The Feast of Purim is a celebration of the Jewish nation’s salvation from an evil plot conceived by a member of the court of the King of Persia, known in the Greek language as Xerses I (Khshayarsh in Persian; Ahasuerus in Hebrew). This attempt at holocaust arose sometime between 483-464 B.C., shortly after Xerses’ costly military victory at Thermopylae over the Spartans and the naval catastrophe at Salamis, driving him, according the ancient historian, Herodotus, to seek solace in his palace harem. (See Herodotus, The Histories, 450-420 B.C.; The Book of Esther; and M. Gaster Ph.D., The Chronicles of Jerahmeel, 1899).
The story begins when in the third year of his reign, King Xerxes held a huge, week long banquet at his palace following a six month war strategy summit with his top military generals. At some point in the feast he ordered his wife, Queen Vashti, to display herself before her husbands guests but she refuses resulting in her being demoted from her royal status. A nation wide beauty pageant is then held to fill Vashti’s position as queen.
All across the vast provinces of the empire perhaps hundreds of thousands of the fairest maidens came to the royal capital, Shushan. One of them, a beautiful and charming Jewish girl named Esther is eventually chosen. She would go on to become an unlikely hero by courageously risking her life and her vaulted status by defying royal protocol to rescue her people from certain extermination much like Noah, Lot, and Moses.
What is interesting is this tale of arrogance, vengeance, racism, court intrigue, and courage shows how though He isn’t referenced in it God never turns his back totally on his chosen people, especially when its a satanic threat to the messianic line (see Gen. 22:18).
It is celebrated yearly beginning at dusk on the thirteenth and fourteenth day of the month of Adar, or to us Gentiles in the year 2014, the 16th and 17th days of March. Since it is one of the seven major festivals of the Jewish nation, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, most certainly observed it with his earthly family.
If our Jewish friends seem to have an hint of a party like, or even inebriated state about them during this time don’t be concerned as the festival, though starting with a short fasting period, requires them to read the Book of Esther, eat, drink and be merry to commemorate the Lord’s helping their ancestors to turn the tables on the evil Haman and all those in on the plot with him.
“According to the Talmud, a person is required to drink until he cannot tell the difference between ‘cursed be Haman’ and ‘blessed be Mordecai,’ though opinions differ as to exactly how drunk that is. A person certainly should not become so drunk that he might violate other commandments or get seriously ill. In addition, recovering alcoholics or others who might suffer serious harm from alcohol are exempt from this obligation.” Tracey R. Rich, Judaism 101, jewfaq.org.
We are fortunate to have the Book of Esther. No one is quite sure who the author was but he or she knew Persian and Jewish etiquette and customs. It was written after King Xerses died, in 464 B.C., since 10:2-3, speaks of his reign in the past tense therefore the author was either an eyewitness to the events or he knew someone who was.
The moral of the story is the Lord may choose to punish the Jewish nation by giving them into the hands of their enemies whether it’s the Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Nazis, and Communists. He will also choose who will deliver them as He did with Noah, Lot and their families (Gen. 6-8 & 19:29); King David and his army (1 Sam. 23); Elijah (1 Kin. 17:2-6); the three Hebrew men from Nebuchadnezzar’s fiery furnace (Dan. 3:19-30); or Daniel from the lions (Dan. 6:1-24). Even today in the present day Middle East, there are those that intend to drive His people out of existence, but he will never completely forget them because the Lord is a god of his word. He will never go back on his promise that the seed of Abraham will be as the stars in the night sky (Gen. 15:5), and they shall inherit all of the land of ancient Canaan. (Gen. 13:14).
Take a close look at the nations that have nothing but hatred for the Jewish people. They are backward and primitive, constantly on the war path type peoples yet the citizens of Israel per capita are more prosperous and enjoy a modern society with freedoms their dedicated enemies will probably never have. It all goes back to the promise made to Abraham: “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:3).
It is my hope we Gentiles become more aware of, and better honor what our friends in the Jewish faith hold so dear. May this new awareness and respect for them enrich our understanding of Christ’s earthly walk, and our relationship with Him. May it also shorten the distance between our hearts and those of that special race of people He first declared to be his chosen.