Jewish Days of Distinction:
Devotionals on the Jewish Feasts and Holidays
This minor but joyous holiday is commemorated annually on the 14th day of Adar on the Hebrew calendar.
The Scroll of Esther details the poignant yet ironic Purim story of rescue through an engaging tale of secrets and revelations. Hiddenness is an overriding theme as evil plots and the redemptive plans of God come to light. Haman, an evil adviser of King Ahasuerus of Persia, casts lots to set a date when all the Jews of the kingdom would be killed. Mordecai discovered his plans and persuaded his adopted daughter, Queen Esther, to go before the king unannounced and plead for the lives of her people. Moved by the valiant Jewish queen’s plea, the mighty king nullified the edict and the plot was stopped.
Jewish people around the world honor this day of deliverance with feasting, merriment, and celebration. The walled-city of Jerusalem celebrates Sushan Purim on the 15th day of Adar because fighting continued through the 14th.
Read: The Scroll of Esther
Hebrew Words: Purim is the plural Hebrew form of the word pur, which means “lot.” The holiday is called “lots” or Purim referring to the historical account of Haman who cast lots to see which day the Jews would be killed in Persia. Ironically, this evil villain was killed instead of his enemy, Mordecai, when King Ahasuerus became aware of his evil plans.
Mistar is the Hebrew word meaning “hidden.” Within that word, the root letters “s-t-r” are found and are the same foundation for the Hebrew proper name “Esther.”
Megillat Esther is Hebrew for “Scroll of Esther.” Jewish people call this rich story of deliverance the Scroll of Esther rather than the Book of Esther. Hidden within the word megillah is the Hebrew root “g-l-h” which means to reveal. An alternative meaning of Megillat Esther could be “The Revealing of the Hidden.”
Devotional Thought: “I can never be lost to Your Spirit! I can never get away from my God! If I go up to heaven, You are there; if I go down to the place of the dead, You are there. If I ride the morning winds to the farthest oceans, even there Your hand will guide me, Your strength will support me” (Psalm 139:7-10, TLB).
Remarkably, I discovered at least ten (you may find more) hidden happenings in the beautiful story of Queen Esther as the biblical narrative opens.
1) Queen Vashti refuses to display her beauty to the king’s guests as he requests. Her reason may have been a good one, but it is hidden (1:11-12).
2) King Ahasuerus was not aware of the proper way in which to handle the queen’s disobedience (1:15).
3) The details of Esther’s early life and the cause of her parents’ death are not revealed, only that Mordecai had been in exile and had charge of her (2:5-7).
4) Queen Esther did not disclose her family’s background and identity fully as her uncle, Mordecai, instructed her (2:10).
5) Ahasuerus is clueless that Haman hates the Jewish people and is planning their annihilation (3:10).
6) Esther is unaware of the edict that Haman persuades the king to make to kill her people, nor does she know that Mordecai and the Jews of Susa are sitting in ashes, tearing their clothes and mourning (4:1-4).
7) Reasons Esther was chosen to royalty still remain unclear. Perhaps there is a higher purpose—to save her people (4:14).
8) The king realizes that Esther is deeply troubled and promises to give her anything, yet she keeps her request a secret until she fasts (5:3-4).
9) Somehow the king has forgotten to honor Mordecai for saving his life, and he doesn’t know why he only now discovers it (6:6).
10) Haman is unaware that he will not be honored in the parade and Mordecai will be instead. Haman doesn’t know that he will die soon (6:11).
Likewise, there are at least ten (maybe you can find more) revelations as the story continues.
1) Esther reveals her Jewish identity to Ahasuerus and to Haman (7:4).
2) She uncovers Haman’s plot to kill the Jews of Susa (7:6).
3) Haman pleads for his life to no avail and discovers he is to be killed in Mordecai’s place (7:7-10).
4) Esther divulges to the king that Mordecai is her uncle (8:1).
5) An official document is posted declaring that the Jews of Susa may defend themselves and take revenge upon their enemies (8:13).
6) Darkness and would-be death turn into happiness and honor (8:16).
7) Fasting turns into feasting (8:17).
8) Fasting turns into declaring a holiday (9:17-19).
9) The enemies of the Jews had expected a different outcome (9:1).
10) Jews of Susa kill 75,000 enemies and do not take their belongings (9:17).
The name of God does not appear in the Megillat Esther. Some rabbinical thought is that He is mentioned as HaMakom (a post-biblical, rabbinical name for God) in 4:14: “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” In Hebrew makom acher or “another place” may infer HaMakom will provide deliverance if Esther is unwilling.
God loves irony and is a master at creating and inserting it into our lives. Esther is such a powerful tale of deliverance, yet it is ironic that the Lord’s name is not mentioned nor the need for prayer for that matter. Still the Lord Almighty is present in the hiddennesses and the revelations of the historical account of Purim. He is orchestrating, guiding, strengthening behind the scenes as Scripture tells us.
The irony that faces the disciples of Yeshua today is what He taught in the New Covenant, “to find life, you must lose it…to receive, you must give first…the greatest of all is the servant…the last shall be first and the first last.” Yeshua, God of the universe, lived a life of irony – born King of the Jews and yet came to be and live among the lowest people in the world and in the most humble circumstances.
We take great hope in our lives as we live unto Him in ironic callings and situations. Like Esther, God’s face may be hidden, yet He is working to bring deliverance and eternal purpose in your life. We cannot see Him but we have faith in Him. As the book of Psalms says, there is no place on earth where He is not. You can’t hide from Him, and He is busy guiding and making you strong. Do not despair when you can’t quite see His face. Yeshua is there and everywhere, working for your best.
I thank you, Yeshua, that You are working behind the scenes for my good. That even when I cannot see Your face in my circumstances clearly, You are in charge and ordering my steps. I am so grateful that there is no place that I can hide from You, even when You seem hidden from me. Still You are there.
Purim Celebrations and Traditions:
Purim is one of the most festive Jewish celebrations on the Hebrew calendar. Both children and adults dress in masquerade to demonstrate the “unseen” presence of God in the story of Esther and throughout Jewish history. He is always in the background drawing people to Himself.
Often children put on a Purim play and recount the story with modern, humorous twists. When the Megillat Ester is read, noisemakers are sounded to blot out the name of Haman. Hamantaschen or Oznei-Haman is baked, a special poppy seed, sweet pastry. Families attend parties, parties, parties; and in Jerusalem, they dress in costume and party for two days instead of one, remembering Sushan Purim.