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Ahasuerus (Hebrew: אֲחַשְׁוֵרוֹשׁ, ʼAḥašvērōš, commonly Achashverosh; in the Septuagint and Koine Greek: Ασουηρος transliterated as Asouēros; in the Vulgate: Assuerus) is a name applied in the Old Testament to arguably multiple rulers and to a Babylonian official (or Median king) in the Book of Tobit.


This self evident title used in Poole's words as "a common name to divers succeeding kings of Persia"[1] was originally recorded in Old Persian and thus transliterates approximately as Xšaya.āršan (literal:xšaya 'king' + aršan 'male' suggested meanings: 'king of all male', 'king of all men'; 'the dominant/manly king', 'the great king',[2] 'King of Kings'). This then became the Babylonian Aḥšiyaršu (𒄴𒅆𒐊𒅈𒋗; aḫ-ši-ia-ar-šu), which morphed into Akšiwaršu (𒀝𒅆𒄿𒈠𒅈𒍪, ak-ši-i-wa6-ar-šu). From thence we find the title being transliterated into Hebrew as אחשורוש ʼĂḥašəwērôš. After which the Hebrew was then transliterated into the Latin Vulgate as "Assuerus". Thus it is from the Latin form "Asserus" that the English pronounceable transliterated spelling traditionally used in English Bibles as "Ahasuerus" appears.[3] Examples include usage in the: King James Version/Authorised Version, NASB, Amplified Bible, ESV, 21st Century King James Version, ASV, Young's Literal Translation, Darby Translation, Holman Christian Standard Bible, etc.

Alternatively the Greeks independently rendered this title as Ξέρξης, which transliterates into English as Xérxēs. Thus many newer English translations and paraphrases of the Bible will render it thus as "Xerxes". Examples include: NIV, The Message, NLT, CEV, NCV, NIRV, TNIV, etc.

NOTE WELL: Readers are advised to perform their own research before forming their own opinions as scholarly debate does exist regarding the exact identity of the individuals referred to whom this title is applied. In the following Biblical References you will find a summary of each position.

Biblical References

As noted by countless books over now millennia, there is much debate revolving around the identity of Ahasuerus. Therefore, it is appropriate to examine each case (below) by there source book and their corresponding arguments.

In the Book of Esther

Many English bibles take their naming in the Book of Esther directly from the Septuagint and record "Xerxes" making Xerxes I the natural reading of the text. While others maintain the Ahasuerus title deriving the name via the Latin etymology discussed above. It must be noted that scholarly debate does exist around the titles use in the Book of Esther. Each section below will discuss each position.

Arguments for Fictional

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Arguments for Xerxes I

Amongst those who hold the Book of Esther to be credible and historically accurate, the usage of Ahasuerus is commonly read and understood to be Xerxes I as this is the most natural reading of the text especially in the light of the Septuagint translation done approximately a hundred years later. Such conclude that:

  • the title can not be applied to Cyrus as his kingdom never included Egypt[4]
  • the title can not be applied to Cambyses due to his campaigning life in Egypt during the effective entirety of his royal office.
  • False Smerdis didn't survive upon the throne long enough before his assassination.
  • Artaxerxes I and any thereafter are not viable options as being disqualified by the age of the character Mordecai who was taken (probably as a newborn babe in arms) at the destruction of Jerusalem in the days of Jeconiah.[5]
  • The massive feast thrown for the power brokers and the army is naturally consistent with a moral boosting tool prior to the Xerxes I's invasion of Greece where his father Darius I had miserably been beaten only a few years before at the Battle of Marathon.

In the Book of Ezra

Ezra's rendition of events in the Book of Ezra finds the author naming Ahasuerus in Ezra 4:6.[6]

While commonly read by many as the same Ahasuerus or Xerxes superimposed from the Book of Esther, this interpretation becomes grossly inconsistent with modern understandings of the chronology of the kings of that time.[Citation Needed] The debated positions are as follows:

In the Book of Daniel

The Archaemid Family Tree, showing the intermarriage of the royal houses to create the Medo-Persian Empire.

The title of "Ahasuerus" (see above) is 'named' as the father of the hotly debated Darius the Mede in Daniel 9:1.[12] As such in the case of Daniel 9:1, the identity of Ahasuerus is predicated upon the identity of Darius the Mede.

As such Darius the Mede's exact identity has been the biased debate by both those wishing to discredit[13][14] the historical authenticity of the Book of Daniel as much as those seeking to verify the validity of the same: This question of "Ahasuerus" being intimately intertwined with the identity of "Darius the Mede" is commonly recognised as the greatest historical hurdle left remaining about the historical accuracy of the Book of Daniel.[15] Yet the problem ultimately revolves around the fact that neither "Darius"[16] let alone "Ahasuerus" are listed in the 'Uruk King List'[17] and the academic world, lacking another clay tablet to clarify the subject are left embroiled in bias debate.[18]

In the following sections we shall summarize academia's discussion of all points.

