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

 

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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

 

For Her People

At the end of our last post Xerxes’ anger was subsiding and Haman was dead.  However, the real work was yet to come.  At the beginning of chapter eight, on the very day that Haman was hanged, we find King Xerxes and Queen Esther in court together and Esther officially presenting Mordecai to Xerxes and the court.  Xerxes not only accepted the Jewish girl as his wife, but also publically as his Queen in the full knowledge of what that meant.

A tremendous shift in power was made in this moment.  Mordecai becomes the King’s new confidant and trusted advisor.  The deceiving one is dead and the child of God takes his place.  The king no longer trusts the forces of evil, but is putting his trust and his confidence in the people of God.  Xerxes makes this change having all the information.  His wife is a Jew and the man who raised her, her adopted father, also a Jew, is now the one whom the king will rely on and trust.

Mordecai is also given great wealth.  The estate of Haman was given to Esther and she in turn gives the responsibility of the estate to Mordecai.  Mordecai is also robed in princely attire and given great honor.  This  is the Great Reversal within the book.  Mordecai, the Jew, becomes everything that the enemy had been and more.  He is not only given great honor and responsibility, but is publically seen as a member of Xerxes’ household.  Or should I say that Xerxes is publically seen as a member of Mordecai’s household, the very household Haman had sought to destroy.

However, even though Esther and Mordecai are now safe from danger there is still the matter of the people throughout the kingdom and the king’s edict.  Her people were still in danger because the edict was still in effect.

To address this, Esther once again finds herself on her knees before the king.  She would have had to step down off her throne as Queen and become just another subject to make such a request.  This time anger is not motivating Xerxes, but the cry and the heart of his wife.  She is begging for her people.  Her heart is exposed for she cannot bear to see her people suffer. 

She does not want to be like the last king of Judah, Zechariah, who was forced to see the death of his sons before losing his sight at the command of Nebuchadnezzar.  She wanted her people to be spared including those back in the land of Israel that Cyrus, Xerxes’ grandfather, had allowed to return.  She wanted her people, whom Darius, Xerxes’ father,  had allowed  to rebuild the temple to be able to protect themselves and all they had built.  After all, how could she stand by and watch all that be wasted?  How could he?  There was still so much at stake.

So Esther humbles herself before her king and husband in order to request the lives of her people.  She knows that he does not have the authority according to the laws of Persia to reverse the last edict, but she also knows there must be a solution.

Let us also remember that presenting herself in this way without an invitation would once again require the lowering of the king’s scepter.  However, this time there does not seem to be any hesitation on her part to do so.  Xerxes had proven himself to her and she was confident in his love for her.  And the scepter comes down and she stands to her feet.

She makes her appeal by saying these words, “If it pleases the king,…,and if he regards me with favor and thinks it the right thing to do, and if he is pleased with me,…”(NIV)  She is reminding him once again that she does please him, that he does regard her with favor, or said another way, that the grace of the king is on her and that she pleases, pleases him. 

There is also the issue that the matter at hand is about right and wrong, good and evil.  She knows it pleases him to do the good and she trusts him to do it.  She is again showing her confidence in him as her king and her husband.

Xerxes gives Esther and Mordecai the authority to set things right and even hands over his signet ring to Mordecai.  I love the significance of that scene.  The King’s ring goes to the one whom God had intended it for. Mordecai is given the seal of the king.  I cannot help but think of the seal that the Messiah has placed in us, The Holy Spirit.  With His seal in us our security is fixed in Him and cannot be reversed anymore than an edict of the Persian kings that had been sealed with the king’s ring could be reversed.

Esther and Mordecai set out immediately to overcome the first edict with an edict of their own.  This new edict was to give the Jews the right to protect themselves against anyone who would follow the first edict and attack them, either as individuals or as armies.  They were also given the right to take the plunder of those who attacked them.  The latter is a privilege that they did not use.

This edict was also sent out on a specific date, Sivan 23.  This is important because it was shortly after Pentecost, the feast of the first harvest of the year.  Remember that the first edict went out at the time of Passover.  It had been about 2 months.  All of this had taken place in a little more than two months.  There was still about 10 months left to get the word out and for people to prepare, either way.

Her people were saved that day and Mordecai leaves the court in royal robes.  God is glorified by it all even though the book never mentions Him.  It is completely understood that the hero in the book is God Himself who reveals His power and plan through the orphan girl turned Queen and her adoptive father.  It pleased our King to save His people.

Our King Saves,

Vicky