Is The Bible Wrong About History?
Esther is a true and a very interesting story!
THE HUMANIST'S CLAIM: The book of Esther purports to describe how a young Jewish girl named Esther was chosen by the Persian king Xerxes I to be queen after he had divorced Vashti. Although historians know a great deal about Xerxes I, there is no record that he had a Jewish queen named Esther or was married to Vashti.
Additionally, the book of Esther describes the Persian empire as having 127 provinces, but historians maintain there was no such division of the empire. Also contrary to the book of Esther, historians assure us Xerxes did not order Jews in his territories to attack his Persian subjects.
I love the book of Esther. So much so that I wrote a commentary about Esther called "The Presence of God." I encourage you to read the book. Use the link to get a free copy.
The humanists include three references to Stephen L. Harris, Understanding the Bible as the source of their information about Esther. He is similar to Andrew
White... he is anti-Christian, anti-Bible, and isn't afraid to make up things to support his accusations. His book is not about understanding the Bible. It is about tearing down the Bible and replacing it with humanism. Not a great reference, but we'll go with what the humanists have written and answer their accusations.
Absence From Historical Records Does Not Mean They Didn't Exist
If a place or person does not show up in historical records, does that mean they did not exist? This is called an argument from silence, and it is not a valid argument. That is the type of argument we have here in this accusations against Esther.
Over and over, arguments from silence don't stand up against the Bible. Historians said the Bible was wrong because there was no historical evidence that Hittites ever existed... then the evidence was found. They were wrong. There was no evidence that Sodom existed. Then in 2015 archeologists announced that Sodom had been found. Historians said that there was no evidence the city of Jericho existed at the time Joshua entered the promised land. Then in the late 1980's it was discovered that archeologists had been looking for the wrong kind of pottery, and looking
in the wrong places... Jericho had been found!
Saying there are no historical records (except for the Bible) does not mean the person or place does not exist... it just means they we have no historical records, other than the Bible, concerning that person or place. And they are not willing to trust the Bible.
That's an interesting statement... not willing to trust the Bible. Find just one broken clay tile with an inscription giving a person's name, "Eureka! They cry. We know for sure that person existed." If a copy of one partial ancient document is found with that person's name on it, "Eureka! They shout. We have proof that person existed." But the document that has more ancient copies available than any other... by far... and that has proven to be reliable over and over... the Bible... is considered to not be sufficient evidence on its own. An argument from silence is considered stronger evidence against the testimony of the most reliable ancient document we have... the Bible. That's desperation. Desperation driven by a desire to not be accountable to the God that created them.
Let's Look At Esther and Vashti
They are correct, there is no evidence outside of the Bible, documenting that a woman named "Esther" was a queen of Persia.
There is some evidence concerning Vashti. For example, the Greek historian Herodotus associates the name Amesrtis with Vashti. It is thought that Amesrtis was the wife of Ahasuerus, also known as Xerxes.
Do you see one reason why, 2500 years later, history may seem to be silent concerning the people described in Esther? The secular records we have come from a Greek historian, who used people's Greek names. The Bible was written by Hebrews, and they in most cases used people's Hebrew names. The Persian records we have available used Persian names. With the limited ancient records we have, sorting out who is who proves to be difficult.
Also, how important was Esther to the royalty of Persia? Political circumstances resulted in selecting a queen from outside the royal family, which was unheard of. And then the Bible account records that, after becoming queen Esther did not seem to spend much time with Xerxes. She was an outsider, and probably kept as an outsider. Since the royal families controlled what was recorded for history, it appears likely that she would just be left out... sort of a black sheep that nobody talked about.
What about Vashti? Although she was a very capable and skilled queen, Vashti embarrassed the king and caused a major problem for the extended royal family. It is very likely that the royal family was not all that interested in including her in the royal records. "Esther and Vashti? That was a troubled time that was totally embarrassing for us royals. We just need to forget about them."
127 Persian Provinces
Again the Humanists make an argument from silence. Herodotus does note there were 60 provinces, but that was at a time not directly associated with Esther. However, based on the language and the great detail that is provided in Esther, it appears that Esther could only have been written by someone highly placed within the Persian government at the time. The number of provinces is completely incidental to the story and of no consequence. So if Esther was a fabrication, the writer would have not included this detail. That the empire is identified as having 127 provinces is a detail that would only be included by an insider, who knew precisely how many provinces there were.
Did Xerxes Order the Jews To Attack His Persian Subjects?
As is common with White (the referenced source) this is fiction.
#1 - The Jews were given permission to use weapons to defend themselves, and destroy and kill any who might attack them. So the Jews were not ordered to attack Persians. They were given the right to defend themselves.
#2 - We don't know that it was Persians who wanted to destroy the Jews. Haman was an Agagite, a group of people who had been Israel's mortal enemies for over 500 years. The Persian Empire was made up of many different people from many nations. It was only those who wanted to destroy Israel, that the Jews had the right to defend themselves against.
#3 - Xerxes had made some stupid decisions leading up to this situation. And the Jews were so inconsequential to the Empire that he signed a decree that they all be killed with very little thought... a decree that was presented to him along with the offer of a huge bribe. For this to become public knowledge, especially the part about the bribe, would be disastrous. So it is highly likely that minimal records were made and those did not survive the passing of millennia.
How Do We Know Esther Is True?
There is powerful evidence that the story in Esther is true.
The events described in Esther resulted in the Festival of Purim, which as inaugurated shortly after those events took place. In addition, the book of Esther was written within 15 to 20 years of when the events it describes took place.* (www.GotQuestions.org) People who had lived through the events described in Esther were still alive.
So, we have the Festival of Purim already going strong, celebrating the salvation of the Jews from total annihilation. We have the book describing the events that resulted in this festival, coming out while many of the people who experienced those events are still alive. If the book were not true, that would have been a huge scandal that would have echoed down through the ages. There were too many eyewitness who could testify to the errors in the book.
The timeline in which all this happened testifies that the story in Esther must be true.
Esther is a true story, including the names, places, and events that are described..
Next claim about errors in Biblical history:
The book of Daniel describes events that supposedly happened during the Babylonian captivity of the Jews. The fifth chapter states that Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, was succeeded on the throne by his son Belshazzar. But historians tell us Belshazzar was not the son of Nebuchadnezzar and was never king.
The book of Daniel also says one Darius the Mede captured Babylon in the sixth century B.C.E. In contrast, historians know that Cyrus of Persia took Babylon.
I'm surprised that there are only a couple of questions on Daniel. This book is packed with prophecies that have been fulfilled. Just the book of Daniel alone is a strong proof the Bible is true... only God knows the future and the future is laid out in detail in Daniel. But, we'll take a look at the above accusations and... you'll have the answers on the next page.
* Esther became queen in 478 BC