Updated: Mar 7, 2021
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INTRODUCTION. In 539 B. C., Cyrus, king of the Medes and Persians, conquered the Babylonians. Thus the great Babylonian kingdom, represented by the head of gold in Nebuchadnezzar's dream, ended and was succeeded by the Medo-Persian Empire, the silver breast and arms.
Cyrus permitted the deported peoples in his conquered territory to return to their homelands. Many Jews returned to Palestine to once again live in their "promised land" and rebuild their temple and cities, fulfilling the prophecy of Jeremiah (Ezra 1:1-4; Jer. 25:11-12). Not all Jews returned to Palestine, however; some remained in the lands to which they had been carried as captives. Throughout the years they had established new homes and businesses, becoming prosperous.
The book of Esther takes place in Shushan, the Persian capital, during the reign of Ahasuerus, probably the Persian king known in history as Xerxes, who ruled Persia from 485 to 465 B. C. During his reign the empire was at its zenith and encom- passed the known world. Esther was a brave and courageous young Jewish girl who became queen of Persia and saved her people from disaster.