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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Xerxes

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(Ξέρξης ; Pers. Kheshwershe, or Ks'harsa ; according to Benfey, K'hshyarshe), king of Persia, is chiefly known for his gigantic but unsuccessful invasion of Greece (Herod. 7:8; Diod. Sic. 11). He was the son of Darius Hystaspis, and of Atossa, daughter of Cyrus. He succeeded his father, 485 B.C., having been declared heir to the kingdom of Persia a short time before his father's death, who preferred him before his elder brother Artabazanes, because the latter was born while Darius was a private individual; but Xerxes was born after his elevation to the throne. He was the "fourth" king prophesied of in Daniel 11:2 : "Behold there shall stand up yet three kings in Persia (Cyrus, Cambyses, and Darius, son of Hydaspes), and the fourth (Xerxes) shall be far richer than they all; and by his strength through his riches he shall stir up all against the realm of Greece." Xerxes, on his accession, showed himself very friendly to the Jews of the captivity, and confirmed all the favors granted to them by his father; indeed, Josephus (Ant. 11:5) ascribes to Xerxes the letter in behalf of the returning Jews given in Ezra 7:11-26. He began his reign by conquering Egypt; and rapidly subdued the Phoenicians, Ciliiaa, Pamphylia, Pontus, Pisidia, Lycia, Caria, Myria, Troas, Bithynia, the Hellespont, and the Isle of Cyprus. Four years previously the forces of Darius had been defeated by the Greeks under Miltiades at the battle of Marathon, and the interval had bees passed in preparing for a second expedition.

These preparations Xerxes continued on a scale of magnificence almost incredible, and in the spring of 480 I3.C. he commenced his march from Sardis: his army was moved forward with great deliberation, and being numbered on its arrival in Europe was found to muster 1,700,000 foot, and 80,000 horse, besides camels, chariots, and ships of war. These numbers, and the undisciplined crowds who must have attended them, to supply their necessities, are perfectly bewildering on to the Xmaginationi; and they become still more so when their varied costumes, the silken and gilded tents, the standards, the costly armor, and the variety of national weapons are considered. One of the political parties of Greece, it must be borne in mind, was in league with the Persian court, and the terror of the country verged upon despair of maintaining their liberties. Themistocles, however, while the pass of Thermopylae was defended by Leonidas and his Spartans, succeeded in rallying his countrymen, and, having created a navy, defeated Xerxes at the battle of Salamis. This great event took place in the year of the expedition, 480 B.C. The Persians were allowed to retreat in such order as they could, but Mardoniums, one of the principal commanders, reserved a more manageable army, the best he could pick from the flying host, and with these he was defeated by the combined Greeks the year following. After the return of Xerxes from his unsuccessful campaign, he ordered the demolition of all the Grecian temples in Asia; that of Diana at Ephesus alone being spared. He had been instructed in the religion of the magi by Zoroaster, and was inspired with a horror of idolatry; wherefore he also destroyed all the idols in Babylon; thus fulfilling the prophecies of Jeremiah 6:2; Jeremiah 51:44-47. (See BABYLON). Xerxes was assassinated by Artabanus, one of the great officers of his court, who aspired to found a new dynasty in Persia, 465 B.C. See Smith, Dict. of Class. Biog. s.v. (See PERSIA).

This prince was, according to most interpreters (see especially Scaliger, Enaend. Temp. 6:587, 596), the Ahasuerus ( אֲחִשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ ) of the book of Esther (q.v.), an identification which the whole romantic story of Esther goes to confirm (see Rosenmuller, Alterth. I, 1:338 sq.; Havernick, Einl. ins A.T. II, 1:339 sq.; Baumgarten, De Fide Libri Esth. page 123 sq.; Rodiger, in the Halle Encyclop. I, 38:295 sq.). The enumeration of his resources (Esther 1:2; Esther 2:16) agrees with the statement of Herodotus (7:7 sq.) respecting the rallying of his forces against Egypt; and the date of the great feast, the third year of his reign (Esther 1:3), tallies with the successful conclusion of that expedition which took place in his second year, the luxurious character of the carousal, moreover, being consistent with Persian customs (Herod. 1:133). Between the dismissal of his sultana Vashti, resulting from that feast, and the reception of Esther into his harem in his seventh year (Esther 2:16), falls appropriately the Greek campaign which Xerxes, after several years of preparation, undertook in his fifth year (Herod. 7:20. The duration of the expedition, from the crossing of the Hellespont by Xerxes [ibid. 7:33 sq.], to the return to Susa, is disputed by chronologers [see Baumgarten, 1.c. page 142 sq.]; but two years is a most probable interval [see Clinton, Fasti Hellen. 2:28; L'Art de Verifier les Dates, 2:387 sq.]). Again, the extent of the dominions (Esther 1:1 sq.) corresponds with the classical description of Xerxes; he occupied Ethiopia, which Cambyses had already attempted (Herod. 3:20 sq.; moreover, the Ethiopians served in Xerxes' armies, ibid. 7:69 sq.), as well as India, to which Darius Hystaspis had advanced (ibid. 4:44 sq.). Moreover the voluptuousness and imperiousness of women (Esther 5:3; Esther 7:3 sq.; Esther 8:3 sq.; Esther 9:12) in the time of Xerxes are well known (Herod. 9:10 sq.). But especially does the vexation which Xerxes experienced from the failure of his expedition to Greece explain why, while living entirely for his own pleasure (Cicero, Tusc. 5:7), he should not only abandon the most important affairs of state to an upstart (Esther 3:15), but also give his assent to deeds of violence, now on this side, and now on that (3:10 sq.; 7:10; 8:8); all of which facts characterize, according to our ideas, a senseless (Herod. 7:35), godless (8:109), and cruel despot (7:37 sq.). Finally the raising of a large tax (Esther 10:1) may readily have followed the exhaustion of the royal treasury by the disastrous expedition into Greece. (See AHASUERUS).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Xerxes'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/x/xerxes.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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