Purim/Shushan Purim - The Feast of Lots

 

Celebration Dates:

March 1-2, 2018

In Satan's attempted conquest of earth and the throne in Heaven, Purim signifies both the timing and events (see the The Kingdom Calendar for the Purim/Shushan Purim connection to the end-times). 

On Purim, the Jewish people recall their miraculous deliverance from their enemies 2,400 years ago. The Purim story, from the book of Esther, is one of the most memorable in the entire Bible.  As discovered in the Book of Esther (Megillat Esther in Hebrew), this account is the basis for the Purim holiday which recounts a dearly loved Biblical story in Judaism.  Haman, the arch villain of the story, devises a plan to annihilate the Jews of Persia which is approved by the Persian King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) Esther 3:8-11.  Through a complex turn of events, the Jewish Queen Esther and her adoptive father Mordecai manage to intercede with the king, thwart Haman's evil plan, and destroy Haman, his family and other enemies of the Jewish people.

On the thirteenth of the Jewish month of Adar (February/March), as Esther prepared to approach King Ahasuerus and beg him to revoke Haman's evil decree to annihilate the Jews, she and Mordecai gathered the Jews of Shushan to fast for 3 days and pray for God's mercy in defeating their enemies, in order to encourage members of the Jewish community to direct their hearts and prayers to God to plead for His help in overcoming the decrees that had been made against them.  On the third day, she approached the king and enacted her plan to save the Jews, beginning by issuing an invitation to both Haman and Ahasuerus to a feast that lead to the downfall of Haman and his plot against the Jews.  

Ahasuerus orders Haman hanged on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. The previous decree against the Jews could not be annulled, so the King allows Mordecai and Esther to write another decree as they wish. They write one that allows the Jews to defend themselves during attacks. As a result, on 13 Adar, five hundred attackers and Haman's ten sons are killed in Shushan. Throughout the empire 75,000 of the Jews' enemies are killed. On the 14th, another 300 are killed in Shushan.

Mordecai assumes the position of second in rank to Ahasuerus, and institutes an annual commemoration of the delivery of the Jewish people from annihilation. The holiday of Purim was then proclaimed (Esther 4:15-16; 9:20-21; 26-28).

 

 

The Meaning of Purim

 

While it is a festive holiday, Purim has a serious side as well. It reminds us that we must always grapple with the problem of evil, and with people who, like Haman, hate Jews simply for being Jews. But we can be reassured that God and the forces of good will ultimately triumph over evil. Esther’s bravery and willingness to stand up for her people reminds us that we must not be silent in the presence of evil, but must confront and eliminate it, combining our human initiative with trust in God's.

Purim also reminds us of our human frailty and vulnerability. We recognize how close all the Jews in the Persian Empire came to being wiped out overnight at the whim of a foolish, capricious leader. Jews are particularly reminded of the precariousness of their condition. Yet, Purim also affirms that while oppressors come and go, God's promise and covenant with His people, Israel, is everlasting. The Jews of the Persian Empire, after all, were saved, reminding us that God never deserts His people.

One of the underlying themes of Purim is the mysterious way that God acts in the world. The rescue of the Persian Jews appears to have taken place entirely because of Esther's initiative, without any divine guidance. The name of God, in fact, does not even appear in the entire book of Esther!  Nonetheless, although hidden, God was present in every action and in every event that led to the Jews’ being rescued. He worked through people like Esther (the name means "hidden" or "concealed" appropriate when you consider how Esther had to hide her Jewish identity). She and Mordecai were the human instruments of God’s power and salvation.

The origin of the word `Pur' would seem to be Persian. As written in the Book of Esther, it means a "lot". Purim is the plural form of the word `Pur', and thus means "lots". The festival is called Purim because of the lots cast by Haman. Today's Persian "Haman" leader is Supreme Leader--Sayyed Ali Khamenei, and he represents Israel's greatest enemy. 

The word Pur is also related to the Hebrew word `porer' which means to dismantle, break, destroy, break into crumbs. The word `hefir', derived from the verb `pur', has the sense of cancellation, cessation, breaking of something permanent, such as violating an alliance, breaking a marriage, breaking a strike.

The earliest meaning of the word "pur" is small fragments of stones or pottery. This very ancient use of the word has its source in an ancient custom of drawing lots by throwing small stones or stone splinters into an urn. We know of this manner of drawing lots from the Bible. In the book of Joshua, it was discovered that Achan had violated the `herem' on Jericho only after lots were drawn on all the people, first by tribes and then within the tribe, by families.

