Though not a major holiday, Purim is celebrated around the world by Jewish people as the time when they remember how God delivered them from annihilation at the hands of wicked Haman. The holiday has even been nicknamed the Jewish Mardi Gras because of all the celebrating done!
The story of Purim is found in the book of Esther. And while God is not mentioned by name in the book, His hand is seen clearly working behind the scenes. The story takes place in ancient Persia (now known as Iran) and while it is too long to give all the details here, the basic overview of the story is this:
— God places a beautiful young Jewish girl on the throne of Persia through a series of unique events.
— ”Esther” (her actual Hebrew name was Hadassah) becomes the King’s favorite and secretly hides her nationality from the King.
— Her uncle ”Mordechai” is the one who raised her and still has connections with the Queen. He also is a devout person and refuses to bow before one of the King’s leading men – Haman. Haman is an Amalekite who are descendants of Esau. (Genesis 36:12; 1 Chronicles 1:36) As a people, the Amalekites are identified as a continual enemy of the Israelites.
— Haman cannot stand being around Mordechai – (the feelings were probably mutual), but it was not enough to let things be. Haman devises a plot to have Mordechai AND all his people killed in a violet day of rioting and looting!
— Through another ”coincidence” (God working) Mordechai gains the favor of the King and is required to be honored by Haman – which is humiliating for Haman.
— Mordechai learns of this plot to destroy the Jewish people and convinces Esther to barge in on the King for such urgency of the matter. In that time period, barging in on the King was a capital offense.
–Esther does it, makes her eventual plea before the King at a dinner with Haman as a guest. (Haman has no idea Esther is among the people he requested to annihilate). The King wants to know who wants her killed? She point to ”This wicked Haman!”
–While the king steps out for a moment to process all this – Haman literally begs for his life at the foot of the Queen. The King returns in and sees this and you can guess what he thought Haman was trying to do. The soldiers put a cover over his head and take him away – immediately.
–The King issues another decree that the Jewish people can now fight for their lives on that day with impunity and the King’s blessing!
Well they do and the day this all happens is called ”Purim” which means ”lots” because Haman had thrown ”lots” to determine the day he would destroy the Jews. Little did he realize it was the date THEY destroyed their enemies! And all this would never have happened if he just kept his big mouth shut.
Today – the entire book of Esther is read in Synagogues around the world. Jewish children dress up as the story characters. Like a costume day. Boys dress up as Mordechai and girls like Queen Esther. The carnival-like holiday is celebrated with parades and costume parties all over the world in Jewish communities.
On the basis of Exodus 17:14, where the Lord promised to ”blot out the name” of Amalek, it is customary for the audience to make noise and shout whenever ”Haman” is mentioned, in order to desecrate his name. Loud shouts of ”BOO’s!!!” will happen whenever Haman is mentioned. And loud cheers for our heroes Esther and Mordechai happen as well.
One of the traditional foods are called Hamantashen cookies. Three pointed cookies that hide the filling inside. ”Tash” in Hebrew means ”weaken.” Thus, the hamantash celebrates the weakening of Haman and our wish that God always save us by weakening our enemies. The filing inside is covered by the triangular tops. It is hidden, yet sweet – just as God is hidden in the story of Purim, but sweet to the taste.
This Purim, as we follow tradition and blot out the name of Amalek, Haman and their like, we might also consider the claims of the Messiah, Yeshua whose very name actually means ”salvation.” He offers life and peace to all, both Jews and gentiles, who trust in his name. And all who follow Yeshua (Jesus the Jewish Messiah), according to the New Covenant, will have their own names written in the book of life.
Our ”Haman” called ”death” is a now defeated foe for all who trust in Yeshua. We will gain everlasting life on that day!