Purim is a beautiful festival to commemorate the book of Esther, a story of how a genocide against the Jews was completely avoided by one woman. Esther was a beautiful Jewish orphan, who became Queen, and was hidden by God for such a time as this. 

“These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family and in every province and every city. These days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor their remembrance perish from their descendants.” ‭‭Esther‬ ‭9‬:‭28‬ ‭TLV‬‬

The story of Esther has so many takeaways for the reader. To summarize, God may call us to undercover work, God's work is not always obvious, the enemy comes to steal/kill/destroy, seeking wise counsel,  

The Name Esther

Esther's birth name was Hadassah. The Hebrew name means myrtle. But her name was changed to Esther in order to conceal her identity. The name change reveals that Esther was on an undercover assignment by God. Her new name actually means hidden, or to conceal, revealing two more things. One, that she was to be hidden until the time was right to be revealed as a Jew. Second, God was very much hidden in this story. His work in this story is all behind the scenes. It may do us well to dwell on the reality that God can and does do work behind the scenes, when we cannot see, hear, or feel Him near.

The Antagonist Haman

Haman was a descendant of King Agag, the King of the Amalekites. King Saul actually was supposed to kill the Amalokites. If King Saul would have been obedient, Haman would not have had the opportunity to make such evil schemes against Israel. You can read about that story here. Haman and his 10 sons plotted the genecide of the Jewish people in Persia. It's ironic that Haman and his descendants should not have even existed, and in their existence, they tried to make it so that there were no descendants of the Israelites. It seems like the enemy is always trying to steal God's plans and carry out the evil and opposite version of them. 

Seeking Counsel 

Seeking counsel is another theme throughout the book of Esther. The first time it comes up is at the beginning of the story of Esther. This is when we first learn about Queen Vashti. She was summoned by the king, and she did not come. He was "enraged" by this, and "his anger blazed inside him". We learn much about this king from his next move, what he did when he was burning with anger. The next verse reads that "[a]s was the king’s custom, he consulted sages well-versed in matters of law and justice". He consulted someone who knew the law, not someone's opinion. He surely could have consulted with anyone, he could have gone without consulting altogether, but even when fuming in anger, he goes to a sage whose counsel stemmed from a foundation of law and justice. We see his custom was seeking wise counsel, and that he seemed to have control over his emotions.

Esther, too, exemplifies seeking wise counsel. She submitted herself to the voice of only two, Mordecai and the king’s eunuch. She silenced all the other voices, either didn’t seek them or disregarded them when they bantered. 

“She would not go back to the king unless the king was pleased with her, and summoned her by name. When the turn came for Esther, the daughter of Abihail, the uncle of Mordecai who had taken her as his daughter, to go to the king, she did not ask for anything except what Hegai the king’s eunuch, the guardian of the women, advised.”
‭‭Esther‬ ‭2‬:‭14-15‬ ‭TLV‬‬

How to Seek Wise Counsel Today?

There are many ways we can seek wise counsel today, emphasis on the wise. We can do like the king in Esther's story did, and seek people who are rooted in God's word. 

We can do like Queen Esther did, and seek family members who are grounded in the ways and word of God. 

We can be like David, and seek the heart of God directly. We see many verses in the Psalms where David speaks of God Himself giving guidance and counsel. 

“You will guide me with your advice;
and afterwards, you will receive me with honor.” Psalm 73:24 CJB 

“But the counsel of Adonai stands forever,
his heart's plans are for all generations.” Psalm 33:11 CJB

We are incredibly fortunate to have another option, too. Through the blood of Yeshua Jesus, those who have faith to believe that He died for them and His blood was a perfect sacrifice to atone for their sins, they can be infilled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can guide and counsel as well. The Holy Spirit is referred to as the Spirit of Truth. What a powerful name.

“However, when the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own initiative but will say only what he hears. He will also announce to you the events of the future.” John 16:13 CJB

Classy and Clever Like Queen Esther

Queen Esther definitely comes across as an undercover agent. She was trained by just one person, her first-cousin Mordecai. And her assignment was an interesting one, one that included an entire year of beauty treatments. 

