King Xerxes was the king of Persia who married Esther. He ruled a great empire, which included the region of Israel. Outside the Bible, he is known for his failed invasion of Greece .
The early years of reign
Xerxes, also known as Ahasuerus in the Bible, was very rich and powerful. In the third year of his reign, Xerxes gathered all the nobles and military leaders in his capital for a great banquet that lasted six months! During that time, he displayed the best of his empire and possibly prepared for his invasion against Greece ( Esther 1: 2-4 ).
At the end of that time, Xerxes gave a seven-day banquet to all the citizens of the capital. On the last day, when Xerxes was a little tipsy, he called his wife Vasti to show his subjects his beauty. But Vasti refused to appear and the king was very angry ( Esther 1: 10-12 ). Vasti was removed as queen and banished from the king’s presence.
Xerxes went out to invade Greece . His army was huge but the Greek soldiers were well trained and were fighting at home. The invasion started well for Xerxes but ended in disaster. Taking advantage of their knowledge of the territory, the Greeks chose positions of advantage and managed to massacre the Persian army in some battles. Xerxes suffered a major defeat and returned home.
Xerxes and Ester
It was probably after the failed invasion that Xerxes started looking for a new queen. For a year, the most beautiful girls in the empire received a beauty treatment. Then, each one was taken to the king to choose his favorite. The winner was a young woman named Esther , who became queen instead of Vasti ( Esther 2: 17-18 ).
See Esther’s story here .
Once, two officers of the king conspired to kill him . But a man named Mordecai heard them and denounced them. The officers were executed and everything was written in the royal records. Some time later, Xerxes placed a prince named Haman in a high court position. One day Haman told the king about a very rebellious people who could cause problems within the empire: the Jews. Xerxes authorized Haman to decree the death of all Jews ( Esther 3: 8-11 ).
A few days later, Queen Esther entered the king’s presence without being invited. That was a crime but Xerxes had mercy on her. Esther then invited the king and Haman to a banquet ( Esther 5: 3-5 ). At the end of the banquet, Esther invited the king to another banquet the next day.
That night, Xerxes was unable to sleep and read the actual records. He found out that Mordecai had not been rewarded for saving his life. In the morning Xerxes spoke to Haman and, accepting his suggestion, sent Haman to take Mordecai through the city to receive honor from all citizens ( Esther 6: 6-9 ).
See also: who was Mordecai?
After that, Xerxes and Haman went to Esther’s banquet, where she revealed that she was Jewish and that Haman was plotting to kill her, along with all of her people! Xerxes was furious and had Haman executed on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai, who was a relative of Esther ( Esther 7: 9-10 ). Xerxes honored Mordecai and empowered him and Esther to save the Jews from extermination.
Years later, Xerxes died murdered. His son Artaxerxes succeeded him and allowed the reconstruction of the temple and the walls of Jerusalem.