Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Kings of the Past Part 3: We Are There

We are finally on our last king before we reach the book of Esther! I am glad that you have stuck with me this far! As we saw in yesterday's lesson, King Darius has ascended the throne, most likely through treachery. Once again, what you read here is my interpretation and not necessarily factual (though I hope I have gotten it right!)

King Darius is found in many places throughout the Bible. He is found in the books of Ezra (4:5; 5:13-6:3), Haggai, and Zechariah (note: he is not the same Darius as found in Daniel, which was a viceroy for king Cyrus, as we discussed in Part 1). There are many interesting events that take place in the reign of Darius, but keep in mind, as we have been working our way to Esther, that this is the father of Esther's husband, Xerxes (Ahaseurus). This is where he grew up and the palace and lifestyle that Esther steps into is formed.

The Royal Family
Darius I was married to a common woman and had several sons. He was the shield bearer to King Cambyses. After assuming the throne, he realized that he was not of royal lineage and wanted to prevent his people from questioning his right to be king. Therefore, Darius married many women of nobility from surrounding kingdoms in order to form alliances with their families. Most notable of these was the daughter of Cyrus himself (the sister of Cambyses), Atossa. {Interesting side fact: Atossa is thought to have had breast cancer. Historians recorded a tumor on her breast that got worse and worse until the royal physician convinced her to have it removed.} When it came time to declare an heir to the throne, Atossa insisted that it be her son Xerxes, not Darius' oldest son from the common woman. It is thought that, as the daughter of King Cyrus (of his favorite wife), that she had learned to read and write. Some historians note that she was the first queen given the title of Lady and that she even advised Darius on matters of war. She must have been a notable woman indeed.

Crowning Achievements
Darius had many conquests and achievements, but those that matter to us are this:
Darius built the palace in Susa (you know, where the great banquet takes place in Esther 1; where Esther lives after she becomes queen?).
Darius gave support to the Jews that had returned to Jerusalem and the temple was completed in the 6th year of his reign.

What is interesting about the life of Darius, is that he was constantly seeking to prove himself. He felt that he did not deserve to be where he was. We are too often that way as well. We constantly seek to prove ourselves because we don't feel we deserve the grace and blessings that have been poured out on us. As we finish up this timeline leading up to the story of Esther, I want you to remember that we are all a part of God's story. We all have a roll to play, whether we are deserving of our position or not is of no consequence. We must do our best to trust in God and follow him instead of trying to prove ourselves by our own power.

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