The word “Purim” was derived from the verb “pur,” which means “to cast the lot.”
Purim is the day to commemorate the event when Esther and Mordecai defeated Haman on the day that Haman chose to kill every Jew in Persia [Media-Persia] by casting the pur (the lot, Est 3:7; 9:1). In the Law of Moses, there are seven feasts in three times that God appointed through Moses. However, “Purim” is an Israelite feast which does not belong to these seven feasts in three times.
Let us study the origin of “Purim.”
1. Historical background
The Jews were taken captive to Babylon. However, Babylon was destroyed by Persia [Media-Persia] not long after, so the Jews were ruled by Persia. The Jews were a minority race, but they were trying to follow the will of God with the pride in being God’s people.
When God’s planned 70-year-captivity in Babylon came to an end, they returned to Jerusalem twice: the first return and the second return to Jerusalem. This is a story which happened to the Jews who were in Persia between the first return and the second return, during the reign of King Xerxes.
2. Esther becomes queen
One day, Xerxes, King of Persia, gathered all the civil and military officials and had a banquet. Then he invited Queen Vashti to the banquet in order to display her beauty. The queen, who was having another banquet with the women, ignored the king’s command and refused to come before the king.
King Xerxes became furious and dethroned the queen. He decided to select a new queen, and “Esther,” who was a Jew in Susa the capital city of Persia, was selected and became the queen of Persia. Esther was a niece of Mordecai, and because she had no parents, Mordecai had brought her up as if she had been his own daughter.
3. Mordecai saves the king’s life
One day, Mordecai overheard two of the king’s officers conspiring to assassinate King Xerxes. He saved King Xerxes’ life by letting Queen Esther know it, and the two officers were hanged on the gallows.
4. Haman and Mordecai
Afterward, King Xerxes honored Haman, elevating him and giving him a seat of honor higher than that of all the other nobles. All the royal officials at the king’s gate knelt down and paid honor to Haman. However, Mordecai would not kneel down or pay him honor. Haman was enraged at Mordecai, and began to plot to kill him. Finally, Haman decided to destroy not only Mordecai but also all his people, the Jews. He made the royal officials cast the lot to select a day and month to kill the Jews, and the lot fell on the twelfth month, the month of Adar.
5. Haman’s false charge
Wicked Haman falsely accused the Jews to King Xerxes as follows:
“There is a certain people dispersed and scattered among the peoples in all the provinces of your kingdom whose customs are different from those of all other people and who do not obey the king’s laws; it is in the king’s best interest not to tolerate them. If it pleases the king, let a decree be issued to destroy them…” Est 3:8-9
6. The Jews come to a crisis
The king took his signet ring and gave it to Haman, saying, “Do as you please.” The royal secretaries were summoned by Haman, the Jews’ enemy. They wrote out in the script of each province and in the language of each people all Haman’s orders to the king’s satraps, the governors of the various provinces and the nobles of the various peoples. These were written in the name of King Xerxes himself and sealed with his own ring.
“Destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and little children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month and to plunder their goods!” Est 3:13
In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. They lay in sackcloth and ashes, and asked God to save them.
7. If I perish, I perish
Mordecai sent a man to Esther, and asked her to help the Jews get through the crisis.
“Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Est 4:14
She knew that in the Persian law, if anyone went before the king without the king’s summoning them, he or she would be killed unless the king extended the gold scepter to him or her. However, after fasting for three days, she went to the king with a resolution, “If I perish, I perish.” Seeing Esther coming to him, the king extended the gold scepter to her. Esther asked the king to come with Haman to a banquet she had prepared. Without knowing the inside story, he felt happy for the fact that he alone had been invited with the king by the queen.
8. Mordecai is honored
King Xerxes read the record of his reign at night and found out that Mordecai did not receive any honor or recognition even though he had exposed two of the king’s officers, who were conspiring to assassinate him. Meanwhile, Haman had built the gallows, seventy-five feet high, to kill Mordecai and he went to the king to ask for an allowance. However, he was given a command from the king to honor Mordecai. Haman had to robe Mordecai and put a royal crest on his head, and lead him on horseback through the city streets, proclaiming before him, “This is what is done for a man whom the king delights to honor!”
9. Haman’s death
At the banquet, Queen Esther told the king about herself and her people.
“O king, my people and I have been sold for destruction.”
“Who is he? Where is the man who has dared to do such a thing?”
King Xerxes became very furious when he heard that someone was trying to kill the queen and her people.
“The adversary and enemy is this vile Haman!”
Finally, Haman, the enemy who tried to kill the Jews, was hanged on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai, and the way to live was opened to the Jews who were to die.
10. Dispatches for the Jews
In the Persian law, no one could revoke any document written in the king’s name and sealed with his ring. Even the king was no exception, so the king had to dispatch a new proclamation.
“The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them and their women and children; and to plunder the property of their enemies. The day appointed for the Jews to do this was the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar.” Est 8:11-12
For the Jews, it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor.
“The Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, killing and destroying them. They hanged Haman’s ten sons on gallows, but they did not lay their hands on the plunder.” Est 9:5-16
On the fourteenth day of the twelfth month, the Jews made it a day of feasting and joy. They observed the fourteenth and the fifteenth day of the twelfth month as days of joy and feasting, and called the days Purim, from the Hebrew word “pur” which has a meaning of “casting the lot.” Purim is only a civil feast of the physical Jews, which has no relationship with the salvation that God gives us. It’s like the Independence Day to Korean people.
12. Lessons for the spiritual Jews
What happened to Esther is closely related with us, the spiritual Jews in these last days.
Vile Haman, who falsely accused the Jews to the king, represents the devil who accused us before God (Rev 12:10). The history that he Jews came to a crisis because of Haman’s plot to kill the Jews shows that the spiritual Jews will come to a great crisis in the last days. However, just as the Jews who were in a crisis were able to save their life by the help of Queen Esther, the spiritual Jews will escape from a crisis and be given life by the help of the Holy Spirit and the Bride in the last days. Haman who was hanged on the gallows that he had prepared to hang Mordecai, and this also represents that the devil will be locked in the place he prepared to lock the spiritual Jews in. As the physical Jews were united and won the fight against the enemy, so the spiritual Jews will be united and win the fight against the devil the enemy. Now the day will come soon when the spiritual Jews will need beautiful unity and a strong faith to depend on the power of God.
“For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us…”Ro 15:4
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, ‘Look! This is something new’? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.”Ecc 1:9-10