The Celebration of Purim

 

We have come to the discussion of the annual celebration of Purim that is celebrated on the 14th and 15th of Adar. For those in the rural areas it is the 14th while for those in the city it is the 15th. This is due to the extra day of fighting in the city of Susa, the city of the king in the time of the events.

They are days of rejoicing and celebration. Life has been granted. Life can once again be lived and lived to the full so there was feasting. God is praised and worshiped. The people once again begin to love, help and look out for each other’s daily needs in life. That is why they share portions of food – a daily need – with each other.

Mordecai then steps in again and with the power and position God has given him writes down the events and also sends a letter to all the Jews in the kingdom of Xerxes, even those in Israel, to instruct them to hold this celebration annually. They were to be remembered as days when mourning and sorrow were turned to gladness. God had given them rest from their enemies, true rest – a Sabbath rest. Yes, God is the one who gives rest, rest from work, rest from sin, rest from our enemies and from death – rest, peace and safety. This rest allowed them (and us) to live life the way God had always intended, truly devoted to Him, loving Him, worshiping Him and loving others. This life put Him and His kingdom first and seeks after His treasures.

The Jews were now free to live that life once again. Mordecai wants to make sure they understand that these days need to be remembered. However, full and complete rest had not yet come, the poor were (and are) still among them so Mordecai also calls on them to celebrate this rests with gifts to the poor.

As for the Jews, they did adhere to the words of Mordecai. They were thankful for his position in the kingdom and they praised God for it. In other words, they were not jealous of the position God had given him. God had done it for a reason just as He had with Joseph.

Judgment came to Haman, the enemy of the Jews, and to his son’s on the authority of the king. Our enemy and all his sons will also be defeated and judged by our King. Just as Haman’s schemes were turned on him so will the schemes of Satan be turned on him. Haman had used the pur, the lot, to decide the time and so the time would be named Purim. Only what the enemy meant for death and distruction would now be used for life and celebration. (Romans 8:28)

So because of what Mordecai had written to them and because of what they had seen and experienced themselves the Jews established and received this celebration for themselves, their seed and for all who allied themselves to them (all those who became Jews – for us this would be all of those brought into the nation of Israel as adopted sons and daughters by the blood of Yeshua our Messiah, our King). They would hold this celebration annually. The days of Purim were not to pass away or the memory of these days and from among their seed.

Then Queen Esther and Mordechai wrote with full authority of the kingdom another letter to the Jews. In other words, this was an official letter of court, of the court of Persia. This official letter was one of peace and truth regarding the events. Notice this, it was a letter of peace and truth, not one of confusion and lies. Yes, there would come a day when some would attempt to rewrite history and tell lies, but Queen Esther and Mordechai did everything within their power to make sure the truth was told all throughout the kingdom of the king.

Also, take note that the days of Purim were also entered into the official court records and that the Queen and Mordechai were not asking the rest of the Jews to do anything they themselves or their seed were not doing. Queen Esther and Mordechai knew these days well and had experienced the full brunt of them. They knew that not only were they now days of celebration, but also that many days of fasting and lamentation had preceded these days of celebration. They had been on their knees before God Almighty and he had heard their cry for help and they also wanted to make sure everyone remembered that as well. That is why they also gave instructions for the Jews to have days of fasting and lamentation before celebrating the festival of Purim, which they still do today. All of these customs for the celebration of Purim were established at the command of Queen Esther and written in the book. I believe the book that is spoken of here is the book we know of as Esther. That’s right, I believe the book known as Esther was written at her command and therefore bears her name.

Epilogue: Chapter 10 seems to read more like an epilogue written after the deaths of Xerxes and Mordechai. It acknowledges both men, but primarily Mordecai and the position he was given by Xerxes, second only to Xerxes, and how he was held in high esteem by his people. Mordecai was always looking out for the interests of his people and they knew it. He loved his nation and they loved him. And let this fact at the very end truly sink in, all these things were written in the annuals of the Kings of Media and Persia.