Purim teaches the Jewish people to see that through the contradictions of life and to realize that they are all part of the plan.  Long before Haman writes his decree of destruction, a queen is deposed to make way for Esther, who ultimately saves the Jews.  Purim means lots--as in a lottery.  But the sequence of events suggests anything but chance.  

Within a few years King Ahasuerus dies, leaving a son, Darius, as his heir.  Darius, the son of Esther, and therefore a Jew, is crowned.  Although both King Darius and queen-mother were Jewish, they were not openly observant.  Influenced by his mother, King Darius authorized the Jews to return to their land and rebuild their Temple.  

Nothing happens by coincidence. For Esther was the bright star that the Jews needed in that time of darkness. The truth of Purim is that God is hidden in everything that happens. And from darkness, arose this morning star. The primary lesson is that God does things in a hidden way, but it is still God behind everything.  He can turn evil back upon the heads of Israel's enemies, even when the Jews seem destined for destruction and annihilation--particularly by the Persian threat.

What Purim reaffirms to Christians and Jews alike is the fact that everyday events are infused with God's presence and is under His control. It reaffirms that God’s hand is indeed at work in human history, and God's plans for the revelation of the true Savior of the world against all evil, Jesus Christ, will soon come into view. Renewing our belief in a God who acts in history and continues to perform miracles is one of the most fundamental affirmations we can make. And knowing we believe in a Savior of miracles is indeed cause for celebration at Purim or any time of year!

 

 

Prophetic Purim Of The Appointed Time Of The End

Shushan Purim in Jerusalem

In Jerusalem, Purim is celebrated on 15 Adar, a day later than everywhere else. The separate date, known as Shushan Purim, is based on Esther 9:20-22, which says the "walled cities" did not achieve victory until that day. Judaism interprets this as the cities that were walled at the time of Joshua, and one city that definitely fits that description is Jerusalem. (Shushan Purim is also celebrated in Hebron and the Old City of Safed). Jews living in Israel can extend the Purim festival by celebrating outside the city on 14 Adar, then returning home for Shushan Purim on the 15th or 16th.  This year Purim falls on March 16, and Shushan Purim on March 17, 2014.

The apostle Paul states that "holy days" are "a shadow of things to come [at the end]," Colossians 2:16-17 (K.J.V.).  The Purim that initiates the appointed time of the end bares resemblance to the first Purim in Persia.  "Daily" worship at Jerusalem's Western Wall and Temple Mount will be taken away.  Iran (modern Persia) will confront Israel either directly or through their principles--Hezbollah and Syria.  Israel will feel the pain of this confrontation as it enlarges.  Planet Earth will face almost certain annihilation as Satan begins to instigate war and bloodshed among the nations.  Russia will rise up to launch devastation beyond human imagination into three European Union countries, for no doubt his plan is to gain as much control over the planet as he can through the use of panic.

Satan will breed pandemonium in order that he can, in turn, provide the miraculous solution through "fearful events and great signs from heaven [skies above]," (Luke 21:11).  As Queen Esther--a young Jewish virgin who found favor with the king--saved many lives in the days of the Persian empire, so too will many in Judaism, Christianity, Islam and the world soon see visions that will purport to save Planet Earth from total annihilation.  Students of God's Word should be aware of Heaven's revelation for the end of the ages and how the Biblical holy days begin and end the appointed times, for prophecies themselves reveal it; but most will allow their own prejudices to stop them from seeing the truth. Instead they will be led by demonic miracles of sights, sounds, smells and feelings which are forewarned to come and which will seem bright, holy and right, but are not.  Deception will be widespread and worldwide (Revelation 13:7-8).

The Purim celebration in the Middle East includes the sound of fire crackers. It is not known precisely where this practice came from, but the sound of explosions leaves many with an unsettled feeling. Most of the larger fire crackers and explosive devices are set off at night, and many consider the whole practice to be in bad taste.  As the dull echoing explosions carry far into the night it reminds citizens of Israel of the bombs of terrorism that have become almost a way of life.

These disquieting explosions are indeed a prelude to the sounds of war that will engulf the Middle East and the much of the earth during the last days. We cannot fathom the loss of life.  Death will be on every hand, and horror will strike at the hearts of men, women and children. Natural disasters will escalate, and cities, towns and villages will fall in ruin.  Economies will collapse, and the value of investments will plummet. 

Purim Fast Before War

A Jewish writer says of the Purim Fast, "The Jews fasted and prayed on the 13th of Adar in preparation for their defense against Haman's decree. The Torah prescribes that whenever a Jewish army goes to war, the soldiers should spend the previous day fasting. This is in stark contrast to a secular army which spends the day preparing weapons and armaments. A Jew's best weapon is the recognition that strength and victory come only through God (see Exodus 17:10). Additionally, the fact that we are physically weakened when the battle begins, assures us that any victory cannot be attributed to our physical prowess.  Mortals have limits, but God can achieve the impossible. (Case in point: the Six Day War.) As Mark Twain wrote, "All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?" It is actually this one-day pre-battle fast that we commemorate every year before Purim. However, in honor of the Purim heroine, it is called Taanit Esther -- the Fast of Esther," (see source).

