Is the Book of Esther a Real History? Part Two.

Darius

by

Damien F. Mackey

 

 

Introduction

So far I have concluded, based on some compelling Jewish legends, that Haman of the Book of Esther was actually a Jew, not an Amalekite (etc.), and that he was in fact King Jehoiachin. And that the opinion that he was an Agagite, or an Amalekite (Greek: Amali̱kíti̱s) may have arisen from Jehoiachin’s chief epithet, “Captive” (Greek:aichmálo̱tos), of similar phonetics.

With the evil king Jehoiachin as the wicked Haman, then the next logical step seemed to be that the exaltation of Jehoiachin by king Evil-Merodach (usually considered to have been the Chaldean son and successor of Nebuchednezzar II), as related in 2 Kings 25:27-28, must resonate with the exaltation of Haman also by an eastern king, in this case king “Ahasuerus” (Esther 3:1). That, in turn, would strongly suggest that Evil-Merodach was the long sought for king “Ahasuerus”.

It could be argued that, whereas Evil-Merodach had exalted Jehoiachin “in the year that he began to reign”,“Ahasuerus” appears to have raised up Haman some time after his wedding, in his 7th year (cf. Esther 2:16 and 3:1). Whilst it might be argued in light of this that “Ahasuerus” was therefore a successor of Evil-Merodach’s, the age of Haman now needs to be taken into consideration. Already about 55, as we calculated, in the 1st year of Evil-Merodach, and then about 66 in the latter’s 12th year (if he were the “Ahasuerus” of the Esther drama that focusses on the king’s 12th year), then we probably need to start adding extra 12’s to Jehoiachin’s 66 years depending on how far from Evil-Merodach we move for any other choice for “Ahasuerus”.  

On the strength of mathematics and biology here, I would favour king Evil-Merodach as the “Ahasuerus” of the Book of Esther. And this is, I think, quite new.  

This would mean that the Bible is doing what it so often does, telescopinghistorical events. Thus the release of king Jehoiachin from prison by Evil-Merodach in his first year of reign is to be regarded as an initial act of kindness; whilst his elevation to prominence over the rest was a later act of kindness, somewhat separated in time from the first. It also means that the so poorly known Evil-Merodach – so very much in need of an alter ego – who is thought to have reigned for a mere 2-4 years, must rather have reigned for at least 12 years. Thus it is interesting to read that one source does attribute 12 years to him. And so we read (R.Sack, “Neriglissar – King of Babylon”, Alter Orient und Altes Testament,1994, p. 8, my emphasis):

Like Megasthenes’ History of India, Polyhistor’s works have perished, but, again as with Megasthenes, portions are preserved in Eusebius. Included in these fragments is another dynastic list, which reads as follows:

Then Nabupalsar [Nabopolassar], reigned 20 years; and after him Nabucodrossorus [Nebuchednezzar], reigned 43 years … And after Nabucodrossorus, his son, Amil-marudochus [Evil Merodach], reigned 12 years.

And after him, Neglisarus [Neriglissar], reigned over the Chaldeans 4 years; and then Nabodenus [Nabonidus] reigned 17 years ….

[End of quote]

There was another preliminary matter that had to be settled, and that was the identification of the“Hammedatha” whose son Haman was (Esther 3:1). I, taking my lead from the New Testament’s Matthew 1:11: “…Josiah the father of Jeconiah [Jehoiachin]” (though the latter is usually regarded as being the grandson of king Josiah), was able to propose for “Hammedatha” the Jewish woman, Hamutal (or Hammutal) – a very adequate name fit.

Now it will be thanks to Matthew 1 again, and also to the Genealogy of Jesus Christ as given by Luke 3:23-38, that I expect I shall be able to advance further my identification of Haman, now as an eastern potentate who had close ties to king Evil-Merodach. This will, in turn, lead to a revision of the Chaldean kings subsequent to Nabopolassar and Nebuchednezzar II, whose order and reign lengths in the dynastic lists are not really disputed.

