Excerpt from my book, “The Fourth Day: Why the Bible is Historically Accurate”. Readers can obtain a “free” e-book version at my website. Ahasuerus was two different characters in the Bible with the same name. The Ahasuerus of the book of Daniel was Cyaxares (probably Cyrus I) and the Ahasuerus of the book of Esther was Cyrus II.
Most theologians believe that the name Ahaseurus refers to Xerxes and the rationale for this conclusion is as follows. (Note: I am not an expert on foreign languages. Much of the following discussion comes from an article by Rabbi Yaakov Klass entitled “Hu Akhashverosh, Who Was Akhashverosh?” from jewishpress.com, posted 3/24/2005). Ahasuerus in the ancient Hebrew language would look like Akhashverosh. The original Persian name for Xerxes would look like Khshayarsh. These scholars argue that Khsharyarsh can be converted to Akhashverosh in two steps. First add an “a” in front of “Kh” and between “Kh” and “sh” to make the word more pronounceable then replace the “y” with “ve”. According to scholars his greek name, Xerxes, evolved in the following manner: Khshayarsh=Khshersh= Kserks+es=Xerxes.
Allow me to suggest a more alternative explanation that I believe is more straight forward.
Let’s suppose that Ahasuerus is the ancient Hebrew version of Cyrus. Unfortunately, everytime I have ever heard Cyrus pronounced in English the “C” sounded like a “S” and not like a “K” as it should be. Therefore in English it would better be spelled Kyrus so it could be pronounced properly. The Hebrew language version of Cyrus looks like Kowresh, or Kuresh. Kyrus is the Greek form of the word since Greek does not have a “sh” sound it uses “s” instead.
The Strong’s Exhaustive dictionary states that the name Ahasuerus actually has two forms, a long form and a short form. The long form is Akhashverosh and the short form is Akhashrosh. (American English does this when we call someone Bob when their real name is Robert.) An “a” is put in front of foreign words used in ancient Hebrew so the original short form in Persian would be khashrosh. Khashrosh is amazingly close phonetically to Kowresh, Kuresh or Kyrus. Therefore I believe the short form of Ahasuerus is equivalent to Cyrus.
Is there a long form of Cyrus? I believe that Cyaxares or Kyaxares is the long form of Ahasuerus. If we remove the first letter “a” from Akhashverosh (since it is a foreign word in ancient Hebrew) we get Khashverosh in the Persian language. I believe “Kyax” is equivalent to “Khash”; “a” is equivalent to “ve”; and “res” is equivalent to “rosh”. It may be easier to visualize if we partition the words as follows, Kyax-a-res and Khash-ve-rosh.
There is some historical justification to support this line of reasoning. The Apocryphal Book of Tobit refers to Ahasuerus as the king that assisted Nebuchadnezzar II in the destruction of Nineveh (Tobit 14:15): “But before he died he heard of the destruction of Nineveh, which was taken by Nebuchadnezzar and Ahasuerus; and before his death he rejoiced over Nineveh (Third Millenium Bible Translation)”. Historically Cyaxares is the king of the Medes that assisted Nebuchadnezzar II in the destruction of Nineveh, therefore Ahasuerus and Cyaxares must be the same name in different languages.
Therefore Ahasuerus refers to the name Cyrus and Cyrus has a short form and a long form, Cyrus and Cyaxares. I believe the idea that Ahasuerus is someone named Cyrus is much more plausible than someone named Xerxes.
I think the context of the Bible also favors this interpretation. Consider Esther 1:1-2:
“Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus, (this is Ahasuerus which reigned from India even unto Ethiopia, over a hundred and seven and twenty provinces:) that in those days, when the king Ahasuerus sat on the throne of his kingdom, which was in Shushan [Susa]… ”
I believe the book of Esther insinuates there is a time when King Ahasuerus doesn’t sit on his royal throne in Susa by using the phrase “when King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in Susa… ”. According to historians Cyrus II was king in Susa at one time but later moves his throne to Babylon. I believe the book of Esther is recording events prior to the capture of Babylon by Cyrus II and that Cyrus II is King Ahasuerus written about in the book of Esther. Now when you start to consider the ramifications of this scenario one very obvious question comes to mind, If Esther is the wife of Cyrus “Did Cyrus make the announcement to rebuild the Temple and Jerusalem to please his wife Esther?”
If the answer to the question is “yes” then this “new” information regarding Ahasuerus is very significant indeed. This verse also speaks of Ahasuerus as if their was another king that went by that name. Could it be that the other Ahasuerus was Cyrus I? The following verse provides more evidence for Ahasuerus being Cyrus (Ezra 4:4-6):
“Then the people of the land weakened the hands of the people of Judah, and troubled them in building and hired counselors against them, to frustrate their purpose, all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius the king of Persia. And in the reign of Ahasuerus, in the beginning of his reign, wrote they unto him an accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem.”
Verse six continues the thought from verse five. Since the first verse mentions Cyrus and Darius, I believe that the writer uses the name “Ahasuerus” in the last verse to clarify that he is referring to Cyrus and not Darius. Ahasuerus and Cyrus appear to be the same name in two different languages.
I believe that King Ahasuerus has one more thing to teach us though. Consider Darius the Mede. Daniel 9:1 says, “In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans… ” If Darius the Mede is a son of Ahasuerus (Cyrus) he can’t be the son of the Cyrus of the book of Daniel (Cyrus II) for two reasons. Darius the Mede is too old (62 years of age) and Cyrus II is a Persian.
Darius the Mede must be the son of Cyrus I (since Darius the Mede is Astyages and Cyrus I is Kyaxares then Herodotus has already confirmed this fact). Since Cyrus II ruled Babylon for 9 years and died when he was 50 years old, Cyrus must have been 41 years old when Darius the Mede died at age 62 (Darius the Mede died very near the first year of the beginning of the reign of Cyrus II). Since Cyrus II is 21 years younger than Darius the Mede and if Darius the Mede is related to him, then Darius the Mede could be an uncle to Cyrus II. Darius the Mede would have to be the Median King Astyages (son of Kyaxares otherwise known as Cyrus I).