Esther and the Feast of Purim
This article will be a bit eclectic because the most interesting elements of this story are so. It is historical, It is presently relevant, and there are glimpses into future events as well. This feast and the book of Esther is prophetic and practical with both obvious and hidden themes. It is multi layered and multi faceted.
The Book of Esther takes place in the Persian empire (Modern day Iran). The children of Israel had been taken captive by the Babylonians who were eventually defeated by the Medo Persians, for seventy years because of their sin and idolatry.
Review of the Story
After these seventy years the Lord allowed the Jewish people to return to their homeland (See the books of Ezra and Nehemiah for these details) but some of them stayed in Persia. It is not clear why some of the Jewish people did not return.
Whatever the reason they found themselves in quite a predicament when Haman the Agagite, a descendant of a historical ancient enemy of the Jewish people, as well as chief minister of the King, plots to annihilate the Jewish people by convincing the king to issue a decree to get rid of a certain people (The Jews) Haman claims is not obeying the laws because Mordecai Esther's Jewish uncle would not bow to him.
Esther, a Jew herself had been chosen to be queen in place of Vashti king'sings previous wife because Vashti disobeyed the king.
Esther exposed Haman's evil plot through the help of her uncle Mordecai risking her own life in doing so. Haman was hung on the gallows intended for Mordecai. Haman's ten sons are killed, and later hung (more on this later) The story does not end here in that the kings decree to kill the Jews is still out there and cannot be changed. The King therefore permits for a new decree to be issued stating that the Jewish people may defend themselves against any attack or plot made against them. When all was said and done and the Jewish people were spared and a feast was ordered in the land to celebrate the victory.
The Ancient Enemy
A little closer look at Haman the Agagite; King Saul was commanded to defeat this enemy in I Samuel
Samuel also said to Saul, “The Lord sent me to anoint you king over His people, over Israel. Now therefore, heed the voice of the words of the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘I will punish Amalek for what he did to Israel, how he ambushed him on the way when he came up from Egypt. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them. But kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.
— I Samuel 15:1-3
Saul disobeys and appeases his own ego supported by popular opinion, rather than his instructor who was speaking on behalf of God Himself.
But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed.
— I Samuel 15:9
Samuel confronted Saul and ended up killing Agag Himself but because of Saul's disobedience, Agag's descendants were able to continue. This is the line from which Haman is descended. What is truly interesting about this is revealed in Mordecai's family tree.
Now in Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite
— Esther 2:5
Now, let's compare that with Saul's genealogy.
Now there was a man of Benjamin, whose name was Kish, the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power.
— I Samuel 9:1
Wecans see that Mordecai is related to Saul and from the same tribe. Here in the book of Esther we have a direct face off with one of Saul's descendants and an enemy he was supposed to destroy. Saul pictures for us a first Adam and Mordecai images the second.
For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive...The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit
— I Corinthians 15:22,45
There is a prophetic element to this story concerning another "Haman" in the not so distant past who plotted to annihilate God's covenant ones namely Hitler.
According to Wikipedia Hitler banned the observance of the feast of Purim in a speech made in November of 1938. He also stated that if the Nazis were defeated the Jews could celebrate a second Purim. He openly associated himself as a Haman type figure against the Jewish people.
Back to historical Hitler... In the book of Esther when the new decree was issued. The Jews rose up on the day set for their annihilation and successfully defended themselves and their right to exist.
the ten sons of Haman the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews—they killed ~ Esther 9:10
The King then asks Esther if there is anything else she would like done. Esther then makes a strange request after the ten sons of Haman are killed.
what is your petition? It shall be granted to you. Or what is your further request? "do again tomorrow...let Haman’s ten sons be hanged on the gallows.”
— Esther 9:12-14
Why does Esther want them hanged when they are already dead? The key phrase in this portion of scripture is "do again tomorrow" It is believed that possibly this was a prophetic act signaling a future event when a future Haman would rise up foretelling the consequence of those who cursed the children of Abraham with death and destruction.
I will bless those who bless you,And I will curse him who curses you;And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
— Genesis 12:3
On October 1, 1946, ten German men that had been declared guilty of their Nazi war crimes were hanged for their involvement and participation in the atrocities committed against the Jewish people, which was known as the Nuremberg Trials. And even more fascinating than this is that this exact date is embedded in the numeric codes of the Hebrew scriptures in the book of Esther at the very place where the 10 sons of Haman are listed. There are much more intricacies and details to these findings and I strongly encourage anyone interested to do some further researching of their own on the subject. At the end of this article, I will list a few websites that share some incredibly fascinating insights into this book of hidden messages.
