Xerxes at Troy–Some Background for Esther

September 19, 2017

The events narrated in Esther take place during the reign of the Persian King Xerxes. “The Hebrew word used throughout the book is ʾaḥašwērôš (“Ahasuerus”) which is considered a variant of Xerxes’ name. Xerxes is the Greek form of the Persian Khshayârsha” (Huey, F. B., Jr., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, p. 797).

The book of Esther begins by telling of a great banquet in Susa, the capital,  in the 3rd year of his reign (483 BC): “in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his princes and attendants, the army officers of Persia and Media, the nobles and the princes of his provinces being in his presence” (Esther 1:3). The biblical author’s intent was not to give the details as to the why of this banquet, but historical sources are helpful. Xerxes was on a mission to gather strength and support for his invasion [ill-fated] into Greece. This is the setting for the opening verses of Esther.

In the year 480 BC Xerxes marched westward to invade and attempt to conquer Greece. En route he passed through ancient Troy, where the historian Herodotus states, “he sacrificed a thousand heifers to Athene of Ilion” (Herodotus 7:43). Ilion is the Greek name for ancient Troy.

Our photo shows the Troy sanctuary area, Stratum VIII (dated ca. 700-85 BC).

Troy Sanctuary Area. Here Xerxes, King of Persia (r.486-464 BC) offered 1,000 heifers in sacrifice to the goddess Athena, in preparation for his war on Greece. Photo ©Leon Mauldin.

Xerxes’ invasion of Greece was a failure. It was after his return from his disappointing catastrophe that the Jewish maiden Esther became his queen, in the “seventh year of his reign” (Esther 2:17), which would be 479 BC.

Regarding the site in our photo above, Manfred O. Korfmann writes, “The earliest structures representing a sanctuary at the nearly deserted site are those established by the Aeolian Greeks sometime after 700 BCE, thus apparently existing within the lifetime of Homer! Votive offerings confirm the existence of much earlier sacred precincts as well” (TROİA/WIL̇USA p.62).

Of the city of Troy itself Korfmann continues, “Illion became the religious and political capital of a federation of municipalities, and to the south and east of the acropolis a lower city (on a grid-plan) arose – overtop and partially dug into remains from Trois VI/VII” (ibid.63).

The ancient city Troy consists of 46 occupational levels which date back to a total of nine different cities!

Our map shows Troy, which is a site on the Unesco World Heritage List.

Map of Troy in today’s Turkey, in relation to Greece.

I have previously posted on Troy here and here.

It is good to be reminded that the events of the Bible did not take place in a vacuum. The covenant people of God interacted with the people of their day, sometimes including the world powers as was the case in the Persian period, the setting for Esther.

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Jerusalem’s Temple Mount

May 3, 2017

Today we had opportunity to visit the temple mount in Jerusalem. This is a wide-angle shot I made this morning:

Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

The very recognizable Dome of the Rock at center approximates the site of Solomon’s temple, as well as the 2nd temple, built after the return from Babylonian Captivity and vastly renovated by Herod the Great.

This area is known as Mt. Moriah. This was the location where Abraham took Isaac in obedience to God’s command to offer him as a sacrifice, though He stopped Abraham prior to the actual event (Gen. 22:1-13). Years later, when Solomon built the temple, the Bible says, “Then Solomon began to build the house of the LORD in Jerusalem on Mount Moriah . . .” (2 Chron. 3:1, ESV).

The temple mount consists of about 36 acres. When the New Testament speaks of Jesus teaching in the temple, or of the early church meeting in the temple, those texts are not referring to the naos (holy place/most holy place) into which only the priests/Levites could enter; the most holy place only the high priest could enter, and that only once per year on the Day of Atonement. Rather, reference is made to the hieron, the greater temple area, consisting of its many courts and colonnades, etc.

Click image for larger view.

