For the Bible scholars among us... A fun little game of connect-the-dots that The Lord helped me piece together a couple years ago. There's a major character hidden in plain sight within scripture - and by understanding who she is, it helps bring into sharper focus the confusing events of the first and second returns of Israel - from their bondage in Babylon and (later) Persia.
1. It is commonly understood that King Xerxes was the man in power during the days of Esther. As everyone knows, she became his queen. Since Xerxes is the son of Darius I (of "Daniel in the Lion's Den" fame), we can safely ascertain that her story occurs AFTER the fall of Babylon.
2. Ezra records that King Cyrus (the Great) had sent many Jews back to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel in order to rebuild God's Holy Temple. This is Xerxe's great (x3) grandfather. In Ezra 4 we get our first taste of opposition to The Lord's plan in Artaxerxes, Xerxe's son. Detractors write to ask that the rebuilding of the city be halted until the matter can be further researched. Artaxerxes complies and the work is halted.
3. Enter Nehemiah - cup bearer to King Artaxerxes. Chapter 1 expresses his dismay over the rebuilding stoppage that is described in Ezra 4. Then in chapter 2 - an apparent throw-away line that is HUGE in understanding WHY this king was so predisposed to be kind to the Jews.
"6 Then the king, with the queen sitting beside him, asked me, “How long will your journey take, and when will you get back?” It pleased the king to send me; so I set a time."
...with the Queen sitting beside him. This has usually been presumed to be the king's wife. It was not.
I am certain that this was describing his mother, Esther.
I think it very possible that Nehemiah wasn't the only one disturbed by Artaxerxes's decision to stop the building project - and that The Lord (in His uncanny timing) had placed it into Nehemiah's heart to appeal to the king on the very day that Esther had come to do the same. Such an event would make an impression, don't you think?
Persian Queens did not rule as they do in other kingdoms - and for a Persian Queen to be mentioned (so off-handly) is remarkable. This is the first clue that there was more afoot than what initially meets the eye.
The rest is history. Nehemiah persevered in rebuilding the walls, joining Ezra in cleaning up the Priesthood that had already begun to fall into disobedience.
Did you know that experts have (beyond a shadow of doubt) identified the royal tomb of Esther and Mordecai in what was once the area of the great Citadel of Susa? Both were held in high honor and were buried in royal splendor, befitting rulers of that day. You can "google" the pictures if you wish - the identity of the tomb is not in doubt.
Food for thought. To me, this clearly illustrates how one must always keep one's eyes open and one's heart trained on Abba when reading His Holy Word. It's the only book in existence that reads you right back - and some of the greatest revelations are to be found in the most unlikely passages.
God bless you all, in Yeshua's Holy Name.
Mark Scott Grimmett GoldenLight Ministries