Introduction

In the series, we have explored quite a number of areas of the Old Testament

1. The Fall Feast (Part 1)
2. Pauls Explanation Of Col 2 (Part 2)
3. Day Of Atonement (Part 3)
4. Feast Of The Tabernacles (Part 4)
5. Clean And Unclean Meat (Part 5 , Part 6)
6. Burning Of Incense (Part 7, Part 8
7. Lighting Of Lamp (Part 9, Part 10 )
8. Offering Of Sacrifice (Part 11, Part 12)

Today is Mar 9 2017. Those who are big fan of the Jewish festivals would know that today is the beginning of Ta’anit Ester. This is a commemoration of the 3 day fast requested by Queen Esther before taking the risk of going before the presence of the King

“Go, gather all the Jews who
  are present in Shushan, and
  fast for me; neither eat nor
  drink for three days, night or
  day. My maids and I will fast
  likewise. And so I will go to the 
  king, which is against the law;
  and if I perish, I perish!”- Esther (Esther 4:16)

This is interesting this year as we just commemorated International Woman’s day one day ago.

On the sunset of 11th Mar 2017 to 12 Mar 2017 marks the feast of Purim in the Jewish Calendar. In the Jewish calendar it is yearly on 14th day of Adar Month. It is a feast that is not found in the Mosaic Covenant. The origin of the feast is dated during the time of Persian rule and the defeat of the Babylonian empire. The story of Purim is recorded in details in the book  if Esther.

The Historical Esther

My interest for history and archaeology led me on a search for the historical Queen Esther. But the fact is that there are not a lot of archaeological proof for queen Esther. There have been traditions, sites that are identified as the tomb of Esther and Mordecai in Iran. But none of these traditions can be verified in anyway.

Those who attempted to link her to various known historical characters have problem identifying all the characters in the story. The king identified in the story is either Artaxerxes I (reigned 465 to 424 BCE) or Artaxerxes II (reigned 404 to 358 BCE).

However it is impossible to identify the rest of the characters in the story

I believe that is where we need to ask ourselves if we are willing to accept the fact that the biblical account of the story is real or not. But for me the fact that God had allowed the story to be part of the bible is enough.

While i hope that one day good evidence will be found. I will believe the words of God with my heart and believe that the story indeed happened.

A Quick Recap Of The Origins 

The story of Queen Esther is set in the Persian Citidel of Sushan . To a young Jewish girl whose name was Hadassah. She was an orphan living with her uncle Mordecai. In those days the king called for a feast and wanted her queen (Vashti)  to come to the feast so that all could see her beauty. But the queen refused the request. As the result Queen Vashti was dethroned and sent away.

That is when the king called for young maiden to come to the palace to be selected as the next queen. Hadassah went to the palace and kept her Jewish identity secret. She took on the name Esther.  By grace of God, she won the favour of the King and was crowned Queen Esther. During that time an assassination attempt was made to the king. It was stopped by Queen Esther and Mordecai her uncle.

Somewhere outside the palace, an Agagite (Some believed to be Amalekite) known as Haman was made into a powerful political figure. He wanted everyone to bow and pay homage to him. But Mordecai the Jew refuse to bow down to him. Out of Anger, he plotted to kill all the Jews living within the Persian empire. He convinced the King to write an edict to exterminate all Jews living within the Persian Empire. He also created a giant gallows to hang Mordecai on it.

Mordecai and the Jews read the edict. They were sad and distressed. At this point of time Mordecai decided to approach Queen Esther for help to save the Jews. Esther wanted to help, but Persian Law dictates that no one is to come close to the King when they are not being summoned. That is a rule punishable by death. The King however is allowed to extend his sceptre to that person and he/she will be spared of death.

Esther summoned up all the courage, urge all the Jews to pray for her. She fasted for 3 days before going before the king. By grace of God, when she appeared, the King extended his sceptre to Esther saving her from death. She invited Haman and the King to her banquet.

On the second night of the banquet. Esther fell before the King and begged the king for mercy. she told the king that Haman wanted to kill all the Jews. The king saw Haman falling down across the couch where Esther was, he ordered Haman to be captured. Later on Haman was hanged on the Gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. The King went on to write an edict allow the Jews to protect their lives and to take vengeance on their adversaries.

The Jews celebrated the festival with joy, for God turned the day of destruction for the Jews to a day of feasting and gladness. This is the origin of this festival.