In the News
A noteworthy similarity in the modern day events concerning Iran (the same place the story of Esther takes place) and the biblical story of Esther, is how at the end of this story the Jews are granted permission to defend themselves against those who would rise up against them. Just recently (March 5, 2012) Benjamin Netanyahu (Prime Minister of Israel) and Barak Obama met two days before the feast of Purim 2012 to discuss these very same matters. Netanyahu pretty much declared that Israel would, in fact, defend itself against a nation (Iran) whose goal it is to wipe Israel off the face of the earth (Just like Haman), when and if they feel it is necessary, whether The U.S. backs them or not. I think of what Mordecai said to Esther when she considered whether to involve herself or not and how it could apply to the U.S...
."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 royal position for such a time as this?"
— Esther 4:14
Netanyahu made it distinctly clear that to not back them was certainly our choice but that we should also not consider ourselves safe from Iran's potential dangers either. It is also interesting that Netanyahu actually sent a copy of the book of Esther to President Obama as a gift prior to this meeting.
An added current events note to this "In the News" section, it is March of 2016 as I write this. Netanyahu was scheduled once again to meet with President Obama on March 18th a week before Purim but has decided to address the conference via satellite on March 20th via satellite citing fears of becoming entangled with the political campaign.
These AIPAC (American Israel public affairs committee) meetings interestingly most always are near the feast of Purim.
The Secular Setting of Esther
In the book of Esther God is never mentioned nor is prayer. His involvement is obvious yet seemingly very much behind the scenes. He is said by some to be "hidden"
Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour
— Isaiah 45:15
There is some debate on the meaning of Esther's name. Some have said it means star others have said she was named after the goddess Ishtar a common ancient pagan deity but the one that makes the most sense to me and follows the theme of this story is "concealment" there are so many hidden elements, meanings, symbols and lessons in this story.
I wonder if part of the reason for the hidden elements is that the story takes place in a very secular setting. Maybe somewhat like modern day mainstream America. Western Christianity is presently quite secular as well. The secular mind sets and behaviors are so embedded into it that it is difficult to distinguish between secular and Christian. God is truly hidden in cultural Christianity. In the Old Testament God warns His covenant ones
And the Lord said to Moses: “Behold, you will rest with your fathers; and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured. And many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ And I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they have done, in that they have turned to other gods.
— Deuteronomy 31:16-18
“And when the Lord saw it, He spurned them,
Because of the provocation of His sons and His daughters.
And He said: ‘I will hide My face from them,
I will see what their end will be,
For they are a perverse generation,
Children in whom is no faith
— Deuteronomy 32:19-20
I liken God's call to His people in Persia to return to their homeland similar to God's call to us His church to repent and come out from among them (II Corinthians 6:17). But like Esther and Mordecai we remain comfortable with the culture we have become so familiar with and maybe even have embraced. I liken it to the Lukewarm church of Laodacia Revelation chapter three
“I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’
— Revelation 3;15-22
I have always heard "I stand at the door and knock" as a scripture used to convert unbelievers. But if you read this verse in its context, Jesus is talking about "the church" It's as if God is hidden because we don't let Him in. We are too comfortable with the status quo and too busy shaking our finger at the culture around us.
For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside?But those who are outside God judges
— I Corinthians 5: 12-13
We were not called to judge and condemn this world. We were called to preach the good news of Salvation through Jesus Christ and live for Him and not this world.
The Story of Esther communicates the dangers of being content with lukewarm Christianity and thinking that we are above and beyond the ramifications of living this way.
I am comforted however that despite this, as in the story of Esther, God is always working behind the scenes and when all is said and done He does deliver. Sadly it was persecution that was the requirement but it was effective. Is that what we have to face before we are willing to be serious and passionate for the God we claim to serve.
A Picture of the Work of the Cross
As was discussed earlier, The "gallows" that Haman prepared were intended for Mordecai. It is thought by some theologians that this gallow was actually a crucifixion type apparatus and the Hebrew rendering is more agreeable to this interpretation. In fact, Gesenius Lexicon defines "talah" the Hebrew word translated "gallows" (Esther 5:14)
"to hang anyone on a stake, to crucify"
The word picture for "talah" is so very interesting and confirming to this idea, that its first letter "tav" is actually imaged by a cross and is known as the sign of the covenant.Its second letter lamed is a shepherd staff symbolizing authority and hey is a window illustrating revelation.
