For Such a Time as This
The holiday of Purim (Hebrew: פּוּרִים – Pûrîm “lots”) commemorates the deliverance of the Jewish people in the ancient Persian Empire where a plot had been formed to destroy them by the second-in-command of the Persian empire – Haman. takes place in the Persian (Hebrew: פרס) royal city of Shushan ( שושן). (Esther 1:2) The palace in ancient Shushan was a place of great power because Persia, under the leadership of Cyrus the Great, had become the superpower of the ancient world. (Daniel 6:28) King Ahasuerus (Xerxes was his Greek name) ruled 127 provinces which covered much of the known world. (Esther 1:1)
Esther is a Second Temple Period book. King Ahasuerus reigned from 486-464 B.C. or about 40-50 years after the end of the Babylonian Exile. This places Esther in Bible chronology after Daniel and before Ezra and Nehemiah. The events of the entire book span approximately 10 years.
The entire story pivots around two ancient curses that God had decreed in His Word. Haman, the anti-semitic Persian minister, is a descendent of King Agag (Esther 3:1) who was an Amalekite (1 Samuel 15:8). The Amalekites themselves were descendents of Esau (Genesis 36:11-12) and thus were Edomites. They were under a 1,000 year old curse from God because instead of giving aid, they fought with Moses and Israel when they were trying to enter Canaan. (Exodus 17:14-16) However, Haman was also under an even older curse dating back to Abraham’s time from Genesis 12:3 when God said, “
I will … curse him that curseth thee” [the descendents of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob]. Haman is called “the Jews enemy” (Esther 3:10), so he has brought these curses upon his own life.
Mordecai (Heb: מָרְדֳּכַ֥י), Queen Esther’s cousin and legal guardian, is of the tribe of Benjamin. (Esther 2:5-7) About 600 years prior to our story, King Saul, also of the tribe of Benjamin, had failed to destroy King Agag as God commanded and thus lost the kingdom to David (1 Samuel 15). So now in the Purim story, we see another battle between a descendant of King Agag and a descendant of King Saul that almost causes the destruction of the Jewish people. So a practical lesson to learn is the long term impact of our decisions. Because King Saul did not follow God’s will perfectly, he put his future descendents, the Jewish people, into great jeopardy.
A constant theme of the book of Esther is that ‘things are not always the way they appear’. The name “Esther” is from the word mistar ( מסתר) and
means ‘hiding place’. [Note: her Hebrew name is Hadassah ( הדסה ) (Esther 2:7) and means “myrtle”.] Esther hid her Jewish identity per Mordecai’s instruction (see Esther 2:10) The book of Esther has an element of suspense and the characters in the Purim story are different from what they at first appear to be and thus it is longstanding Jewish tradition to celebrate Purim by dressing in costumes.
Another very unusual fact about the book of Esther is that God’s name is never mentioned, yet we see God’s hand at work throughout the book on behalf of the Jewish people. All the “coincidences” of the book are Divine appointments. God leaves His fingerprints throughout the book for the reader looking for them. And … God’s name (יהוה ), the Tetragramaton, [a Greek word meaning ‘four letters’], is “hidden” as an acronym in Esther 5:4.
The book of Esther and the story of Purim should especially encourage us who love and support Israel. In our time, we again see anti-semitic Persian leaders who want to destroy Israel. They are modern-day Hamans (Esther 3:6-10). However, just like in Queen Esther’s day, God is secretly working to affect the deliverance of those whom He considers the “apple of His eye” (Zechariah 2:8) – the Jewish people. Haman had engineered decrees to cause the total destruction of the Jewish people, but in one stroke, God turned certain annihilation into a day of deliverance and salvation and, “The Jews had light, and gladness, and joy, and honour.” (Esther 8:16) The 13th and 14th of the month Adar, which Haman had chosen to be days of destruction for the Jewish nation, became instead days of “gladness and feasting” and became the holiday of Purim. (Esther 9:19)
Esther was probably afraid when she went before King Ahasuerus and she certainly BROKE PROTOCOL by doing so! Persian protocol said that NO ONE, not even the Queen, could come before the King unless he called them. She risked her life because the punishment was death. Esther broke protocol and risked it all because she cared more about her people, the Jewish people, than she did about herself. She was a true leader and hero! Prime Minister Netanyahu did the same thing yesterday! Most leaders today only take actions that enhance themselves, their ratings in the polls or their party. It is nice to see a world leader who truly cares about his people.
Throughout the book of Esther we are constantly reminded that things are not as they at first appear because we don’t know the full story. Mankind can never know the full story because we are not omniscient like God. God is always at work in all situations, often in secret and often unseen, but He is there and so we cannot possibly know or understand until God reveals His part. We should also remember that God is interested in individuals as well as nations and He is working in secret, behind the scenes, in our individual lives to show us His perfect plan for our life. Often the way we do not understand may be God’s perfect plan and as Mordecai told Esther, “who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” -Esther 4:14