 


Wailing Wall at Jerusalem at Night

February 10, 2017

Jerusalem is defined by three valleys: the Kidron, Tyropean and Hinnom. In the photo below we are standing in the Tyropean Valley. Jews come here to mourn the destruction of the temple, among other reasons. This wall was not part of the temple itself, but was the retaining wall for the temple and the structures on the temple mount. Some of the courses of larger stones starting from bottom are Herodian, and weigh several tons each.

In Jerusalem, "Wailing Wall" at night. This was part of the retaining wall that supported the temple complex. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

In Jerusalem, “Wailing Wall” at night. This was part of the retaining wall that supported the temple complex. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

I’ve visited this very special location on numerous occasions, but this past November I had the occasion to take some night-time photos.

Click image for larger view.


Temples in Pompeii, Italy

January 27, 2017

The Roman city of Pompeii, as was generally the case in the world of the 1st century, was a city of many gods.

Pompeii–as you might expect, given its many gods–had many temples, though by no means one for every god or goddess who might intervene in the lives of its inhabitants. They came in all sizes, in varying degrees of prominence and with very different histories. Some stretched back to the earliest years of the city. The temple of Apollo next to  the Forum was established by the sixth century BCE at the latest. (The Fires of Vesuvius.281-282).

Temple of Apollo, Pompeii, Italy. Photo by Leon Mauldin. Mt. Vesuvius may been seen the the background.

Temple of Apollo, Pompeii, Italy. Photo by Leon Mauldin. Mt. Vesuvius may been seen the the background.

Most of the rest [of the temples] date to the second century BCE or later. The Small Temple of Fortuna Augusta was dedicated to an almost untranslatable combination of the goddess of Good Fortune or Success (Fortuna) and the power of the emperor (the adjective Augusta can confusingly, or conveniently, refer either to the first emperor Augustus himself, or to imperial power more generally–for subsequent emperors used “Augustus” as part of  their titles too)  (Ibid.)

Temple of Fortuna Augusta, Pompeii. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Temple of Fortuna Augusta, Pompeii. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Pompeii is a city “frozen” in time by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, AD 79. Though this is not a “biblical city” it preserves scenes from a Roman city in the AD 1st century, and thus has tremendous value to us. Thus it helps us to see the setting for the biblical world in the early New Testament era.

When contemplating the widespread idolatry of the biblical world, I often think of Paul’s statement to the Corinthians, many of whom had themselves formerly been idolaters:

we know that “an idol is nothing in the world,” and that “there is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth– as there are many “gods” and many “lords”– yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we through Him. However, not everyone has this knowledge. (1 Cor. 6:4-7, HCSB).

Click images for larger view.


Altar at Arad, in Southern Israel

July 14, 2016

During the Mosaic Dispensation God specified that the central place of worship (for offering sacrifices, attending annual feasts, etc.) was to be the tabernacle, and later, the temple built by Solomon. The temple was located in Jerusalem (called by Jesus “the city of the great King,” Matt. 5:35).

Unfortunately the will of God was not always sought and obeyed. After the death of King Solomon, Jeroboam built rival shrines at Dan and Bethel. There was also a temple built at the fortress city of Arad, to the south, east of Beersheba. The temple at Arad, built by the Israelites, was used at the same time Solomon’s temple stood in Jerusalem. Here is the altar upon which sacrifices were offered at Arad. Note the use of mud-bricks.

Altar at Israelite temple at Arad. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Altar at Israelite temple at Arad. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Here you can see the location of Arad.

Arad. BibleAtlas.com.

Arad. BibleAtlas.com.

Arad is mentioned five times in the Bible (Num. 21:1, etc.); however no biblical mention is made of the illicit temple there.


Selinunte and Agrigento, Sicily

March 10, 2016

Tonight we are in Agrigento, on the southern coast of Sicily. One of my group, Dr. Eric Awwad, is wearing a pedometer and today logged 5.8 miles of walking in our visiting archaeological sites today. Our local guide took this group photo (minus 2 or 3 of our folks) at the Temple of Concordia in the Valley of the Temples in ancient Agrigento.