What is revealed in the cases and uses of this word, as is used in the Old Testament, is to reveal the authority of the cross. Its uses occur 28 times (4- created realm x 7 - God's fulfillment and satisfaction), as does the phrase "I brought you out" and Passover references in the New Testament, revealing to us that God entered the created realm and brought us out through the crucifixion Passover lamb of God who was the only sufficient satisfactory payment for our sins (See Monarch Butterfly Part 1 for more info on four)
Which brings us to the metaphoric aspect of this story. In this sense Mordecai is viewed as a type of Messiah/Christ slated to die on a cross. He is as good as dead considering the evil decree that Haman a picture of our flesh, had issued against him. Mordecai risks his own life by refusing to bow to anyone but God.
At the end of the story Mordecai is resurrected from this death and rose to a new life and position of power taking the place of Haman and this evil Haman ends up dying on the cross he prepared for Mordecai.
It was an undercover operation from a spiritual standpoint that the sinful flesh would be nailed to the cross but Christ would rise to new life and that He could now rule and reign in the hearts of men through His death and resurrection. How fitting of this book to hide this element of the story.
we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory
— I Corinthians 2:8
This same pattern is repeated in the story of Joseph with the butler and baker. The baker picture of the flesh is crucified but the butler (wine server symbol of life) is resurrected from prison and from an appointed death.
Christ fulfills both ends of this imagery the death and the resurrection.
concerning His Son, who was born according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord
— Romans 1:3-4
From a spiritual application perspective. Haman and his sons can be a picture of our flesh that is dictated and fueled by evil. We are to clearly point it out and annihilate these ungodly aspects of our life.
The modern celebration of Purim involves hiding in masks of the characters of this dramatic story. The Story is reenacted as it is retold. Whenever Mordecai is mentioned everyone cheers. Whenever Haman's name is mentioned everyone boos and stomps their feet. In some celebrations, Hamans name is placed on the bottom of the shoe symbolizing an enemy under their feet.
You placed my foot on their necks.
I have destroyed all who hated me.
— II Samuel 22:41
May we place our feet on the neck of all our flesh and self-related enthronements.
An interesting end note that Jesus is believed to have celebrated the Feast of Purim in John chapter five. It is considered to be the unnamed feast once again following the theme of secrets. Another intriguing look at how this New Testament chapter relates to this Old Testament story. the below website takes you through the relevance of John five and Purim.
I leave you with a few more websites that discuss not only the topics I mention above but endless mines of precious jewels buried within this book. Check them out if you get a chance. I also recommend an insightful book viewing the symbols of this story and its present relevance. by Fuschia Pickett called "For Such a Time as This"
E.W. Bullinger was a Bible scholar from the 1800's who studied numbers and literary patterns in Scripture. His work is free and all online for further research. For this particular study I am including his offerings on Esther as it concerns God's name hidden within the original language text of this portion of Scripture. It is lengthy but fascinating to say the least.
Companion Bible Appendix #60
60. THE NAME OF JEHOVAH IN THE BOOK OF ESTHER.
It has been observed by many that no Divine Name or Title is found in the book of Esther.
This is the more remarkable, since, in this short book of only 167 verses, the Median King is mentioned 192 times, his kingdom is referred to 26 times, and his name (*1) "Ahasuerus" is given 29 times.
Jehovah had declared (Deut. 31:16-18) (*2), that if His People forsook Him, He would hide His face from them. Though the book reveals Him as overruling all, His Name is hidden. It is there for His People to see, not for His enemies to see or hear.
Satan was at work, using Haman to blot out the Nation, as once before he had used Pharaoh for the same purpose (see Ap. 23 and 25). Jehovah's counsel must stand. His promise of Messiah, the coming "Seed" of the woman (Gen. 3:15), must not fail. Therefore He must overrule all for the preservation of His People, and of the line by which that "Seed" was to come into the world.
His working was secret and hidden : hence, the name of "JEHOVAH" is hidden secretly four times in this book, and the name "EHYEH" (I am that I am) once. The Massorah (Ap. 30) has a rubric calling attention to the former fact; and (at least) (*3) three ancient manuscripts are known in which the Acrostic (*4) letters in all five cases are written Majuscular (or, larger than the others) so that they stand out boldly and prominently, showing the four consonant letters of the mane JeHoVaH. In Hebrew y, h,w, h, or, as written in Hebrew from right to left, h, w, h, y. In English, L, O, R, D. Also the five letters of the fifth Acrostic, "EHYH".THE FOUR ACROSTICS.
