his reign his minister Haman, who had received some slights from Mordecai the Jew, offered him 10,000 talents of silver for the privilege of ordering a massacre of the Jews in all parts of the empire on an appointed day. The king refused this immense sum, but acceded to his request; and couriers were despatched to the most distant provinces to enjoin the execution of this decree. Before it was accomplished, however, Mordecai and Esther obtained such an influence over him that he so far annulled his recent enactment as to despatch other couriers to empower the Jews to defend themselves manfully against their enemies on that day; the result of which was that they slew 800 of his native subjects in Shushan, and 75,000 of them in the provinces. (See Jour. Sac. Lit. July, 1860, p. 385 sq.)
The same diversity among chronologers has existed with reference to the identification of this Ahasuerus as with the preceding, with whom he has usually been confounded. But the circumstances under which he is mentioned do not well comport with those under which any other of the Persian kings are introduced to us in Scripture. Now from the extent assigned to the Persian empire (Es 1:1), "from India even unto Ethiopia," it is proved that Darius Hystaspis is the earliest possible king to whom this history can apply, and it is hardly worth while to consider the claims of any after Artaxerxes Longimanus. But Ahasuerus cannot be identical with Darius, whose wives were the daughters of Cyrus and Otanes, and who in name and character equally differs from that foolish tyrant. Josephus (Ant. 11, 6, 1) makes him to be Artaxerxes Longimanus; but as his twelfth year (Es 3:7) would fall in B.C. 454, or 144 years after the deportation by Nebuchadnezzar, in B.C. 598 (Jer 52:28), Mordecai, who was among those captives (Es 2:6), could not possibly have survived to this time. Besides, in Ezr 7:1-7,11-26, Artaxerxes, in the seventh year of his reign, issues a decree very favorable to the Jews, and it is unlikely, therefore, that in the twelfth (Es 3:7)
Haman could speak to him of them as if he knew nothing about them, and persuade him to sentence them to an indiscriminate massacre. Nor is the disposition of Artaxerxes Longimanus, as given by Plutarch and Diodorus (11, 71), at all like that of this weak Ahasuerus. It therefore seems necessary to identify him with XERXES SEE XERXES (q.v.), whose regal state and affairs tally with all that is here said of Ahasuerus (the names being, as we have seen, identical); and this conclusion is fortified by the resemblance of character, and by certain chronological indications (see Rawlinson's Hist. Evidences, p. 150 sq.). As Xerxes scourged the sea, and put to death the engineers of his bridge because their work was injured by a storm, so Ahasuerus repudiated his queen, Vashti, because she would not violate the decorum of her sex, and ordered the massacre of the whole Jewish people to gratify the malice of Haman. In the third year of the reign of Xerxes was held an assembly to arrange the Grecian war (Herod. 7, 7 sq.); in the third year of Ahasuerus was held a great feast and assembly in Shushan the palace (Es 1:3). In the seventh year of his reign Xerxes returned defeated from Greece, and consoled himself by the pleasures of the harem (Herod. 9, 108); in the seventh year of his reign "fair young virgins were sought" for Ahasuerus, and he replaced Vashti by marrying Esther. The tribute he "laid upon the land and upon the isles of the sea" (Es 10:1) may well have been the result of the expenditure and ruin of the Grecian expedition. Throughout the book of Esther in the Sept. Artaxerxes is written for Ahasuerus, but on this no argument of any weight can be founded. SEE ESTHER.
Xerxes was the second son of Darius Hystaspis, whom he succeeded on the throne about B.C. 486, and was succeeded by his son Artaxerxes Longimanus about B.C. 466 (omitting the seven months' reign of the usurper Artabanus). He is famous in history from his memorable invasion of Greece at the head of an army of more than three millions, who were repulsed by the little band of Spartans at Thermopylae, and, after burning the city of Athens, were broken to pieces, and the remnant, with the king, compelled to return with disgrace to Persia (Baumgarten, De fide Esth. p. 141 sq.; De Wette, Einleit. 1, 274; Petavius, Doctrina Temp. 15, 27; Kelle, Vindic. Esth. Freib. 1820; Rambach, Annotat. 2, 1046; Bertholdt, Einleit. 5, 2422; Scaliger, Emend. Temp. 1. 6; Justi, Neue Abhandl. 1, 38 sq.; Gesenius, Thes. Heb. 1, 75).
4. The fourth Ahasuerus (Α᾿σούηρος) is mentioned (Tobit 14:15), in connection with Nabuchodonosor (i.e. Nabopolassar), as the destroyer of Nineveh (Herod. 1, 106); a circumstance that points to CYAXARES SEE CYAXARES (q.v.) I (Polyhistor ap. Syncell. p. 210), a Median king, son of Phraortes, and father of Astyages (Ilgen, Comment. in loc.).