Mauldin Group photo at Temple of Concordia at Agrigento.

Mauldin Group photo at Temple of Concordia at Agrigento.

This is the most famous structure of the Valley of the Temples, and is one of the best preserved Doric temples in the world. It dates back to the 5th century BC.

Earlier we were at Selinunte, where among other fascinating ruins we saw the Temple of Hera (also known as “Temple E”).

Temple of Hera at Selinunte. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Temple of Hera at Selinunte. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

I’m glad my wife Linda is with us on this trip.

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Linda at Selinunte, Sicily. Photo by Sonja Winburn.

Yes, we had a little rain today. Tomorrow we are to visit the Roman villa of Casale and from there make our way to biblical Siracusa.


The Greek Goddess Hera

August 25, 2015

While taking a group to Italy (2012) I had the occasion to visit the Vatican Museum in Rome, where among other many artifacts, I photographed a statue of the Greek goddess Hera.

Hera, Vatican Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Hera, Vatican Museum. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

There is a replica of the temple of Hera in central Alabama:

Hera Temple at Wetumpka, AL. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Hera Temple at Wetumpka, AL. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Jasmine hill gardens and outdoor museum, “Alabama’s little corner of Greece,” now features over 20 acres of year-round floral beauty and classical sculpture, including new statuary honoring Olympic heroes.

The Olympian center welcomes visitors with a video presentation of jasmine hill’s history and a display of Olympic memorabilia from the games of past years. a tour of jasmine hill, now completely accessible to visitors with disabilities, offers spectacular and ever-changing views, including our full-scale replica of the temple of Hera ruins as found in Olympia, Greece, the birthplace of the Olympic flame. http://www.jasminehill.org/

Wikipedia:

Hera is the wife and one of three sisters of Zeus in the Olympian pantheon of Greek mythology and religion. Her chief function was as the goddess of women and marriage. Her counterpart in the religion of ancient Rome was Juno. The cow, lion and the peacock were considered sacred to her. Hera’s mother is Rhea and her father Cronus.

Portrayed as majestic and solemn, often enthroned, and crowned with the polos (a high cylindrical crown worn by several of the Great Goddesses), Hera may bear a pomegranate in her hand, emblem of fertile blood and death and a substitute for the narcotic capsule of the opium poppy. Scholar of Greek mythology Walter Burkert writes in Greek Religion, “Nevertheless, there are memories of an earlier aniconic representation, as a pillar in Argos and as a plank in Samos.” Hera was known for her jealous and vengeful nature against Zeus’s lovers and offspring, but also against mortals who crossed her, such as Pelias. Paris also earned Hera’s hatred by choosing Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess.

Bust of the Greek goddess Hera at temple site. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

Bust of the Greek goddess Hera at temple site. Photo by Leon Mauldin.

SA′MIA (Σαμία), a daughter of the river-god Maeander, and wife of Ancaeus, by whom she became the mother of Samos. (Paus. vii. 4. § 2.) Samia also occurs as a surname of Hera, which is derived from her temple and worship in the island of Samos. (Herod. iii. 60; Paus. vii. 4. § 4; Tacit. Ann. iv. 14; comp. HERA.) There was also a tradition that Hera was born or at least brought up in Samos. (Paus. l. c.; Schol. ad Apollon. Rhod. i. 187.) (Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology, Vol. 3, p. 702).

There are the ancient remains of a temple devoted to Hera at Agrigento, a city on the southern coast of Sicily. (That location is included in my planned itinerary for Sicily/Italy March 2016.)

Temple of Hera, Agrigento, Sicily. Photo by Jose Luiz.

Temple of Hera, Agrigento, Sicily. Photo by Jose Luiz.

Personal note: We have not been posting much for the last several weeks due to some family sickness and deaths, and the priority which that rightly requires. We hope to be posting more regularly now in the near future. Thank you for your patience.