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Purim - A Celebration of God's Deliverance

Purim is a holiday often overlooked by non-Jewish followers of Yeshua (Jesus). In this article, I discuss (1) the historical and prophetic significance of Purim; (2) how Yeshua (Jesus) used Purim in His public ministry; and (3) the relevance of Purim for all Believers.

by William L. Nowell
Published March 26, 2016
  • Purim 2018 begins at sundown Wednesday, February 28, and ends at sundown Thursday, March 1.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. ... If God is for us, who can be against us? (Romans 8:28, 31)

Historical Background

The events of associated with Purim, and recorded in the Book of Esther, took place in the Persian Empire during the 5th century B.C. King Xerxes the Great (also called Ahasuerus in the Hebrew language) ruled over one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, from the border of India to Ethiopia. His empire included modern-day Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Israel, Turkey, Libya, Egypt, and Sudan.

In search of a Queen, King Xerxes gathered some 400 beautiful young women from all the provinces of his empire to be part of his harem. Included among the 400 was a Jewish woman named Esther, who would ultimately become queen.

At one time, Mordecai, Queen Esther's cousin and guardian, uncovered a plot to assassinate the king and reported it to her. Though his actions saved the life of King Xerxes, it was not long before he found himself in conflict with the king's second-in-command, Haman. A proud, arrogant, and ungodly man, Haman demanded that all should bow down in worship and pay homage to him. However, Mordecai refused! Haman became enraged and plotted to kill, not only Mordecai, but also all the Jews in the entire Persian Empire. At that time, all the Jews in the world lived in the Persian Empire.

Queen Esther & King Xerxes

Mordecai, after learning of Haman's plans, reported all he knew to Queen Esther. In that culture, no one could approach the king without having been summoned. Doing so could result in death. That included the queen. However, after much fasting and praying, Queen Esther bravely approached the king and turned the tables on Haman. In the end, Haman and his ten sons were all executed; impaled on poles. Mordecai, in recognition of having saved the king's life years earlier, was promoted to second-in-command to King Xerxes.

What is most important is the fact that God would not allow His people to be destroyed. Working through Ester and Mordecai, He delivered His people from certain annihilation.

Purim, a Jewish Holiday?

In remembrance of God's saving grace, Mordecai established the annual celebration we know today as Purim. The name Purim comes from the Hebrew word “pur”, meaning “lot.” Haman cast lots to determine the day on which to murder all the Jews. Purim is also called the Festival of Lots.

Had Haman's genocidal plot succeeded, it would've meant the extermination of God's “chosen people;” the people from whom our Savior would come. On that day, God's plan of salvation would've come to a screeching halt, and we would all be lost in our sins. But praise be to the LORD of heaven and earth, His plans never fail!

Upon receiving letters from Mordecai, “the Jews took it on themselves to establish the custom that they and their descendants and all who join them [emphasis is mine] should without fail observe these two days every year...” (Esther 9:27) As Christians, we are fully grafted into the household of Israel, (see Romans 11:17 and Ephesians 2:15-16, 19) therefore the phrase “all who join them” includes us. Purim is for Christians too.

Preparing for Purim

I suggest that you, on the days leading to Purim, read the Book of Esther. Loaded with drama, intrigue, and power struggles, the Book of Esther has all the elements of a captivating novel. And it makes a good movie too. I'm sure you'll enjoy watching Esther - The Bible Movie Online:

Yeshua and Purim

Did Yeshua (Jesus) celebrate Purim? The Bible does not specifically say that Yeshua celebrated Purim. But here's what we know. The Gospel of John tells us that Yeshua went to Jerusalem for a Jewish festival that fell on a Sabbath day. (John 5:1, 9) The festival is unnamed in the Gospel of John. However, the only Jewish Festival that occurred on a Sabbath between the years of AD 25 and AD 35 was Purim in AD 28. It's only logical to conclude that Yeshua went to Jerusalem to celebrate Purim.

