Purim is centered around a beautiful queen who prevented the slaughter of the Jewish people by the wicked Haman. The Christian Bible calls her Esther, a Persian name meaning "star." She is known and loved as Hadassah (myrtle) in Hebrew. Adopted by her older cousin, Mordecai, after the death of her parents, Hadassah was selected from among all the beautiful virgins in the provinces of Persia. Some say her beauty and charm made her stand out, but a more significant characteristic positioned her "for such a time as this."
"For such a time as this" (Esther 4:14).
Picture: Esther Before Ahasuerus" by Giovanni Sirani (Wikimedia).
Competing for the queen's crown was the easy part of Esther's story. Being chosen came with dire responsibilities. She purposely positioned herself across the table with the Jews' worst enemy of that time—Haman, an Agagite. He was one of the descendants of the ancient Amalekite kings (Ex. 17:8-16). Haman was cunning, greedy, and dangerous. His personal hatred incited a nation not only into chaos but also into action. As queen, Hadassah became the protector of the Jews in the Persian empire.
Haman's Evil Plot
Haman took advantage of his position with the king and required all to kneel before him. He was furious when Mordecai, the king's gatekeeper, refused. "Upon learning what people Mordecai belonged to, it seemed to him a waste to lay hands on Mordecai alone. Rather he decided to destroy all of Mordecai's people, the Jews, throughout Ahasuerus' kingdom" (Esther 3:5-6 CJSB).
Haman then "cast the pur (that is, the lot) for their ruin and destruction" (9:24). He convinced King Ahasuerus that it was in his best interest to rid themselves of those strange people, people who only bowed to God. The extermination date was set for the thirteenth day of Adar (the 12th month).
After reading the decree to kill all Jews and seize their property, Mordecai went through the city lamenting and crying bitterly, as did all the Jews, fasting and weeping on sackcloth and ashes. When Esther was told, she and her maids fasted for three days before she attempted to approach the king to stop the heinous action.
Mordecai told her, "If you fail to speak up now, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another…Who knows whether you didn't come into your royal position precisely for such a time as this" (4:14). Accepted into the king's presence, Esther carefully exposed herself to be a Jewess and meticulously revealed Haman's plot.
King Ahasuerus ordered Haman to be impaled on the pole intended for Mordecai. He also decreed that the Jews defend themselves. Haman's ten sons were slain, a fate promised to all who come against God's people.
"This is why the Jews…make the fourteenth day of the month of Adar a day for celebrating and rejoicing. It is a holiday and a time for sending each other portions of food" (9:19 -20 CJSB). Purim has been celebrated for two days since that time throughout every generation (9:21-32).
In Israel today, the book of Esther is read on both days. Families wear elaborate costumes and give out treats. It is a very festive and joyful time with music and dancing, so much so that the true meaning could easily be forgotten.
The Bible says that Mordecai interceded for the welfare of all Jewish descendants, not only for that generation but all that followed. The Bible teaches us to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8-9). Esther could not have been the voice for her people without Mordecai. Many Bible scholars say that Mordecai represents the work of the Holy Spirit.
The righteous character of humility superseded Esther's courage. She humbly submitted to Mordecai throughout her life. Her training sustained her for the high position of her divine appointment. Submitting to the Holy Spirit's instruction will result in more divine appointments in our lives today.
Hadassah was "a crown of splendor in the LORD's hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God" (Isaiah 62:3). Mordecai was His watchman on the wall (62:6). The commission has not changed for us: "Call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till he establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth" (62:6-7). One of the most important reasons to celebrate Purim from generation to generation is so that we will continue being 'Esthers' and 'Mordecais' until there are no more Hamans.
Written by Tommie Coleman 2/2023