Happy Purim: God at Work Behind the Scenes
I thought we’d continue in our look at all of the biblical holidays this year by learning a bit about Purim!
Purim starts Wednesday evening at sundown this year. Purim is not one of the seven holidays that God commanded His people to celebrate in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. It is however, instituted in Scripture–we see Purim first celebrated and remembered in the book of Esther. Because of this, it would have been a holiday Jesus celebrated every year.
So the holiday of Purim comes from the book of Esther. During this time, the Israelites were in exile and under the control of the Persian king. This king decided he wanted a new wife, so he searched the kingdom for some beautiful ladies. Hadassah (Esther) was one of them. She won the favor of the king and became queen, but she never told him that she was a Jew. Esther had a cousin named Mordecai and he made a man named Haman angry because he would not bow down to him. Haman apparently took things a little too personally because he decided to kill all of the Jews in the whole world, simply because Mordecai made him mad. Haman managed to get the king to agree to this killing, and he planned to murder all the Jews in the month of Adar. Well, Esther stepped up and was very brave — she ended up telling the king that she was Jewish, and she exposed Haman’s plot and the king sided with her. The Jews would not be killed, and instead, Haman was hanged on the very gallows he had built for Mordecai.
So, in Esther 9, the holiday of Purim is instituted. The word “purim” is the plural of “pur” which means “lot,” because Haman cast a lot against the Jews. This holiday is celebrated every year because God saved His people from destruction. For the Jews, the Bible says, “it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor.”
Purim is a very celebratory holiday. You get together and eat lots of good food and read the story of Esther to remember God’s work. As you read the story of Esther aloud with your friends and family, whenever Haman’s name is read, you shake noisemakers to blot out his name from the earth. This is because Haman, who tried to destroy the Jewish people, was a descendent of Amalek, and Deuteronomy 25:19 says that when the Israelites get to the Promised Land they should “blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven; you must not forget.”
Those celebrating Purim also spend time that day giving to the poor and needy, because that is what is asked in Esther 9. People usually give at least two gifts to the poor and they give their neighbours gifts as well.
But my favorite thing about Purim is the masquerade! Many people dress in costumes for Purim, and most wear masks. This is because the name of God is actually never mentioned in the book of Esther! It is the only book of the Bible that doesn’t mention God. But people “masquerade” during Purim because though God’s name isn’t used in this book, it is clear that He was at work behind the scenes, saving His people from destruction!
So, that is the holiday of Purim! It is fun and celebratory. If you want to celebrate with friends or family, prepare a fun meal, encourage your kids to put on a costume, and read the story of Esther to them. Bring some canned goods to a food bank, or offer money to someone on a street corner. Make some Hamantaschen cookies!
Most importantly, celebrate our good God who remains continually faithful to His people!