Golden Scepter of Ahasuerus
Queen Esther made an uninvited visit to King Ahasuerus, also known as Xerxes, when she went to plead for the lives of her people. She had previously mentioned the law that anyone who appeared before the king without having first been summoned would be put to death, unless the king held out his golden scepter (Est 4:11). Esther’s courage was rewarded, as Ahasuerus did in fact extend the golden scepter to her when she appeared before him, sparing her life (Est 5:2).
When we hear of a “golden scepter,” we might envision something like the jewel encrusted scepter of Queen Elizabeth, topped with a cross and holding a massive cut diamond. However, we don’t have to guess what the scepter of Ahasuerus looked like. The attached photo shows the father of Ahasuerus, Darius the Great, seated on his throne. In his right hand he grasps his golden scepter, which is quite slim and un-ornamented. There can be little doubt that it was just such a scepter, and perhaps the very one represented here, that Ahasuerus held out to Queen Esther.
This depiction of Darius comes from his palace at Persepolis. Although not shown on this photo, his son and crown prince Xerxes (Ahasuerus) is standing directly behind him. The carved relief has since been removed to the National Archaeological Museum in Tehran, Iran, which is where it was photographed.
Bonus point – What is Darius holding in his left hand? It looks like a lotus flower. This is an item that dignitaries are also depicted holding. But lotus flowers don’t grow in this hot, dry region, and such a fragile flower could hardly have been transported there in antiquity. However, lotus flowers do grow in Egypt. And, they are native to India as well. The book of Esther describes the Persian Empire as stretching “from India to Ethiopia” (Esth 1:1, 8:9), a claim that is also made in some of the official inscriptions of the Persian kings. Perhaps the artifact held in the hand of the king, shaped like a lotus, represents exactly this– a flower native to the two regions at the opposite ends of the empire proclaims his rule over the entire world.