Purim – Celebrating God’s Deliverance

purim

In a time when Israel faces the greatest Existential threat by almost all its neighbors, the story of Purim could not be more relevant. Only when you understand the position of Israel both historically and geographically, you can truly understand what’s really happening today. No other nation on earth are bombarded by tyranny and hatred as the nation of Israel. Purim gives us an opportunity to see through the eyes of history what the Jewish people dealt with throughout their existence. The Feast of Purim is a Jewish holiday in celebration of the deliverance of the Jews as recorded in the book of Esther. It is also known as the Feast of Lots (Purim being the Hebrew word for “lots”). The feast is not mentioned in the New Testament, although scholars believe the unnamed feast of could be Purim. Purim is one of the most joyous and fun holidays on the Jewish calendar. It commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination.

History

Like Hanukkah, the Feast of Purim is a minor feast and it has developed into more of a national holiday than a religious one, although it starts with specific prayers and a reading of the book of Esther. The story of Purim is told in the Biblical book of Esther The heroes of the story are Esther, a beautiful young Jewish woman living in Persia, and her cousin Mordecai, who raised her as if she were his daughter. Acting on advice from his counselors, king Ahasuerus held a pageant to choose a new queen. Mordecai, a Jewish man living in Shushan, encouraged his cousin, Esther, to enter the competition. Esther won but, following the advice of her cousin, did not reveal her Jewish origin to the king. Esther was taken to the house of Ahasuerus, King of Persia, to become part of this pageant, and he loved her more than his other women and made her queen. But the king did not know that Esther was a Jew, because Mordecai told her not to reveal her nationality. Mordecai often sat near the gate of the king’s palace. One day he overheard two men, Bigthan and Teresh, plotting to kill the king. Mordechai reported what he had heard to Esther. She then reported the information to the king. The matter was investigated and found to be true, and Bigthan and Teresh came to an unfortunate end. Mordecai’s deed was recorded in the king’s diary.

Meanwhile, the villain of the story is Haman, an arrogant, egotistical adviser to the king. Haman hated Mordecai because he refused to bow down to Haman, so Haman plotted to destroy the Jewish people. In a speech that is all too familiar to Jews, Haman told the king, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of thy kingdom; and their laws are diverse from those of every people; neither keep they the king’s laws; therefore it does not profit the king to suffer them.”Esther 3:8. The king gave the fate of the Jewish people to Haman, to do as he pleased to them. Haman planned to exterminate all of the Jews. To set the date of the genocide, Haman uses lots, or Purim.

Mordecai persuaded Esther to speak to the king on behalf of the Jewish people. This was a dangerous thing for Esther to do, because anyone who came into the king’s presence without being summoned could be put to death, and she had not been summoned. Esther fasted for three days to prepare herself, then went into the king. He welcomed her. Later, she told him of Haman’s plot against her people. The king cannot revoke the decree to attack the Jews, but he does issue a new decree allowing the Jews to defend themselves. As a result, Haman and his family are executed, and the Jews kill 75,000 would-be attackers. The Jewish people were saved, and Haman was hanged on the gallows that had been prepared for Mordecai. To memorialize the victory, Mordecai institutes the Feast of Purim to be celebrated every year (Esther 9:26-32).

The book of Esther is unusual in that it is the only book of the bible that does not contain the name of God. In fact, it includes virtually no reference to God. Mordecai makes a vague reference to the fact that the Jews will be saved by someone else, if not by Esther, but that it the closest the book comes to mentioning God. Thus, one important message that can be gained from the story is that God often works in ways that are not apparent, in ways that appear to be chance, coincidence or ordinary good luck.

Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of Adar, which is usually in March. The 14th of Adar is the day that Haman chose for the extermination of the Jews. In leap years, when there are two months of Adar, Purim is celebrated in the second month of Adar, so it is always one month before Passover. In cities that were walled in the time of Joshua, Purim is celebrated on the 15th of the month, because the book of Esther says that in Shushan (a walled city), deliverance from the massacre was not complete until the next day. The word “Purim” means “lots” and refers to the lottery that Haman used to choose the date for the massacre.