God be Praised,

Vicky

 

The Events of Purim

We have finally reached the day that became known as Purim. It begins in chapter 9 with the giving of the date, Adar 13. As the text says the edict of the king, the first edict, had given the people of the kingdom the hope of overpowering the Jews. However, the tables had turned due to the edict written by Mordecai in the name of the King and now the Jews were the stronger.

All over the kingdom of King Xerxes the Jews gathered to defend themselves against those who hated them. The Jews that are mentioned here would not only include those natural  born Jews, but also all those from other nationalities who had become Jews; their numbers had greatly increased.

There was also another factor involved in this battle, those who came to attack them were actually afraid of them. This reminds me of the account of Gideon when the Midianites actually attacked each other in their fear. There is also the account of when the Israelites were first entering the land of Israel and Rahab tells the two spies in Jericho that the hearts of the people were melting in fear because of them. They had heard what their God had done for them. Sound familiar? The people who attacked the Jews here in Esther might have come out to fight because of their hatred for the Jews, but they were also afraid of them because they knew what God had all ready done for them. So their hearts melted in fear and were defeated.

Scripture tells us in James 2:19 that even the demons tremble in fear. They know who God is and they know what he can do to them. Yet they still come out to fight. We also know from James 4:7 that when we submit to God and resist the devil he will flee from us. We see in Esther that the Jews had submitted to God and the enemy who is afraid of them is defeated.

Do you see the difference in the two types of fear that is mentioned? The first type of fear at the end of chapter 8 led to salvation while the second led to death. The first developed faith and love while the second flowed from hate. The first was out of a fear of the one true God and the other out of a fear of death and defeat. What a difference!

The nobles and officials of the kingdom even helped the Jews in their battle. Why? Because they feared Mordecai. I do not think this is the same fear as the one at the end of chapter 8 because there is no mention of them becoming Jews here. Rather their fear seems to have more to do with Mordecai’s power in the palace under Xerxes. Mordecai’s reputation went all throughout the land and his power increased greatly. You see, Mordecai had the king’s ear. They all knew of the influence Mordecai had. King Xerxes respected the views of Mordecai, if not sharing them himself, and took them to account. The fear here led to a respect of authority despite one’s own views.

The Jews were victorious over their enemies and even killed the sons of Haman and 500 men in the citadel of Susa itself. Please understand this. With all we have said above there were many in the citadel itself, where the King, Queen and Mordechai lived, that sought to kill the Jews. It would not surprise me if many of them were related to Xerxes, as well as, members of the Zoroastrian priesthood and if this was and unsuccessful coup. After all, if you are going to kill the Jews in the citadel would you not be going after the two most powerful Jews in the kingdom, the Queen and Mordechai, not to mention that Jew loving Xerxes who married not only outside the family but a Jewess and then aligned himself to her family instead of the other way around. If you are going to have any hope of survival in an attack in the citadel you are going for it all. You are going to kill the King.

When this is reported to Xerxes, I picture him in a war room getting updates on the battle, he turns to Esther his queen and makes a very interesting statement. Not only does he report the death of the five hundred and the 10 sons of Haman, but also wants to know how successful they had been in the rest of the kingdom. He and his wife are in this together. Then comes the ultimate statement and expression of love and trust. Xerxes says to Esther, “Now what is your petition? It will be given you. What is your request? It will also be granted.”(NIV)  Did you catch it? We have seen Xerxes make similar statements before, yet this one stands apart. Do you see why? He places absolutely no limit on her petition or request. He simply says, before he hears it, it is yours. He stands unequivocally beside her with no reservations at all. The ultimate show of trust and love! She is the apple of his eye and he will withhold nothing from her. Let that picture wash over you and then remember our King lavished his love on us.

