Friday, March 18, 2022

Behind the Mask of Purim

 The book of Esther is probably one of the most mysterious books in the entire bible.  It contains multiple references to other scriptures. It doesn’t mention once the name of Elohim, or, does it refer to Him in many other ways? Actually, when scriptures speak about YHVH’s people, who are His namesake and carry His sign, that in itself is evidence of His name and presence. The book of Esther is a historical marker in YHVH’s time, place, and purpose.  We know that everything Elohim does is in relationship to the covenants and promises to those whom He has called and chosen. "He watches over His word to perform it” (Jeremiah 1:11). His Word is bound up in His people, the whole House of Israel.

In this story we are told that, the Jews lived in most of the 127 provinces of the Persian Empire and that they were strong enough to defeat their enemies, killing 75,000.  How could this have taken place if their grandmas and grandpas had all gone back to Jerusalem?

During the course of the 70 years of Jewish exile in Babylon, the Babylonian Empire was taken over by the Medes and Persians. After that conquest, King Cyrus, in the first year of his reign, gave permission to a small remnant from the House of David and Levi to return to build a Temple for the Elohim of Heaven in Jerusalem. He apparently believed that it was their God who granted him success: "Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, 'YHVH the Elohim of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah'” (Ezra 1:2).   True to Jeremiah's prophecy (25:11-12) this took place at the end of the 70 years of exile.  The Mede-Persian empire lasted 229 years before Alexander the Great defeated them in 330 BCE. Almost every Mede-Persian emperor had periodic wars with the Greeks, one of them being Ahasuerus I who had lost several battles to them. Because of this, many viewed him as a weak ruler. In order to compensate, he threw big elaborate banquets to shore-up support from all the governors and military leaders of the provinces, and also prepared celebrations for his own citizens.

This sets the stage for the story of Esther, Mordechai, and Haman.  One can see why there was political unrest and why the two would-be assassins wanted to do away with the king, which actually did happen years later.

Jeremiah told the Judeans to go to Babylon, live there, and build houses.  The first wave of the diaspora was in 605 when Daniel and many of Judah's leaders were taken there. Approximately 20 years later, in 586-7, Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed and more of the Judeans, specifically from the house of David and the Levites, were also deported to Babylon.

The book of Esther highlights a hidden history of an ongoing battle with an enemy who is unceasingly trying to destroy the Jews.  Haman the arch-villain in this story had hatred for Mordecai the Jew because he would not bow and pay homage to him.  But when we look back at the ancestry of both men, we find that they had the same father and thus were together in the womb of their mother.  It is hard to believe that Isaac, the son of promise who came forth from Sarah's dead womb, could produce two sons so different from each other, such as Esau and Jacob. Even before birth, there were already enmity and strife between them as recorded in Genesis 25:22: “But the children struggled together within her; and she said, 'If it is so, why then am I this way?' So she went to inquire of YHVH”.  YHVH’s answer to Rebekah is the key to unlocking an age-old conflict that still rages today. 

 "And YHVH said to her, 'Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples shall be separated from your body, and one people shall be stronger than the other, and the older shall serve the younger'" (Genesis 25:23).

Esau proved himself the stronger in that he pushed his way out of the womb first, receiving the princely portion of the birthright and later expected to receive from his father’s right hand the double portion.  However, YHVH’s word to his mother was going to work against him, as the younger was destined to rule over the older.  Thus, the desire of a firstborn from Esau’s linage, Haman, to rule over Jacob’s seed - Mordechai – wasso al doomed to fail.  As a matter of fact, Haman’s wife's comment verified this fact:  "If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of Jewish origin ['seed' in the original], you will not overcome him, but will surely fall before him." (Esther 6:13).

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