The Purpose

Purim is the Hebrew word for “lots”. “So they called these days Purim, after the name Pur” (Esther 9:26). The wicked Haman hated the Jews so he cast lots (like dice) to determine the day and month that all the Jewish people in the Persian Empire were to be killed. Purim is also referred to as “The Feast of Esther” and “Mordecai’s Day” and commemorates the deliverance of YHVH’s people. This is a joyous celebration of YHVH’s faithfulness to his people.

The Time

Purim is the last feast of the biblical year, taking place on Adar 14th, (late February or March) exactly one month before Pesach (Passover). Purim is not one of the feasts given by YHVH in Leviticus 23, but it is still a biblical feast and one of the best-known Jewish holidays added since the time of Moses.

The History

King Ahasuerus (Xerxes I) reigned over the Persian Empire during the zenith of its power and glory. He became displeased with his Queen Vashti and had her banished from the kingdom. So a decree was issued that all beautiful young women in the kingdom were to be brought before the King for him to choose someone to take Vashti’s place.

Among those brought before the King was the young Jewish girl Hadassa (Esther). She found favor with all those around her and the King “loved Esther more than any of the other young women” (Esther 2:17). Through her, Esther’s uncle Mordecai was able to stop a plot against the King (Esther 2:21-23).

During this time the evil Haman, was rising to power within the kingdom and was promoted to the position of prime minister over all the other princes, answering only to the King himself. Haman hated the Jews, especially Mordecai. Because of his love for YHVH, Mordecai would not obey the King's command to bow down in Haman’s presence.

With the help of his position, Haman influenced the King, in allowing him to pick a day that all Jews would be annihilated. He did this by casting lots (Pur) and the lots fell to Adar 13. An edict was sent out throughout the Empire that all Persian citizens were to destroy their Jewish neighbors and plunder their possessions.

Mordecai pleaded with Queen Esther to intercede on behalf of her people before the King (the King did not know that Esther was a Jew). It was forbidden for anyone to go before the King uninvited, even the Queen, and the penalty was death. Esther called for all the Jews in the land to join her in fasting and prayer for 3 days.

After the 3 days of fasting, Queen Esther went uninvited before the King. When the King saw her, he remembered his love for her and stretched out his scepter in order to spare her life. He offered her anything she desired, up to half of his kingdom. She asked only that the King and Haman join her for a banquet. While there, she asked that they join her again the next night for a second banquet where she would make her request known.

During this time, the King was reminded of Mordecai’s faithfulness in foiling the attempt on his life. Since he had not yet honored him, the King charged Haman with the duty of putting a royal robe on Mordecai and parading him through the streets on one of the King’s horses. This angered Haman, and caused his rage against Mordecai to grow stronger. Haman built a gallows on his own property, specifically for the time when he could take out his revenge on Mordecai.

After this humiliating day, parading his enemy around on the Kings horse, Haman was looking forward to the honor of a banquet with the King held by the Queen. The evening only got worse. Esther begged for her people be spared from those that plotted to destroy her people. Not knowing her Jewish heritage, the King asked who would want to destroy her. She named Haman. The King was so upset he stormed from the room. On returning he found Haman pleading for his life, but mistook his behavior as attacking his Queen. He had Haman hung on the very gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai.

Since a King’s edict could not be revoked, the King gave Mordecai Haman’s position and allowed him and Esther to send out a new edict to all the Jews in the kingdom, telling them to defend their families and their possessions on Adar 13, the day that was marked for their destruction.

YHVH placed Mordecai and Esther in a specific place and time, and their obedience and courage prevented the destruction of the Jewish people. You can read the complete account in the Book of Esther.

The Elements

Time of Gifts: It is customary during this time to give gifts of pastries and fruits to friends and relatives. It is also customary to give charity gifts to needy individuals so that they may enjoy this festival.

Time of Food: Purim is a time of special foods and feasting! The most common food is a triangular pastry filled with a poppy seed or prune filling called Hamantashen because their shape is reminiscent of the three cornered hat that Haman is said to have worn.

Time of Gladness: During Purim, people will dress in disguise in remembrance of Esther keeping her true identity from the King. There are also noise makers that are used during the reading of the record of Esther. Whenever the name of Haman is mentioned, listeners boo and hiss and make all kinds of noise in order to blot out this name. Whenever Mordecai or Esther’s name is read, listeners cheer and shout praise.

The Spiritual Focus

Purim is a time to remember the defeat of YHVH’s enemies and the deliverance of YHVH’s people. Throughout history YHVH’s enemies have continually tried to destroy YHVH’s people (Israel) but faithfully YHVH delivers them out of the hands of the evil one.

We are also to remember that even when we don’t understand our circumstances and the situations that we find ourselves in, when we follow YHVH, he places us in a specific time and place so that His will can be done in our lives and the lives of those around us.