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XERXES (zŭrk’sēz, Gr. form of Heb. ’ăhashwērôsh, Persian Khshayarsha)

The father of Darius the Mede, mentioned in Dan.9.1.King of Persia, mentioned in the Book of Esther. There seems to be little doubt that he is the well-known historical Xerxes (kjv, Ahasuerus), who reigned from 486 to 465 b.c. The main support for this identification is to be found in the linguistic equivalence of the names of the KJV “Ahasuerus” and the NIV “Xerxes.” In addition, a close similarity has been noted between the character of the historical Xerxes and the character of the king of the Persians portrayed in the Book of Esther. There are also historical correlations. The feast that was held in the third year of the reign of Xerxes at Susa (Esth.1.3) corresponds to an assembly held by Xerxes in his third year in preparation for the invasion of Greece. Herodotus states that Xerxes, following his defeat at Salamis and Plataea, consoled himself in his seventh year with the pleasures of the harem (Herodotus, 9.108). This parallels the biblical account that relates that Ahasuerus replaced Vashti by marrying Esther in his seventh year (Esth.2.16) after gathering all the fair young virgins to Susa. The Xerxes of Ezra.4.6, to whom were written accusations against the Jews of Jerusalem is in all probability this same Xerxes, though sometimes identified with Cambyses, son of Cyrus.

XERXES zûrk’ sez (Old Pers. xšayāršan, Elamite ikšeirišša, Akkad. ḥiši’arša, following this pronunciation the OT Heb. reads אֲחַשְׁוֵרֹ֑ושׁ, and in the Aram. papyri, חשׁיארשׁ; while the Gr. writers, chiefly Herodotus, transliterate the name as, Ξέρξης, the KJV and all other Eng. VSS read Ahasuerus [Esth 1:1ff.]). He succeeded to the throne of the Achaemenid dynasty of Persia (q.v.) upon the death of his father, Darius the Great (522-486 b.c.). His mother was Atossa, the daughter of Cyrus the Great, the builder of the Pers. empire. He was designated as his father’s successor by Darius himself, whose reign had ended as rebellions were breaking out throughout his vast empire. His son was a man of weak abilities given to unfortunate reliance upon the advice and opinions of courtiers and harem eunuchs. After suppressing the revolt in Egypt with great violence and destruction he levied a navy from Egypt and his Gr. allies, and began to formulate plans to invade Attica. His Phoen. subjects ferried his army across the Hellespont on a double bridge of boats and from there the Pers. forces made up of contingents from nearly fifty nation’s, marched S and captured Athens. However, the tide of war turned swiftly when Xerxes’ great fleet was annihilated at the subsequent naval battle of Salamis 480 b.c., and Xerxes again exhibited his insecurity of character by putting his Phoen. admiral to death and causing the desertion of his naval forces. His commander in Greece, Mardonius, negotiated with Athens to no avail. The war was resumed and Persia was finally defeated at the battle of Plataea 479/8 b.c. The Athenians and many newly won deserters from Persia followed up their success by invading the area of the Eurymedon River thus ending Persia’s hopes for European conquest. Xerxes retired to his palaces at Persepolis (q.v.) and Susa (q.v.) which he expanded and decorated in colossal and ornate style. Of great interest is his religious enthusiasm, for unlike his predecessors he did not accept the validity of the archaic religious cults of Egypt and Babylon but destroyed them both. His inscrs. from Persepolis proclaim his destruction of the temples of the false gods in his dominions and his faithfulness to Ahuramăzda. It may well be that the religious inflexibility of his Jewish subjects and his wife, Esther, confirmed his stalwart adherence to Mazdaism. No mention of Esther or her people is made outside of the Biblical book, but the exclusive and propagandistic character of ancient annals and records is well established and so one would be indeed surprised if the inner workings of the harem were recorded upon royal documents of the period. The essential personality of Xerxes as presented by Herodotus and his own inscrs. is very similar to that demonstrated in the Book of Esther. The career of Xerxes was the preliminary to the collapse of the Achaemenid house under Alexander’s conquest.


See under Persia.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

zerks’-ez: The name is an attempt to transliterate into Greek (Xerxes) the Persian Khshayarsha. The same word in unpointed Hebrew took the form ’chshwrsh, probably pronounced ’achshawarash, but at a later time it was wrongly vocalized so as to produce ’achashwerosh, from whence "Ahasuerus" in English versions of the Bible comes.

Xerxes was king of Persia in 485-465 BC. The first part of his reign was marked by the famous campaign into Greece, beginning in 483. After the defeat at Salamis in 480 Xerxes himself withdrew from the expedition and it was finally discontinued in the next year. During the remainder of his reign, Xerxes seems to have spent a listless existence, absorbed in intrigues of the harem, and leaving the government to be carried on by his ministers and favorites (often slaves). He was finally murdered by his vizier and left an unenviable reputation for caprice and cruelty. For the various Biblical references see Ahasuerus.