Lessons From Esther

The name of God is not mentioned in the book of Esther. But there are some who claim that the name YHWH appears in the conversations in the book (link here). However I am no expert in Hebrew. I would provide the link for those who are curious about it.

I believe there are many lessons we can learn from Esther

1. There are coincidences in life, some of them are orchestrated by God.

The book of Esther is full of Coincidences. Queen Vashti being dethroned, Esther becoming queen. Mordecai to chance upon the assassins and their plan.  The king being unable to sleep, requesting for the chronicles to be read to him. the chronicles chosen is the passage about Mordecai rescuing the king. While these events appear random, it is in fact the hand of God behind it.  IT all comes together so that the people of God will be saved.

2. The Courage Of Esther and her willingness to sacrifice herself 

Today when we read the book of Esther, it felt that her decision to come before the King is a simple choice to make. But those who had to make decisions that may lead to their death understands and appreciate the struggle Esther had to go through in order to save the Jews.

It is not easy for Esther to mutter these words “if I perish, I perish!”

Esther could have escaped the disaster herself as she had kept her Jewish identity secret. And in those days there are no DNA test. Yet Esther choose to stand with her kindred and race to save them. She did it with an understanding that she may be killed for doing it. Such decision requires a lot of courage and faith in God.

3. By trusting God, one could turn adversity into opportunity.

The story of Esther started out on a sad note. Esther was an orphan, but God made her the queen of Persia. Mordecai started out as a simple servant of the King almost killed by the office politics of his days. He rose to a position of greatness and respect in the Persian empire. The jews were almost exterminated by the edict of Haman. But they were protected by the edict of the King at the end.

Let us learn that no matter what difficulty we encounter in life. We all could rely on God and he will see us through our difficulty. He is able to turn adversity into opportunity. But we need to be willing to entrust our lives to him and to face our difficulty with faith.

Purim Today

The festival of Purim is not a festival mandated by God. But it is being kept by the Jews to commemorate the event and to remember the deliverance of God. But over time more and more man-made traditions are added.

1. People will greet each other happy Purim.

2. There will be lots of carnivals, masquerades and costume worn by children
     (Sometimes people call Purim “The Jewish Halloween”

3. Some will burn effigy representing Haman, eat a pastry known as Haman’s ears, Haman Pockets (reminded me of how Chinese fry dough sticks represented the killers of General Yue Fei).

4.  When Jews read the book of Esther, they will choose not to read the name if Haman, replacing it with noise.

5. Some will do charity and exchange gifts  on that day

Purim And Christians

Purim, like Hanukah are nationalistic holidays with some basic links to the Old Testament. So the question is, is there a need to Christians to celebrate it?

There are some who claim that Jesus celebrated Purim. Some claim that the feast recorded in Jn 5:1 is the feast of Purim. But if one were to read different commentaries of the verse, we will know that no one knows for certain if the feast in Jn 5:1 is Purim or not. So far some said that the feast is the day of Atonement, some called it the Passover.

That is why I would not attempt to speculate if the feast is Purim or not.  Jesus is a Jew by race. I will not be surprise that he kept Hanukah or Purim, or any of the Old Testament feast. There is nothing weird or wrong with that.

In the same way, I believe that Apostles Paul kept the feast of the Lord personally. I Cor. 16:8-9. Recorded of Paul plan to travel to Jerusalem on Pentecost. Paul talks about keeping feast in Acts 18:21

But we who read the bible need to differentiate between customs of the apostles and the teaching of the apostles. Have we ever wondered why did Paul travel back for the feast alone? Why did he not force the entire church to follow him to Jerusalem to keep the feast? 

Paul explains this when he wrote to the Romans

“One person esteems one day above another;
  another esteems every day alike. Let each
  be fully convinced in his own mind.

  He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord;
 
and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord
  he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord,
  for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat,
  to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.

   For none of us lives to himself, and no one dies to
   himself.  For if we live, we live to the Lord;
   and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore,
  whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s.” – Paul(Rom 14:5-8)

Conclusion

I do not deny the significance of Purim to the Jews, it is a nationalistic holiday that reminded the of God salvation of the Jews. For me as a Christians, i keep the story of Esther and the faith of Esther close to my heart. They are principles to how I would face my adversaries  in life. If i am able to do that, that it make no differences if I keep that feast or not.

Nonetheless I wish the Jews a happy Purim and may we all learn the lessons from the book of Esther.

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