Purim – Feast of Lots

THE STORY GOES BACK to king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (630-562 BC), who, on account of the chronic apostasy of the Jews, became “the rod of God’s wrath” by conquering the land of Judah, besieging Jerusalem, burning the Temple of Solomon, and eventually carrying the Jews off to captivity. This became known as the “Babylonian Exile” (2 Kings 25:1-17), and among the Jews who were deported from Judah to Babylon was a young man named Daniel (the prophet), who later served in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. Nebuchadnezzar allowed the exiled Jews to settle along the banks of the Euphrates River and to establish their own centers of learning and worship. In fact, some of the greatest Jewish learning ever produced – including the Babylonian Talmud (Bavli) – would come from those who were exiled in ancient Babylon.In time King Nebuchadnezzar died and his son ruled. Later his grandson Belshazzar assumed the throne. This is that king Belshazzar mentioned in Daniel 5 who threw a feast and drank from the holy vessels looted by his grandfather from Solomon’s Temple. While he was reveling and praising the “gods of gold and silver” he and his guests saw a mysterious hand writing a message on the wall:

“MENE MENE TEKEL UFARSIN”

In his consternation upon seeing the disembodied hand write these words, Belshazzar vainly sought for an interpretation from his soothsayers. Finally the Hebrew prophet Daniel was dispatched who interpreted the writing to mean both the end of King Belshazzar’s reign and of the Jewish people’s exile in Babylon. Daniel’s words proved true, of course. That very night the Medes (led by Darius I) and the Persians (led by Cyrus) jointly attacked Babylonia and King Belshazzar was killed. Initially Darius was made emperor, but a year later, Cyrus became the undisputed emperor of the vast Medo-Persian empire.King Cyrus was kindly disposed to the Jews and even decreed that they should return to Judah to rebuild the Temple of the LORD. In this regard, Cyrus was a gentile Messiah of the Jewish people who, like Moses, was raised up by God Himself to enable the Jews return to the land of promise (in fact, 200 years before Isaiah had named Cyrus as the one who would come to rescue God’s people [Isaiah 45:1,13]). However, even though the leaders of Israel did in fact return to Jerusalem (thus ending the 70 years of exile as prophesied by Jeremiah), most of the Jews chose to remain in Persia. After Cyrus’ death (369 BC?), Ahasuerus (Achashverosh) became ruler of the Medo-Persian empire. Like Belshazzar before him, Ahasuerus made the mistake of partying with the holy vessels from Solomon’s Temple (which apparently had not been restored to the Jews by King Cyrus). However, according to the Jewish sages, instead of the Persians being judged for this act, the Jews themselves were to be judged – through the machinations of a particularly nasty prime minister of Ahasuerus named Haman. And thus begins the story of the book of Esther….

Megillat Esther

The story of Esther is well known and is recorded in the book bearing her name. Here we read how Ahasuerus’ wife, Queen Vashti, refused the will of the king and was deposed; how Esther (Hadassah) was chosen to replace her; how evil Haman (said to have been an Amalekite) plotted to exterminate the Jews on account of his feral hatred of Esther’s pious cousin Mordecai; how Esther learned of Haman’s plot and called for a fast in order to make appeal to the king on behalf of the Jewish people, and how the Jews were given permission by the king to defend themselves and thereby be delivered from their oppressors. As for nasty Haman – all his schemes boomeranged upon him – and he was hung on the very gallows originally built to hang his nemesis, Mordecai.

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.Proverbs 16:33

Much is made over the fact that the book of Esther is the only book of the Tanakh that does not explicitly mention the Name of God. However, the idea of God’s sovereignty and hashgachah (divine providence) is clearly implied throughout the entire story. In light of this nes nistar, or “hidden miracle” of the Jew’s deliverance, Esther and Mordecai ordained that Purim should be observed as a “day of feasting and merrymaking” and of sending gifts to the poor (Esther 9:22,28).  By the way, Purim is so named because Haman had cast lots (purim) to determine the day on which to destroy the Jews. Ironically, God demonstrates that He is Master over the outcome of chance throughout the entire narrative.

Yeshua and Purim

Did Yeshua (Jesus) celebrate Purim?  It is written in John chapter 5 that He was in Jerusalem for an unnamed feast, but scholars have questioned which feast this was. Some have rejected the idea that this was Purim because it is considered a “minor” feast and not one of the shelosh regalim (three pilgrimage festivals). However, we know that Jesus celebrated Chanukah (John 10:22) which is also another “minor” feast, so a priori that is not a worthy objection.  According to Lambert Dolphin’s research on this question, chronologically the only feast that John could be referring to is Purim, since it is said to have fallen on Shabbat (John 5:9), but the only feast that occurred on Shabbat between the years of 25-35 CE was in fact Purim (in the year 28 CE). But why was it referred to as an unnamed feast? Perhaps the Spirit of God intentionally left out the name of the feast because the Name of the LORD was likewise deliberately left out of the Book of Esther.

The Prophetic Significance of Purim

Purim is a happy, fun-filled holiday that rejoices over the irresistible grace of the God of Israel and His providential care. And while we should rejoice over the deliverance of the LORD in times past, Purim has a prophetic dimension that yet is to be fulfilled in acharit hayamim (the end of days).

The Midrash Esther says that Purim, unlike many of the other holidays, will be celebrated even after the final redemption after the End of Days. This is because the story of Purim — i.e., God’s covenantal faithfulness and defense of His people — will be magnified in the deliverance that leads to the establishment of the Messianic Kingdom upon the earth. Indeed, the Second Coming of the Messiah will be regarded as the final fulfillment of Purim!

Haman is clearly a type of Anti-Messiah (satan) who desires to see the Jewish people exterminated once and for all. In the New Testament we know that there is soon coming one who is the embodiment of this “spirit of Haman,” and of Hitler, and of all the other anti-Jewish murderers throughout the ages. This one is the “man of sin” or the Messiah of Evil (2 Thess. 2:3), who will broker peace in the Middle East and feign to be friendly to Israel, but who will ultimately betray her and seek to have her utterly destroyed.

Satan’s final attempt to provide the ultimate “Final Solution” will be foiled, just as Haman’s attempt was foiled. His plan will boomerang upon his own head, just as Haman’s plan boomeranged upon him. And he and his children will all hang from the gallows, just as Haman and his children did.

When Yeshua returns at the end of the Great Tribulation, He will destroy the Messiah of Evil by the Word of His Power and physically deliver Israel as her rightful King and Lord. Israel’s long-awaited Mashiach ben David will be clearly revealed and understood to be Mashiach ben Yosef Himself. Then, and only then, will Israel experience the true deliverance and salvation of God — and the rejoicing of that Purim will be like none other!

Purim HaGadol…

Here is a vision of that coming Purim:

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True (נֶאֱמָן וְיָשָׁר), and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a Name written that no one knows but himself. He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the Name by which he is called is the Word of God (דְּבַר הָאֱלהִים). And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron. And He will tread the winepress of the fierce fury of the wrath of God, the Ruler over All (παντοκράτωρ), the LORD God Almighty (יְהוָה אֱלהֵי צְבָאוֹת). On his robe and on his thigh he has a Name written, the King of kings (מֶלֶךְ הַמְּלָכִים) and the Lord of lords (אֲדנֵי הָאֲדנִים). And with the breath of his lips He will slay the wicked. – Rev. 19:11-16

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