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Many Christians are familiar with the Book of Esther and how she saved the Jewish people from the wicked Haman. You may know how Mordecai convinced her to take action by telling her she may have been born ‘for such a time as this’. But as a Christian, do you know how this Book of the Bible connects to the Jewish Festival of Purim?
Well, sit back and learn all about this awesome festival that is one of my favorites!!
The Festival of Purim
The festival of Purim is celebrated every year on the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar. It commemorates and celebrates the defeat of Haman’s plot to, according to the Book of Esther (known as the Megillah):
“destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.”
Esther 3:13 NIV
While Purim is celebrated on the 14th day of Adar, Haman’s plot to kill the Jewish people was actually the 13th day. Each year, the Festival of Purim serves as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to His people.
For Such a Time as This – Exploring the Book of Esther
In the 3rd year of the reign of King Ahasuerus, the king made a feast for himself, his officials, servants, nobles. The king reigned over 27 provinces so you can only imagine how elaborate this feast was.
He had spent 128 days showing off his kingdom and then held the feast!
He went all out; the finest furnishings, wine served in golden cups where no two were alike!
The king had a beautiful queen named Vashti. She also gave a feast in the palace for the women at this time.
On the 7th day, the king ordered his eunuchs to bring Vashti before him with her crown on her head. He wanted to show off his queen and her beauty!
But, Vashti refused to be summoned. She did not come to the king.
The King’s Dilemma
The king has a real public relations dilemma on his hands here! How can he respond to this obvious (and very public) refusal?
He speaks to his wise men who, the Bible tells us, are all too familiar with the King’s temperament.
He asks them what to do about Vashti.
The wise men remind the king that basically everyone witnessed this refusal and if this was not dealt with then all the women will think they can just go around defying their husbands! They felt it would be a situation of “well if the queen did it, so can we!”
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So they suggest to the king that she be cast out and stripped of her role of queen.
The king agrees and he then sends a letter out to everyone making sure that it is understood by all that basically the man is the master of his home!
So now the King is short a queen and he decides he needs to find one.
So in sort of an ancient version of The Bachelor, he chooses to essentially have a pageant of sorts. All these beautiful women from across his kingdom are brought in to the women’s quarters in Shushan in the citadel, given beauty treatments, and would each appear before the King.
In Shushan was Mordecai, a Jew. Mordecai had a cousin, Hadassah (which is the Hebrew name for Esther ) who he had raised as she had been orphaned.
Esther was also taken and placed in the care of one of the eunuchs who was in charge of all the women. Mordecai had warned Esther not to reveal that she was a Jew. It was as though Mordecai knew having a Jewish queen in place would be ‘for such a time as this’ when the Jewish people needed her.
She became a favorite of Hegai the eunuch so he ensured she received the finest treatment, including beauty treatments beyond what the others received. God had bestowed favor on Esther.
She finally appears before the king who loved her above the others and he crowns Esther queen.
Some time later, Mordecai was told of a plot by two of the king’s eunuchs to kill the king. So he relayed this information to Esther, who then tells the king of this plot on behalf of Mordecai.
The king had a servant named Haman who had received great promotion and high position. He was above all of the king’s court and essentially number two in the kingdom.
Everyone would bow down to Haman, but not Mordecai. Mordecai only bowed before God.
When Haman learned of this and that Mordecai was a Jew, Haman sought to destroy, not only Mordecai but all the Jews!
Lots (known as “purs”) were cast to determine the day that this plot would be carried out. It was to be the 13th day of Adar.
Then Haman goes to the king to inform him of these people who set themselves apart from the people and the king’s laws. He basically paints them as being rebellious against the king and his rule.
He convinced the king to destroy them by paying people a bounty!
Letters were sent out, sealed with the king’s signet, to all the provinces instructing them to destroy, kill, and completely rid the land of the Jews regardless of age or gender.
Esther Learns of Haman’s Plot
Mordecai learns of this decree and he tears his clothes and puts on sackcloth and ashes and then goes out into the city.
News reached Esther of her cousin so she sent clothes to Mordecai to remove his sackcloth but he refused to accept the clothing.
So Esther sends one of the king’s eunuchs to find out what was happening and why Mordecai was in sackcloth and ashes.
Mordecai tells the eunuch of the plot and gives him a copy of the decree. He wanted Esther to go in to the king to plead for her people. But Esther sent a message to Mordecai to remind him that anyone who goes to the inner court of the king without being summoned was to be put to death.
For Such a Time as This
Mordecai reminds HER that she too is a Jew and she is also a target of this decree. The palace and her position offered her no protection. The king could not defy his own decree if it was discovered that Esther was a Jew regardless of being queen.
Mordecai also informs her that God may in essence send help to the Jews but not to her or her family legacy if she fails to take action.
He reminds her that God may have placed her in the role she is in for such a time as this!
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. 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?” ESV
For such a time as this! Do we look at where God has us placed, at our trials and difficulties and wonder if He is using us for such a time as this as He did with Esther? Oh to have that faith in all we go through!
So Queen Esther chooses to go to the king. She tells Mordecai to go to all the Jews in Shushan and have them fast for her, as she would also be doing, and if she dies going in to the king then she dies.
Queen Esther’s Banquets
Esther goes in to the king and the Bible tells us she found favor with him. He wasn’t angered by her appearance before him without being summoned. In fact, he even asks her what she would like from him, up to half the kingdom, and she tells him she would like to invite him and Haman to a banquet.
Haman’s ego certainly was piqued by her request and the king and Haman attend this banquet.
The king enjoys the banquet Esther prepared for them and asks her again, what would she like from him. She tells him she would like them to attend another banquet to be held the next day.
