The Feast of Purim – Esther 9–10

Read the Passage: Esther 9-10

Israel Delivered (9:1–17)

The thirteenth day of Adar is the day and month on which Haman’s murderous decree was to go into effect (cf. Est. 3:7, 12). In the chronology of the narrative, this day was eight months and twenty days after the execution of Haman. Moreover, as was recorded in the previous chapter, after his death Haman’s genocidal law was counteracted by the proclamation of Mordecai (cf. Est. 8:9–10). When the planned day of the Jews’ execution came about, God gave His people a great victory, for “no one could withstand them, because fear of them fell upon all people” (Est. 9:2). Although Est. 9:5 reports that the Jews “did what they pleased with those who hated them,” given that Mordecai’s decree only allowed for self-defense (cf. Est. 8:11), this statement ought not to be misread. Yet, legitimate self-defense may also include preemption in regard to one’s enemies.

Note that while the Jews experienced victory over their enemies, three times it is noted that “they did not lay a hand on the plunder” (Est. 9:10, 15, 16). Even though Mordecai’s decree empowered Israel to plunder their enemies (cf. Est. 8:11), the Jews knew that Saul’s error included taking plunder from the Amalekites (cf. 1 Sam. 15:3, 9). Furthermore, by leaving the plunder, it communicated that the Jews’ killing of their enemies was truly in self-defense. Observe that when Ahasuerus received word of the Israelites’ killing of their enemies, he asked Esther what further petition she might have (cf. Est. 9:12). The king then granted Esther’s request that the Jews be allowed to enforce Mordecai’s decree in Shushan on the following day, as well. In total, then, God’s people killed seventy-five thousand of their enemies, as well as eight hundred in Shushan and Haman’s ten sons.

Purim Observed (9:18–32)

Ahasuerus’ allowance for the Jews in Shushan to enforce Mordecai’s decree on the fourteenth day of Adar is important, for as Est. 9:18–19 indicates, this helps to explain why the Feast of Purim is celebrated over two days. While this may seem to be a minor point, it explains the chronology behind the only biblically revealed non-Mosaic feast of the Jews. Furthermore, Purim became an annual holiday on the Jewish calendar, for Mordecai “wrote these things and sent letters . . . to establish among them that they should celebrate yearly” (Est. 9:20–21). Esther 9:24 explains the reason why this celebratory feast was called Purim, as it notes it was on account of the fact that Haman “had plotted against the Jews to annihilate them, and had cast Pur (that is, the lot) to consume them and [to] destroy them” (cf. Est. 3:7). Note in the Persian language “Purim” is the plural of “Pur.”

Observe that Est. 9:28 records the Jews’ motivation for establishing the Feast of Purim—that is, “These days of Purim should not fail to be observed among the Jews . . . that the memory of them should not perish among their descendants.” In a sense, then, the Feast of Purim is like many modern nations’ Independence Day celebrations, such as the Fourth of July. Just as Mordecai had written a letter to all the Jews of Persia that detailed the Feast of Purim (cf. Est. 9:20), so also “Queen Esther . . . wrote with full authority to confirm this second letter” (Est. 9:29). Thus, the Feast of Purim was to include gladness, feasting, and gift-giving; yet it also was to entail fasting and lamenting (cf. Est. 9:19, 31). The reason for a celebration seems clear—that is, commemoration of deliverance. The fasting and lamenting may have been to remember Esther’s fasting (cf. Est. 5:15–17).

Mordecai Advanced (10:1–3)

It seems that Esther 10, which is the shortest chapter in the entire book, is a post-script to inform readers about the results of the events in the narrative. Of the three verses in this chapter, Est. 10:1 is the most interesting, as it simply records, “And King Ahasuerus imposed tribute on the land and on the islands of the sea.” The reason for this information is not clear. Yet, it may be that the author is drawing a parallel between Mordecai and Joseph, who was also second in the land of Egypt (cf. Gen. 41:37–45). Observe that Daniel, too, was second in charge of the Babylonian empire (cf. Dan. 2:46–49) and the Medo-Persian empire (cf. Dan. 5:29). Another reason for the tax may have been to make up for the revenue promised by Haman. Est. 10:2–3 reports that Mordecai became very famous in Persia, among the Jews and his own countrymen. Note that the book of Esther ends in 473 BC and King Ahasuerus was assassinated a few short years later in 465 BC.

Application Questions:

  1. What is the importance of remembering, commemorating, and celebrating events of the past—whether good or bad events?
  2. What caused the rulers of the provinces to assist the Jews in their self-defense, as well as prompting their fear of Mordecai (cf. Exod. 23:27; Prov. 16:7)?
  3. Why did God’s people not take the plunder of their enemies, especially since Mordecai’s decree empowered them to do so?
  4. Do you find it curious that the Jews would name their new feast Purim, especially since Haman cast lots (i.e., Purim) to determine the date of their destruction?
  5. Why did Esther decree that an element of the Feast of Purim was to be fasting and lamenting?