PURIM: THE FEAST OF LOTS (ESTHER 9:17-32)

. . . because Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them, and had cast Pur, that is the lot, to consume them, and to destroy them; . . . Esther 9:24

Today, there are nine major feasts or holy seasons of Israel. Seven of these were inaugurated by Moses in Leviticus 23.[1] Of the two which were inaugurated after the Mosaic feasts, one is Channukah, the Feast of the Dedication or the Feast of Lights; and the other is the Feast of Purim, a feast inaugurated in the Book of Esther.

THE NAMES OF THE FEAST

By far the most common name today is Purim, and this is the biblical name according to Esther 9:26. Purim is the plural form of the singular word Pur meaning “lot,” so Purim means “lots.” Purim is the Feast of Lots, and the reason this name was given is spelled out in Esther 9:24: because Haman had cast Pur, the lot, to destroy the Jews (Esth. 3:7; 9:24). Of course he did not succeed and now the feast celebrates the fact that God delivered his people from this threat. The Nazis banned Purim observances. Hitler, on January 31, 1944, said that if the Nazis went down in defeat, the Jews would celebrate a second triumphal Purim. How right he was! On October 16, 1946, ten Nazis were hung in Nuremberg like the ten sons of Haman. One of them was Julius Streicher, who said as he was hung, “Purim, 1946.”

Other names for this day include: “Mordecai’s Day” (II Maccabees 15:36; Esth. 9:20‑21), since Mordecai actually inaugurated this feast, and Id El Sukar, which is Arabic, meaning “the sweet festival.”[2]

PURIM IN THE SCRIPTURE

Esther 9:17-32 is the only passage that actually deals with this feast. From this passage we can deduce a total of eight observations and conclusions.

  1. Outside the capital city of Shushan, the first observance took place on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar.
  2. In Shushan, the first observance took place on the fifteenth day of Adar.
  3. This set the stage for a differential in later Jewish observances. To this day, in villages and unwalled towns, the Jews celebrate this feast on the fourteenth day of the month, but inside walled cities, they celebrate it on the fifteenth day of the month of Adar.
  4. There are five elements in observing the Feast of Purim. First, this was to be a time of feasting in place of fasting, which would have been the case had the Jews been slaughtered. Secondly, it was to be a day of gladness, in place of being a day of sorrow, which would have been the case if the Jews were slaughtered. Thirdly, it was to be a good day in place of a day of mourning, which would have been the case if Haman’s plot had succeeded. Fourthly, it was to be a day of giving portions one to another in place of their own possessions becoming a spoil. For, in order to motivate people to kill Jews, Haman said that those who killed the Jews would then have the right to take over their possessions, thus the Jews would then have had their possessions taken away. And, fifth, it was to be a day of giving gifts to the poor, in contrast to having nothing to give had Haman’s plot succeeded.
  5. The name for the feast was based on Haman’s actions: he cast the Pur, or he cast the lot, to determine on which day he would try to destroy the Jews.
  6. The Feast of Purim is observed because of Haman’s failure.
  7. The first observance of the Feast of Purim was purely spontaneous as a sign of relief because they had rest from their enemies.
  8. The practice of the yearly observance was initiated by Mordecai. It was his letters that encouraged the Jews to do so, and it was given the status of law by Queen Esther. The Jewish people then made a commitment to keep it yearly.

THE MESSIANIC IMPLICATIONS

Although the Feast of Purim contains no direct reference to the Messianic Person or Messianic Program, it does have something to teach about the Messianic People, the Jewish people. The Messianic Person is Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth. The Messianic Program is to bring in the Messianic or Millennial Kingdom.

The Book of Esther is a good example of a principle found in the Abrahamic Covenant (Gen. 12:3): him that curses you will I curse.

This principle of the Abrahamic Covenant teaches that those who curse the Jews will be cursed by God. The principle of the Abrahamic Covenant contains a promise of Jewish survival throughout the Times of the Gentiles. Both the Law and the Prophets emphasize the fact that the Jews will survive, regardless of how bad it may get for them during the Times of the Gentiles-that is a biblical guarantee.

The key thing about the Messianic People as taught in the Book of Esther is an example of God’s use of providence to secure the survival of Israel in the Dispersion. The one thing about the Book of Esther that is not true of any other book of the Bible is that God’s name is found nowhere in this book. This makes the Book of Esther unique from all other books. There is no mention of God, no reference to God, and no prayer to God whatsoever. In fact, the author of this book is deliberately going well out of his way to avoid mentioning God. For example, there is one situation in the book where Mordecai, the real hero of the book, is arguing with Esther to do something to help the Jews out of a dangerous predicament.

Mordecai’s words to Esther are in Esther 4:14:

For if you altogether hold your peace at this time, then will relief and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place, . . .

The two words, another place, is as close as this book will come to any possible reference to God. It is very obvious that the author of this book is deliberately going well out of his way to avoid mentioning God. But, if that is true, why is this book in the Scriptures? Although God is not mentioned in the Book of Esther, God is working. However, God is not working in just any old way, He is working in a perfect way. He is working on the basis of the Abrahamic Covenant, especially upon the one principle in that covenant: him that curses you will I curse.

Furthermore, we did need at least one example in Scripture that shows how God works by means of providence, rather than by means of direct intervention. Since throughout most of human history, God chooses to work providentially rather than by means of direct intervention, this book is a great example of how that system works.

The Book of Esther shows God’s use of providence to secure the survival of Israel during the period of the Dispersion. While great segments of the Jews may be killed, as it was with the Holocaust, God has guaranteed that the Jews as a people and as a nation will survive. And so it will be until Israel’s national salvation and the return of the Messiah. With Israel’s national salvation and with His return; there will be no further threat to Jewish survival whatsoever.

For a thorough discussion of Purim in Judaism, continue reading here.

Happy Purim!!



[1] This post is a modified version of Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum’s original Messianic Bible Study. The full version may be obtained here.

[2] This name was given by the Arabs of Jerusalem during the Turkish period (1517‑1917). It became the Jewish custom inJerusalem to give sugar candies to Moslem authorities on this day, thus, the Arabs began calling this feast the “Sweet Festival.”