It is interesting to note that Yeshua (Jesus) used the occasion of Purim to announce for the first time in His public ministry that “God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18). In addition, He announced that He was both the “Son of God” (John 5:25) and the “Son of Man” (John 5:27). This was not only a reference to His Divine-human nature, but to His role as Messiah. “Son of Man” is a Messianic title used by the prophet Daniel. (See Daniel 7:13-14) Yeshua used Purim to announce that He was God Incarnate and the promised Messiah.

From my perspective, it is significant that Yeshua (Jesus) used Purim to state publicly that He was the Messiah-Deliverer. The Jews in Yeshua's day saw Purim as a time to celebrate their deliverance only from physical destruction. However, as followers of Yeshua (Jesus), we have a far greater reason to celebrate. Because of Yeshua (Jesus), our Messiah-Deliverer, we can celebrate our deliverance from eternal destruction.

Prophetic Significance of Purim

When we celebrate Purim, we not only look back to a time past when God delivered His people. Today, Israel faces an existential threat from the fiercely anti-Semitic nation of Iran. Up to 1935, Iran was known as Persia (as in the Persian Empire). In Esther's day, more than 75,000 Persian enemies of the Jewish People were killed in two days. If Iran attacks Israel, how many Iranians will die? Only time will tell. But we can be certain that the unchanging God of Israel will preserve His people today just as He did in the past.

When we celebrate Purim, we also look forward with anticipation to the coming Millennial Kingdom - a 1000-year celebration of our Messiah-Deliverer, the One who made it possible for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord to be saved. (Romans 10:12-13) When we celebrate Purim, we must not forget all the Lord has done for us.

As we study the Book of Esther in this season of Purim, we should keep our eyes open for the many prophetic images contained therein. For instance, in Queen Esther and King Xerxes, we get a glimpse of the coming Millennial Kingdom. In them, we see a Jew and a gentile, together as one, ruling the Persian Empire. Similarly, when Yeshua (Jesus) establishes His Millennial Kingdom, Jews and Gentiles, together as one in Christ, will rule in His Kingdom.

More importantly, in Haman we have a prophetic picture of the coming Antichrist. There have been many antichrists throughout history who have sought to destroy the Jewish People, most notably, Adolf Hitler. All met with defeat. During the Great Tribulation, “the time of Jacobs' trouble,” the Antichrist (Muslim Mahdi?) will attempt to massacre the Jewish People. Though empowered by Satan, the Antichrist will go down in blazing defeat. Just as Haman and his ten sons were defeated, the Antichrist and his ten kings will be defeated at the Second Coming of Christ. On that great and joyous day, the God of Israel will once again deliver His people. With the return of Messiah, we will all experience the ultimate fulfillment of Purim!

I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice He judges and wages war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on His head are many crowns. He has a name written on Him that no one knows but He Himself. He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and His name is the Word of God. The armies of heaven were following Him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. Coming out of His mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh He has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. (Revelation 19:11-16)

Conclusion

Esther was an ordinary person who suffered misfortune in life. She was raised by her cousin Mordecai, not her parents. She was most likely an orphan. Then later in life, Esther was taken from her home and made part of the King's harem. She had no choice in this matter. However, God used the circumstances of her life to put her in the right place at the right time to be used by Him to bring deliverance to her people. The life of Esther reminds me of the life of Joseph. (See Genesis 37:1 - 50:26) In several ways, their lives parallel each other. Joseph had the misfortune of being hated by his brothers. Consequently, they kidnapped and sold him into slavery. Then, as with Esther, God used the circumstances of his life to put him in the right place at the right time to be used by God to bring deliverance to his people. What we can take away from this is that we don't need to live charmed lives or have special skills and talents to be used by God. What we must always remember is that God can use ordinary people to accomplish great things. If God calls you to be a Joseph or Esther, are you ready, willing, and available? Are you prepared to take action “in such a time as this”? (Esther 4:14)

A Closing Prayer

I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for the soon return of Yeshua (Jesus). The signs of His return are everywhere. I consider it a privilege and honor to be alive in these last days. Generations before me could only read Bible prophecy as future events. But I have the awesome privilege of witnessing Bible prophecy as it's fulfilled in the world around me. You have kept me alive, sustained me, and brought me to this time. Now, may I be found worthy to be used by You to accomplish Your purposes in such a time as this. Amen.

Three Crosses