The first is historical. By many the Book of Estheris regarded as a fantastic romance ; by some it is evenrelegated to the category of astronomical myths; andby others it is considered to be a mystical allegory.Even the most sober criticism is troubled at its con-tents. There can be no question that the Ahasuerus(Ahashverosh) of Esther is the well-known Xerxes of history, the invader of Greece who is described inthe pages of Herodotus. But then, it is asked, whatroom have we for the story of Esther in the life of that monarch ? His wife was a cruel and superstitiouswoman, named Amestris. We cannot identify herwith Esther, because she was the daughter of one of the Persian generals, and also because she was marriedto Xerxes many years before the date of Esther'sappearance on the scene. Two of her sons accom-panied the expedition to Greece, which must havepreceded the introduction of Esther to the harem.Moreover, it was contrary to law for a Persian sovereignto take a wife except from his own family, or from oneof five noble families. Can Amestris be identified withVashti ? If so, it is certain that she must have beenrestored to favour, because Amestris held the queen'splace in the later years of Xerxes, when the uxoriousmonarch came more and more under her influence.Esther, it is clear, can only have been a secondary wifein the eyes of the law, whatever position she may haveheld for a season in the court of the king. The pre-decessors of Xerxes had several wives ; our narrativemakes it evident that Ahasuerus followed the Orientalcustom of keeping a large harem. To Esther, at best,THE BOOK OF ESTHER: ITRODUCTORY. 353therefore, must be assigned the place of a favouritemember of the seraglio.