18 On the fifteenth day of the month the Jews in Susa held a holiday and celebrated, after killing their enemies on the thirteenth and the fourteenth. 19This is why the Jews in the villages now celebrate on the fourteenth day of the month. It is a joyful holiday that they celebrate by feasting and sending gifts of food to each other.
The Festival of Purim
20Mordecai wrote down everything that had happened. Then he sent letters to the Jews everywhere in the provinces 21and told them:
Each year you must celebrate on both the fourteenth and the fifteenth of Adar, 22the days when we Jews defeated our enemies. Remember this month as a time when our sorrow was turned to joy, and celebration took the place of crying. Celebrate by having parties and by giving to the poor and by sharing gifts of food with each other.
23They followed Mordecai's instructions and set aside these two days every year as a time of celebration.
24 Haman was the son of Hammedatha and a descendant of Agag. He hated the Jews so much that he planned to destroy them, but he wanted to find out the best time to do it. So he cast lots.
25Esther went to King Xerxes and asked him to save her people. Then the king gave written orders for Haman and his sons to be punished in the same terrible way that Haman had in mind for the Jews. So they were hanged. 26Mordecai's letter had said that the Jews must celebrate for two days because of what had happened to them. This time of celebration is called Purim, which is the Hebrew word for the lots that were cast. 27Now every year the Jews set aside these two days for having parties and celebrating, just as they were told to do. 28From now on, all Jewish families must remember to celebrate Purim on these two days each year.
29Queen Esther, daughter of Abihail, wanted to give full authority to Mordecai's letter about the Festival of Purim, and with his help she wrote a letter about the feast. 30Copies of this letter were sent to Jews in the 127 provinces of King Xerxes. In the letter they said:
We pray that all of you will live in peace and safety.
31You and your descendants must always remember to celebrate Purim at the time and in the way that we have said. You must also follow the instructions that we have given you about mourning and going without eating.
32These laws about Purim are written by the authority of Queen Esther.
The Greatness of Xerxes
1King Xerxes made everyone in his kingdom pay taxes, even those in lands across the sea. 2All the great and famous things that King Xerxes did are written in the record books of the kings of Media and Persia. These records also tell about the honors that the king gave to Mordecai. 3Next to the king himself, Mordecai was the highest official in the kingdom. He was a popular leader of the Jews, because he helped them in many ways and would even speak to the king on their behalf.
The Book of Esther concludes with the chronicling of why Purim exists, how it was named “Purim,” and how it is to be celebrated by Jews in perpetuity. In essence, the text is a summary review of the entire Book of Esther!
Mordecai communicates to the generation of his people to set aside the two days in the twelfth month in which the Jewish people defeated their enemies. They are to celebrate Purim, named for the lots that Haman cast to select the best day to kill off all the Jews. Purim is intended to be a very joyful holiday, to commemorate the turning of sorrow into joy and mourning into celebration.
Esther adds her authority to Mordecai’s in designating the celebration of Purim. They both instruct the people to celebrate Purim by having parties and feasting, by sharing gifts of food with each other, and by giving to the poor.
For more than 2,000 years and to this day, Jewish families and communities worldwide annually celebrate the festival of Purim. Each year, at the time of Purim, the Book of Esther is read. My Jewish friend, Sonia, tells me that with Purim, permission is given to celebrate joyfully with gusto.
I wish we Christians would celebrate Purim and read the Book of Esther annually as a part of our Judeo-Christian spiritual heritage. Easter is the closest celebration we have for Purim, because we celebrate the Lord’s resurrection and His victory over and our deliverance from sin and death. But imagine a day where Christ-followers worldwide take one day to express our solidarity with all God’s people, pray for the persecuted church, and celebrate acts of God’s providential deliverance.
Imagine a yearly exposure to the Book of Esther and having this scripture shape our Christian discipleship and worldview! We only have to review the past ten readings and reflections in Esther to think of how we might have our minds and lives transformed.
God, We thank you for your gifts – Esther’s story, your deliverance of us from all things destructive. Grow us as people who revel in who you are and in your goodness and saving power. In Jesus’ name, Amen.