Herodotus tells us that Xerxes the Great had constructed a superb bridge across Hellespont. Upon hearing that the bridge had been broken by the sheer force of water, Xerxes ordered that the water receive lashings and otherwise punishment. Xerxes the Great is the same character we find in the Bible, the Book of Esther. Ordering water to receive strokes of canes sounds hokum. However, to understand this better, one needs to read Iliad of Homer. Iliad XXI shows that in antiquity bodies of water were conceived as gods. Consequently, the act of flogging water is not as insane as we may think. This should not be confused with the bad guy of Rome, Caligula (Gaius Caesar), who ordered Roman soldiers to collect seashells as spoils of victory. Caligula was round the bend. His intellects were sadly teensy weensy.
There is a consensus among historians that Xerxes the Great, or Xerxes I, is the same character in the Bible. Of course, there are other disagreements concerning the historicity of the Book of Esther but a deeper study of Ancient History can help one get out of this maze.
It is believed that Xerxes I was an ardent follower of Ahura Mazda. Despite all these hoo-ha, there are several important things I like about him. For example, the Book of Esther 1:13-14 record an incident that I can’t fail to notice.
‘Then the king said to the wise men who knew the times—for this was the king’s procedure toward all who were versed in law and judgment, the men next to him being Carshe′na, Shethar, Adma′tha, Tarshish, Meres, Marse′na, and Memu′can, the seven princes of Persia and Media, who saw the king’s face, and sat first in the kingdom’ Esther 1:13-14
This scripture should be understood within the context of the point am making in this post.
Xerxes was a man who valued counsel. He did not go about his business solo. He was surrounded by guys who were adequately versed in what was important – law and judgment. It appears that meritocracy did not begin yesterday. It is a concept that is deeply embedded in civilization.
So what do we learn from Mr Xerxes?
- It is good to be surrounded by men and women of noble purpose.
- It is wise to seek counsel from men and women of noble purpose.
I have come to learn and appreciate the importance of having noble people around us. These are men and women who know something we do not know. They are people who understand something we do not understand. They have a sharp insight into various aspects of life and by hanging around them we get to develop good foresight. Probably it is due to their experience, learning, education or the mere fact that we do not think and perceive things the same way.
Having these people around us and seeking counsel from them are two different things. No one has a monopoly of skills, knowledge, and wisdom. There comes a time when one must seek out help from others and it helps when people around you have the requisite resources to tap from. It is even more joyful when they are willing to lend their ear and offer not just tidbits but nuggets of wisdom.
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes,
but a wise man listens to advice. Proverbs 12:15
Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals” 1 Corinthians 15:33
Importantly, it is always prudent to seek counsel from the greatest teacher of them all; Jesus Christ of Nazareth. This is what Nicodemus did. Notwithstanding his academic credentials and social status, he decided to seek counsel from Jesus. The discussion that ensued opened Nicodemus eyes to the prospects of eternal life.
We can have a fruitful year if we chose to hang around and seek counsel from men and women of noble reputation. We should not despise anyone for we do not know the time we may need him/her. The more time we spend in Curia Julia the less time we will spend in the Battle of Cannae fending off Hannibal. After having done all these, we should at all times remember that it is not by might nor by power, but by the Spirit of God.
Unless otherwise noted, Scripture is taken from the Revised Standard Version (RSV).