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Ahasuerus (Hebrew: אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ, Modern Aḥašveroš Tiberian ʾĂḥašwērôš; Greek: Ασουηρος in the Septuagint; Latin: Xerxes or Assuerus in the Vulgate; Persian: 𐎧𐏁𐎹𐎠𐎼𐏁𐎠 Khashayarsha, commonly transliterated Achashverosh) is a name used several times in the Hebrew Bible, as well as related legends and Apocrypha. This name (or title) is applied in the Hebrew Scriptures to three rulers. The same name (or title) is also applied uncertainly to a Babylonian official noted in the Book of Tobit.
Equivalence of the names Ahasuerus and Xerxes
The name Ahasuerus is equivalent to Xerxes, both deriving from the Old Persian Khashayarsha. The form Xerxes has not traditionally appeared in English bibles, but has rather appeared as Ahasuerus. Many other translations and paraphrases have used the name Xerxes.
The name Xerxes comes to us from the Greek Ξέρξης. The English name Ahasuerus is derived from a Latinized form of the Hebrew Áchashwerosh (אחשורוש), which is a Hebrew rendering of the Babylonian Achshiyarshu: both this and the Greek Ξέρξης are renderings of the Old Persian Xšayāršā (also spelt Khsayârshâ). Thus this literary change was created as the name moved across each of the language groups in a westerly direction from Persia until it entered English translations of the Bible.
In the Bible
Book of Esther
Ahasuerus is given as the name of the King of Persia in the Book of Esther. 19th century Bible commentaries generally identified him with Xerxes I of Persia. The Greek version (Septuagint) of the Book of Esther refers to him as Artaxerxes, and the historian Josephus relates that this was the name by which he was known to the Greeks. Similarly, the Vulgate, the Midrash of Esther Rabba, I, 3 and the Josippon identify the King as Artaxerxes. The Ethiopic text calls him Arťeksis, usually the Ethiopic equivalent of Artaxerxes. John of Ephesus and Bar-Hebraeus identified him as Artaxerxes II, a view strongly supported by the 20th century scholar Jacob Hoschander. Masudi recorded the Persian view of events which affirms the identification and al-Tabari similarly placed the events during the time of Artaxerxes II despite being confused by the Hebrew name for the king. Josephus and the Vulgate present "Ahasuerus" as a different name for the king to "Artaxerxes" rather than an equivalent in different languages. Indeed an inscription from the time of Ataxerxes II records that he was also known as Arshu understood to be a shortening of the Babylonian form Achshiyarshu derived from the Persian Khshayarsha. (Xerxes). The Greek historians Ctesias and Deinon noted that Artaxerxes II was also called Arsicas or Oarses respectively similarly understood to be derived from Khshayarsha, the former as the shortened form together with the Persian suffix -ke applied to such shortened names.
Book of Ezra
Ahasuerus is also given as the name of a King of Persia in the Book of Ezra. Jewish tradition regards him as the same Ahasuerus of the Book of Esther; the Ethiopic text calls him Arťeksis, as it does the above figure in Esther. 19th century Bible scholars suggested that he might be Cambyses II.
Book of Tobit
In some versions of the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit, Ahasuerus is given as the name of an associate of Nebuchadnezzar, who together with him, destroyed Nineveh just before Tobit's death. A traditional Catholic view is that he is identical to the Ahasuerus of Daniel 9:1 In the Codex Sinaiticus Greek (LXX) edition, the two names in this verse appear instead as one name, Ahikar (also the name of another character in the story of Tobit). Other Septuagint texts have the name Achiachar. Western scholars have proposed that Achiachar is a variant form of the name "Cyaxares I of Media", who historically did destroy Nineveh, in 612 BC.
Book of Daniel
Ahasuerus is given as the name of the father of Darius the Mede in the Book of Daniel. Josephus names Astyages as the father of Darius the Mede, and the description of the latter as uncle and father-in-law of Cyrus by mediaeval Jewish commentators matches that of Cyaxares II, who is said to be the son of Astyages by Xenophon. Thus this Ahasuerus is commonly identified with Astyages. He is alternatively identified, together with the Ahasuerus of the Book of Tobit, as Cyaxares I, said to be the father of Astyages. Views differ on how to reconcile the sources in this case. One view is that the description of Ahasuerus as the "father" of Darius the Mede should be understood in the broader sense of "forebear" or "ancestor." Another view notes that on the Behistun Inscription, "Cyaxares" is a family name, and thus considers the description as literal, viewing Astyages as an intermediate ruler wrongly placed in the family line in the Greek sources.
- ↑ KJV, NASB, Amplified Bible, ESV, 21st Century KJV, ASV, Young's Literal Translation, Darby Translation, Holman Christian Standard Bible, etc.
- ↑ NIV, The Message, NLT, CEV, NCV, NIRV, Today's NIV, etc.
- ↑ Nichol, F.D., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 3, Review and Herald Publishing Association, (Washington, D.C., 1954 edition), p.459, "Historical Setting"
- ↑ The Religious Policy of Xerxes and the "Book of Esther", Littman, Robert J., The Jewish Quarterly Review, 65.3, Jan 1975, p.145-148.
- ↑ Ahasuerus at the JewishEncyclopedia.com
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Jacob Hoschander, The Book of Esther in the Light of History, Oxford University Press, 1923
- ↑ Book of Tobit, 14:15.
- ↑ Maas, A. (1907). Assuerus. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved April 15, 2009 from New Advent: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02005c.htm
- ↑ Andrei Oişteanu, ""The legend of the wandering Jew in Europe and Romania."". http://www.unibuc.ro/eBooks/filologie/hebra/2-5.htm. Retrieved 2008-03-12. Studia Hebraica.
- The Wandering Jew Curious Myths of the Middle Ages by Sabine Baring-Gould, M.A.
- "Assuerus". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/Assuerus.