Ahasuerus’ 127 Provinces
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Ahasuerus, the King of Persia, and his 127 Provinces:

The text that I will read today comes from  Esther 1; and, the very beginning of the book reads.

This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush: At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present.

Modern people don’t put a lot of stock into numerology. And partially to blame is that there are actually all sorts of awful uses of it. But compare, just because there are a lot of bad uses of statistics does not discredit it as valid enterprise, does it?

Anyways, ancient peoples were pretty intelligent; hey, more than fifteen-hundred years (1,500) before these very Persians the last of the Pyramids were built! This was an amazing mathematical feat showing what ancient people were capable of doing. They cared about math too; so we will see in the Book of Esther.

The Book of Esther starts in the 3rd year of Ahasuerus’ reign, she becomes queen in the 7th, and it ends in the 12th year with the twelve tribes of Israel surviving the Agagite threat.

There probably is some rounding going on here, but for the most part we can trust the chronology. Rounding numbers is apart of telling a story. If someone asks me how long ago I did something, I may say 24 hours ago, even if it was 19 or 18 hours before.

But let us take as a case study the United Kingdom. If I were to say the Prime Minister has responsibility over the ” ___ ” number of counties, I could say it in a few different ways.

The UK is precisely divided divided into 83 counties, and it is always changing due to incremental reform. To truthfully tell how many counties there are in the UK I could say “eighty-three” exactly; but, most of the time we are not that precise.

In a story-telling context I could have chosen to say, he is prime minister over “eighty counties” or “eighty-five counties” or “a little less than a hundred” and have all these be truthful.

It doesn’t really matter where I draw the line, or exactly how I round the number when I am telling a story; but, when we round numbers we usually round them to a digit of five or 10…such as 80 or 85.

However, when you don’t have that ’10’ based system ingrained in your head, you can round numbers in other ways. Sometimes things get rounded to ’12’ or ’24’ or other digits we are not accustom to in other cultures. In technology I presume it is ‘8’, eight-bit or something like that.

The king of Persia, Ahasuerus, which  just means ‘the Great King’…it’s a title, not a name (…just like ‘Pharaoh’ is a title, not a name) as we’re told in the very first verses of the Book of Esther is the ruler of 127 provinces. Is 127 a precise number or a rounded number?

I think its a rounded number, even though it seems strange to us. 127 would seem to us like a precise number…but historians know this probably wasn’t the exact number of provinces the Persian empire had. If we rounded the number, we might say something like ‘100’ provinces. But, the ancients don’t care about our 10 based system. They have a different equation they are working with, one we actually use today, to package sausages!

“Centered hexagonal numbers have practical applications in materials logistics management, for example, in packing round items into larger round containers, such as Vienna sausages into round cans, or combining individual wire strands into a cable.”

You see, the most efficient way to pack any round object, or like a cylinder of Pringles or something, is to do it by placing one in the center and then putting six around the outside. Then, you put six more on the outside of that one; so on and so forth. The ancient people knew this too.

1, 7, 19, 37, 61, 91, 127, 169, 217, 271, 331, 397, 469, 547, 631, 721, 817, 919.

127 would be the number you would get if you had six circles around the outside, the seventh in order. The beginning number of provinces is rounded to 127 to imply that the way the Persians set up their kingdom is perfect. It seems perfect; it seems like the perfect empire. Ahasuerus has seven wise men, his seven advisors, and rules over 127 provinces, a degree of seven circles.

Ahasuerus, probably Xerxes or Darius, has the perfect kingdom; that’s all it means. There’s no adding or subtracting or doing fancy additions like a lot of numerology depends on. It is simply a symbol.

If I were to say in the South, “You’re driving like eighty-eight.” I could mean potentially the precise number of miles-per-hour, though that is an odd number to settle on rather than 90mph or 100mph. I certainly don’t mean the slower “eighty-eight” kilometers per hour, though someone in Canada may not get the allusion at all.

When I say, “You’re driving like 88”, I mean like Dale Earnhardt Jr., the race-car driver. That’s his number. No matter if you misinterpret the numerical symbol, you would understand me to be saying “You’re driving really fast”, but the most depth to that statement is when you understand I am referring to a cultural icon, a well known fact in the society I am saying that in, and you might better appreciate the humor behind it.1


  1. By the way, remember as Easter aproaches that ‘Ishtar’ is the same name we get both Esther and Easter. It simply means ‘star’ in Persian.
News Reporter
From Madison, Wisconsin. B.A. Biblical Studies: Moody Bible Institute, Chicago. M.Div. Student at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, Ontario.

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