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SUNDAY STUDY: The Feast of Purim

From a Jewish perspective by Temple Institute:

The story told in the book of Esther describes real people involved in a real struggle that took place during a real time and involved very real issues.

Shushan, where the book of Esther is set, was the capital of the Persian Empire some 2,500 years ago. The king was Achashverosh, (Ahasveurus), whose predecessor, Coresh, (Cyrus), had conquered the Babylonian Empire of Nebuchadnezzar, the conqueror of the Kingdom of Judea, and the destroyer and plunderer of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.

We learn about Nebuchadnezzar and his son, Belshazzar, up close, in the book of Daniel. There is described a feast held by Belshazzar, following which he abruptly and mysteriously dies. He had staged the feast based on computations he had made concerning the fate of the Holy Temple. The prophet Jeremiah, who had witnessed the destruction of the Holy Temple, prophesied that, following a seventy-year period, the Jews exiled to Babylon would return to the land of Israel and rebuild the Temple.

Belshazzar erroneously drew the conclusion that the seventy-year period had passed, that the Jews would not be returning to Israel, and that the Holy Temple would never be rebuilt, and so he chose to celebrate by hosting a sumptuous feast. The highlight of their feast would be the presentation, for all to see, of the stolen vessels from the Holy Temple. His sudden death later that night is perhaps not so mysterious, after all.

Following the death of Belshazzar, the Babylonian Empire was toppled by Coresh, ruler of Persia. Coresh signed an official decree allowing the Jews of Babylon to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the Holy Temple. Forty-two thousand Jews responded and made their way back to Jerusalem. They were met with much political opposition, as well as physical hardships. Convinced by those opposed to the rebuilding of the Temple, Coresh rescinded his order, and the construction of the Temple ceased.

When Coresh passed from the scene, Achashverosh became king. Achashverosh was married to Vashti – the granddaughter of Nebuchadnezzar. It was now for Achashverosh to decide the fate of the Holy Temple. Continue HERE

From a Christian perspective by Friends of Israel:

By Chris Katulka


Purim! It’s an annual Jewish celebration marking that epic moment when God providentially rescued His people from the Persians just in the nick of time.

Purim usually involves getting dressed up in costumes, eating, and an interactive retelling of the biblical narrative of Esther.

Now if you’re not familiar with the story of Purim, it involves two characters and their rise to fame and power. Esther, a Jewish woman from Persia, who was brought up by her Uncle Mordecai; hers is a rags-to-riches story. She would eventually become queen of Persia by participating in a royal contest. Around the same time, a man named Haman was promoted by the king of Persia to become what we might call today, the prime minister. He was set above all the other officials in the land.

It didn’t take long for power to corrupt Haman. After he was promoted, Haman noticed Mordecai was a Jew who wouldn’t bow down to him. This enraged Haman enough to win the king’s approval to have all the Jewish people destroyed.

The plot of Purim is building. Are you beginning to see the tension rising in the story? Esther, who is Jewish, becomes queen. Haman, second-in-command, wants to rid Persia of all the Jewish people, and without knowing it, the king gives approval to Haman’s wicked plot.

Purim reminds us that even when it seems like God isn’t present in our times of tragedy, He is still orchestrating His plan for His glory!

Another little twist appears in this narrative, the controversy surrounding God’s name. It’s never once mentioned in the book of Esther. It’s hard to imagine a story like this found in the Bible involving a Hitler-like figure who attempts to destroy God’s Chosen People, and God’s name is never once mentioned.

Purim reminds us that even when it seems like God isn’t present in our times of tragedy, He is still orchestrating His plan for His glory!

It’s no coincidence that just as Haman rises to power to destroy the Jewish people, Esther is chosen to be the queen. It’s no coincidence because this story is only the outworking of a greater struggle happening behind the scenes, the battle between God and Satan, good and evil. The story of Esther and the celebration of Purim is a reminder that Satan seeks to destroy what God values.