Arguments for Fictional

Those who hold Daniel 9's Darius the Mede and therefore "Ahasuerus" to be fiction reasons include:

  • The Greek Herodotus' story of the hostile interactions between Astyages and Cyrus results in Cyrus 'the Great' deposing the tyrant Astyages.[Citation Needed]
  • The cuneiform clay tablet know as the Nabonidus Chronicle [19] seems to support a timeline more in harmony with Herodotus' rendition.
  • The cuneiform clay tablet known as Uruk King List[20] does not list Darius the Mede, son of "Ahasuerus".
  • The general belief that at least parts if not the whole of the Book of Daniel is unreliable.

General sceptics reason thus: without a direct listing in the Uruk King List and a belief in the historical credibility of the Book of Daniel, the tendency is to accept Herodotus' rendition and conclude that: Darius the Mede and perhaps our stated topic here of "Ahasuerus" in the "Book of Daniel", is fictitious. Those who Hill called "critical commentators" will generally reason that Darius the Mede is a literary piece created to suit the genre of a 'court contest' tale; some of whom argue that the character is derived from precedent biblical texts.[21]

Arguments for Astyages

Those who hold Daniel 9's "Ahasuerus" to be Astyages reason thus:[22][23]

  • The Hebrew Josephus retelling of the fall of Babylon names Astyages as the father of Darius the Mede.[24]
  • The Hebrew Josephus openly states that Darius as the now king of Media is known to the Greeks by another name[25][26]
  • The Greek Xenophon names Astyages as the father of Cyaxares[27]
  • The Greek Xenophon names Cyaxares as the brother of Mandane[28] and uncle to Cyrus 'the Great';[29] while portraying Astyages as Cyrus' doting grandfather[30][31]
  • The Greek Xenophon states that Cyaxares took the throne upon the death of his father Astyages [32]
  • The Greek Xenophon in much detail[33] examines the Medo-Persian allied defense against the Assyrian (Babylonian) invasion and appoints Cyrus 'the Great' as general over the allied forces.[34]
  • The Greek Xenophon relays how after the fall of Babylon, Cyrus offered Cyaxares a palace in Babylon which was accepted. Cyaxares then offered Cyrus his daughter's hand in marriage and the kingdom of Media as the dowry which was likewise accepted.[35]
  • The general belief that the Book of Daniel is reliable in matters of history.

If these sources are held as at least relatively credible in the major points, then the common conclusion is that Darius the Mede is Cyaxares II. This position is internally consistent with Daniel's claim [36] that Darius the Mede took the kingdom of Babylon while also seemingly interchangeably to hold that it was Cyrus, King of Persia and leader of the allied forces[37] who took the kingdom in The Book of Daniel.[38][39] These thoughts undoubtedly have lead some to conclude that "Ahasuerus" here in Daniel 9:1 is Astyages;[40][41] Gill's Exposition calls the Book of Tobit to his aid on this point.[42] Yet some commentators, building on these thoughts (as below) progress further to argue for Cyaxares.

The only problem lies in that as yet, we have no extant cuneiform tablets that can confirm this position.[43]

Arguments for Cyaxares I

When considering "Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes",[44] the argument that this Ahasuerus is actually the father of Astyages builds upon many of the points raised above for Astyages but takes in the following extra considerations:

  • Contemporaneous Hebrew usage of the word "son" can extend to "grandson".[45] Even in English today such poetic vernacular usage is not unknown.[46]
  • Linguistic usage of "Ahasuerus" (as stated above) carries connotations of Cyaxares but not Astyages.[47]

Therefore, this simple position allows Ahasuerus in this case, to be Cyaxares I while also allowing his grandson Cyaxares II to be the debated Darius the Mede. This is the summary position of the Seventh-day Adventist Church's Bible Commentaries.[48]

In the Book of Tobit (Apocrapha)

