Purim – The Feast of Lots – Adar 13, 2779/ March 21, 2019
This is not your ordinary Cinderella story, but it is a true one. The Megillat (scroll/story of) Esther takes place around 478BC in Persia. Around 605 BC the Israelites were in the process of being taken into captivity because of their consistent disobedience to God. In 586, King Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, carrying away all of the gold and silver temple vessels. As prophesied, in 538, King Cyrus gave an edict that allowed the Jews to return to their land and begin to rebuild, however, many did not return because it was a hostile environment. (Ezra, Nehemiah)
Hadassah (Esther) was an orphan raised by her cousin Mordecai, living in Persia as part of the Jewish community that did not return to Jerusalem. In this account, God's name is never mentioned, yet His fingerprints are all over it as a clear example of recognizing His presence in every day circumstances. As this young beautiful woman grew up, she had no idea how God would use her in this intriguing chain of events.
The Megillat begins in the courts of King Xerxes (Ahasuerus) and his Queen Vashti. A great and lavish feast celebrating the wealth of the kingdom was taking place, which could have lasted for several months and traditionally the men's and women's banquets were separate. As much wine was being consumed, the king decided it was time to present his queen to his friends and attendees. Queen Vashti refused Xerxes request, and much to his dismay and humiliation, he took the advice of his drunken associates and banished her from the kingdom.
After some time had passed, the king decided that he needed a new queen. A royal beauty contest was arranged and beautiful women from around the province were brought into the palace to be prepared for their chance to impress the king. Among the women was Hadassah, whom Mordecai encouraged to be her best yet hide her Jewishness and call herself Esther. Esther gained favor in the eyes of Hegai, the palace eunuch in charge of the women and he helped her in the pursuit. Esther pleased the king more than all of the other virgins and she was made queen.
Now what story would be complete without villains? As Mordecai sat at the king's gate he became aware of an evil plot to kill King Xerxes. He was able to get the message to Esther who made it known to the king on behalf of Mordecai. The plot was foiled and the conspirators were hanged.
End of the villains? Now enters the real villain, Haman the Agagite, a man seeded with deep Amalakite family anger and resentment against the people of Israel (Exodus 17, Numbers 14 and 24, 1 Samuel 15). Such a beguiling deceiver, he managed to work his way up to a position as a trusted advisor to the king. Through his hatred, he convinced the king that the Jews were worthless enemies who needed to be exterminated. So a decree sealed by the king was sent out among the provinces setting a date for the destruction of all Jews, men, women and children.
Mordecai after his public distress of wailing, made an appeal to Esther to use her influence to persuade the king of his error. Now, coming into the presence of the king without first being summoned required a death sentence and she had not been summoned for more than thirty days. Esther was hesitant but was reminded by Mordecai that she, herself being a Jew, would eventually and surely not escape the call of the decree and that perhaps she had come into the kingdom for "such a time as this." After fasting for three days along with her attendees and all of the Jews, she gained courage, and decided, "if I perish, I perish," and she would do as she was called to do.
Xerxes had compassion for Esther as she approached the thrown and he spared her life and summoned her request. She had to play her hand carefully around the watchful eyes of Haman who may have been suspicious but not aware of her true identity. She cunningly requested a banquet for herself, the king and Haman. As pride got the best of Haman and he bragged of this great honor for himself to his friends and family and they advised him to construct a gallows for Mordecai , that "vile" Jew, who would not bow before Haman.
Meanwhile, Xerxes, having had a sleepless night, remembered that Mordecai had not been properly rewarded for his bravery in uncovering the planned coup against the king. So as Haman approached the king and before he was able to reveal his plan to hang Mordecai, the king asked, "what shall be done for the man the king delights to honor?". Of course, Haman thought it was for himself, so de described a pomp and circumstance parade through the streets, royal robes, horseback and all, which was done, much to Haman's shame and horror, for Mordecai. God does have a sense of humor, doesn't He?
Oh, but there was still the banquet to look forward to. On the second day of feasting, Esther revealed to the King that it was her beloved people, the Jews, that were to be destroyed by decree and that the true enemy was that evil Haman. Xerxes left the room in shock to quell his emotions and then returned to find Haman fallen upon the couch of his wife, the queen, pleading for his life ever so inappropriately. Haman was hung on the gallows that were meant for Mordecai.
Mordecai not only gained the position as advisor to the king, he also was rewarded with Haman's house and signet ring. And so as the first decree could not be called off, a second decree was given that allowed the Jews to defend their lives and property with the sword. Haman's sons were also hung on gallows and five hundred fellow thugs were slain. An annual feast was decreed to celebrate the overcoming of the casting of Pur (Lot), which is still celebrated to this day. Cheers for poetic justice!!! (Esther)
Purim celebration includes the wearing of character costumes, reading the story out loud while cheering the heroes and booing the villains. It also includes eating the sweet fruit filled pastry called Hamantashen, that are made to resemble the hat that Haman may have worn.
One Night With The King is a well made movie, made in 2006, about this Megillat and it is not too difficult to find. Chag (Happy) Purim!!!!
A great Purim song from the Maccabeats in the link below: