The Quest for the Historical Esther

After establishing the identity—agreed upon by the majority of scholars—between King Ahasuerus in the book of Esther and the Persian ruler known to the Greeks as Xerxes (both variants of the original Persian Khshayarsha), Mitchell First seeks extra-biblical evidence of the book’s other characters:

The Greek historians Herodotus and Ctesias refer to Xerxes’ wife as Amestris. Although some slight linguistic connection between the name Amestris and the name Vashti . . . seems possible, a stronger connection exists between the Greek Amestris and the Hebrew Esther.

The -is at the end [of Amestris] is just a Greek suffix added to turn the foreign name into a proper Greek [feminine noun]. The name . . . is based around the consonants m, s t, and r; the name as recorded in the Megillah is based around the consonants s, t, and r. Very likely, this is not coincidence; perhaps her Persian name was composed of the consonants m, s t, and r and the m was not preserved in the Hebrew. . . .

[Both] Herodotus and Ctesias depict Amestris as cruel. It should be noted, however, that many scholars today doubt the stories told by the Greek historians about their enemies, the Persians; those concerning royal Persian women are particularly suspect.


More about: Ancient Persia, Esther, Hebrew Bible, Mordecai, Religion & Holidays, Xerxes

To Save Gaza, the U.S. Needs a Strategy to Restrain Iran

Since the outbreak of war on October 7, America has given Israel much support, and also much advice. Seth Cropsey argues that some of that advice hasn’t been especially good:

American demands for “restraint” and a “lighter footprint” provide significant elements of Hamas’s command structure, including Yahya Sinwar, the architect of 10/7, a far greater chance of surviving and preserving the organization’s capabilities. Its threat will persist to some extent in any case, since it has significant assets in Lebanon and is poised to enter into a full-fledged partnership with Hizballah that would give it access to Lebanon’s Palestinian refugee camps for recruitment and to Iranian-supported ratlines into Jordan and Syria.

Turning to the aftermath of the war, Cropsey observes that it will take a different kind of involvement for the U.S. to get the outcomes it desires, namely an alternative to Israeli and to Hamas rule in Gaza that comes with buy-in from its Arab allies:

The only way that Gaza can be governed in a sustainable and stable manner is through the participation of Arab states, and in particular the Gulf Arabs, and the only power that can deliver their participation is the United States. A grand bargain is impossible unless the U.S. exerts enough leverage to induce one.

Militarily speaking, the U.S. has shown no desire seriously to curb Iranian power. It has persistently signaled a desire to avoid escalation. . . . The Gulf Arabs understand this. They have no desire to engage in serious strategic dialogue with Washington and Jerusalem over Iran strategy, since Washington does not have an Iran strategy.

Gaza’s fate is a small part of a much broader strategic struggle. Unless this is recognized, any diplomatic master plan will degenerate into a diplomatic parlor game.

Read more at National Review

More about: Gaza War 2023, Iran, U.S. Foreign policy