The following phenomena are noticed in examining the four Acrostics which form the name "Jehovah" :
1. In each case the four words forming the Acrostic are consecutive.
2. In each case (except the first) the form a sentence complete in itself.
3. There are no other such Acrostics in the whole book, except the fifth Acrostic at the end; though there is one other, forming another Divine Title, in Ps. 96:11. (See note there.)
4. In their construction there are not two alike, but each one is arranged in a manner quite different from the other three.
5. Each is uttered by a different speaker. The first by Memucan (1:20); the second by Esther (5:4); the third by Haman (5:13); the fourth by the inspired writer (7:7).
6. The first two Acrostics are a pair, having the name formed by the Initial letters of the four words.
7. The last two are a pair, having the name formed by the Final letters of the four words.
8. The first and third Acrostics are a pair, having the name spelt backward.
9. The second and fourth are a pair, having the name spelt forward. They thus form an alternation :
10. The first and third (in which the name is formed backward) are a pair, being spoken by Gentiles.
11. The second and fourth (in which the name is spelt forward) are a pair, being spoken by Israelites. They thus form an Alternation :--
C Spoken by a Gentile (Memucan).
D Spoken by an Israelite (Esther).
C Spoken by a Gentile (Haman).
D Spoken by and Israelite (the inspired writer).
12. The first and second form a pair, being connected with Queens and Banquets.
13. The third and fourth are a pair, being connected with Haman.
14. The first and fourth are a pair, being spoken concerning the Queen (Vashti) and Haman respectively.
15. The second and third are a pair, being spoken by the Queen (Esther) and Haman respectively. They thus form and Introversion :--
E Words concerning a Queen.
F Words spoken by a Queen.
E Words spoken by Haman.
F Words concerning Haman.
16. It is remarkable also that, in the two cases where the name is formed by the initial letters, the facts recorded are initial also, and are spoken of an even in which Jehovah's overruling was initiated; while in the two cases where the name is formed by the final letters, the events are final also, and lead rapidly up to the end toward which Jehovah was working.
Thus in the two cases where the name is spelt backward (*5), Jehovah is seen overruling the counsels of Gentiles for the accomplishment of His own; and where the name is spelt forward (*5), He is ruling directly in the interests of His own People unknown to themselves.THE FIRST ACROSTIC (1:26).
is formed by the initial letters, for the even was initial; and the name is spelt backward because Jehovah was turning back and overruling the counsels of man. The whole clause reads as follows; the words forming the Acrostic being put in italic type :--
"And when the king's decree which he shall make, shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the wives shall give to their husbands honor, both to great and small." The four words we give, 1st, in the Hebrew type (with the Majuscular letters at the beginning of each word); 2nd, with the Transliteration; and 3rd, in English paraphrase, reproducing the sentence in the word LORD with the initial letters backward :--
4 3 2 1
WgHy!! mv]N*h^ -lb`w+ ayh!
1 2 3 4
Hi' Vekal Hannashim Yittenu.
1 2 3 4
it and-all the-wives shall-give
"Due Respect Our LadiesTHE SECOND ACROSTIC (5:4).
shall give to their husbands, both to great and small."
is formed, as before, by the initial letters, for Jehovah is initiating His action; but the name is spelt forward because He is rulingand causing Esther to act; and take the first step, which was to lead up to so great an end.
The four words are :
4 3 2 1
moyh^ zm*h*w= I÷÷!l#M#h^ aoby`
1 2 3 4
Yabo' Hammelek VeHaman Hayyom
1 2 3 4
let-come the-king and-Haman this-day
"Let Our Royal Dinner
this day be graced by the king and Haman."
The name of Jehovah is read in the invitation, intimating that there would be a fourth at that banquet.THE THIRD ACROSTIC (5:13).
is the beginning of the end; for Haman had gone forth from that banquet "joyful and with a glad heart" (5:9) "that day." Yet it was to be his last. Hence the third Acrostic is formed with the final letters, for the end was approaching; and the name is spelt backward, for Jehovah was overruling Haman's gladness, and turning back Haman's counsel.
