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The Purim holiday is a day of feasting and gladness; because the day that was meant for destruction God turned for good. For redemption.
Because of this beautiful demonstration of God’s love for His people in sparing them from those who meant them harm, Purim is seen as a day of rejoicing and giving…
But what does the day mean for Gentile Believers? Why should we learn about Purim?
Join us as we explore Purim, rejoicing, giving, and of course, how Believers can benefit from Purim!
What Is Purim?
Celebrated on the 14th and 15th of Adar in the Hebraic calendar, and often corresponding with late February or March on the Gregorian calendar, Purim is a joyous holiday remembering how a day meant for the destruction of the Jewish people was turned to one where they had a chance at life…
Even the name of Purim hearkens back to this time. For the day meant for the Jews’ destruction was chosen by the casting of lots—or the casting of ‘pur.’
Because of God’s saving grace, what should have been remembered as a day of great sadness is now remembered yearly as one of great joy. And it is because of this joy that many of the customs of the Purim holiday exist…
The History of Purim
The story of Esther—Hadassah, as she was called before going to the palace—is recognized even beyond Jewish and Christian circles. In fact, it is probably one of the most known and retold stories of Scripture in spite of the fact that it is neither extremely detailed nor long.
In fact, the Book of Esther could easily be condensed to one paragraph…
Esther, the orphaned cousin of a man named Mordecai, was taken—due to her beauty—to a Persian king’s palace along with other candidates for the position of queen. Though Jewish, she carefully hid her heritage, and by the grace of God, was chosen as queen. Although favored of the king, it was when he had not summoned her for some time that she learned her people were in danger. Going before the king unsummoned could mean death, yet she did just that to petition for the life of her people—the Jews. Esther risked everything because she trusted God and loved her people… and God rewarded that. Causing Esther and her people to be saved. “The End.”
While this certainly gives us the plot, Esther’s story is far deeper than it appears. With layer upon layer of truth, Godly power, mercy, trust, love, hope, and so much more!
God’s role in this story is amazing…
- Turning an orphaned girl into a queen; ready to play her part in God’s plan.
- Displaying how God-aligned obedience verses man-aligned obedience changes things.
- Causing the hearts of kings to be softened.
- Saving and blessing an entire people!
These are but a few of the beautiful things God did within the story of Esther. But each cause it to be no surprise that people still celebrate all He did to this day. His sweet acts of mercy and love and power speak volumes!
It is easy to understand why Mordecai and Esther would direct the Jews of Persia to celebrate how God turned everything around. Taking what was meant for evil and fear and turning it into a time of joy and prosperity! That is certainly worthy of celebration, and it is why the Purim holiday is celebrated to this day!
Customs of the Purim Holiday
The Purim holiday, interestingly, has little in common with other biblical holidays…
- Firstly, it was not given by God Himself, despite it remembering His saving power.
- Secondly, Purim is a holiday of such rejoicing that even Sukkot—a harvest festival—would have trouble competing in terms of joy.
It is because of this joy and gratitude that many customs were quickly set into place by Mordecai and Esther. And even though other customs of celebrating were slowly added, these initial followings for Purim are still in practice today…
The Initial Customs Include:
- Remembering what God did on the original Purim; celebrating it with gladness and joy
- Sending presents to one another
- Giving gifts to the poor
- Celebrating for two days—because while the edict against the Jews was for one day, the edict in their favor was for two
- That descendants celebrate and remember the events of Purim on those two days every year—all descendants without end
While these are still observed to this day, minor additions have been made…
New traditions were passed down through the generations to remember God’s goodness and mercy. To remind them of the sweetness of God’s hand.
Later Customs Include:
- Reading the Book of Esther—Whenever Haman’s name is mentioned everyone is supposed to “boo” loudly; some take it a step further to shout “yay” when Esther or Mordecai are mentioned.
- Wearing costumes—This typically stems from Esther having masked her Jewish identity and name, Hadassah; alternatively it could relate to Haman masking his evil in a cloak of princely finery, but this is less likely as Purim is focused on joy and goodness.
- Baking and/or eating of Hamantaschen—A three cornered, sweet-filled pastry named after Haman, because it is believed to be akin to his hat or ears. Yet, because it is filled with sweetness, it fits the day as it harkens to the overcoming of evil.
- Giving gifts to friends—While an original tradition, this now often includes Hamantaschen, and is often combined with other foods, treats, and even non-edible gifts.
- The giving of gifts to the poor—While changing little over the centuries, now usually has an arbitrary minimum of two gifts for the poor; obviously not enforced and more often than not exceeded, there is not a universally accepted minimum.
Aside from the traditions mentioned within the Book of Esther, not every family or individual will engage in these newer traditions. However, they have become increasingly common…
Children in particular love dressing up in costumes. And most individuals, no matter if they attend a reading of the Book of Esther or read it at home, will gladly add their silly “booing” of Haman. And few people find fault with Hamantaschen if diet allows…
Yet, in these Purim traditions, it is remembering God’s mercy with joy that is at the heart of it all. It is why Purim is celebrated with laughter. It is why people gladly give gifts to one another and to the poor.
“Give generously and generous gifts will be given back to you, shaken down to make room for more. Abundant gifts will pour out upon you with such an overflowing measure that it will run over the top! The measurement of your generosity becomes the measurement of your return.”—Luke 6:38 (TPT)
By giving gifts to friends and to the poor, joy and remembrance are brought to everyone. Purim is made brighter, and the act of giving often sets in motion something inside of us. A greater generosity. A greater appreciation for life, for God, and for being kind. Even a deeper understanding of God and His ways.
How Do Believers Benefit from Purim?
The Purim holiday is a time of joy and gladness. This is at the very heart of the holiday and is how the story of Esther and God’s saving power has lived on with such strength.
When we yearly set aside this time to celebrate an aspect of God that speaks of His goodness, mercy, and power to save, it keeps the truth of who God is all the more strongly throughout the year. It continues to teach long after the food has been eaten and the gifts given.
It brings us closer to others and to God.
God desires us to fellowship with Him and remember His love and goodness, but He also values our time spent with one another in fellowship and kindness. For, in doing unto others, we are blessed in return and become stronger for it.
“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”—1 Corinthians 1:9
“…if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”—1 John 1:7
“…With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you…”—Mark 4:24
“Give, and it will be given to you: good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over will be put into your bosom. For with the same measure that you use, it will be measured back to you.”—Luke 6:38
Let us be like Esther this year, giving of ourselves, so that the joy of the Lord may reside within…
Let us learn from Purim… remembering God’s goodness and mercy. Learning that the joy of the Lord is our strength—Nehemiah 8:10—and that the giving of that joy only makes our own joy stronger.
“And the King will answer them, ‘Don’t you know? When you cared for one of the least of these, my little ones, my true brothers and sisters, you demonstrated love for me.’”—Matthew 25:40 (TPT)