Haman’s ego is now on full throttle and he tells ALL his friends and family that, other than the king, Esther invited no one else but Him. However, on his way home to tell them this news he ran into Mordecai. Haman tells his friends and family that regardless of ALL his good fortune, it is ruined by the sight of Mordecai!
They decide, at the suggestion of his wife to erect a gallows, and that he should suggest to the king that Mordecai be hanged on it and then go on and enjoy the banquet!
For Such a Time as This – Honoring Mordecai
However, insomnia would prove to be Haman’s undoing. You see, that night the king has a tough time sleeping so he calls for his book of records to be brought in and read to him! That would put me to sleep too!!
And when it is read, it revisits the time the plot to kill the king was discovered and revealed by Mordecai.
The king then asks his officials what was done for Mordecai for this act that saved the king. He is told nothing had been done for Mordecai.
So he summons none other than Haman who was in the court at the time and, without mentioning Mordecai by name, asks Haman what should be done to honor a man.
Haman, in all his narcissism, assumes it could be no one but him! So he tells the king that a royal robe that had been worn by the king, and a horse which the king had ridden and has a royal crest on its head be brought to that man and he should be paraded before all the people in the city so everyone can see how much the king honors him.
So the king tells Haman to hurry and go do all these things for the Jew, Mordecai!
Not only did Haman have to witness this being done for Mordecai, but he had to lead him through the city himself!!
Oh I can only imagine his rage!
For Such a Time as This – The Defeat of Haman and the Saving of the Jewish People
Haman, like a jealous child, goes home and complains to his family yet again! But his seething is cut short when the king’s eunuchs come to bring him to Queen Esther’s second banquet.
At the banquet the king asks her again what she desires from him and Esther begins to tearfully beg and plead for her life and the life of her people because…
“For I and my people have been sold to be destroyed, killed and annihilated. 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.” Esther 7:4 NIV
The king demands to know who would dare to think to do this to his queen and her people and Esther points at Haman!
Haman is then taken and hanged on the very same gallows that had been erected for Mordecai. His family is executed, as are thousands of would-be attackers.
The king then gave all that had belonged to Haman to his Queen Esther and appointed Mordecai over the House of Haman.
Purim was mandated to be commemorated each year!
Haman was defeated and the Jewish people saved!
For Such a Time as This: About the Festival of Purim
Purim means ‘lots’ in Hebrew, tying in to the lots that were cast to choose the date to carry out the plot against the Jewish people.
The festival of Purim is a joyous holiday that celebrates and commemorates the saving of the Jewish people from the wicked Haman and his plot to annihilate them.
It is a day full of fun and celebration, but it is also a day of charity as it is written in Esther 9:22:
“…as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor.” NIV
Costumes are worn during the festival of Purim, particularly in Israel (and oh they get elaborate with some costumes!!).
With the events of Purim, we don’t see a “visible miracle” per se, like the parting of the Red Sea, but God’s hand is clearly at work, behind the scenes, bringing His plan to fruition.
To commemorate that, the costumes are worn to “hide oneself”, giving the appearance of one thing while something else is beneath the surface! Just like there was the “appearance” of doom for the Jews but God had a plan at work!
Here is one of my all-time favorite costumes from Israel! Yes, music and all!
Purim Recipes – Food and Drink
Poppy seeds are a staple when it comes to Purim foods! It is said that Esther, in order to hide the fact that she was Jewish, ate a vegetarian diet so that she did not have to worry about the dietary requirements of the Law. Seeds would have been an important part of this diet! But that is oral tradition and is not backed up in scripture!
There are also party foods and cookouts! It is just a day to eat and yes, in Judaism many do drink! In fact there is a “mandate” in the Talmud: “a person is obligated to drink on Purim until he can no longer distinguish between cursed is Haman and blessed is Mordecai” (B. Meggilah 7b).
However, many do understand that drunkenness is never a good idea and drink responsibly!
The Book of Esther is read and every time the name “Haman” is mentioned, a lot of noise is made to drown it out! Often graggers, or noismakers, are used to make as much noise as possible.
When Mordecai’s name is read, everyone cheers!
In Israel, it is customary to see parades held! It is a major celebration and all of Israel takes part in the various festivities!
Festival of Purim – A Great Biblical Alternative to Halloween!
The fun of the festival of Purim with its costumes and food and noisemakers is also a great alternative to those who do not celebrate Halloween with their children in the United States, due to its origins! It gives children a chance to experience the costumes and treats associated with the festival of Purim.
It also teaches them the Book of Esther and they learn of God’s faithfulness, all while having just as much fun as any Halloween party could provide!
And they can also learn that God can and will use them in their lives to do amazing things! No matter what we go through in life, we should always look and see that God can be using us in our circumstances ‘for such a time as this’!
How Christians Can Connect to the Festival of Purim to Celebrate With Jewish Friends
For a Christian, you can connect to Purim by understanding that a deeper part of the festival of Purim is that it is a day to remember how God is always faithful to His people and how, no matter where we are or what challenges we face, God may be using us ‘for such a time as this’.
We never know who our lives are affecting or saving through where God has us positioned!
Like Esther, let us all always strive to face fear and trust in God!
The festival of Purim begins at sundown on March 20, 2019 and ends at sundown on March 21, 2019! Why not celebrate God’s faithfulness to His people and have a Purim party!!? If you do, I would love to see your photos!
Here is a video showing a bit of what the festival of Purim is like in Israel! Keep in mind, this is Purim so there IS wine!! But this is fun video that shows some of the various celebrations!
Incidentally, the baby in the video is named Hadassah, which means Esther!
How awesome is it that all of this is to celebrate God and His work in the lives of His people, for such a time as this?
Have you ever celebrated the Festival of Purim? Do you plan to learn more about it? Share in the comments!
Chag Purim Sameach! L’Chaim!
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Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™