The four words are :
4 3 2 1
yl= hw#v) WBb#ya@ hz#
1 2 3 4
zeH 'eynennV shoveH leY
1 3 2 4
this availeth nothing to-me
The English may be freely rendered "Yet am I
saD; foR, nO avaiL
is all this to me."THE FOURTH ACROSTIC (7:7).
is formed, like the third, by the final letters, for Haman's end had come. But it is spelt forward like the first, for Jehovah was ruling and bringing about the end He had determined. Haman saw there was cause for fear. A fourth is there -- Jehovah Himself! And when Esther pleads for her life (7:3), the king asks "Who is he and where is he?" which brings in Jehovah's own ineffable name -- the Acrostic of the five final letters spelling in Hebrew "I am" (see the fifth Acrostic below). Esther replies : "The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman." The king, filled with wrath, rises, and goes forth into the palace garden. Haman, filled with fear, rises, "to make request for his life to Esther the queen, for he saw
that evil was determined against him
by the king."
This was the climax, the end had come. Hence the name is spelt by the final letters :
4 3 2 1
hu*d*h* wyl*a@ hj*l=k* yB†
1 2 3 4
kY kalethaH 'elayV haraeaH
1 4 2 3
that evil was-determined against-him
Translated, as before, the Acrostic appears in English thus : "For he saw that there was
eviL tO feaR determineD
against him by the king."THE FIFTH ACROSTIC (7:5).
in this book does not form the name "Jehovah," but the remarkable name E H Y H which means
It is noted in some manuscripts by Majuscular letters, which have Massoretic authority (see Ap, 30).
The Acrostic is formed by the final letters, and the name is spelt backward.
The king asks "Who is he, and where is he, that durst presume in his heart to do so?" : i.e. to sell for destruction Queen Esther and her People. In saying this he unconsciously gives the name of Him who came down to deliver His People out of the hand of Pharaoh, and had then come down to deliver them again out of the hand of Haman, "the Jews' enemy", who, like Pharaoh, sought to destroy the whole nation (cp. Exodus 2:23-25 with 3:14, 15). The great enemy of the Messiah -- the living Word -- was seeking to destroy all hope of His promised coming (Gen. 3:15), and make void the repeated promise of Jehovah.
Ahasuerus only pointed to human agency, but his words point us to the Satanic agency which was behind it. The Acrostic is in the final letters of his question "Who is he, and where is he?" Only the great "I am that I am" could know that, and could answer that question. Esther and Mordecai knew the human instrument, but none could know who was directing him but the One Who sees the end from the beginning.
The words forming the Acrostic are
4 3 2 1
hz# ya@w= hz# aIh
1 2 3 4
hu'E zeH ve'eY zeH
1 2 3 4
[who is] he this [man] and where [is] this [man]
"who durst presume in his heart to do so" : i.e. to conspire
against the life of the Queen and her People.
We may English it thus :
"WhereE dwelletH the-enemY that-daretH
presume in his heart to do this thing?"
Thus was the name of the great "I AM" of Exodus 3:14 presented to the eye, to reveal the fact that He who said of E H Y H "this is My Name for ever, and this is My Memorial unto all generations" (v. 15), was there to remember His People. Here was a "generation" in Persia who experienced the truth and the power of this Name, as a former "generation" had done in Egypt.
The same "I AM" had indeed come down to deliver them from Haman; as He had from Pharaoh, and from the great "enmity" (of Gen. 3:15) which instigated both to accomplish the Satanic design of exterminating the Nation of Israel.
In these five Acrostics we have something far beyond a mere coincidence; we have design. When we read the denunciation in Deut. 31:16-18, and see it carried out in Persia, we learn that though God was not among His people there, He was for them. Though He was not acting as Jehovah, "that dwelleth between the Cherubim," He was "the God of Heaven, ruling and over-ruling all in the Heaven above and in the Earth beneath" for the fulfillment of His purposes, and in the deliverance of His People. Hence, though His name, as well as His presence, is HIDDEN, yet, it is there, in the Word; and so wonderfully interwoven that no enemy will ever know how to put it out.
(*1) In the note on Est. 1:1 this Ahasuerus is identified with Astyages, who is the same as Darius the Mede. See notes on p. 618, and Ap. 57.
(*2) The Talmud (Kelim 139) says "Where do we get Esther in the Law?" And the answer is "Deut. 31:18, 'and I will surely hide my face'". So here, the outward form of the revelation takes on the form of its inward and spiritual meaning. For the same reason we have the Divine Title "the God of heaven" as characterizing the book Exra-Nehemiah. See note on 2Chron. 36:23.
(*3) How many more there may be will be ascertained only when all the special scrolls of Esther shall be examined.
(*4) For other examples of Acrostics in the Hebrew text, see Ap. 63. vii.
(*5) In the use of these terms, "backward" and "forward" the English reader must bear in mind that Hebrew is read from right to left both in the spelling and wording.
© 2012 Tamarajo