This Week's Focus Passage

Wherefore they called these days Purim.

Focus Passage: Esther 9:26

‘Wherefore they called these days Purim.’

C. E. Keil mentions in his comments upon the book of Esther, that ‘the feast of Purim is mentioned, 2 Maccabees xv. 36, under the name of Mordecai’s day, as a festival existing in the time of Nicanor (about 1f60 B.C.); and Josephus tells us, Antiquities xi. 6. 13, that it was kept by the Jews during the whole week. Now the institution of this festival must have been based upon an historical event similar to that related in this book,’ namely the book of Esther upon which he was writing.

When we consult 2 Machabees, we learn from 15:36ff; the following:

“And they all ordained by a common decree, by no means to let this day pass without solemnity: But to celebrate the thirteenth day of the month of Adar, called, in the Syrian language, the day before Mardochias’ day,” Marcochias’ is the same Mordecai; this is Mordecai’s Day.

Furthermore, we are told by Josephus, Antiquities xi. 6. 13;

‘Mordecai also wrote to the Jews that lived in the kingdom of Artaxerxes to observe these days, and to celebrate them as festivals, and to deliver them down to posterity, that this festival might continue for all time to come, and that it might never be buried in oblivion; for since they were about to be destroyed on these days by Haman they would do a right thing, upon escaping the danger in them, and on them inflicting punishment on their enemies, to observe those days, and give thanks to God on them; for which cause the Jews still keep the forementioned days, and call them days of Phurim [or Purim]’

Keil adds to this the remark that ‘The name Purim (i.e. lots), derived from the Persian, can be suitably explained in no other manner than is done in this book, viz. by the circumstance that lots were cast on the fate of the Jews by a Persian official, who contemplated their extermination.’ Casting lots—rolling the dice, as it were—was a common device employed by many societies of the time. We are informed earlier in the book of Esther, at 3:7, with regard to the origin of the term, Purim. We find in that verse that:

In the first month, which is the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, which is the month Adar.

This activity is again referenced in 9:24, and followed in 9:26 with the statement that connects that with the ‘days of Purim.’ We are told, Wherefore they called these days Purim, after the name of Pur. These are, therefore, we might say, ‘the days that the lot was cast.’ Pur, being a Persian word according to John Gill, it is explained in Hebrew by lot, the word signifying ‘steel’ in the Persian language. ‘To find out which was the most lucky month, and which the most lucky day in that month, to destroy the Jews.’

But it was contrary to the purposes of God that Haman’s plot should ever succeed, and He thwarted it through numerous providences. He provided an opportunity for Mordecai to honor the king by making a plot of assassination known to him, which information saved the king from destruction. At a later time, when the insidious plot of Haman was already approved and only awaiting the proper time for its execution, in God providence the king could not sleep and called for something to read. He was given a book of records which brought to his attention how that this Jew, Mordecai, had been the cause of his deliverance from would-be assassins. This caused him to desire to honor Mordecai, after which Esther was induced by Mordecai to plead with the king to deliver the Jews from Haman’s evil device. The king found a way of deliverance and the Jews were saved. Well may the words of Proverbs 6:12-15 be applied to Agagite, Haman, when the inspired writer said;

A worthless person, a man of iniquity, is he that walketh with a perverse mouth; that winketh with his eyes, that speaketh with his feet, that maketh signs with his fingers; in whose heart is perverseness, who deviseth evil continually, who soweth discord. Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; on a sudden shall he be broken, and that without remedy.

In God’s glorious mercy; His wondrous power; through His determination to keep His people safe; exercising His sovereign Providences, they were saved. And so we read of the celebration of God’s mercies being established and articulated by Mordecai in Esther 9:20-22, where we may read;

And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus, both nigh and far, to enjoin them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth of the same, yearly, as the days wherein the Jews had rest from their enemies, and the month was turned unto them from sorrow to gladness, and from mourning into a good day; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, and of sending portions one to another.

These things were done and kept according to the written letters of Mordecai. This was not a feast appointed by God, but by Mordecai, albeit with good reason and with thanksgiving unto the Lord. Does it not put us in mind of a feast-day that is largely kept in this land of ours and in many other lands around the globe where there is feasting and gladness; where portions (gifts) are sent one to another; where gifts are often sent to the poor? Purim was initiated by man. Christmas was initiated by man. The Jews knew the date of the deliverance from Haman; we don’t know the date that the Christ-child was born. But we do know that He was born to deliver us. I am far from advocating Christmas day, but should we not enjoy feasting on Christ and gladness every day of the year as we bless God for the Great Deliverance that He has wrought for His people through the blood of the Lamb; His holy Son?

And that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city; should not fail from among the Jews, nor the remembrance of them perish from their seed.—Esther 9:28

David Farmer, elder

Fellowship Bible Church

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