Battling City to City in Esther

Xerxes, the king of the Persian Empire in the days of Esther, granted the Jews the right to defend themselves from their attackers on the 13th day of Adar, 473 BC. Esther 9:16 indicates that on that day the Jews killed “75,000 of those who hated them.” How large was this number to Xerxes?

One way to evaluate it would be to compare it to some of the battles that the Persian army fought in those days. Here are a few examples:

  • Battle of Thermopylae, Aug 480 BC – about 20,000 Persians lost
  • Battle of Salamis, Sept 480 BC – about 50,000 Persians lost
  • Battle of Plataea, Aug 479 BC – 250,000 Persians lost

The number of Persian citizens killed on Purim, 473 BC, then, was comparable to the number of Persian troops lost in a good-sized battle, but did not come close to the number lost in a disastrous battle like the Battle of Plataea.

Put another way, 75,000 is the equivalent of the combined populations of the Nebraska cities of Fremont, Hastings, and Norfolk. However, it would only be a quarter of the population of Nebraska’s capital city, Lincoln.

Another way to look at this is to compare the number of Persians who were killed at the first Purim with the total population of the empire. The Persian empire at this time had an estimated 49.4 million inhabitants. The 75,000 people killed by the Jews would have only accounted for 0.00151 percent of that population. From this perspective it is understandable that Xerxes was not overwhelmed by the number of deaths.

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