The Purim holiday is preceded by a minor fast, the Fast of Esther, which commemorates Esther’s three days of fasting in preparation for her meeting with the king. The primary commandment related to Purim is to hear the reading of the book of Esther. The book of Esther is commonly known as the Megillah, which means ‘scroll’. Although there are five books of Jewish scripture that are properly referred to as megillahs (Esther, Ruth, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and Lamentations), this is the one people usually mean when the speak of The Megillah. It is customary to boo, hiss, stamp feet and rattle gragers (noisemakers; see illustration) whenever the name of Haman is mentioned in the service. The purpose of this custom is to “blot out the name of Haman.”

In addition, we are commanded to send out gifts of food or drink, and to make gifts to charity. The sending of gifts of food and drink is referred to as shalach manos (lit. sending out portions). Among Ashkenazic Jews, a common treat at this time of year is hamentaschen (lit. Haman’s pockets). There are many explanations as to why we eat these tri-cornered pastries on Purim, including that they are meant to represent Haman’s hat, or ears.  Nobody knows for sure how these sweets became so heavily associated with Purim, but we do know that similar cookies known as Mohntaschen were popular in 18th century Europe, and they were adopted around this time as a Purim treat by European Jewish families. It is speculated that these cookies became a traditional Purim food because the word “Mohn,” of Mohntaschen, sounds similar to the name Haman. This association caught on, and soon the cookies were simply known as hamentaschen.  During the 19th century the cookies spread to America and the rest of the world, and have remained a Purim staple every since.

It is customary to hold carnival-like celebrations on Purim, to perform plays and parodies, and to hold beauty contests. The idea of celebrating a deliverance has extended to smaller communities and even individual families. Jewish towns and families who experience miraculous deliverance from persecution have been known to enact their own annual celebration, called a “local Purim” or “personal Purim.” Often, Jewish and Messianic Jewish communities will open their Feast of Purim to the public.

The Prophetic Significance of Purim

It is important to also understand that just as Haman plotted the demise of the Jewish people in the Persian Empire, the same thing is being repeated today. In case you did not know, modern day Persia is the country of Iran. The leaders of Iran are constantly plotting the destruction of Israel today, with chants like “Death to Israel”, and “elimate the zionist regime.” A new document by Iran’s supreme leader calling for the elimination of Israel shows that world powers must not rush into a deal on the country’s nuclear program despite an upcoming deadline, Israel’s Prime Minister said on Monday. “There is no moderation in Iran. It is unrepentant, unreformed, it calls for Israel’s eradication, it promotes international terrorism,” Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

The Midrash of Esther, unlike many other holidays, will be celebrated even after the final redemption after the end of days. This is because the story of Purim – i.e god’s covenantal faithfulness and defense of His people will be magnified in the deliverance that leads to the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom on earth. Indeed, the Second Coming of the Messiah will be regarded as the final fulfillment of Purim.

Also, Haman himself is clearly a type of Anti-christ who desires to see the Jewish people annihilated once and for all. In the New Testament we know that there is soon one who is the embodiment of the spirit of Haman, and of Hitler, and all other anti-Jewish murderers throughout history. This is the “man of sin” or  son of perdition (2 Thes. 2:3), who will broker peace in the Middle East and pretend to be friendly to Israel, but will ultimately betray Israel and seek to have the Jewish people ultimately destroyed.

Satan’s final attempt to provide the ultimate final solution will be foiled, just as Haman’s attempt was. His plan will boomerang upon his own head, just as Haman’s did upon him. Then Satan and all his children will hang from the gallows, just as Haman and his children did. When Yeshua returns at the end of the Great Tribulation, He will destroy the Anti-christ by the word of His power and physically deliver Israel as her rightful King. Israel’s long awaited Mashiach will be clearly revealed and understood to be the Messiah himself. Then and only then, will Israel experience true peace and the salvation of God, and the rejoicing of that Purim will be like none other.

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