After the Purim event of the last days, battles between the forces of good and evil will increase sharply on earth and in Heaven.  The 1290 days of the appointed time will commence as the "daily" worship is taken away at Jerusalem's Western Wall (Daniel 12:11-12).  The Middle East will be exploding in war.  Great confrontation will also erupt in Heaven (Revelation 12:7-19). Satan's campaign in Heaven will take away the daily activities in the Holy Sanctuary.  However, Michael and His angels will defeat Satan and his army, so the Devil will turn to focus his wrath on the saints here on earth who keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus.

Soon after the Jerusalem disaster, a modern Jewish son will rise up as King, as Darius of old.  Antichrist--the Man of Sin--will ultimately call for the rebuilding of Jerusalem.  However, what looks to be the salvation of mankind instead will lead to their demise, for one day the Man of Sin will go too far.  Three and one half years after final events begin, he will step onto the Temple Mount in Jerusalem to proclaim himself God ( 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4); then he will be seen for what he is--a great hoax.  Michael will stand up and come down in wrath to deal with Antichrist and all who have followed after him.

The 1290 prophetic days link Purim to the abomination that Antichrist will be set up in Jerusalem.  The counting of the appointed time will bring mankind to the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) and Day of the Lord where the demise of Antichrist, the False Prophet and all sinners will begin its final countdown during the Great Tribulation.

The Religious Elements of Purim

In the morning (Shacharit) and the afternoon (Mincha), the Torah reading comes from Exodus 32:11-14; 35:1-10.  The Haftara in the afternoon is read from Isaiah 55:6-56:8.  The readings call for God's people to remember the Sabbath of the Covenant; to seek the Lord while He may be found; to recognize that God's ways are higher than our ways, and His thoughts than ours; to maintain justice, and to do what is right for His salvation is close at hand and His righteous soon to be revealed.  

The Purim reading of the prophet Isaiah finishes with the call to "foreigners [Gentiles] who bind themselves to the Lord, to serve Him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship Him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my Covenant--these will I bring to My holy mountain and give them joy in My house of prayer ... for My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations [of the world]" ( 56:6-7.  

The Scriptural readings of Purim is God's message to all the world and the true significance of this holy day for the end of time when the appointed time is to commence.  God's people must stand firm to the Word of God in the midst of signs and wonders that could deceive even the elect--when it seems as though "all inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast," (Revelation 13:8) and only a few in comparison are wise and understand the prophetic warnings ( Daniel 12:9).

The Jewish custom is to wear disguises on Purim.  This custom has been related to a verse in Deuteronomy 31:17-18, "On that day I [God] will become angry with them and forsake them; I will hide my face from them, and they will be destroyed. Many disasters and difficulties will come upon them, and on that day they will ask, 'Have not these disasters come upon us because our God is not with us?' And I will certainly hide my face on that day because of all their wickedness in turning to other gods."

Judaism also teaches there are similarities between Purim and Yom Kippur.  Both Purim and Yom Kippur involve the casting of lots, characteristic of games of chance. As for Purim, the casting of lots determined the date chosen by Haman for the destruction of the Jews.  On Yom Kippur, two male goats, identical in appearance, size, and value, were brought, one marked "unto the Lord," and the other was hurled to its destruction.

Therefore, the similarities between the "pur" (casting of lots) of Purim and the casting of lots on Yom Kippur is evident.  Both point to man's basic condition of vulnerability and insecurity. The whole Purim story is filled with unreasonable and irrational events. One day Jews are secure in Persia (Iran); the next day they face destruction. One day Mordechai faces execution, the next day he is Prime Minister. Haman's conspiracy against the Jews emanates out of no­where. Thus, he needs to draw lots to determine when to kill them. There's no rational reason or event leading to the execution. Purim, therefore, epitomizes the instability, uncertainty and vulnerability, which characterizes human life in general--but particularly, it focuses on the destiny of the Jews, both past and future.  Purim alerts Jews to the sudden turn of fortune and lurking dangers of life... especially as the Jewish nation enters the appointed time of the end, with the sudden destruction that is foretold to come upon Israel.  It is noteworthy that Purim and Yom Kippur is linked by the prophetic time periods of the end.

See The Kindom Calendar for the Purim connection to the end-times.

More on Purim from Wikipedia.