Biblical History


Haman's No Good, Very Bad Day

Haman’s No Good, Very Bad Day

Its amazing what a single day can bring. For Haman, his final day began with a sense of anticipation. He was waiting in the outer court of the palace at the crack of dawn to ask the king for permission to kill Mordecai. His plan was to impale Mordecai on a 75′ pole that he had set up in his front yard, and he was anxious to get quick approval. His first setback came with the king’s command to honor Mordecai by parading him around the city square, dressed in the king’s......


"What Honor or Dignity?"

“What Honor or Dignity?”

When Xerxes (Ahasuerus) heard again of how Mordecai the Jew had saved his life, he asked, “What honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” (Est 6:3). The answer, of course, was that nothing had been done, an embarrassing situation for the king. From the tablets preserved in the Persepolis Fortification Archive, we know that daily events were initially recorded on small tablets that could easily be held in one hand. The tablets of this kind are shaped something like a capital D, with one end rounded and the other......


The King's Chronicles - What Language?

The King’s Chronicles – What Language?

Esther 6:1 records that Xerxes (Ahasuerus) could not sleep, so he called for the court records to be brought and read before him. What exactly did they bring, and in what language were such records kept? There are several places in the book of Esther where proclamations are made throughout the Persian empire, and it seems to have been standard procedure that they were issued “to every people according to their language” (Esth 1:22; cf. 3:12, 8:9). But what language and script was used in the royal palace for the official records?......


Haman's "Gallows"

Haman’s “Gallows”

There are a number of references to hanging in the book of Esther, which has traditionally been paired in English translations with the noun “gallows.” Esther 2:23 – the two conspirators were hung Esther 5:14 – Haman’s wife and friends suggest that he hang Mordecai Esther 7:9 – Haman was hung on the “gallows” he had built for Mordecai Esther 9:13 – Haman’s ten sons were hung However, the “gallows” was not a platform and cross beam as we think of it, for hanging a person by breaking their neck or by......


Esther and the Presumption of Innocence

Esther and the Presumption of Innocence

One of the founding legal principles of United States is the presumption of innocence. We are “innocent until proven guilty” in the eyes of the law. Although many American’s do not realize it, this is a principle that originates in the Bible. Two examples demonstrate this. Deut 17:6 requires that corroborated evidence must be used for a conviction, “on the evidence of two or three witnesses . . . not on the evidence of one witness.” An accusation alone is insufficient to condemn. There must be evidence of the strongest kind (multiple......


Ring of Pontius Pilate Discovered

Ring of Pontius Pilate Discovered

A ring that once belonged to Pontius Pilate has been discovered at Herodium in southern Judaea. We know it belonged to him because it has his name inscribed on it. The Greek letters read “ΠΙΛΑΤΟ”, “Pilate.” The first two letters are on the right, the last four are on the left, bottom to top (meant to be read around the frame). This find is interesting for several reasons. One is that, outside of the Bible, very little is known of Pilate. He is mentioned several times by the contemporary historian Josephus, and......


Golden Scepter of Ahasuerus

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......


Mordecai in the City Square

Mordecai in the City Square

Twice in the book of Esther we find Mordecai in the city square. It would be easy to imagine that this was a marketplace in the center of town like is usually seen in Greco-Roman cities a few centuries later. However, enough detail is given in the book of Esther to identify the city square of Susa, and it was not in the center of town. Rather, it was an open plaza in front of the palace, the nearest most people could come to the palace without an official invitation. You can......


Paul's Centurion, Julius

Paul’s Centurion, Julius

Acts 27:1 names the centurion who was placed in charge of Paul for his voyage to Rome as “Julius.” Perhaps the fact that he is named is an indicator that he was a follower of Jesus. At any rate, an interesting inscription, pictured above, was discovered at Caesarea, the port from which Paul and Julius set sail for Rome. What makes it interesting is that it has four similarities to the centurion mentioned in Acts 27:1. 1) The personal name is the same. In Latin, it is spelled “IVLIVS,” the exact equivalent......


Esther's Thirty Days (Esther 4:11)

Esther’s Thirty Days (Esther 4:11)

After discovering that an edict had been issued for the extermination of the Jewish people, Mordecai urged Esther to take action by making an appeal to the king. Esther’s response was that, as everyone knew, going before the king without a summons was very risky. Unless the king extended his golden scepter, any such person would be put to death. Esther then makes a very interesting statement: “I have not been summoned to come before the king for these thirty days.” Although this could be taken as a simple observation, the way......


