Vol. 8, No. 8
Copyright © James B. Jordan 1996
Esther: Historical & Chronological Comments (VI)
by James B. Jordan
3. A Brief Survey of Esther
(continued from the previous issue)
Haman told the king that "a certain people" were rebellious against him, and that Haman wanted to rid the king of their noxious presence. The king agreed, and the two sat down to a feast. This is the third feast, but while they feasted, the Jews heard the word and mourned. Now the Jews are excluded from the king’s great feast, and the reason is that they are rebellious an defiant against God’s decree that Darius should rule.
Mordecai tells Esther that she must now reveal her identity, and sue the king for salvation. Mordecai’s scheme for power has been defeated. Esther must bear a true witness, and undo the damage Mordecai has done. But Esther has not been called by the king for 30 days. It seems that the Jews have been excluded from the marriage as well as from the feast! Yet, she goes ahead and approaches Darius anyway, and he welcomes her.
Esther asks for a meal with the king and Haman. This is the fourth feast of Esther. At the meal, Esther asks that they do it again the next day. Meanwhile, she trusts God to act. Haman goes home happy, sure that the queen favors him. All that spoils it for him is that he sees Mordecai in the court. The order for everyone to bow to Haman has doubtless expired, but when Mordecai does not even tremble at Haman’s presence, Haman is enraged all over again.
Meanwhile, Darius finds he cannot sleep. He calls for his scribes to read him the chronicles of his reign (which would surely put anyone to sleep). There he hears about Mordecai’s turning in the conspirators several years earlier. Realizing that nothing has been done for Mordecai, Darius determines to honor him. When Haman shows up, the king orders Haman to honor Mordecai. Haman obeys, but realizes that something is terribly wrong. He does not know why the king is honoring Mordecai, because all the king tells him is that Mordecai is a Jew.
This is the pivot of the story. As with Passover, the change happens during the night.
The next day, Haman comes for his second wine-feast with Darius and Esther, the fifth feast of the book. On that occasion, Esther accuses him of treachery, of seeking to kill her. The king is furious, but as we have seen he does not let his temper get the better of him. He retires to cool off. Meanwhile, Haman grabs Esther and beseeches her to for mercy. Returning, the king thinks that Haman is assaulting Esther. As always, the king seeks counsel, and is advised to hang Haman on a tree, which he does.
Esther presents Mordecai to the king, who at this point is very well disposed toward him, particularly now that he knows he is Esther’s uncle. Mordecai is an old man of about 89 years, while Darius and Esther are still young, so Mordecai must have been impressive to the king. Since the king’s edict cannot be undone, the king issues another edict allowing the Jews to defend themselves. This went out in the third month, which allowed the Jews nine months to prepare. Now the Jews feast, which is the sixth feast in Esther.
All of these events, from Haman’s decision to attack the Jews to the declaration of their deliverance, happen in a sabbath year, Year 28 of the 70 weeks of Daniel 9.
In the 12th month, the Jews defend themselves and destroy their enemies, but they do not take take the plunder for themselves. Afterwards, they feast the first feast of Purim. This is the seventh feast in Esther. God’s people, excluded from the King’s Feast for their rebellion, are now restored.
Finally we are told that Darius laid a tribute on the land and on the islands of the sea. This is a sign of his universal rule, land and sea. Meanwhile, Mordecai served him and protected the Jews.
4. The Chronology of Esther in Context: Summary
Months: begin in the spring. The first month is roughly April; the twelfth month is roughly March.
1J = year 1 by Jewish reckoning, which reckons king’s years from autumn to autumn, beginning in the 7th month.
1P = year 1 by Persian reckoning, which reckons king’s years from spring to spring, beginning in the 1st month.
1st Quarter: Completion of Nebuchadnezzar’s first siege of Jerusalem, when Jehoiachin revolted against him. End of Jehoiachin’s 3-month reign. 10,000 taken captive, including Ezekiel and Mordecai (Jeremiah 52:29; Ezekiel 1:1-3; Esther 2:6-7).
* * *
2nd Quarter: Nabonidus, king of Babylon, 17B
4th Quarter: Nabonidus 17J. Immediately Nabonidus flees, Belshazzar proclaims himself co-regent. The city falls. Cyrus/Darius receives the kingdom. Daniel is most favored candidate for governor. Events of Daniel 6. "Accession year" of Cyrus (Darius the Mede), age 62, begins.
2nd Quarter: Cyrus 1P (Persian). Cambyses becomes co-regent with Cyrus of Babylon.
4th Quarter: Cyrus 1J. At the beginning of the quarter, Daniel’s calculations lead him to the prayer of Daniel 9. At end of quarter, Cambyses is removed as "king of Babylon," and Gabriel strengthens Cyrus (Dan. 11:1). This is the beginning of the 70 weeks of years, and thus also of the 7 weeks of years. Jubilee Year.
1st Quarter: Cyrus, having removed Cambyses, who opposed the Jews, decrees that the Jews are to rebuild the Temple.
2nd Quarter: Jews, including Mordecai and Nehemiah, travel to Palestine.
3rd Quarter: Jews settle in. It is likely that Mordecai adopted Esther at this time.
4th Quarter: Cyrus 2J. Feast of Tabernacles celebrated (Ezra 3), but foundations of Temple not yet laid. This begins the "second year of their coming to Jerusalem," Ezra 3:8.
