IRAN - Digging Up Queen Esther

Arno Froese

The ancient Persian city of Susa is mentioned in the Book of Esther, the book of Daniel and the book of Nehemiah—pointing to its importance in the ancient near east. The ruins of Susa are near the current city of Shush, which had kept the name alive to this day.

Under the Shah of Iran, Jerusalem prize winner Dr. Gabriel Barkai was able to take part at an excavation in what was once an important Persian capital. “As an Israeli archaeologist, and as a Jew, I felt as if I took a step into the drama that takes part in the book of Esther,” he told Ynet, “in the city in which all the events took place.”

He recalled in his interview with Ynet that [during] a bus trip, at some extremely beautiful point overlooking a grand valley “the driver stopped and all the passengers got out to give their blessings for the creator of such beauty.”

Susa was one of five major cities in the Persian empire, which really did extend from west India to north-east Africa. The wine-loving king depicted in the book of Esther was believed by many to be Xerxes the First. The Bible wasn’t the only to depict the important ruler, he was also the main character in the Ancient Greek play The Persians by Aeschylus.

The excavations in Susa had been ongoing for the past 150 years, the article explained. At the time Barkai was able to visit, they were run by the French archaeologist delegation [DAF] under Jean Perrot.  

Perrot, who lead DAF in Jerusalem for nearly 35 years, spoke Hebrew and invited Israeli archaeologists to join him, which is how 25-year-old Barkai ended up there.

“One of the things I still remember is how they built a small garage near the site which was composed entirely of mud bricks brought in from the dig,” he told Ynet. “One would believe these were plain bricks but once inside I saw they all had inscriptions from different times,” Barkai added.

One of the findings was the hall in the palace of Susa which is known as Apadana. Barkai drew the plan of the palace and calls it “a majestic palace.” Pointing to a series of carved stone columns he believed it “matches the palace of Ahasuerus from the book of Esther as it has inside gardens, halls and courts.”

He also remembered how he stayed with a Jewish family in the city of Shiraz and impressed the children for his ability to pray in Hebrew. He was the first non-Iranian Jew they had even seen.

“I hope a day will come in which we will be able to renew our ties with Iran,” he said, “to visit the sites and meet the people of Iran once more.”, 26 March 2019

Arno's commentary

Iran, for no apparent reason, has developed into Israel’s enemy number one. That is rather strange, because Iranians are not Arabs. Nor does the country border the land of Israel; thus, there is no territorial conflict. So, why are they so bitterly opposed to Israel? We believe the real reason is the god of this world who, at any and all costs, wants to hinder the fulfillment of Bible prophecy.

During the days of Darius, King of Persia, Ezra 4:24 reports: “Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.” That was due to the enemies of the Jews. But, during the days of the rebuilding of the second temple in Jerusalem, the prophetic Word was decisive: “Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them. Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them” (Ezra 5:1-2).

Arno Froese is the executive director of Midnight Call Ministries and editor-in-chief of the acclaimed prophetic magazines Midnight Call and News From Israel. He has authored a number of well-received books, and has sponsored many prophecy conferences in the U.S., Canada, and Israel. His extensive travels have contributed to his keen insight into Bible prophecy, as he sees it from an international perspective.

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