The Feast of PURIM and the Lot of the Jew.
The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.
And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces. In the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram
Gen 15:17-18 Before ever the seed of Abraham came into existence, the process leading to their ultimate bonding with the Lord was portrayed in terms of smoking furnace experiences. Such has been the history of this ancient people of God to this day. The Jew has been likened to the bush that burned but was not consumed. The story is all but told. The final chapter is now before us.
Although it lies outside the seven months of the religious Feasts of the Lord established in the Law, Purim is a feast highly regarded by the Jews, commemorating deliverance from genocide of the Jewish race though the faith and courage of Mordecai and Esther. ( Es 9:16-32) Purim derives its name from the "lot" (pur) which Haman cast in order to decide when he should carry into effect the decree issued by the king for the extermination of the Jews. ( Es 9:24) It was celebrated on the fourteenth day of Adar (March) by those in villages and unwalled towns and on the fifteenth day by those in fortified cities. ( Es 9:18,19) The Book of Esther is read in the synagogue on this day. It became a time for rejoicing and distribution of food and presents. Dramatic representations of the events in the account have accompanied this feast. None so dramatic as the scenes which began it, nor the scenes which fulfil it in our times.
The story of Esther is an interesting chapter of Bible history. It concerns, not the land of Israel, but rather the Jews of the dispersion, revealing the Lordís watch-care even for these.
The Jewish millennium from Moses to Jeremiah had ended with disaster. After repeated warnings and disciplines the full judgment of the Lord fell upon a wayward people. Their covenant was broken, their temple destroyed and the people scattered as captives in the Babylonian empire. There they were to remain until the coming of Cyrus. However, after the first painful years, many Jews became accustomed to their foreign surrounds and some even began to prosper in Babylon.
A new generation was rising. When the empire fell before the incoming Persian king, Cyrus, opportunity was announced for return to their own land, but many were now reluctant to leave their home comforts in Babylon to face the unknown privations that would be involved in rebuilding their former land now lying desolate.
So it was, in the times of Esther, some 60 years after the decree of Cyrus, that many Jews remained scattered around what was then the Persian empire. Some held respectable positions in the Persian world, and Mordecai was one of these.
Mordecaiís uncle died in Persia leaving his motherless daughter, Hadassah, (Esther) to the care of Mordecai. Employed in the royal palace at Susa, he attracted, through the timely discovery of a plot to assassinate the king, the favourable notice of the monarch, Xerxes, and eventually became the grand vizier of the Persian empire.
Haman was the villain in the scene. He plotted to destroy all the Jews. Haman was a descendant of the Amalekites, the archenemies of the Jews (compare †Es 3:1 with †De 25:17-19 Ex 17:8-16; and †1Sa 15). In †De 25:17-19 the Lord warned His people to have nothing to do with Amalek forever. They were to recall their peril at that old enemyís hands.
In the language of types, the battle with the Amelekites as the Israelites came out of Egypt had represented the fight against doubt, that sad lack of trust in their God which so soon beset the people He had so mightily delivered. (The ascendency in the battle depended upon the up-reaching arms of Moses.) Nor was the battle over then, as king Saul was later to learn to his cost. ( 1Sa 15:8-23. See †Heb 3:17-to 4:2.)
Haman had wormed his way into the kingís confidence. He expected all to honour him, but Mordecai knew Hamanís origin. Mordecai remembered the warning words of his God and refused to bow down to him. This so enraged Haman that he determined to wipe out the entire race of Jews throughout the Persian domain. ( Es 3:6-11)
"Without faith, it is impossible to please Him."
The typical background is of relevance in the story of Esther where so many ears turned deaf to the cry that the time to favour Zion had come. But the matter does not stop there, for our own generation has witnessed a parallel to those troublous days. Again, it is the old enemy, Amalek, disbelief in the promises and power of God, that held back so many Jews on foreign soil when the time to return to their land became due. The dark cloud then was Haman and his own ambitions, which resented the position Jews were gaining in the land. In our days it was Hitler, with similar motivation. Furthermore, there is now seen to be a striking time parallel between the days of Hamanís rise to power with such evil intent, and the rise of Hitler from 1934 onwards. (1)
Here lies a remarkable confirmation that we are indeed living in the days of Christís return, of Whom Cyrus was clearly a type. ( Isa 44:28 to 25:1. "anointed" =" Messiah".)
The story of Estherís part is familiar to all who have read the account in the book bearing her name and this contains more than one lesson for ourselves as well as for the natural seed of Abraham. Mordecai himself there explains how Esther became queen of Persia, and to what divinely overruled purpose. The palace knew the Jewish background of Mordecai ( Es 3:4) but not of Esther. ( Es 2:10)
Haman consulted his advisors to determine when fortune would favour his plan to slaughter the Jews ( Es 9:26-31; 3:7). They cast lots (Hebrew "pur") to determine the day should of execution. For successive days the lot was cast, without result, until, nearly a year in the count passed by. At last the lot fell. In Hamanís mind the lot of the Jew was destruction, but the Lord has yet to have His say as to the lot of His people.
