So, you may remember that I’m celebrating all of the biblical holidays this year. This past week was the feast of Purim, which commemorates God saving His people from destruction through the story of Esther and Mordecai. Purim is not one of the seven feasts God commanded his people to celebrate in Leviticus 23, but we do see it instituted in the book of Esther. Jesus would have celebrated it, sending gifts to the poor and to friends and feasting in celebration of how God saved His people from extinction by using Esther “for such a time as this.”
As a refresher, the book of Esther takes place when the Jews were under the control of the Persian empire after they were exiled by the Babylonians. The Persian king decided he wanted a new wife, so he searched the kingdom for some beautiful ladies. Hadassah (Esther) was one of them. She won the favor of the king and became queen, but she never told him that she was a Jew. Esther had a cousin named Mordecai, and he made a man named Haman angry because he would not bow down to him. Haman apparently took things a little too personally because he decided to kill all of the Jews in the whole world simply because Mordecai made him mad. Haman managed to get the king to agree to this mass murder, and he planned to kill all the Jews in the month of Adar. Well, Esther stepped up and was able to expose Haman’s plot to the king. The Jews were able to fight back to save themselves from extinction, and Haman was hanged on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai.
So, in Esther 9, the holiday of Purim is instituted. Purim is the plural of “pur” which means “lot” because Haman cast a lot against the Jews. This holiday is celebrated every year because God saved His people from destruction. For the Jews, the Bible says, “it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor.”
Purim is a very celebratory holiday. You eat good food and drink wine and read the story of Esther to remember God’s work.
Whenever Haman’s name is read during the Esther story, you shake noisemakers to blot out his name from the earth. This is because Haman was a descendent of Amalek, and Deuteronomy 25:19 says that when the Israelites get to the Promised Land they should “blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget.”
I think the coolest thing about Purim is wearing costumes. You dress up, and it’s traditional to wear a mask. You “masquerade” during Purim because the name of God is actually never mentioned in the book of Esther, but it is clear that He was at work behind the scenes, orchestrating events in order to save His people from destruction.
I celebrated Purim with my small group last week, and we had so much fun. We stomped and shook noisemakers to blot out Haman’s name, we ate good food, and we participated in the celebration because it is real in our lives — God has rescued us from destruction by sending His Son for our salvation. This is our story as well. And it is beautiful.
Have you or any of your friends ever celebrated Purim?