The Book of Esther, one of the historical books in the Torah and the Old Testament, is known as a story of community, discrimination, and human ingenuity. It’s core to the Jewish holiday of Purim, with singing, feasting, and other merriment. And it’s unique as one of the few books in the Bible that doesn’t mention God. At all.
But it’s also useful as a historical document, as Lloyd-Llewellyn Jones writes in his most recent book, Ancient Persia and the Book of Esther: Achaemenid Court Culture in the Hebrew Bible. While not perhaps entirely accurate, the book refers to political divisions, court customs, and gender politics that align with what we know about Ancient Persia.
In this interview, Lloyd and I talk about the Book of Esther, what it tells us about Persian history, and whether other parts of the Bible might act as good historical sources.
Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones holds the chair in ancient history at Cardiff University and is the director of the Ancient Iran Program for the British Institute of Persian Studies. He has published widely on ancient history. His other books include Persians: The Age of the Great Kings (Basic Books, 2022), Designs on the Past: How Hollywood Created the Ancient World (Edinburgh University Press, 2018), and Aphrodite’s Tortoise: The Veiled Woman of Ancient Greece (Classical Press of Wales, 2004).