The Book of Esther records the story of Purim. The word “Purim” means “lots” and refers to the lottery that Haman used to choose the date for the massacre of the Jews.
Following is a brief account of the history and characters in the story.
PERSIAN EMPIRE: Esther 1:1 “Now it came to pass in the days of Ahasuerus (this was the Ahasuerus who reigned over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from India to Ethiopia)…” It stretched over the land formerly occupied by all of the previous world empires; Egyptian, Hittite, Aramean, Assyrian, and Babylonian, the largest empire the earth had ever seen. The Persian Empire itself would last until Alexander the Great came sweeping through with his army.
KING AHASEURUS: king of the Persian Empire
HAMAN: the ‘prime minister’ of the Empire. Haman was an Agagite, descended from the Amalekites; from Amalek, who was the illegitimate grandson of Esau. Haman wanted to annihilate the Jewish people. He was the Hitler of his day.
MORDECHAI: “the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite, who had been taken into exile from Jerusalem with the captives who had been exiled with Jeconiah king of Judah… he was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, his uncle’s daughter, for she had neither father nor mother” Esther 2:5-7. Mordecai is a direct descendant of King Saul as indicated by his lineage, and was the uncle to Queen Esther.
QUEEN ESTHER: Hadassah, the orphaned Jewish daughter of Abihail, raised by her uncle Mordecai, became Esther, queen of Persia, around 521-485 BC. She was in a position of direct influence over the king. Her uncle had thought it best to hide her Jewish ancestry.
Esther and her uncle Mordecai were Jews descended from the tribe of Benjamin, and ultimately descended from the lineage of the first king of Israel, King Saul, son of Kish. They had a direct relation to King Saul.
In an intriguing twist, the ancestors of Haman (Amalek) and of Mordechai/Esther (Saul) were opposing forces in times past. “Now the Lord sent you on a mission, and said, ‘Go, and utterly destroy the sinners, the Amalekites, and fight against them until they are consumed.’ Why then did you not obey the voice of the Lord? Why did you swoop down on the spoil, and do evil in the sight of the Lord?”” 1 Samuel 15:17-19. (Samuel, the prophet, speaking to King Saul after the king disobeyed God’s orders to totally destroy the Amalekites.)
These ancient forces of God’s perfect goodness and the enemy’s evil faced each other once again. This time they revealed themselves in the personages of Haman and Mordecai.
Haman influenced King Ahasuerus of Persia (Iran) and offered him a large sum of money for the right to obliterate the Jews: ‘to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in a single day and to plunder their possessions’. Haman spent considerable money and effort to get this issued as law (Esther 3:8-14).
If not for the strange circumstances and hidden miracles – which came to be known as Purim– he would have gotten away with it. It was Haman’s suggestion, but Ahasuerus had no problem passing a law that all Jews be slaughtered (Esther 3:10).
In an effort to reverse the decree, Queen Esther (who had never disclosed to the king that she was a Jew) invited the king and Haman to two banquets (Esther 5:4, 7-8) causing Haman to let his guard down, and thus, becoming vulnerable to Esther’s (and Mordechai’s) plan.
Purim 2016 holds special significance:
On March 9, Iran test-fired two ballistic missiles capable of reaching Iran’s archenemy Israel marked with a statement in Hebrew reading “Israel must be wiped off the Earth,” Iran’s semiofficial Fars News Agency reported.
So who will God raise up this Purim, for such a time as this Esther4:14.
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JPost Headline “Belgian police ask Jewish community to avoid Purim masks, cancel festivities” @ BPTnews.org