The Celebration of Purim – Then and Now

esther_scroll_-_google_art_project-300x237Jews worldwide celebrated Purim last week, commemorating the survival of the Jewish people during their exile by the Persian Empire. The biblical narrative is found in the Book of Esther describing God’s saving grace in the face of a hideous plot to annihilate all the Jews of the Empire.

Following queen Vashti’s execution for disobeying King Xerxes’ command to appear in his public celebration (probably in the nude), a nationwide beauty pageant was launched to find a new wife. As the story continues, Esther, an orphaned Jewish girl raised by Mordechai, her relative, has entered the pageant, rose in the royal harem’s ranks, was selected to become the new wife, and won the king’s heart by her beauty and virtues. A Jewish maiden was now secretly serving as the Queen of the Persian Empire!

At the same time, Haman, one of the senior royal ministers and a descendant of Amalek, Israel’s ancient foe, hatched an evil plan to annihilate all the Jewish residents of Persia because of his hatred to Mordechai who refused to bow down to him. The king approved the evil plan and a proclamation was sent throughout the entire empire, signed with the royal seal, calling on the population to attack and annihilate their Jewish neighbors, men, woman and children.

Mordechai, in response, urged Esther to use her royal position and appeal to the king of behalf of the Jewish people. This act, according to Persian law, was very risky since no one was allowed to enter the king’s presence un-invited and could be executed for doing so. Remember, Queen Vashti lost her head because of NOT COMING when summoned; and now Queen Esther is being asked to risk her life by COMING un-summoned.

Esther accepted the call, prepared herself by fasting and praying for three days together with the rest of the Jewish Persian population, and then came to the King. Accepted by her husband, Esther then invited Haman to join her and the king for a special feast she would prepare for them. During that festive meal, king Xerxes asked Esther for her request, and, revealing her true identity as a Jewish maiden, she exposed Haman’s evil plot and asked for king’s protection upon her and her people. With swift judgment, the gallows Haman built to hang Mordechai on became his own demise.
Further, since according to Persian law the king could not annul his previous royal decree to annihilate the Jews, a second decree was now issued and sent throughout the entire empire permitting the Jewish people to assemble, defend themselves and destroy those seeking their harm.

On the 13th and 14th days of the biblical month of Adar, the Jewish people battled and destroyed their enemies, and on the 15th of Adar they celebrated their victory. Purim celebrates this great deliverance, Esther’s courage, Mordechai devotion and God’s faithfulness to His covenant people. And though pagan elements entered this celebration over the years, we can say with gratitude that Purim, however exactly it happened, secured the existence of the Jewish people and their return to the land of Israel so that Jesus the Messiah could come according to God’s promise!

The same spirit of anti-Semitic hatred and murder is emanating once again from Persia, which is modern Iran. And again, God’s people are poised for His great deliverance, mercy and grace.

Watch and pray,

Reuven Doron

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