Esther wants complete victory, not just a partial one. She wants to make sure all those who hate her people are gone from Susa. She asks, “if it pleases the king”(NIV) for another day of fighting in Susa. She also asks for the sons of Haman to be displayed for all to see. She wants all to know what happens to those who would defy the living God. It is interesting to note that when Xerxes is killed in a coup led by Zoroastrian priests and family members about 10 years later that it does not take place in Susa.

And so it pleased the king to grant by his command and edict another day of fighting in Susa. While those in the provinces, which remember included Israel, rested and feasted with great joy on the 14th of Adar – after killing 75,000 on the 13th – the Jews in Susa assembled again to fight and killed another 300 men.

The Jews defeated their enemies but none of them laid their hands on the plunder. They were not after riches. They were after the right to live. They were after relief from their enemies. Yet God gave them a plunder they could have never imagined. Their tent had been enlarged with the coming in of new followers of Yahweh. He had truly blessed them with true fruit and a heart turned back to Him and His covenant.

May God rescue us from our enemy and enlarge our tent,

Vicky

For The Fear of The Jews

In the ten months that followed the issuing of the second edict there was a great time of rejoicing within the Jewish community.  It was such an outward expression of joy that it was clearly seen by their friends and neighbors, even by those who had before wanted to attack them.  After the second edict came a time of gladness a time when their light of that joy shined onto those around them.  They became a witness to the power of God, a light to the Gentiles.

I believe this to be an initial fulfillment (the ultimate fulfillment of the following passage I believe will be fulfilled in the end) of Zechariah 8:23 which says, “This is what the Lord almighty says:  “In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘ Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’””(NIV)  It is interesting to note that Zechariah was written in the time of Xerxes father Darius and even in the early part of Xerxes reign.

This is what the ancient world was seeing.  Many peoples were coming to the Jews and following their God.  God had made it obvious that He was with His people and the Gentiles did not want to be caught on the wrong side.

Remember that the first edict was sealed with the king’s signet ring, but so was the second.  The people now had a choice as to which edict they would follow.  Before the second edict came out there was but one choice and it had to be obeyed.  Now, however, there was hope.  Hope in the God of the Jews.

Here is where most people miss the blessing of the book of Esther.  It is not just that God rescued his people through Mordecai and Esther, but that He used them to also start a chain reaction, so to speak, that overflowed to the rest of the peoples of the kingdom.  It is clear that because of the fear of the Jews many became Jews.  Yes, it does take looking beyond the surface to see the object of that fear.  It is God Himself.

Remember that even Haman’s wife knew that his downfall began with parading Mordecai, a Jew, through the streets of Susa.  Because the King’s honor went to a Jew, she knew he would surely come to ruin.  She knew who truly lead the Jews, it was their God.  It was their God that caused her to predict the ruin of her own husband.

Here too, we see the peoples of the kingdom understanding that the fear of the Jews is God.  Their only hope was in trusting in this God of the Jews and thereby becoming Jews themselves. We must not think that becoming a Jew was a casual thing.   It was not and is not.  It involves, and did then as well, a public ceremony declaring your allegiance to the God of the Jews, immersion (called mikvah) for both men and women, and circumcision for the men.  It is and was no small thing to become a Jew. 

What we see at the end of chapter eight is a mass revival.  We see people from different tongues, tribes and nations coming to God through the joyful witness of His people.   We see the heart of God giving us a glimpse of what he would one day do.

Why do I say it like that?  Because this was a short lived revival, it only lasted one generation.  After the death of Xerxes, his son, Artaxerxes would declare Zoroastrianism the official religion of the kingdom.  It is important to remember here that it was the Zoroastrian priests who helped conspire against Xerxes and largely gave direction to the coup against him that put Artaxerxes on the throne.  One must ask the question why?  Why would the priests feel the need to do that?  Perhaps Xerxes himself turned and followed the God of his new adopted family.  He had publically aligned himself to that family and perhaps, we can hope, to their God.