After them, however, I suspect that the conventional scenario is probably bedlam.

Identifying Jehoiachin with Neriglissar

The next useful clue for my reconstruction, comes from Luke’s Genealogy of Jesus Christ, when the Evangelist gives, for the father of Shealtiel, one Neri (3: 27-28):

Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, son of Neri,28 son of Melchi

Neri, seemingly corresponding to Matthew’s Jeconiah [Jehoiachin] (Matthew 1:12):

12 After the exile to Babylon:

Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel, Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel

Could Neri have in fact been another name for king Jehoiachin (with Luke’s Melchi, meaning ‘male ruler’,corresponding to Matthew’s King Josiah 1:11: “Josiah the father of Jeconiah”)?

My answer to this will be, Yes.

The evil king Jehoiachin, whom I have tentatively identified in Part One as the conspirator, Haman, of the Book of Esther (http://bookofesther-amaic.blogspot.com.au/2013/11/is-book-of-esther-real-history.html), I am now going to propose, tentatively again, was the rather enigmatic Chaldean official, Neriglissar, very much a contemporary of Jehoiachin’s (throughout the entire reign of King Nebuchednezzar II and beyond). And that the biblical name, Neri, was an abbreviation of that name Neri-glissar, which is a Greek version (fitting in with St. Luke) of the Chaldean name, Nergal-sharra-usur.

Neriglissar was active from as early as the 9th year of Nebuchednezzar II (R. Sack, op. cit., p. 23): “The earliest known mention of Neriglissar occurs in a contract dated in the ninth year of Nebuchadnezzar …”; this being approximately the year after king Jeconiah was taken into captivity (2 Kings 24):

10 At that time the officers of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon advanced on Jerusalem and laid siege to it, 11and Nebuchadnezzar himself came up to the city while his officers were besieging it. 12 Jehoiachin king of Judah, his mother, his attendants, his nobles and his officials all surrendered to him. In the eighth year of the reign of the king of Babylon, he took Jehoiachin prisoner.

And Neriglissar continued to be most active right throughout the major part of the 43-year long reign of Nebuchednezzar and beyond even that. This would mean that, if Neriglissar were the biblical Neri (= Jehoiachin), then he must have had considerable freedom even during the reign of this mighty Chaldean king, Nebuchednezzar.

Such would be quite contrary to the general view that Jehoiachin was treated harshly throughout this long period of time.

Certainly his initial treatment would have been rough, according to customary practice, to teach him a stern lesson. We know from the prophet Ezekiel’s lamentation (chapter 19) that Jehoiachin would be caged up and carried off like an animal: “They put him in a cage with chains, And brought him to the king of Babylon; They brought him in nets, That his voice should no longer be heard on the mountains of Israel.” (v. 9).

In Babylon, Jehoiachin was treated as a royal hostage. He is named Ya’u-kin in Babylonian tablets, which speak of him and his five sons as receiving rations at the Babylonian court. As we have already noted, he was known to the Jews as ‘Jehoiachin the Captive’ (Assir) (I Chronicles 3:17). But Jehoiachin, (if) as Neriglissar, would actually (at some stage) have married a daughter of King Nebuchednezzar’s, thereby obtaining for himself legitimacy to the Chaldean throne. (See e.g. James B. Jordan’s The Handwriting on the Wall, A Commentary on the Book of Daniel, 2007, Ch. 10)http://books.google.com.au/books?id=l25D1d4ub

And that Jehoiachin, even though a captive, enjoyed a degree of freedom, at least early on, is apparent from this statement in the Book of Baruch (1:3): Baruch read the book aloud to Jehoiachin … king of Judah, and to all the people who lived in Babylon by the Sud River. Everyone came to hear it read – nobles, children of royal families, elders, in fact, all the people, no matter what their status”.

