Hebrew Roots/Holy Days/Purim/Overview
OVERVIEW OF THE FEAST OF PURIM
The Feast of Purim is not one of the seven feasts that Yahweh instituted at Mt. Sinai after Israel came out of Egypt but it became instituted as "a day of feasting and gladness" (Esther 9:18) after they were delivered from their enemies who sought to destroy them during the time they were in captivity in the province of Persia.
It was decreed through the leadership of Mordecai that the fourteenth and the fifteenth days of the month of Adar should be established as the time to celebrate their deliverance "as days of feasting and joy, of sending presents to one another and gifts to the poor." (Esther 9:22).
Alfred Edersheim, D.D., Ph.D., in his book The Temple (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.) states: “Besides the festivals mentioned in the law of Moses, other festive seasons were also observed at the time of our Lord, to perpetuate the memory either of great national deliverances or great national calamities (p. 330).” He also notes that the Messiah attended this ‘Feast of Purim.’ “There seems little doubt that this was the ‘feast of the Jews,’ to which the Savior ‘went up to Jerusalem’ when He healed the ‘impotent man’ at the Pool of Bethesda (p. 332).”
The account of Y'shua attendance of this feast is in John 5: 1-2 and not long afterward, the occurrence of Passover.
Dr. Edersheim believes it was the ‘Feast of Purim’ on the basis that this is the only feast day that occurs between December and March-April, the time of the Passover mentioned in John 6: 4.
In the account in the book of Esther, Ahasuerus was not the name of this Persian king, but a title. It means 'high father' or 'venerable king'. He ruled over a vast territory from India to Ethiopia and through the Fertile Crescent. The story begins with Ahasuerus hosting a great banquet, the reason of which was to secure support from his rulers for a military campaign to capture Greece. The Book of Esther gives the details of this banquet and the resulting events in his kingdom in relation to the Jewish people who were in exile there at that time. The Book of Esther, called the Megillah, is read in full in synagogues at Purim. The story tells how the Jews of Persia, modern day Iran, were saved from destruction by a beautiful Jewish girl named "Esther" whose Hebrew name was Hadassah which means star of the drama.
Esther, who kept her nationality and religion a secret, was chosen over many young women in the kingdom to become Ahasuerus' (Xerxes') Queen over Vashti who had been removed. However, as in many plays, there was an evil lurking behind the scenes. The government official, Haman (an Agagite), came up with a plan to require all servants to bow down to him. Esther's Uncle, Mordecai the Jew, who had raised her, refused to bow to any human. This refusal made Haman livid. To avenge his wounded pride Haman got the king to issue a proclamation for all the non-Jews to kill and take the property of the Jews by casting lots to determine the day on which they would do this. The 'lot' decreed the 13th of Adar as the day for the massacre of the Jews. (Esther 3: 8-13)
Mordecai found out about the edict and told Esther of the evil plan. Esther went before the king without first having been summoned, which could have resulted in a death sentence for her. Through a series of feasts, Esther brought the plan to the king's attention, and in the finale, the Jews were spared, and Haman was hanged.
There were two events which contributed to the evil plan being overturned. First, Mordecai had saved the king’s life from his two servants that plotted to kill him. So although Haman had a desire to hang Mordecai, the King in gratitude sought to reward him for this deed by bestowing a royal title on him (Esther6:1-10). Second, Esther the queen interceded for Israel by asking her husband, the king, to hang Haman for his treachery ( 7: 1-10). The king, Queen Esther, and Mordecai issued another proclamation superseding Haman’s decree (Esther 8: 7-11). Then on the 13th of Adar the Jews got their vengeance on their enemies instead of Haman destroying them (Esther 9: 1-15).
Mordecai the made his proclamation, which began the feast of Purim. “And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, both near and far, To establish this among them, that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same, yearly, as the days wherein the Jews had rest from their enemies, and the month which was turned unto them from sorrow to joy, and from mourning to a holiday: that they should make them days of feasting and joy, and of sending presents to one another, and gifts to the poor" (Esther 9:20-22).
Mordecai and Esther knew for certain that Haman’s decree was not an accident of history, but a consequence of failings within the Jewish people. That is why Mordecai’s response was that he " clothed himself in sackcloth and ashes and went out into the midst of the city." He turned to repentance, and urged the rest of the Jews to do likewise. Only then did he send Esther "to come to the King and entreat him and plead with him for her people." Esther was also repentant. She asked Mordecai to "Go and gather all the Jews . . . and they should fast for me, and neither eat nor drink for three days and nights." In addition, Esther included herself: "I also . . . will fast likewise." (Esther 4:16)
The spiritual reality of Purim is seen in Yahweh delivering Israel from certain death required by the Law of the Medes and the Persians. And, indeed, Purim perpetuates the memory of all of Israel's great national calamities and deliverance's in which He has delivered them when they have turned to Him in repentance and in prayer.
The basis of the offense against the Jews was centered around the fact that they followed different laws and customs to the nation in which they resided. While living in their own land they had the liberty to live according to the pattern that Yahweh had given them. Now outside of the covenant land as a result of their previous disobedience, they were unprotected and they were reaping the consequence of their disobedience as a nation. (Jeremiah 24:9-10)
All of God's people outside of Israel, live by different standards to the society in which they reside, the extent of which depends upon the culture and the laws of the land. In the event of ethnic cleansing occurring in our society, all of those who are of a different lifestyle, all true followers of the God of the Bible, will be affected.
The anti-Semitism shown in the book of Esther is religiously based and is an instance of the spirit of Antichrist rising up against the people of God, the sons of Greece against the sons of Zion (Zechariah 9:13). This anti-Semitism has continued down through the ages and originates from the pit of hell. "They have said, 'Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance'" (Psalm 83: 4)
The Jewish people have faced elimination many times through ancient, and modern societies and this will continue until the final confrontation of the forces of darkness with our triumphant Redeemer.
The name Purim is derived from the word 'pur', which is not Hebrew, but Persian, for “the lots” which Haman, cast concerning the Jews’ fate while they were in Persia (Esther 3: 6). This is celebrated on the 14th and 15th of the month of Adar as it was originally instituted and this is expressed by acts of human kindness, the giving of gifts, feasting and joyfulness. Friends and relatives gave gifts to one another, novelties are given to children, alms are given to the poor. (Esther 9:19-23)
It has become traditional to do these things on Purim --
- Listening to the reading of Esther (the Megillah) in the evening and again in the morning.
- Sending a 'Mishloach' package (a hamper of two or more prepared foods) to family or a friend.
- Giving gifts to the poor.
- Fasting from before sunrise on the day leading up to the feast until 40 mins. after sunset.
- Reciting "Al Hanisim" in prayer and in grace after the evening festive meal.
- "AL HANISIM" -- "And we thank You for the miracles, and for the salvation, and for the mighty deeds, and for the victories, and for the battles which You performed for our forefathers in those days, at this time."
- Using noisemakers (Groggers) during the reading of the Megillah. Every time the name of Haman is mentioned, everyone boos, hisses, stamps their feet, and twirls their groggers to erase the memory of his name. When the name Mordecai is mentioned, the people cheer.
- To re-enact the drama of the events, in role play.
- Eating a festive meal at the end of the day, in which Hamantaschen ("Haman’s pockets) is the traditional food." These are triangle-shaped sweet cookies of fruit and poppy seed mixture, in the shape of the hat which Haman wore.
- Work is allowed on these days if they do not fall on Shabbat.