Either way, God had moved among the nations and given His invitation to the peoples of the Persian Empire just as He had with Egypt (The Exodus), Assyria (Jonah), and Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar’s turning to God).  God’s heart has always been that His people, Israel, be a light to those far away so that they can be brought near. 

Let us also not forget that the Northern Kingdom of Israel was dispersed into this area by the Assyrians.  They may very well be a part of this revival.  We think of them as lost, but God never lost them and never stopped wanting them back.  We see in Ezekiel 37 that God would once again bring the house of Israel and the house of Judah back together to be one.  This event in Esther may very well be that event or at least a part of that process.  Remember Ezekiel was a prophet during the time of the Babylonian exile about 100 years before the account of Esther. 

We also know that by the time of the first century that the Jews once again saw themselves as the twelve tribes.  We see this in the opening verse of James where he addresses his letter “To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations”(NIV).  The scattering James is referring to is not the exile but the diaspora in the first century after the stoning of Stephen.

Here in Esther we see God once again drawing people to Himself.  This is the heart of our Father.  We should never neglect to see the working of His might Hand.

For The Fear of our God,

Vicky

 

The King’s Pleasure and Displeasure

So King Xerxes and Haman once again go to dine with Queen Esther and after the meal while they are reclining drinking their wine, just as many today have coffee after a meal, the king once again addresses the queen.  Wanting to finally hear her petition and request, he signaled to her that he is willing to grant it.  Remember, he has had the entire evening to contemplate whether or not he would be willing to grant what was sure to be a large request, even up to half his kingdom.  He must have loved and trusted her greatly to be willing to grant a large request before even hearing it.

 

Esther, the Queen, finally answers, but also prefaces her request.  “If I have found favor with you, oh king, and if it pleases your majesty…”  Remember our definition for favor and our discussion about being pleasing.  Both of those things still apply.  She is seeking his pleasure and reminding him that she does please him and is deserving of his favor and grace. 

Then came the petition and request.  She asks for her life and the sparing of her people.  She is finally identifying who she really is to her own husband.  She is a Jew.  If her people have been sold to destruction, slaughter, and annihilation, then so has she.  In doing so, she is choosing to stand with her people, which is more important to her than being the Queen of Persia. 

Who will the king choose?  The Jewish girl he married unknowingly or the Queen of Persia?  Will he deny who she really is and deem her guilty of treason for deceiving the king? 

Esther then says and does something profound – something other Jewish women of faith have done in the past.  She is about to stand in the gap, so to speak, and give her husband a very strong warning.  She is truly a daughter of Sarah and Rebekah.  Think on that a moment and hopefully one day we can discuss that as well.

 

She carefully lets him know that if they had merely been sold as slaves she would have said nothing.  But, then she begins to paint the real picture of danger that her husband has gotten himself into.  This danger is the danger of incurring the wrath of God. 

You see the words, “because no such distress would justify disturbing the king” could also be translated, “… but this adversary could not reckon the king’s loss.”  I believe the latter to be the better and more accurate translation and it definitely fits the context of the whole book better. 

Remember that Haman had offered to compensate the king through money and plunder for the annihilation of the Jews from his kingdom.  Also remember that Esther even knows the amount Haman offered.  However, that large earthly sum could not even begin to compare to the loss he would suffer at God’s hands for annihilating the people of God. 

Also, notice the word “our”.  She is not just saying that the enemy, Haman, is the adversary of her and the Jews, but of her husband as well.

 

Xerxes definitely gets the point and demands to know the identity of the adversary.  Who is the man who would oppose my wife, my Queen and her people and dare to come between me and my wife?  Who?

 

Esther then finally reveals the adversary and enemy.  Note that both words from the Hebrew can be translated adversary or enemy.  The one she would name is an enemy of enemies who is based on pure wickedness and evil.  It is the wicked Haman.

 

It was Haman.  The one Xerxes thought he could trust to have his back.  The one he had trusted to not betray him when there seemed to be enemies all around.  It was Haman who attempted to come between him and his wife and bring the wrath of God upon him.  Is there any greater betrayal?