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  1. Mathew Poole's Commentary, https://biblehub.com/commentaries/poole/ezra/4.htm
  2. Xenophon, Cyropedia 1.2.8;1.2.11; repeated copiously
  3. Nichol, F.D., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 3, Review and Herald Publishing Association, (Washington, D.C., 1954 edition), p.459, "Historical Setting"
  4. Esther 1:1
  5. Esther 2:5-6
  6. Ezra 4:6; https://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Ezra-Chapter-4/
  7. Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, https://biblehub.com/commentaries/gill/ezra/4.htm
  8. Benson Commentary, https://biblehub.com/commentaries/benson/ezra/4.htm
  9. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, https://biblehub.com/commentaries/jfb/ezra/4.htm
  10. Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers https://biblehub.com/commentaries/ellicott/ezra/4.htm
  11. Barnes' Notes, https://biblehub.com/commentaries/barnes/ezra/4.htm
  12. Daniel 9:1
  13. Hill, Andrew, Expositor's Commentary, Zondervan, 2009,p.114 https://books.google.com.au/books?id=bCPBrAfBSdgC&pg=PA114&dq=%22Generally+for+critical+commentators+the+character+is+simply+a+literary+fiction%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwiO2LHO3YLpAhVjmeYKHQn-BGgQ6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q=%22Generally%20for%20critical%20commentators%20the%20character%20is%20simply%20a%20literary%20fiction%22&f=false
  14. Nichol, F.D., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 4, Review and Herald Publishing Association, (Washington, D.C., 1954 edition), p.814, "Additional Note on Chapter 6"
  15. Nichol, F.D., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 4, Review and Herald Publishing Association, (Washington, D.C., 1954 edition), p.815, "Additional Note on Chapter 6"
  16. Daniel 5:31
  17. https://www.livius.org/sources/content/uruk-king-list/
  18. https://focusmagazine.org/belshazzar-and-darius-the-mede-was-daniel-wrong.php
  19. https://www.livius.org/sources/content/mesopotamian-chronicles-content/abc-7-nabonidus-chronicle/
  20. https://www.livius.org/sources/content/uruk-king-list/
  21. Hill, Andrew, Expositor's Commentary, Zondervan, 2009, p.114. https://books.google.com.au/books?id=bCPBrAfBSdgC&pg=PA114&dq=expositor%27s+commentary+%22Generally+for+critical+commentators+the+character+is+simply+a+literary+fiction+appropriate+to+the+Genre+of+court-contest+tale%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi9q8_JwP_oAhWy7XMBHcSsCIoQ6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q=expositor's%20commentary%20%22Generally%20for%20critical%20commentators%20the%20character%20is%20simply%20a%20literary%20fiction%20appropriate%20to%20the%20Genre%20of%20court-contest%20tale%22&f=false
  22. Becher, Dave, The Tripartite Helmet of Hope and Salvation https://books.google.com.au/books?id=Hd9BDQAAQBAJ&pg=PT198&dq=%22That+Darius+the+Mede+was+Cyaxares+II,+the+son+of+Astyages%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwja5reR5ILpAhXM_XMBHVvIBAEQ6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q=%22That%20Darius%20the%20Mede%20was%20Cyaxares%20II%2C%20the%20son%20of%20Astyages%22&f=false
  23. Nichol, F.D., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 4, Review and Herald Publishing Association, (Washington, D.C., 1954 edition), p.816, "Additional Note on Chapter 6", point 4, Conclusion
  24. Jesephus, Antiquities 10.11.4; https://www.fulltextarchive.com/page/The-Antiquities-of-the-Jews11/#p94
  25. Jesephus, Antiquities 10.11.2; https://www.fulltextarchive.com/page/The-Antiquities-of-the-Jews11/#p94
  26. Josephus, Antiquities 10.11.4; https://www.fulltextarchive.com/page/The-Antiquities-of-the-Jews11/#p94
  27. Xenophon, Cyropedia 1.5.2
  28. Xenophon, Cyropedia 1.5.2
  29. Xenophon, Cyropedia 1.4.9
  30. Xenophon, Cyropedia 1.3.3
  31. Xenophon, Cyropedia 1.3.14
  32. Xenophon, Cyropedia 1.5.2
  33. Xenophon, Cyropedia, Books 1 & 2
  34. Xenophon, Cyropedia 1.5.4
  35. Xenophon, Cyropedia 7.5.17-20
  36. Daniel 5:31
  37. White, E.G., Prophets and Kings, p.523, 556,557
  38. Benson Commentary, https://biblehub.com/commentaries/benson/daniel/9.htm
  39. Barnes' Notes, https://biblehub.com/commentaries/barnes/daniel/9.htm
  40. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, https://biblehub.com/commentaries/jfb/daniel/9.htm
  41. Geneva Study Bible, https://biblehub.com/commentaries/gsb/daniel/9.htm
  42. Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, https://biblehub.com/commentaries/gill/daniel/9.htm
  43. Law, George R, Identification of Darius the Mede, Ready Scribe Press, 2010, p.62, https://books.google.com.au/books?id=vpEOkDk-gc8C&pg=PA62&dq=%22in+the+contemporary+cuneiform+contract+tablets+of+that+time+there+is+no+mention+of+Cyaxares%22&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwj03NGaj6rpAhX69nMBHchGBUEQ6AEIKDAA#v=onepage&q=%22in%20the%20contemporary%20cuneiform%20contract%20tablets%20of%20that%20time%20there%20is%20no%20mention%20of%20Cyaxares%22&f=false
  44. Daniel 9:1
  45. Kings+8:26&version=ESV 2 Kings 8:26
  46. The statement a father may make of "my sons" while refering to the immediate prodigy, also implies an entire linage.
  47. Nichol, F.D., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 4, Review and Herald Publishing Association, (Washington, D.C., 1954 edition), p.817, "Additional Note on Chapter 6", point 4, par.5
  48. Nichol, F.D., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Volume 4, Review and Herald Publishing Association, (Washington, D.C., 1954 edition), p.817, "Additional Note on Chapter 6", last line