Superhero movies, similar in many ways to the true saga of Esther, often include the backstory of fathers, grandfathers or ancestors because knowing the DNA of a person, as well as his or her history, fleshes out the current characters all the more. Knowing the time period also provides context. The book of Esther fits chronologically between chapters six and seven of the book of Ezra. Reading all three books of Esther, Ezra and Nehemiah helps paint the historical picture all the more.
The book of Esther itself begins with a party. The curtains rise on a king throwing a party. The stage is covered with people laughing, dancing, drinking, eating and entertaining each other. This isn’t your ordinary party, after all. This is a party by King Xerxes. This is a party thrown by a king who is a legend among kings. A militant leader over a military of millions, you may know Xerxes best for his one loss rather than his multiple wins. You may know him best for his insatiable ego rather than his strategic prowess.
Having conquered lands, nations and people, having annihilated his enemies brutally, inhumanely, and decisively, he may still be best remembered for a battle against only a few. The official name of the fight was the Battle of Thermopylae. Most people, though, know it simply as the 300.
In 480 BC, 300 Spartans stopped a blood-hungry king from moving forward to overtake Greece. In the theatrical-retelling of this epic clash we see in the movie 300, we get a peek into Xerxes’ conceit. And while what was said in the film may not have been said precisely in real life, the overarching sentiment it portrays holds true to historical recordings about this man and his quest for overpowering others. In the film, Xerxes looks to the commander of his enemies and asks for only one thing—ironically enough, the very same thing Haman will later ask of Mordecai in the story of Esther.
King Xerxes says, “Leonidas would have you stand. All I ask is that you kneel.”
If you know history at all, or if you have seen the film 300, you know that kneeling was not an option for the Spartans. They refused to bow to the Persians, even if it meant their lives. Rather, they rose up and carried out one of the greatest military defeats in recorded history. Xerxes and his defeated army later returned to Persia, nursing not only their bodily wounds but also a collectively-wounded psyche.
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We want to thank B&H Publishers for these excerpts from Tony Evans' book "Pathways: From Providence to Purpose, published in 2019.