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Many people are familiar with the Book of Esther in the Bible and how she saved the Jewish people from the wicked Haman. You may know the famous statement “Perhaps you were made for such a time as this” (paraphrased of course). But if you are a Christian, do you know how this Book of the Bible connects to the Jewish Festival of Purim and what lessons from Esther we can all learn?
As a Jewish believer myself, I invite you to sit back and learn all about this awesome festival that is one of my favorites, as well as maybe learning some new things about the Book of Esther in the Bible!!
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):
“Letters were sent by courier to all the royal provinces “to destroy, kill and exterminate all Jews, from young to old, including small children and women, on a specific day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to seize their goods as plunder.”
Esther 3:13 CJB
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.
Lessons From Esther – The Backstory
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!”
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 who we know as Esther in the Bible) 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.
You Were Born For Such a Time as This
Mordecai sends word to remind 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 sends her word 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!
“Don’t suppose that merely because you happen to be in the royal palace you will escape any more than the other Jews.
For if you fail to speak up now, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from a different direction;
but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows whether you didn’t come into your royal position precisely for such a time as this.” CJB
You were made for such a time as this. For such a time as right now. Do we look at where God has us placed at this very moment, at our trials and difficulties, and wonder if He is using us for such a time as this as He did with Esther in the Bible? 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!
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!
Moral Lessons From the Book of Esther – 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 we have been sold, I and my people, for destruction, slaughter and annihilation. If we had simply been sold as male and female slaves, I would have remained silent, for such distress would not be worth disturbing the king.” Esther 7:4 TLV
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!
The Celebration of 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:
“…[to commemorate] the days on which the Jews obtained rest from their enemies and the month which for them was turned from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; they were to make them days of celebrating and rejoicing, sending portions [of food] to each other and giving gifts to the poor.” CJB
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 in the Bible 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!
Purim is certainly a fun day, often referred to as the Mardi Gras of Israel and celebrated by everyone from the secular to the Orthodox!
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 Your Jewish Friends
For the 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 February 25, 2021 and ends at sundown on February 26, 2021! Why not celebrate God’s faithfulness to His people and attend a Purim party with your Jewish friends!!? 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! And remember, when facing life’s trials, perhaps like Esther you were made for such a time as this!
Chag Purim Sameach! L’Chaim!
Tree of Life (TLV) – Scripture taken from the Holy Scriptures, Tree of Life Version*. Copyright © 2014,2016 by the Tree of Life Bible Society. Used by permission of the Tree of Life Bible Society.
CJB – Taken from the Complete Jewish Bible by David H. Stern. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Messianic Jewish Publishers, 6120 Day Long Lane, Clarksville, MD 21029. www.messianicjewish.net.
Originally published December 27, 2019