I remember being taught and discussing many times the fact that Achashverosh was as big a Sonei Yehudim as Haman.
Given as evidence for this claim, his readiness to allow Haman to decree our destruction, his allowance of Haman to keep the 10,000 talents of silver that Haman offered as a bribe and the midrash that teaches that they party Achashverosh was throwing was to celebrate the passing of 70 years from the destruction of the first temple, thus ensuring that the prophecy of return would not come true (based on an erroneous calculation).
Unfortunately, there is no support in the text for this position. Allow me to elaborate.
First of all, if you will note, the money Haman offers is not for a bribe, but rather to finance the project. “Eshkol al yedai osei hamelacha” “I will use to pay the workers.” Haman comes to Achashverosh with a plan for his “pet project.” He offers to pay for it himself, he just needs royal sanction. Achashverosh says to him, “keep your money. You are my senior advisor, your pet project should be a state project. There is no need to pay out of your own pocket for this.”
Second, note that Haman never tells Achashverosh which group of people he intends to target with this plan. There is no indication that Haman tells Achashverosh he wants to annihilate the Jews. In fact, as I’ll show you later, revelaing this part of the plan would probably have resulted in it’s being scuttled. (“Scuttle the ship? You’ll receive the Order of Lenin for this, sir.”)
Finally, there’s simply no indication in the text that the party was anything more than a celebration of Achashverosh’s continued reign. There’s no doubt the man liked to party. Why does this one need an independent reason. Everything was done to show off, including the volume of drink, the opulence of design and the calling of Vashti to appear. Why can’t “showing off” be the entire motivation for the party?
What there does seem to be support in the text for, in fact, looks like quite the opposite. Achashverosh valued the Jews in his kingdom quite highly, and would never have wittingly allowed their destruction. That’s right. Far from being an anti-semite, Achashverosh was an Ohev-Yehidum.
When Esther does her “big reveal” about Haman’s plan, Achashverosh is immediately incensed. There’s no hemming or hawing. There’s no “crap, looks like we have a toughie, here.” Achashverosh’s reaction is “What?! Your plan is to kill the JEWS?!? You never told me THAT PART!” Why else does the megillah tell us that “ki chalta ha’ra’a mipnei hamelech”? Haman KNEW that he was done for. Falling on Esther’s bed was icing. Haman was pleading with Esther because he knew Achashverosh was going to kill him for deceiving him, and plotting to kill the Jews, which Achashverosh would never otherwise have allowed.
More support for this approach? If Achashverosh hated Jews, why was he so receptive to Mordechai’s warning about Bigtan and Teresh? Why was he so concerned with making sure Mordechai was rewarded for it? If he hated Jews as much as Haman, he would have removed Mordechai from the courtyard, ignored his warning, and if survived that, would haev buried the record deep in the annals (or had it expunged) and ignored it. He does none of these things.
More? How about after the whole story? Once Haman is killed, why is Mordechai promoted? It doesn’t make sense that just because he is Esther’s cousin, he’s suddenly the second most powerful man in the kingdom. In fact, for a power hungry man like Achashverosh, the queen’s cousin could be seen as a threat. No. Rather, Mordechai was an important man already. He was valued, and one of the top advisors. That’s why the idea to hang Mordechai was so new and novel to Haman. Mordechai was to important to even consider it. In fact, the whole plan to kill all the Jews was just to eliminate Mordechai. The plan was to start a war against the Jews, and hope that Mordechai was collateral damage. If Mordechai wasn’t anything, he could have been eliminated. No, the evidence and the text suggest that he was a senior advisor, perhaps second only to Haman. When was Haman was dispatched, Mordechai was his natural successor.
But, you might argue, what about the text saying that Achashverosh only did it because he loved Esther. Well, I say to you, it doesn’t. The text doesn’t tell us that Achashverosh loved Esther any more than any other queen. If necessary, like he did with Vashti, he would have removed her and replaced her. So what that her offered her “ad chatzi hamalchut.” That’s his way of saying “whatever you want.” She’s the QUEEN. Of course he’ll give her what she asks for. He’s probably expecting something like, “I want my Eunuchs to wear white on Friday instead of yellow.” Furthermore, her first “big request” is “Can you and Haman come to my party?” Achashverosh isn’t giving things away because he’s smitten. He’s humoring the little lasy. In fact, he really only starts to really pay attention to her when he finds out SHE’S JEWISH! Does that sound like the course of action of an Anti-Semite? Quite the opposite, I think.
Finally, if Achashverosh was such a Jew lover, then why was Esther’s relationship with Mordechai and her “Moledet” so important to be kept secret? Two reasons. First of all, Mordechai was a descendant of the Royal house of Shaul. His Royal blood would be seen as a threat to the king, as a possible usurper. If that was found out, it would be the end of Mordechai’s time as an advisor. Esther, by being Mordechai’s cousin, shared that royal blood. Second, Achashverosh may have valued the Jews highly, but that doesn’t mean he saw them as fit to marry. He likely knew that the Jews were ultimately looking to return to Israel. Someone without loyalty to crown and country isn’t someone you want as Queen. So, then why not make it known, and get out of the whole Queen Pageant completely? Well, marrying Achashverosh was something Mordechai and Esther wanted. They needed the power to ultimately preserve the dream of rebuilding the Bait Hamikdash. Someone like Achashverosh would likely be reluctant to allow the reconstruction (in fact, according to Chazal, he halted it. While this may seem like the work of an anti-semite, it’s more likely politically motivated.) He would need to be motivated. That was Esther’s job. Haman intercedeing and causing this whole stir was a side point. According to Chazal, this is what ultimately happened. It was Darius, purported to be the son of Achashverosh and Esther, who allowed to Jews to finish contruction of Bayit Sheini.