The Book of Esther is an all but forgotten book in most Christian circles-but every year, at Purim, the story is read and celebrated in synagogues. Celebrations include reading a Megillah- a small scroll that contains a book of the Bible. As the book of Esther is read, the people make loud noises as the good and bad characters in the story are mentioned. They applaud the name of Mordecai and boo Haman. Children dress in costumes like the characters, presents are given, and much food and drink is consumed.
Purim is not listed with Israel’s feasts in Leviticus 23. Nonetheless, it is based on the Biblical story of Queen Esther and tells of the demise of a wicked man named Haman. Purim is a time for the Father’s people to rejoice in His ability to save them from their enemies.
The enemy in this story is Haman, a descendant of Amalek. King Saul was supposed to kill all of the Amalekites when he conquered them, but he spared their king, Agag. This refusal to totally annihilate the Amalekites cost Saul his kingdom. YHVH had devoted them to destruction and not one of them was to be spared. These attackers of Israel were such a serious threat that Gideon wanted reassurance from the Almighty before he would engage them in battle. King David, too, later had to fight with them (Leviticus 27:28-29; Numbers 14:25,43,45; Judges 6:3,33; 7:12; 1 Samuel 13:13-14; 15:18-24; 27:8; 30:1,18; 2 Samuel 1:1). When King Saul had met them in battle, he did not kill off their king, and they consequently continued to plague Israel. By the time of Queen Esther, one of their heirs, Haman, had become an official in the court of King Ahasuerus in ancient Persia.
The story of Esther tells of Queen Vashti, who refused to go to a banquet hosted by King Ahasuerus (or Xerxes). She was consequently banished, and Ahasuerus began to search for a new queen. Among the contestants was young Esther, a beautiful orphaned Hebrew girl from the tribe of Judah. Mordecai was her uncle, and he had taken Esther under his wing.
It is interesting to note that, when Esther first came to the king’s court to be prepared to meet the king, she was placed under the care of Hegai, who was the king’s eunuch, meaning, his valet, his “helper,” if you will. And, when Esther’s turn came to be examined by King Ahasuerus, she asked to be arrayed only in what Hegai, the king’s eunuch/helper suggested for her. So it was that Esther won the favor of everyone who saw her (Esther 2:15).
The king’s helper knew what the king liked. Esther wisely listened to his counsel and thus won the king’s heart. Similarly, the Holy Spirit is the “Helper” of our King, Messiah Yeshua (John 16:7). And, we would do well to similarly ask His Helper to clothe us in the way that He knows is best for us. Then, our appearance will be pleasing in the eyes of our King.
Returning to our story, we see that Haman was a powerful man who liked the praise of men, and to have them bow before him. But, Mordecai, the Jew, who daily sat by the king’s gate, refused to bow before Haman.
Angered by Mordecai’s refusal to submit to his ways, Haman plotted to have King Ahasuerus authorize a royal decree calling for the death of an unspecified nation-one that Haman claimed was not being “loyal” to the king. Haman then casts lots, or dice, to determine the day for this planned annihilation. The Hebrew word for lots is “pur,” and the name Purim comes from this casting.
Thus a day was set to annihilate the Jewish people. Hearing of this evil plan, both Mordecai and Esther asked their fellow Jews to join them in fasting and prayer. Esther then took her life in her hands, by appearing unannounced before her king. Her plan was to reveal Haman’s hidden plot to destroy her people. To accomplish this, she invited both the king and Haman to join her for a special dinner.
After the dinner, the king was so pleased with Esther that he offered her up to half of his kingdom. Had Esther not been a spiritual woman, her head might have been turned with such an earthly temptation, but Esther wanted something greater than earthly possessions. She wanted to save her people. So, she simply asked that the King and Haman might return for dinner the next day.
That night, Haman ordered workers to build a gallows on which he planned to have Mordecai hung the next day. But, unbeknownst to Haman, King Ahasuerus was not able to sleep that night, so he had his servants read to him from the chronicles of his reign. Thus, he was reminded of a story about Mordecai-who had discovered and exposed an assassination plot against the king. Mordecai had saved the king’s life and Ahasuerus wondered if he had ever been properly rewarded for his loyalty.
In the morning, Haman appeared before the king, his heart full of a murderous plot. But, before he could say anything, Ahasuerus asked Haman how he thought someone who had saved the kings life should be rewarded. Vainly thinking the king was speaking of him, Haman suggested that the person should be wrapped in one of the king’s royal robes, placed on one of his horses, have a royal crest placed on its head, and be led about the kingdom by one of the king’s most noble princes.
“Excellent,” said the king. “Go at once and do this for Mordecai the Jew who sits at the king’s gate.”
