A Day Worth Celebrating.

Now the rest of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces also gathered to defend their lives, and got relief from their enemies and killed 75,000 of those who hated them, but they laid no hands on the plunder. This was on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth day they rested and made that a day of feasting and gladness. But the Jews who were in Susa gathered on the thirteenth day and on the fourteenth, and rested on the fifteenth day, making that a day of feasting and gladness. Therefore the Jews of the villages, who live in the rural towns, hold the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a day for gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and as a day on which they send gifts of food to one another.

So the Jews accepted what they had started to do, and what Mordecai had written to them. For Haman the Agagite, the son of Hammedatha, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur (that is, cast lots), to crush and to destroy them.  But when it came before the king, he gave orders in writing that his evil plan that he had devised against the Jews should return on his own head, and that he and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. Therefore they called these days Purim, after the term Pur. Therefore, because of all that was written in this letter, and of what they had faced in this matter, and of what had happened to them, the Jews firmly obligated themselves and their offspring and all who joined them, that without fail they would keep these two days according to what was written and at the time appointed every year, that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, in every clan, province, and city, and that these days of Purim should never fall into disuse among the Jews, nor should the commemoration of these days cease among their descendants.

Then Queen Esther, the daughter of Abihail, and Mordecai the Jew gave full written authority, confirming this second letter about Purim. Letters were sent to all the Jews, to the 127 provinces of the kingdom of Ahasuerus, in words of peace and truth, that these days of Purim should be observed at their appointed seasons, as Mordecai the Jew and Queen Esther obligated them, and as they had obligated themselves and their offspring, with regard to their fasts and their lamenting. The command of Esther confirmed these practices of Purim, and it was recorded in writing. – Esther 9:16-32 ESV

It seems a bit strange that the Jews would set aside the day when they killed 75,000 of their Persian neighbors as an annual day of celebration, feasting and gladness. From that day forward, they would commemorate the thirteenth day of the month of Adar by giving one another gifts of food. It became a holiday. Again, this seems a bit odd to us, but it is important to remember that this letter is an historical document that chronicles the events surrounding the decree of Haman to wipe out the Jews. But it also explains to its Jewish audience how they came to celebrate the feast of Purim, the name by which this day would be called.

“Purim” is the plural form of the Persian word pur, meaning the “lot” (cf. 3:7). The name “Purim” became a symbolic reminder to the Jews of how God used circumstances, specifically casting the lot (cf. 3:7), to deliver them in 473 B.C. – Thomas L. Constable, Notes  on Esther, 2009 Edition

Haman had plotted to wipe out the Jews and had chosen the day to do so by the casting of lots. What would appear to have been a random act of chance turned out to be divinely decreed. Haman was casting lots in a misguided attempt to seek astrological assistance. To him, casting lots was not an act of chance, but was a common practice among the people of the ancient Near East. It was believed that there were outside, unseen forces that acted upon the lots, providing mere mortals with a form of spiritual guidance in making difficult or weighty decisions. Little did Haman realize that the unseen force behind the lots was the God of the very people he was attempting to wipe out. And the date chosen would become a day of celebration, not for Haman and the Persians, but for the people of Israel.

Mordecai and Esther made the feast of Purim an official holiday by sending out yet another edict, in the form of a letter to the Jews living throughout the land of Persia. They were commanded to observe the thirteenth and fourteenth days of Adar throughout the land in perpetuity, from generation to generation. And the people gladly obliged. They had cause for celebration, because they had escaped annihilation. Their God had intervened and the plans of the wicked had been overturned. Even living as exiles in the land of Persia, far from their homeland, they had witnessed the sovereign hand of God rescuing them from the evil intentions of their enemies. While they had forsaken God, He had not forsaken them. These were not people who were known for their faithfulness to God. They were the descendants of those who had been sent into exile by God because of their disobedience and refusal to repent. Now, generations later, they had acclimated themselves to life in Persia, even refusing the opportunity to return to the land of Judah with those who went to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the temple of God. They had chosen to stay. Life in Persia was preferable to the risky proposition of returning to their homeland and trying to rebuild a dilapidated and defenseless city.

Yet, they would discover that life in Persia was not as safe and serene as they had hoped. The enemies of God and His people are everywhere. The forces of evil are ever-present and present everywhere. Haman, a descendant of their ancient foes, the Amalakites, would make their lives a living hell. He would disrupt their peaceful existence with a plan to destroy each and every one of them, down to the last woman and child. But little did they Haman know that the God of the Jews was watching. Little did the Jews know that their God was working behind the scenes. But God knew all that was going on and He also knew what was going to happen. It was God who had arranged the adoption of Esther by her uncle Mordecai.  It was God who had been behind the refusal of Queen Vashti to appear before the king. And her removal from the throne was God’s doing. Just as her replacement as queen by Esther was God’s decision. It was He who had elevated Mordecai and given him access to the king’s palace. It was He who had allowed Mordecai to discover the plot against the king’s life and expose it. It was He who gave Esther the wisdom and insight to overturn the edict of Haman and save her people from destruction. The celebration of Purim was to be a celebration of God’s deliverance. God had protected and preserved His people. Why? Because one day He is going to restore them. His full plan for them is not yet fulfilled. He is far from done with the people of Israel. His faithfulness to them extends well beyond the centuries and far past any boundaries of geography or distance. He knows where each and every one of His children are. And His sovereignty over them is not limited by time or space.