The Feast of Purim

 

 

The Feast of Purim
 

 
The story of Purim is found in the Book of Esther, neatly tucked away between Nehemiah and Job. Purim celebrates the courage and faith displayed by Mordecai (from the tribe of Benjamin) and Queen Esther (they were cousins). It recognizes God’s continued faithfulness and promise of Jewish preservation. What makes the Book of Esther so unique is that the name of God is not mentioned even once throughout the entire story. While there are no O.T. references for the Book of Esther, there is one possible N.T. reference which demands a critical eye. This is found in John 5:1 “After this there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem”.  Some scholars say this verse can refer to Purim which would point to Yeshua having indeed celebrated this feast. How interesting, that this feast in John 5 is unnamed. Perhaps this is to keep in line with the fact that God is unnamed in the Book of Esther itself.
 

In spite of much scholarly criticism, we believe that the Book of Esther is a part of God’s inspired Word. There is historical data to authenticate this event, most of which centers around the information on Xerxes. Historical writings refer to his large harem in Shushan, his irrational temper and his drinking parties. On the flip side, there is no evidence from any other outside source to contradict this story.    Facts on Purim Every year, Purim is celebrated on the 14th and 15th of Adar, the last month of the Hebrew calendar. This translates to March 11th and 12th for this year, 2017. Happy Purim!     What does Purim mean?

Purim is the Hebrew word for lots, as in “the casting of lots”. In this case, the evil Haman, the Agagite wanted to exterminate the Jews of the Persian Empire, and cast lots (something like throwing dice) in order to determine the date of their execution.  The lot fell on the 13th of Adar. Of course this execution never took place, but rather, by royal proclamation, the Jews became the victors on that very day.

 

When did Purim originally take place?
 
Sometime in the middle of the 5th century B.C., coinciding with the reign of King Xerxes. The language of this book is similar to Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah, which were also written around this same time.  
 
Why were the Jews still outside the land?
 
Why were the Jews still in Persia at this point in history? The 70 year Babylonian exile had already passed. According to Isaiah and Jeremiah, God wanted the Jewish exiles to return back to Israel after the 70 years. (Isaiah 48:20, Jeremiah 29:10, 50:8, 51:6) But most Jews did not return. Out of a total Jewish population of perhaps 2-3 million exiles, only around 50,000 chose to return. The events of Purim must have been a great encouragement toward the unifying of all Jews, in and outside of Israel.  
 
But where was God?
 
Why not take an hour or so and read through the Book of Esther on your own. It is a lovely story of determination and great faith on the part of Esther and Mordecai, and yes, even though there is no mention of God’s name, the events in the story reveal His omnipresence. While the “casting of lots” was a method of fate used by Haman, God turns this around, and in His omniscience and sovereignty, He “just so happened” to make sure that:
  • Esther, a Jewess, just so happened to become queen, which eventually led her to help save the Jewish nation from extinction.(Esther 2:17)
  • Mordecai just so happened to overhear a plot to kill the King which eventually put his name in the King’s book and allowed for him to be honored in the town (Esther 2:21-23).
  • Esther just so happened to walk in on King Xerxes, unasked, and was granted permission to speak (such an act could have cost her her life) (Esther 4:16, 5:2).
  • Haman just so happened to be too close to the queen, while begging her for forgiveness when the king just so happened to walk in and see this (Esther 7:8).
  • Assuming Haman to be physically aggressive to his queen, Xerxes just so happened, in a fit of rage, to have Haman hung on those same gallows he made for Mordecai (Esther 7:9-10). Haman was certainly at the end of his rope.

  Nothing, but nothing, in this world goes unnoticed by our Sovereign Lord. Hallelujah!  

What biblical principles or Messianic implications can we derive from Esther?
The following information is taken from Ariel’s manuscript #177 Purim: The Feast Of Lots (Esther), by Dr. Arnold G Fruchtenbaum.
 
“The Book of Esther” is a good example of a principle found in the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:3)“And him that curseth thee, I will curse”. This principle of the Abrahamic Covenant  teaches that those who curse the Jews will be cursed by God. Both the Law and the Prophets emphasize the fact that the Jews will survive, regardless of how bad it might get during the times of the Gentiles. This is a biblical guarantee. The story of Esther is a good example of God’s use of providence to secure the survival of Israel in the Dispersion. God’s guarantee that the Jews, as a nation survive will continue until Israel’s national salvation and the return of the Messiah, at which point there will be no further threat to Jewish survival.
 
If you would like to read this manuscript, it can be purchased as a pdf download from Ariel Ministries Canada for $3.
 

What do Jewish people do on Purim? They party!!! They read the MEGILLAH, which is the scroll of Esther. As the scroll is read, whenever Haman’s name is mentioned, people will stomp their feet and children will use special noisemakers in order to drown out Haman’s name. Based on Esther 9:22, they are to send portions one to another, usually in the form of food. They must also give gifts to the poor. Due to its festive nature, rabbis have determined that on Purim it is forbidden to fast. The obligation is to eat, drink, and be merry. This is also a time for Jewish children living in Israel and elsewhere to live out a type of “Halloween”.  Masquerade parties and Purim plays are very popular with children and adults alike.   Any special foods? Hamantashen/pastry cakes filled with prunes or poppy seeds, kreplach/ravioli, challah/egg bread When it is a minor or major Jewish feast, we still love to eat.


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