Purim פּוּרִים “Lots”
The Feast of Lots
When is it: Esther 9:1 “In the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on its thirteenth day…”And they gained relief on the fourteenth, making it a day of feasting and gladness. – Esther 9:17
So the Feast of Purim is celebrated on the 14th of Adar on the Hebrew Calendar which is the day after the Jewish people were miraculously saved from their enemies. This date falls somewhere within February or March in the Gregorian calendar.
What do the scriptures say about it: Esther 9:22-26 As the days wherein the Jews rested from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning into a good day: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending portions one to another, and gifts to the poor. And the Jews undertook to do as they had begun, and as Mordecai had written unto them; Because Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had devised against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur, that [is], the lot, to consume them, and to destroy them; But when [Esther] came before the king, he commanded by letters that his wicked device, which he devised against the Jews, should return upon his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. Wherefore they called these days Purim after the name of Pur. Therefore for all the words of this letter, and [of that]which they had seen concerning this matter, and which had come unto them…
What are we to do on this day: As instructed by Mordecai, we are to:
- Have a feast with joy before the Lord
- Send gifts of food to one another (mishloach manot)
- Give to the poor (mattanot la-evyonim)
- Drinking of wine and/or strong drink
- The wearing of masks and/or costumes
- A public and often humorous reenactment of the story of Esther
- The public reading of the scroll of Esther (Megillat Esther)
- Special triangular cookies called Hamantaschen are made to symbolize “Haman’s Hats”
The story of Purim: During the Persian control of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and Judah (the Southern Kingdom), Ahasuerus king of Persia, also known historically as Xerxes I and Xerxes the Great, held a great drinking and feasting celebration for his servants in his palace in Shushan. This was in the third year of his reign, according to Esther 1:3, which was around 483 BCE according to historical records. Being full of wine and “of himself” Ahasuerus orders his queen Vashti to present herself before all of his servants to display her beauty and attractiveness. Some Biblical scholars believe that this presentation was not a typical “runway model” situation but as a nude model and thus the harsh response of the Queen to refuse his orders even if it meant death or banishment. The counselors to the king saw this betrayal of Vashti as a bad example to all the women of the kingdom which may provoke the other women to likewise not obey their husbands and pleaded with Ahasuerus to remove Vashti from being his Queen and to make a search for a more suitable replacement.
To find a new wife and Queen for Ahasuerus, a decree went out throughout all of the 127 provinces of Persia from India to Ethiopia, ordering all beautiful virgins to come to Shushan Palace to present themselves before the King. Being the very first “ The Bachelor” virgins from over the Persian occupied territories came including a beautiful young Jewish girl named Hadassah. Hadassah was raised by her cousin Mordecai who urges Hadassah to join the “beauty contest” in order to be queen of Persia. Hadassah does catch the eye of the king and she is chosen to be the next queen of Persia being given the name, Esther, while her true identity as a Jew remained secret.
King Ahasuerus had a right hand man named, Haman (in walks the dastardly villain- cue the dark music and boos). Haman hated the Jewish people and secretly plotted to exterminate the Jewish people from Persia. While strolling through the kingdom Haman demanded everyone in the towns to bow and give reverence to him but Mordecai refused, setting the showdown between Haman, the terrible, and Mordecai the Jewish hero.
Meanwhile, a plot to kill the king was underway but through the providence of God, Mordecai overhears the plans and quickly reports the news to the king saving his life from the villainous plot. Mordecai’s name was written in the scroll of remembrance of good deeds to the king. When the king called for ways to reward Mordecai for his good deeds, he calls his right hand man Haman in, who knew nothing about what Mordecai had done. When Ahasuerus asks Haman how the person should be rewarded who has done great things for him, naturally the self-absorbed Haman was thinking the king was referring to him so he declares that this person should have the best of the king’s clothes, a house and to be paraded around on the king’s horse throughout the province being heralded for his good deeds. Of course, the king though this was a wonderful idea and proclaimed that Mordecai be rewarded in this fashion and that Haman would be the one to give it to him. Gulp! Talk about irony! God is the ultimate screen writer and just as Shakespeare wrote, “all life is a stage.”
This just infuriates Haman all the more and through deceit and trickery Haman later gets the king to sign a decree to kill all of the Jews in the empire. The date would be Adar 13, as was determined earlier by Haman who cast lots (purim in Hebrew) to determine the date of the mass execution and a huge gallows was built for the purpose of Mordecai to be hung in the sight of all. The stage is set and the tragedy is at its crescendo as it seems all hope is lost for the Jewish people. It is here that cousin Mordecai realizes the reason that Esther was queen and sends an urgent message to her:
[Est 4:13-14 ESV]13 Then Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, “Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
The dilemma for Esther was that the law of the kings of Persia was such, that the queen would not be able to approach the king unless invited. If the queen approached and the king let down his scepter then she would be given mercy to speak and approach the king. If the king did not let done his scepter then mercy would not be extended and the queen would be put to death. Esther knew that she needed to win favor with the king to overturn the ridiculous law that was passed through Haman’s deceit. This was life or death. Esther sends back a message to Mordecai with her response:
[Est 4:15-17 ESV]15 Then Esther told them to reply to Mordecai, 16 “Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish.” 17 Mordecai then went away and did everything as Esther had ordered him.
Esther did indeed approach the king and the king miraculously extended his favor toward her and she exposed the heinous plot of Haman and that she was a Jew as well as her cousin Mordecai. The king was furious with what Haman had done and ordered that Haman be hung on the very gallows that were built for Mordecai on the 13th of Adar. Truly the scriptures speak loud and clear:
[Rom 8:28 ESV]28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
[Gen 50:20 KJV]20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; [but] God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as [it is]this day, to save much people alive.
[Psa 21:7-13 ESV]7 For the king trusts in the LORD, and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved. 8 Your hand will find out all your enemies; your right hand will find out those who hate you. 9 You will make them as a blazing oven when you appear. The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath, and fire will consume them. 10 You will destroy their descendants from the earth, and their offspring from among the children of man. 11 Though they plan evil against you, though they devise mischief, they will not succeed. 12 For you will put them to flight; you will aim at their faces with your bows. 13 Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power.
Whatever hardship you may be facing now please remember the story of Purim. Though it may seem dark and ominous and all hope gone, know that the story is not complete yet. God can turn your tragedy into triumph, your brokenness into boldness. Approach the King of Kings, Yeshua, today with boldness to obtain mercy and grace to help in your time of need.