Mordecai at the King's Gate

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,......


Siglum for a Centurion

Siglum for a Centurion

Latin inscriptions from ancient Rome often used abbreviations. For example, many Roman coins were minted with the inscription “S C” emblazoned on them. This stood for the Latin phrase Senatus Consulto, indicating that the coin had been minted with the approval of the Roman Senate. Names and titles were also commonly abbreviated. The phrase “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus,” which in Latin would be Tiberius Caesar divi Augustus Filius, might be abbreviated TI CAESAR DIVI AVG F. One must be familiar with both Latin and abbreviations to decipher such obscure......


Esther's Rise as Queen

Esther’s Rise as Queen

There are some interesting deductions that can be made with regard to the date and time of Esther’s being chosen as the new queen of the Persian Empire. Although the timing of these events is not obvious to a casual reader of the book, closer inspection does allow for the creation of a fairly precise timeline. Note the following: Both the Hebrew and Persian calendars were lunar-based, and their New Year began in about March/April in the Julian calendar (the exact time fluctuated from year to year, as the date for Easter......


Drinks in Golden Vessels

Drinks in Golden Vessels

When Ahasuerus (also known as Xerxes I) held a banquet in Susa at the end of his military planning party, he served drinks in “golden vessels of various kinds” (Esther 1:7). Over the years, archaeologists have recovered a whole variety of these kinds of vessels from the royal palaces of Persia. Many of these drinking vessels, called “rhytons,” are fashioned in the shape of an animal, seamlessly attached to a flared drinking cup. The one shown in this photo is made of pure gold, as are many others known from this period.......


Esther & Chronology

Esther & Chronology

A quick read through the book of Esther might leave the impression that all of the events in the book transpired within six months. However, there are three references in the book to specific dates in the reign of King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I). The first banquet took place in the third year of his reign, 483 BC (Est 1:3). Esther became queen in the seventh year of his reign, 478 BC (Est 2:16). Haman hatched his plot to destroy the Jews in the 12th year of Ahasuerus. Because this happened in the......


God Keeps His Promises

God Keeps His Promises

Sunday in our introduction to Esther we saw that our God is a covenant keeping God. He is a God whose word can be trusted and relied upon. One of the examples mentioned was Joseph, who believed God would return Israel to the promised land. His belief was so firm that he forced the sons of Israel to promise to take his bones with them when they left Egypt. “Joseph said to his brothers, “I am about to die, but God will surely take care of you and bring you up from......


Julius the Centurion?

Julius the Centurion?

In Acts 27:1-3, Luke gives an account of the first leg of Paul’s voyage to Rome. Twice in these verses he mentions the centurion who was put in charge of taking Paul to Rome. Interestingly, he calls him by name, “Julius.” This is in contrast to the centurion and the tribune (of even higher rank) mentioned in Acts 22:25-28, both of whom remain anonymous. Why does Luke give the name of the centurion in Acts 27? In his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, Richard Bauckham suggests that typically the reason why some......


I, Tertius

I, Tertius

There are several places in Paul’s letters where his use of a secretary or amanuensis is clear. In Romans 16:22, the amanuensis pens his own line, “I, Tertius, who write this letter, greet you in the Lord.” An even more interesting case is where Paul himself borrowed the pen and wrote a few lines. This is evident in Galatians 6:11 where he wrote, ” See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.” Paul implied that the Galatians could distinguish between his handwriting (with large letters) and......


Erastus the City Treasurer Greets You

Erastus the City Treasurer Greets You

Paul wrote the letter to the Romans from the city of Corinth. In his final greetings at the end of the book, he sends greetings from “Erastus the city treasurer” (Rom 16:23). An Latin inscription was found at Corinth during excavations in 1929 that mentions Erastus. The inscription was located along the pavement near the theater, and reads, “Erastus in return for his aedileship paved it at his own expense” (the Latin text is ERASTVS. PRO. AED. S. P. STRAVIT, which is abbreviated from ERASTUS PRO AEDILITATE SUA PECUNIA STRAVIT). John McRay......