 

Let’s not forget that Haman is setting right there listening to the king and queen as they begin to understand together that Haman has betrayed them.  You see, as long as they were apart and Esther was the only one knew the truth Haman was safe.  However, Haman was in real danger after the King and Queen came together and worked together as one.  Haman knew of the king’s love and respect for his wife and queen and that he would be willing to fight for her.

 

Make no mistake about it, our King is willing to fight and protect us as well.  The enemy knows that when we stand with Yeshua, stand together as Yeshua’s Bride in His will, then he is in trouble.  That is why he seeks to divide us so much and keep us separated from the will of our King.  We too are in a battle of annihilation and we must stand together with our King and identify our true enemy and shine light into his darkness.

 

The enemy knows his fate and knows it has already been decided.  Notice this was true of Haman as well and when the king gets up to leave in his rage, Haman begins to beg Esther for his life.  I believe the king leaves to seek some self-control.  He wants this rage and wrath to be properly directed and controlled. 

Let’s also not forget how skillfully Esther handled this.  Even though she made it clear that the king would suffer loss from incurring the wrath of God, she was very careful to point the responsibility and ultimate blame on Haman and not Xerxes.  I think that is the real reason she had Haman come to these banquets, so that when she finally revealed the truth she would have the enemy to point directly to.  I also find it interesting that Haman begs for his life from the one he sought to kill – knowingly or not.

 

Xerxes returned from the palace garden—where he had sought to think things through, to find Haman at the feet of his wife, a place that was forbidden to all except him.  The passage says that he “fell” to her feet.  I think you will find it interesting to know that the word “fell” can also be translated “to cast down oneself or lots, to die, to perish, to slay, or to smite out”.  This whole business started with the casting of lots.  I don’t think it is just a coincidence that that idea is also used here.  Haman knows in order to live he must cast himself down and die to what he wanted.

 

Once again Xerxes’ anger or hot displeasure spikes again and he even accuses Haman of attempting to molest the Queen right under his nose.  The word for “molest” can also be translated “to subjugate, to conquer, or to bring into bondage.”  The king was very aware of the position Haman was taking and what he was trying to accomplish.  His motives were clear.  How brazen was this enemy?

 

It is at this point we realize Xerxes might not have left the room just to calm down, but also to bring attendants to arrest and execute Haman.  We see Harbona, perhaps one of those who had escorted Haman to the banquet.  This would have given him the opportunity to learn of the gallows Haman had been built for Mordecai.  Harbona, speaks up and lets the king know about the gallows.  Then Haman, who is now under a covering, hears the order of the king for him to be hung on those same gallows.  The words his wife and friends had spoken to him of his ruin were quickly coming to pass.

 

Then the King’s anger subsided.  This subsided anger was the idea of allaying ones passions through secreting them, it was a flood abated.  The anger literally washed off of him.  Now there was work to be done.

 

In the Name of our King,

Vicky

Mordecai’s Declaration

Esther 3:2  All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman, for the king had commanded this concerning him. But Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor.  3 Then the royal officials at the king’s gate asked Mordecai, “Why do you disobey the king’s command?” 4 Day after day they spoke to him but he refused to comply. Therefore they told Haman about it to see whether Mordecai’s behavior would be tolerated, for he had told them he was a Jew.(NIV)

Here we see that the king had given a command to the servants who worked for him at the King’s Gate to pay honor to Haman.  This was no simple bowing of the head or even just to a knee, but there are two words here in the Hebrew.  Both of the Hebrew words in this passage can be translated to prostrate oneself.  In other words, those before Haman were to fall down and prostrate themselves.  The second word can even mean to worship.  This command was an all out call for the servants at the King’s Gate, which included Mordecai, to in essence worship Haman as their head.  This, of course, did not sit well with Mordecai.

