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Biblical Holidays 101

PURIM: Two nuggets about the Book of Esther that are commonly misunderstood

God’s hidden hand in the deliverance of the Jewish people and the reason for rejoicing

Purim is a festive and joyful biblical holiday when the Jewish people in Israel and around the world rejoice and read the Book of Esther, the story of a young Jewish woman in Persia who becomes queen and saves her people from destruction.  

To celebrate, children dress up in festive costumes, and it’s a season of joy and gladness just as it was for the Jews in Persia (modern-day Iran) during Esther’s time.

For the Jews it was a time of happiness and joy, gladness and honor. In every province and in every city to which the edict of the king came, there was joy and gladness among the Jews, with feasting and celebrating.
Esther 8:16

Why were the Jews rejoicing? Many people misunderstand the timeline. It is widely thought that the happiness and joy mentioned in chapter 8 was because the enemies of the Jews were defeated. However, the great military victory and the defeat of Israel’s enemies don't occur until the following chapter 9. The Jewish people are rejoicing because the king’s edict gave them the right to assemble and protect themselves.

The king’s edict granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate the armed men of any nationality or province who might attack them and their women and children, and to plunder the property of their enemies. 
Esther 8:11

Notice that the king’s edict did not annihilate the enemies of the Jewish people. The king’s edict only allowed the Jewish people to defend themselves. And yet this was a reason for great rejoicing and celebration, even before the great military victory in chapter 9, which reads as follows:

On the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, the edict commanded by the king was to be carried out. On this day the enemies of the Jews had hoped to overpower them, but now the tables were turned and the Jews got the upper hand over those who hated them… The Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword.
Esther 9:1 & 9:5

We later read that in addition to the joy and gladness before their enemies were defeated, there was also great rejoicing after their military victory with God's help.

The remainder of the Jews who were in the king’s provinces also assembled to protect themselves and get relief from their enemies ... This happened on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, and on the fourteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy ... The Jews in Susa, however, had assembled on the thirteenth and fourteenth, and then on the fifteenth they rested and made it a day of feasting and joy.
Esther 9:16-18 

Even though the Book of Esther is the only book in the Bible in which God’s name is not explicitly written, we see God’s hand throughout the book as, with sovereignty, He places Esther and Mordechai in royal positions and "turns the tables" to help the Jewish people get "the upper hand over those who hated them."

As it was some 2,500 years ago when God protected the Jewish people from destruction in Persia (Iran), we pray and believe that God will protect Israel and the Jewish people from their modern-day enemies. Amen.

Joseph Magen is Co-Founder and Managing Editor of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS. He has more than 20 years of experience in high-tech, software development, and the Israeli venture capital industry. Joseph lives in the Judean Hills outside of Jerusalem with his wife and four young children.

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