In Part 1 we covered the chronological issues.
In Part 2, we covered Mordechai's and Esther's age, the names used in Megillat Esther, and other related issues.
Now we move on to…
…the misrepresentation of Persian law, who could be a queen (and who could not), the number of provinces, and the number supposedly killed, all taken from this post by Frum Heretic:
…I came across Character and Ideology in the Book of Esther by Michael V. Fox originally written back in 1991 (a 2nd edition was published in 2001). Fox is a professor of Hebrew Studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and this critical literary analysis of Megillat Esther is both insightful and very readable.[*] There was, however, an ancient Babylonian concept similar to this. The idea was that the earthly king was a model of the king of the pantheon. If the lower king could change decrees at whim, then so could the higher king, and that would potentially cause floods, droughts, epidemics and other natural disasters.
Fox includes a chapter on the historicity and dating of Esther. And his conclusion is that there is no doubt that the book is "certainly a fictional creation with strongly legendary features." He provides a number of strong arguments against the books accurate portrayal of events including:
"There was no principle forbidding the Persians to change their laws; that notion is found nowhere but in Esther and Daniel. It would be impossible to run a government by such a principle." Refer, for example, to 1:15 and 8:8 which suggest that even the king may not reverse his own decree. [*]These are only a few of the pieces of evidence arguing for ahistoricity. And what about the arguments on the other side? Very few - mostly that the author of the Megillah had a knowledge of some Persian words and names (most of which cannot be verified). Fox covers these arguments and mostly demolishes them.
We know that the queen of Persia had to come from one of seven noble families (the practice is reported by Herodotus). But the Megillah has Xerxes marrying an obscure maiden of unknown ancestry.
There were only 20 to 31 satraps (provinces) in the Persian empire, not 127.
The deaths of thousands throughout the empire (500 were supposedly killed in Shushan alone - 9:6) would have left an imprint in the historical record. Fox mentions in a footnote that an argument from silence is valid when an event of such magnitude would be expected to leave an impression on other sources and that Greek fascination with Oriental culture would certainly have mentioned such an upheaval. [Addendum to post: chapter 8 mentions approximately 80000 people being killed. The estimated world population in 400 BCE was about 162 Million. Proportional to today's population, that's the equivalent of 3.2 Million deaths!]
Now some folks will argue with the historical record and claim that the critics are giving credence to one source (e.g., Herodotus) while distrusting another (Megillat Esther). "Hey, it's Herodotus against our mesorah and I'll go with the mesorah any time!" There is a major flaw with such an argument. Megillat Esther is the only source for the story therein, while there are numerous historical records (Greek, Babylonian, Persian) that testify to the legendary nature of the Megillah. A similar argument can be made regarding the Book of Daniel, Seder Olam, etc., concerning - for example - the succession of Persian kings. There are thousands of contemporaneous documents that not only agree with each other but can also be also correlated astronomical phenomena (lunar and solar eclipses, conjunctions, etc.). And that demands one logical conclusion - traditional Jewish history is not an accurate one.
In practice, it would have been very difficult if not impossible to run a country this way, which is probably why, as society grew exponentially larger, this concept fell into disuse.
Did the Persian's have such a concept? Fox knows his stuff. He says no, and his book is now out in a second edition. This is a scholarly work from two respected academic presses. One would think if there were any serious opposition to this point, it would have surfaced by now. Scholars have had 17 years to object. As far as I can tell, none has.