The word “disobey” in the NIV is actually “cross over” in the Hebrew.  I find this interesting because it means that Mordecai was crossing over the command of Xerxes.  In other words, he was not doing it necessarily in an obvious way.  Remember Haman had not noticed him not prostrating himself, when everyone else obviously did.  Perhaps he found ways to be conveniently away from the areas Haman passed and this was only obvious to those who worked with him, but not Haman.  The reason I think this may be the case is because his fellow servants at the King’s Gate spoke to him about this “day after day”.   They were trying to get Mordecai to follow the king’s command.

Finally, Mordecai gives his response to their inquiries.  His answer, “I will not prostrate myself before (worship) Haman because I am a Jew”, or something like to that affect.  This was not something Mordecai could bring himself to do.  If you have never noticed before, Mordecai has a Babylonian name and a Jewish name is never given for him in the book.  Also, the other servants at the King’s Gate do not seem to know he is a Jew, he had to tell them or as the Hebrew says it, he “declared” he was a Jew.

Mordecai broke his silence.  Remember that Mordecai had told Esther not to reveal to anyone that she was a Jew.  It would appear that Mordecai was giving her advice that he followed himself.  There is no telling how long he had worked at the King’s Gate, but all that time his true identity was kept secret until he himself made it known.

There is a time and place for secrecy, even about who we are in Christ.  There is also a time and place to publicly declare we are His servants.  Many of us do not ever face this choice, but most assuredly some do.  The believers in Muslim nations for instance. Even Jews who have come to believe in Messiah that search for the right time and place to tell family of their decision, praying for an open door to tell them about Yeshua and at the same time knowing the possibility of being disowned.

Then there are those times that come, like this one for Mordecai, when no matter what happens it is time to speak.  It is time to declare our allegiance to the One we serve.  These are the times Jesus is talking about when He says, “If you deny me before men, I will deny you before My Father.”  We are not to keep silent and worship other gods.  Another good example is the three young men in the book of Daniel who refused to bow before the statue of the king of Babylon and faced the fiery furnace.  Those young men, according to their Hebrew names were, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  May we never bend the knee and worship another god.

It would appear that there were anti-Jewish sentiments within the culture of the citadel of Susa.  I say this because when the other servants found out he was a Jew it was this information that caused them to go to Haman.  They could have gone to Haman before this, but it was not until they received this little tidbit of information that they chose to see if Haman would tolerate it.  The other servants must have known that at least Haman despised the Jews and wanted to see what he would do.

What could the reason for this anti-Jewish sentiment have been.  No one knows.  If you may allow me to speculate, it may have been because they were against or at least refused to fight in the Persian-Greco war that Xerxes lost.  Remember they were in a Persian province at the time, yet in looking through Herodotus’ account of the war there is no listing for a Jewish participation when he lists so many others.  Again this is speculation, but seems at least possible.

The main reason for Haman, of course, was what we discussed in the last post.  The Israelites had almost annihilated his people hundreds of years earlier in the time of King Saul.  So for Haman this was personal. There was no way he was going to tolerate this lack of respect and, yes, worship from this Jew.  It would appear as if the servants knew this would probably be the result.  We will get more into Haman’s response in our next post.

I want you to notice something else as well.  The other servants did not have the authority to arrest Mordecai on there own.  They were by no means ahead of Mordecai in ranking and position.  It may even be that Mordecai was over them since they did not feel confident enough to report him until after he declared publicly that he was a Jew.  Perhaps they feared him already.  However, I would not be fair if I did not at least mention the possibility that they may have liked him and did not want to see him get in trouble until they found out he was a Jew.  That, of course, again says something about he overall attitude toward the Jews, at least in the citadel of Susa, it not in the whole of the Persian Empire.

Regardless, of the details that have long since been lost to history, there was an anti-Jewish sentiment in the citadel that gives Haman the perfect opportunity for what he does next.  Attack!

A Declared Servant of God,

Vicky