Mordecai at the King’s Gate

Esther 2:19 describes Mordecai as “sitting at the king’s gate” in Susa. Although excavations have been carried out at Susa since the mid-1800’s, archaeologists only discovered the King’s Gate in 1970. It is located about 260 feet to the east of the palace. The gate was set at the edge of a moat that separated the palace complex from the royal city. A bridge across the moat ended at this gate, thus ensuring that it controlled access to the entire palace complex.

This gate was massive. It measured 130 by 100 feet, much larger than many modern houses. Its walls were constructed of mudbrick and were about 10 feet thick. The size of the column bases in the center of the structure indicate that the gate probably stood between 30 and 50 feet high.

Biblical scholars agree that Mordecai was not just hanging out at the gate to the royal palace, but that the text indicates he had an official position there. Exactly what that position was is never stated. He could have been working as one of the armed guards, as one of the court officials who controlled access to the palace, or perhaps even as a judge who listened to the various grievances brought by people.

It was somewhere in this massive structure (a building, really) that Mordecai overheard the plot to assassinate the king. The text does not say how Mordecai became aware of the plot. Perhaps he overheard the conspirators talking in a corner of the large central gate room. Or perhaps they took Mordecai aside to one of the side rooms and informed him intentionally, in the mistaken belief that as a Jew he would be hostile to the Persian king. If so, their hope proved false.

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