2nd Quarter: Work begun on Temple in the second month, Ezra 3:8.
4th Quarter: Cyrus 3J. Opposition to rebuilding project arises, Ezra 4:1-3.
1st Quarter: Opposition discourages Jews from working on the Temple. Adversaries at Cyrus’s court begin to frustrate the position of the Jews and Daniel, Ezra 3:4-5.
1st month, 4th day: Apparently Cambyses becomes co-regent with Cyrus and stands
against the Jews.
1st month, 24th day: God appears to Daniel after he mourns three weeks, because of
opposition to Temple building, Daniel 10:1-4.
4th Quarter: Cyrus 4J.
* * *
3rd Quarter: In July, Pseudo-Smerdis seizes the throne. Cambyses, on his way back from Egypt, dies, possibly by suicide. On September 29, Darius overthrows him and takes the throne.
4th Quarter: Darius 1J. The Persian Empire is in turmoil, and Darius must reconquer almost all of it.
521 bc – Darius builds his palace in Susa, and occupies it by the end of the year.
2nd Quarter: Darius 1P.
6th month, last day: End of 70 years of God’s desolation of the Temple.
4th Quarter: Darius 2J. By the end of this year, Darius has reconquered most of the empire.
2nd Quarter: Darius 2P. Haggai and Zechariah, possibly because their books deal with the rebuilding of the Temple, use the religious calendar and date Darius’s reign from spring to spring.
6th month, 1st day: Haggai rebukes the Jews for letting a year go by without
rebuilding the Temple, Haggai 1:1.
4th Quarter: Darius 3J.
7th month, 21st day: God promises to glorify the Temple, Haggai 2:1-9.
8th month: Zechariah calls on Jews to repent, Zechariah 1:1-6.
9th month, 24th day: Haggai prophesies because the Temple foundation has been
laid anew, Haggai 2:10, 18, 20.
11th month, 24th day: Beginning of third or "resurrection" month after Temple
foundation relaid. Zechariah mentions that the cities of Judah have been distressed 70 years
(Zech. 1:12), and sees God cleanse the Temple & renew the covenant. Zechariah 1:66:8.
2nd Quarter: Darius 3P. Possibly in connection with New Year festivities, Darius/Ahasuerus begins a 6-month festival, Esther 1:3-4.
4th Quarter: Darius 4J.
7th month (?): Darius-Ahasuerus gives a 7-day feast for everyone in Susa,
Esther 1:5. Shortly thereafter, Vashti is deposed as senior queen.
518 bc – Darius campaigns in Egypt.
2nd Quarter: Darius 4P
4th Quarter: Darius 5J.
9th month, 4th day: Zechariah answers questions about fasting, Zechariah 7:1. This
is in the 71st year after the investiture of Jerusalem.
2nd Quarter: Darius 5P.
3rd Quarter: 70th anniversary the burning of the Temple.
4th Quarter: Darius 6J. Year 22 of 70 weeks begins.
1st Quarter: Esther selected for trial as queen, Esther 2:12.
12th month, 3rd day: Temple completed, Ezra 6:15.
2nd Quarter: Darius 6P.
4th Quarter: Darius 7J.
515 bc – Darius campaigns in India.
10th month: Esther becomes queen, Esther 2:16.
2nd Quarter: Darius 7P.
1st month, 1st day: Ezra prepares to depart for Jerusalem, Ezra 7:8-9.
1st month, 9th day: Ezra and his people gather at the river to depart, Ezra 8:15.
1st month, 12th day: Ezra departs for Jerusalem, Ezra 8:31.
5th month, 1st day: Ezra arrives in Jerusalem, Ezra 7:8-9.
5th month, 4th day: Ezra’s gifts given in Jerusalem, Ezra 8:32-33.
4th Quarter: Darius 8J.
9th month, 17th day: Ezra calls the people to assemble, Ezra 10:8.
9th month, 20th day: The assembly under Ezra, Ezra 10:9.
10th month, 1st day: Courts convene to assess marriages, Ezra 10:16.
2nd Quarter: Darius 8P.
1st month, 1st day: Assessments of marriages concluded, Ezra 10:17.
4th Quarter: Darius 9J.
2nd Quarter: Darius 9P.
4th Quarter: Darius 10J.
2nd Quarter: Darius 10P.
4th Quarter: Darius 11J.
2nd Quarter: Darius 11P.
4th Quarter: Darius 12J. Year 28 of 70 weeks begins. Sabbath year.
2nd Quarter: Darius 12P.
1st month: Darius promotes Haman. Mordecai refuses to acknowledge King’s
decree. Haman casts lots. Decree issued to exterminate Jews, Esther 3.
2nd month, 18th or 19th day: The last time Esther had visited Darius, Esther 4:11.
3rd month, 20th day: Mordecai reports the bad news to Esther. Esther’s fast,
Esther 4:16, 5:1.
3rd month, 22nd day: Esther’s first feast, Esther 5:4, 8.
3rd month, 23rd day: Esther’s second feast. Haman condemned. Darius issues
decree that Jews may defend themselves, Esther 8:9.
4th Quarter: Darius 13J.
12th month, 13-14 days: Jews defend themselves, Esther 9.
12th month, 14-15 days: Jews rest and rejoice, Esther 9:17-18.
2nd Quarter: Darius 13P.
4th Quarter: Darius 14J.