So it is that Haman had to acknowledge Mordecai and the fact that he was greatly esteemed by the king of the realm.
That twist of fate alone should have been enough to stop Haman. He was even warned by his family to stop, but Haman had murder in his heart. He would not be satisfied with anything less than the total annihilation of anyone who would not bow before his boastful spirit.
That night, the king and Haman went to dine with Queen Esther, and once again, the king asked her, “What is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be granted.”
Esther answered, “If I have found favor with you, O king, and if it pleases your majesty, grant me my life-this is my petition. And spare my people-this is my request. For I and my people have been sold for destruction and slaughter and annihilation. If we had merely been sold as male and female slaves, I would have kept quiet, because no such distress would justify disturbing the king.”
The king then asked, “Who is he? Where is the man who has dared to do such a thing?”
Esther answered, “The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman.”
Haman was terrified. The king, being in a rage, strode out into the palace garden, and Haman then began to beg Queen Esther for his life. Then, as the king was returning to the banquet hall, Haman was falling on the couch where Esther was reclining. This caused the king to exclaim, “Will he even molest the queen while she is with me in the house?”
Due to this “death-worthy” act, one of the kings attendants said, “A gallows seventy-five feet high stands by Haman’s house. He had it made for Mordecai, who spoke up to help the king.”
The king replied, “Hang him on it!” So they hanged Haman on the gallows he had so gleefully prepared for Mordecai.
Haman was hanged on the exact gallows that he had built for Mordecai. Furthermore, that same day, the king gave to Esther, Haman’s estate. And, she told the king how she was related to Mordecai. With this news, the king took off his signet ring, which he had reclaimed from Haman, and he presented it to Mordecai. And, Esther then appointed Mordecai as the ruler over Haman’s estate.
Next, Esther pleaded with the king to put an end to Haman’s evil plan to destroy the Jews in all of the king’s provinces. So, he told her to “write another decree in the king’s name in behalf of the Jews as seems best to you, and seal it with the king’s signet ring-for no document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring can be revoked.” A decree was thus written in the king’s name that granted to the Jews the right to annihilate any armed force that might attack them and their women and children; and to plunder the property of their enemies.
The day appointed for the Jews to do this was the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar.
That day, Mordecai left the king’s presence wearing royal garments of blue and white, a large crown of gold and a purple robe of fine linen. And, the king’s city of Susa held a joyous celebration. For the Jews it was a time of happiness and honor. In every province there was feasting and celebrating. And, in that day, many of the people became Jews because they feared them and their God-who was so obviously protecting them.
Thus was sorrow turned to joy, and a time of mourning into a feast day.
This is truly an awesome story of deliverance, yet, some people have little regard for the Book of Esther because the name of God is not found in its pages. While His “name” is not mentioned, we clearly see His mighty right arm of protection in action (Psalm 98:2; Isaiah 56:1). His name may not be written in the text, but signs of His salvation abound in the story.
We therefore suggest that Purim celebrations can be times for us to proclaim the good news of the salvation of our God. They can be times when we rejoice and know that our God will protect us from attacks from the enemy.
All of us have had, or perhaps are presently having, times when we need to be delivered from our enemies. But let us trust that, like Mordecai and Esther, our God can save us.
Some enemies are more evil in their intent than others. Some are like Haman, they want our destruction and will not be happy with anything less. But, our enemies do not scare our God. He can turn the tables on perverse people in the blink of a eye. He can cause the destruction once planned for others to be used against the perpetrator.
People can appear to be “Nobles in the Court,” when in reality, they have evil intent toward those who will not bow before their ignoble claims. We need to trust that they will one day be brought to justice. We need to rest in the fact that, one day they will fall, and their wickedness will be exposed.
As we celebrate Purim and tell this story about Israel’s deliverance, let us determine the following in our hearts:
When we hear the name of Haman, if we have any hatred in our hearts for others, let us “boo” it away. If we know brethren who are walking in destructive hatred, let us seek to privately counsel them to repent and be healed before it is too late.
When we hear the name of Mordecai, let us “applaud” his many good traits: taking care of orphans, refusing to bow to evil, and repenting with fasting when he hears of the evil plans of others against him.
When we hear the name of Queen Esther, let us “applaud” her many good traits. Let us acknowledge this Queen for having been more concerned with the well-being of her family than with having position or possessions. Most of all, let us applaud her for being wise enough to want the king’s helper to dress her; and, let us determine in our hearts that we, too, want our “King’s Helper” to clothe us in a way that will please our King, Messiah Yeshua. Let us determine in our hearts that we want to yield to the Almighty’s Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit).
We Wish You a Blessed Purim!
Angus and Batya
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