Moreover, he may even have been involved militarily for the Chaldeans in the Fall of Jerusalem (article, “Babylon’s Last Kings”)

Neriglissar (Nergal-shar-usur) ….

It is probable that Neriglissar was a leading prince in the Babylonian court long before he seized the throne. A man of that name entered Jerusalem with the armies of Nebuchadnezzar and held the post of Rab-mag with the occupying armies (Jeremiah 39:3). The meaning of Rab-mag (Akkadian rab-mugi) is uncertain but it designates a high political office. Nergal-shar-usur was one of “the princes of the king of Babylon” and he sat “in the middle gate” of Jerusalem, which evidently served as the center of government for the Babylonians before they destroyed the city. Nergal-shar-usur as Rab-mag was a member of the delegation assigned to release Jeremiah from prison and entrust him into the friendly hands of Gedaliah (Jeremiah 39:11-14). He had married a daughter of Nebuchadnezzar and, for that reason, considered himself a legitimate successor to his throne.

According to The Anchor Bible (as referenced by Sack, op. cit., p. 20, n. 61): “The two Nergalsharezers [mentioned here in Jeremiah 39] are the same person. This is almost certainly the Nergal-šarri-usur (Neriglissar) who succeeded Nebuchadnezzar’s son on the Babylonian throne in 560”.

But, according to my developing scenario in light of the Book of Esther, the succession was not Nebuchednezzar’s son Evil-Merodach followed by Neriglissar, but was, instead, Evil-Merodach (as “Ahasuerus”) elevating Neriglissar (as “Haman”) to “second to the royal throne” (Esther 16:11). Neriglissar (the Jewish king Jehoiachin, I say) was, in other words, a sub-king ruling over Babylon in the empire of the Great King, “Ahasuerus”. Their rulership was simultaneous, not successive. And furthermore, if Neriglissar were Haman, then he would have predeceased Evil-Merodach (Ahasuerus”). 

For a period of time, however, the two were apparently close. According to the Jewish Encyclopedia, Neriglissar was Evil-Merodach’s brother-in-law

(http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/5921-evil-merodach): “Tiele, Cheyne, and Hommel are of the opinion that perhaps Neriglissar, Evil-merodach’s brother-in-law, who is praised for his benevolence, was instrumental in the freeing of the Judean king” [sic].

My view, though, is that Neriglissar (Luke’s Neri) wasthis very “Judean king” (Jehoiachin).

And this man was apparently an inveterate conspirator and insurrectionist. For, according to A. Fitzgerald, article “Baruch” (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1968, 37:9): “At first a pensioner in the King’s [Nebuchednezzar’s] court, [Jehoiachin] was jailed sometime after 592 [BC] (W.F. Albright, BA,5 [1948] 49-55), probably in connection with some insurrection …”. Was there perhaps an insurrection involved in the case of Daniel 4:33: “Nebuchadnezzar was driven out of human society …”,due to the king’s madness? Whatever the case, we find king Jehoiachin once again – at least in the latter part of Nebuchednezzar’s reign – being held as a prisoner, there awaiting his renewed freedom at the hands of the succeeding king, Evil-Merodach (2 Kings 25:27-30):

And it came to pass in the 37th year of the captivity of Yeho’yachin king of Judea, in the twelfth month, on the 27th day of the month (27 Adar, today’s Hebrew date) that Evil-Merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, did lift the head of Yeho’yachin king of Judea out of prison. And he spoke kindly to him, and set his throne above the throne of the kings that were with him in Babylon. And he changed his prison garments, and [Yeho’yachin] ate bread before him [Evil-Merdoch] continually all the days of his life. And there was a continual daily allowance given to him by the king, all the days of his life.

Now, this “set[ting of] his throne above the throne of the kings that were with him” by an eastern king is what I have come to think must be reflected in this action in the story of Esther (3:1): “After these things did king Ahasuerus promote Haman … and advanced him, and set his seat above all the princes that were with him”.

21st November

The Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

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