God was and is working through Israel and the Jewish people. He values them because through them would come Jesus the Messiah, the Savior of the world. Jesus is the only One who can break Satan’s power, so it’s no surprise that Satan has been working tirelessly from the beginning to destroy the Jewish people.

Just look at the laundry list of people and empires that have attempted to wipe out Israel and the Jewish people:

→Spanish Inquisition
→Russian Pogroms

Satan has been working to destroy what God values. Yet, today, the Jewish people stand once again this Purim to celebrate their deliverance from destruction.

God providentially raised up Esther to a position of prominence in Persia as the Scriptures say “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14). That means it was God’s perfect timing, and in the end Haman found his demise on the same gallows he built to destroy the Jewish people.

But this doesn’t mean Satan’s work is over. He’s still working to destroy what God values. The Bible reminds us in Ephesians 6:12, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” Paul goes on to tell us that since Satan is out to destroy what God values, we must put on the full armor of God because God values us!

My friends, the same evil that embodied Haman’s plot to rid Persia of the Jewish people is still around today. Spiritual warfare is real. Knowing this, every Christian should ask himself or herself, Why am I positioned here “for such a time as this?” Look around you. I know our stories may not be as epic as Esther’s, but if you are a believer in Christ, you have been providentially positioned. God has put you right where He needs you!

Even though we may not celebrate Purim, may it be a reminder for us today as believers in Jesus the Messiah to see that we have been providentially positioned by God, and to thank Him for the deliverance we have in Christ Jesus from the greatest enemy.

And Now for the Rest of the Story

    1. Mordecai is introduced as a descendant of Saul, while Haman is introduced as a descendant of Agag the Amalekite king. This parentage is no trivial fact. In 1 Samuel, Saul loses his kingship to David because he defied the will of God and did not kill Agag.

Haman was the king’s evil second-in-command and as a descendant of Agag, king of the Amalekites, was an ancient enemy of God’s people (Numbers 24:7; 1 Samuel 15:8). He cast the lot, called “pur,” in order to determine the day that the Jews would be exterminated.

Mordecai, a descendant of Saul, kills Haman, a descendant of Agag, and his children.

These events may have settled the score between Saul and God.

2. The similarities and parallels of Purim to the Nuremberg trials of 1946 and the Six-Day War of 1967 are remarkable. God has preserved the Israelites as His (chosen) people group, and will continue to do so to the Millennial reign of Christ.

Throughout history, God always raises up someone to save the Jewish people from total annihilation. Even though the Edomites, Amalekites, Moabites, and Hittites as a people group have disappeared from the pages of history, their bloodlines through their descendants are still here today.

  • The Jewish army, 2,500 years ago, preempted the attack of the Persian army against overwhelming odds and defeated them.
  • In the 4th century BC, after the Jewish people defeated the Persians, Queen Esther asked for Haman’s ten sons to be hanged.
  • In 1946, the Nuremberg trials pronounced twelve of Hitler’s generals guilty and sentenced them to hang. Martin Bormann was killed prior to the trials, and Herman Goering committed suicide hours before the hangings. That left ten generals. (In 1945, the method of military execution was firing squad. There was no explanation for the change of venue).
  • On October 16, 1946, Hitler’s ten generals were executed in the same manner as Haman’s ten sons. That day fell on the seventh day of Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, and is called Hoshana Rabbah.
    • Sukkot is the Feast of Booths, when God will gather with His people to “tabernacle” with Him. Christians believe that this feast will one day be the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant when Jesus Christ returns to set up His thousand-year reign on earth.
    • Hoshana Rabbah is the day that judgments are delivered. It was on Hoshana Rabbah that Hitler’s generals were hung.
    • One of Hitler’s generals, Julius Streicher, who had to be dragged to the gallows, screamed to the witnesses, “Purim Fest 1946!” He knew full well the divinely appointed concurrence of events!
  • The Israeli army in 1967 preempted the war with Egypt, Jordan, and Syria; Israel captured the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights, and the Sinai Peninsula in an incredible victory that stunned the world.