Haman slandered the Jews before the king, and offered to get for the monarch over $25,000,000 in silver if he gave authority to slay the Jews. Haman lied about the evil attributed to the Jews, of course. He was sponsored by Satan who was both a liar and a murderer from the beginning. Foolishly, Xerxes gave Haman his ring and the authority to carry out his plan, not realizing that the life of his own queen was at stake. Haman wasted no time, for that very month he had the decrees written and sent out (vv. 7, 12), ordering the Persians to destroy, kill, and plunder all the Jews in the vast reaches of the kingdom on the appointed day.
"The LORD hath brought you forth out of the iron furnace.." †De 4:20
Thus it was that the courage and faith of Mordecai and Esther were put to the test. This trust was rewarded in full. Once the royal decree had gone forth to exterminate the Jewish race it could not by Persian law be revoked. However, the king could make a counter decree that the Jews be enabled to resist this attack and to consume their enemies. But to achieve this intervention would be at great risk to Estherís life.
Mordecai went into a visible state of mourning at the kingís gate! He was not ashamed to be identified with the people of God, although he had wisely counselled Esther not to reveal her race. Esther was deeply concerned on hearing of his sorrowful state, and sent to him pleading that he stop, but he revealed to her his cause for lament. Esther had not seen the king for a month ( Es 4:11) and was probably quite unaware of all that was going on. Mordecai sent her a copy of the kingís decree to bring fully home to her the peril they were in.
In †Es 4:11 the high risks of the situation are faced so far as any attempt at intervention from Esther was concerned. Yet now it must have been dawning upon her why she had been brought to the position she now held as queen of Persia. Mordecai reminded her that her own life was already in jeopardy and that without action her position could not save her. Yet he had faith in Godís covenant arrangement with Abraham and acknowledged His power to deliver even in the darkest hour. He said, "If you hold your peace, God will send deliverance some other way!"
Esther sets example to all in dire distress by seeking the Lord in prayer. The name of God is never mentioned openly in the account. This story tells of the faith that unseen God achieved.
Esther knew that to enter into the kingís presence uninvited could mean her death. She resolved that she would be, nevertheless, a "living sacrifice"if this was in accordance with Godís perfect will. "If I perish, I perish!" If the attempt to deliver her own race involved her death, so be it. (See †Da 3:13-18)
"The kingís heart is in the hand of the Lord!" ( Pr 21:1)
Esther was now forced to take and to confess her place amongst the people of God. For three days she fasted and prayed, and with her all the Jewish people. Then on the third day she entered the throne room standing trembling at the door. The king saw her there and, realising that something very important must have prompted her to do this thing, his heart was touched, and he stretched forth his golden sceptre to beckoned her.
Showing great discretion, Esther did not reveal at once all in her heart. Instead, she invited the king and Haman to a banquet that very day. After several full courses of food, the time would come for the wine course, a time when the king would be exceptionally happy. He knew that Esther had a matter on her heart, so he asked about it. But the wise queen delayed another day, and the king yielded to her wishes. Haman went home elated, puffed up with pride that he should enjoy such an exclusive banquet with royalty. Proudly he boasted of his exaltation to family and friends. But he was so indignant at the repeated failure of Mordecai to reverence him that at his wifeís advice he built an enormous means of destruction for the hated Jewóa gallows fifty cubits high from which, this Ďfinal solutioní would be witnessed in public display. (2)
The heritage of the servants of the Lord.
Nothing could prevent this most serious attempt to exterminate every Jew. That could not be changed. Nevertheless, there was also to be a most remarkable reversal. The outcome would be that the Jew so despised and hated was to become highly honoured, while his enemies were to be destroyed.
††Isa 54:17 "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; ... This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD."
The account records how this was achieved in the case of Haman. The thwarting of Satanís attempted annihilation of the Jews in our own times under Hitler, and the resulting rebirth of Israel, is only a stage in the full story. The Jew has a destiny of exaltation and honour which will become a means of the greatest blessing mankind has ever known or dreamed in the kingdom arrangements of Godís Dear Son. But first this ancient race has to stand up and be counted as the people of God. Thy need once more to turn to their God in fasting and most earnest petition, and to realise at last that power of faith and that strength of obedient trust which is the life-force of those who, through smoking furnace, become welded and forever bonded with their Lord.
But the LORD hath taken you, and brought you forth out of the iron furnace, ... to be unto him a people of inheritance, as ye are this day. †De 4:20
See Ď( Patterns for the Last daysí) for fuller accounts of time and type parallels illustrating these days in which we live.
1. [ 476 BC is 60 years after Cyrus, 536 BC, and the Esther period††† until death of Xerxes in 465 BC occupied a further 11 years. The††† parallel from 1874 is the period of Hitlerís rise and evil attempt††† to wipe out the Jewish race 1934 to 1945 AD.]
2. [Under the Nazis every living Jew old and young, male and††† female was slated for destruction. Three quarters of Hitlerís††† victims died within an eleven-month period alone (March††† 1942-February 1943). (Seehttp://www.holocaustsurvivors.org)