Susa—Ezra 4:9

One of the most significant cities in the ancient Near East, Susa (Hebrew Shushan), was the ancient capital of Elam and later of Persia, situated near the Zagros Mountains on the Karkheh River and east of the Tigris River. The rise of the Assyrians under Assurbanipal led to its destruction in 646 BC, but it was rebuilt and later conquered by Cyrus of Persia in 539. The Persians developed Susa into an important center. After Darius I (522–486 BC) established it as his royal winter palace in 521 BC, it especially flourished. It also became a valuable possession of Alexander the Great (356–323 BC). Archaeologists discovered the Code of Hammurabi in the Susa acropolis in 1900. King Shutruk-Nahunte brought it from Babylon, likely during the mid-twelfth century BC.

Three books in the Bible mention Susa and always in the context of the late neo-Babylonian era and Persian period. It was mentioned once in the book of Daniel, which reports that the prophet had his vision “in the third year of the reign of King Belshazzar” (548/547 BC) when he “was in Shushan [another form of the name], the citadel, which is in the province of Elam” (Dan. 8:1, 2). References to the city occur 19 times in the book of Esther during the reign of King Xerxes I (486–465 BC), Darius’s successor and son. The splendor of the palace is apparent in both Esther and extra-biblical accounts. Susa also appears in Ezra 4:9 which talks about people of Susa during the time of Artaxerxes (465–424 BC), and in Nehemiah 1:1 in which Nehemiah, a cupbearer to the king, prays for his nation and Jerusalem, and then describes a meeting between King Artaxerxes and Nehemiah (444 BC) who desired to travel to Jerusalem to restore the city. Thus, according to the biblical texts, Daniel and Nehemiah sojourned in Susa while in royal service, and Esther became a queen there.