The King’s Gate (Esther 4)

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Susa, the city of the winter palace of the Persian rulers, is the setting for Esther. Archaeological research conducted during the 1970s by a French team has uncovered some locations mentioned in the book. A particularly interesting find is the gatehouse mentioned in Esther 2:19-21, 3:2-3, 4:2 and elsewhere. This gatehouse, approximately 80 m east of the palace, was an imposing structure. It was about 40 m across and had a central room that was roughly 21 m square. Massive columns flanked the structure. A trilingual inscription from Xerxes himself celebrates the building of the gatehouse by his predecessor, Darius, and honours the Persian god Ahuramazda. A monumental statue of Darius also once stood at the western end of the gate. The historian Herodotus spoke of suppliants who wailed before the Persian king’s gate (History, 3.117), and it may have been that rule mentioned in 4:2 – that no one could enter the gate wearing sackcloth – was intended to make the point that petitioners could come as far as, but no farther than, this gate.

This find also supports comments on other places in the Bible where i.e. Lot was “sitting in the gate” as being a place of ruling of the city. Those who sat in the gate were those who ruled the city, nor merely guarding it.


 

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