[Avodah] persian history

Lisa Liel lisa at starways.net
Fri Feb 22 08:12:07 PST 2013

I find it interesting that First speaks of "the simplest understanding 
of Ezra 4:6 without quoting the verse itself, and the surrounding 
verses.  In this way, the reader is left with the choice of either 
looking it up himself, or taking First's word for it.  So in order to 
make this easier for at least readers of Areivim, let's have a look.

*4* Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of 
Judah, and harried them while they were building,
*5* and hired counsellors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all 
the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of 
*6* And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote 
they an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem. *{S}*
*7* And in the days of Artaxerxes wrote Bishlam, Mithredath, Tabeel, and 
the rest of his companions, unto Artaxerxes king of Persia; and the 
writing of the letter was written in the Aramaic character, and set 
forth in the Aramaic tongue. *{P}*

Copied from Machon Mamre (http://www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt35a04.htm).

First appears to be using the same oversimplistic reading methodology 
used by advocates of the documentary hypothesis when he says that "The 
simplest understanding of Ezra 4:6 and its surrounding verses is that 
Achashverosh is the Persian king who reigned after the Daryavesh who 
rebuilt the Temple, but before Artachshasta."  In fact, the opposite is 

The enemies of the Jews hired counselors against us from the time of 
Cyrus through the time of Darius the Persian.  Which means that they 
*stopped* hiring those counselors after the time of Darius the Persian.  
So if those counselors wrote accusations against us during the reign of 
Ahasuerus, Ahasuerus *must* have reigned between Cyrus and Darius.

Of course, it's possible that it was the enemies themselves who wrote 
those accusations, and not the counselors, but if so, it's an entirely 
different subject, and the text first tells us about counselors who were 
hired from the time of Cyrus to the time of Darius, and then talks about 
accusations which were written.  If that's so, there's no chronological 
order involved.  It would be like me saying: "Ron Paul served as a 
Congressman from Bill Clinton's presidency through Barack Obama's 
presidency.  Paul ran for president in 2008."  That's completely true.  
But reading it the way First is reading Ezra would suggest that he ran 
for president *after* Obama's presidency.  Which is factually incorrect.

That's far from the only problem with First's analysis.  He attributes 
his contra-Chazal view of Persian history to a number of Jewish scholars 
purely on the basis of them agreeing that the name Achashveirosh and the 
name Xerxes are the same.  But that's a truism that I don't think anyone 
disagrees with.  It doesn't mean that Achashveirosh/Xerxes reigned 
*after* Bayit Sheni was built.  It's been many years since I read R' 
Avigdor Miller's history series, but I'm willing to assert that he would 
have been greatly offended by First's suggestion that he agreed with the 
Greek version of history and disagreed with the Jewish one.


On 2/21/2013 8:37 AM, Eli Turkel wrote:
> Given that Lisa and I are problem boring most of the readers with our 
> discussion of Persian history I only wish to point out the latest 
> seforim blog
> http://seforim.blogspot.co.il/
> *Identifying Achashverosh and Esther in Secular Sources *
> *By Mitchell First *
> He also concludes that Achashverosh is Xerxes in part based on
> "The simplest understanding of Ezra 4:6 and its surrounding verses is 
> that Achashverosh is the Persian king who reigned after the Daryavesh 
> who rebuilt the Temple, but before Artachshasta."
> Hence the order of kings as seen in Tanach is
> Darius
> Xerxes (Achasverosh)
> Artaxeres (Artachashta)
> He also recognizes that this is not in accordance with Chazal who 
> assume that Achasverosh is before Darius
> As previously pointed out a difference is whether Purim occurred 
> before or after the rebuilding of the Temple
> -- 
> Eli Turkel
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