One instruction that Mordecai gave Esther was to conceal. Esther 2:10 says she did not disclose her Jewish identity, because Mordecai had instructed her not to tell anyone. So she certainly wasn't an open book, and clearly she knew how to make and keep boundaries for extended periods of time. It seems incredible that she was able to conceal this. Maybe it was easier to conceal it from her husband the king since it doesn't read as though they met very often, but Esther 2:9 tells us that she was given 7 girls to attend her. She was in beauty treatments for months on end. What did she talk about with those around her? 

Queen Esther also shows us how to do things scared, or at least how to not be controlled by the spirit of fear. What she afraid? Is seems like she was. At one point, she was certainly concerned about dying from breaking the law. She knew her husband would follow the law, and the memory of Queen Vashti must have been on her mind. When Queen Vashti failed to come when summoned, she would never be allowed in again. If Queen Esther came when not summoned, she would die unless her husband the king spared her. But Mordecai rightfully pointed out that if she does nothing at all, she would die also. So death was on the table either way, and she went ahead and carried out the plan, probably scared. 

It seems as though Esther was clever and full of wisdom. Ultimately she had to ask her husband the king a great request, one of great consequence. One key to making this request is that she made no other requests. As Queen, she could have asked for anything, anytime prior, when summoned. But she didn’t. She followed the wise counsel of Mordecai and the eunuch, and only did what they advised. In this way she gained favor.

“When the turn came for Esther, the daughter of Abihail, the uncle of Mordecai who had taken her as his daughter, to go to the king, she did not ask for anything except what Hegai the king’s eunuch, the guardian of the women, advised. And Esther won favor in the eyes of all who saw her. Now the king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she won his grace and favor more than all the other virgins. So he placed the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.”
‭‭Esther‬ ‭2‬:‭15‬, ‭17‬ ‭TLV‬‬

She wisely studied her husband, took into account his likes, dislikes, and thoughtfully arranged an incredibly banquet in the physical that had all the elements of pleasing him. She also did due diligence in the spiritual. She asked Mordecai to get their people to pray and fast, and she also instructed the girls under her authority to pray and fast. Esther joined them in this prayer and fast. 

And the reward of following the wise counsel of Mordecai, of being this epic undercover agent, of knowing how to influence her husband, or knowing the power of prayer and fasting? She single handedly destroyed the deadly plans of the enemy. Can you imagine? 

Traditional Way of Celebrating Purim

Purim was created so that the memory of the Esther story would never be too far from memory. Scripture says that this story should not be forgotten.

Purim is not one of the three annual holidays that God commanded the Israelites to celebrate (i.e. Pesach/Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot). To put this into context, the book of Esther happened about 1,000 years after the Lord gave Moses the law. Nonetheless, the Bible clearly tells us to never forget this story and observe these days.

“These days should be remembered and observed in every generation by every family and in every province and every city. These days of Purim should not fail from among the Jews, nor their remembrance perish from their descendants.” ‭‭Esther‬ ‭9‬:‭28‬ ‭TLV

So how is Purim traditionally observed?

The first thing done is to read the entire book of Esther in the Bible, multiple times even! Verbally tell the children the story from a young age so they know all the details.

fingered pointed over a Bible reading

Here is a great music video to watch!

One fun thing to do, adults and children alike, is to dress up with a mask, following along the theme of Esther in the way that she was hidden. Her name means hidden, and her Israelite identity was hidden until the precise time when it was important that it be revealed. 

decorative dress up silver mask

Hamentashchen cookies are also popular to make! These are cookies that are shaped like a triangle and are filled with something fun and sweet like jam.

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A woman who had had a hemorrhage for twelve years approached him from behind and touched the tzitzit on his robe. For she said to herself, “If I can only touch his robe, I will be healed.” Yeshua turned, saw her and said, “Courage, daughter! Your trust has healed you.” And she was instantly healed.

Matthew 9:20-22 (CJB)