As a little Jewish boy growing up in Montreal I used to sing a Yiddish Purim (Feast of Esther) song: “Haynt is Purim, kinder; S’iz der yontif groys!” (‘Today is Purim, children! It’s the great holiday!’). And once again, according to the Jewish calendar we have arrived at the yearly celebration of the Feast of Esther.
Nearly 2,500 years ago Persia/Iran’s leader Ahasuerus (Old Persian, Xšayāršā) signed off on a Holocaust decree (Esther 3:12) and initialed it with his signet ring: “Scrolls were sent by runners to all the king’s provinces to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the Jews, from the young to the old, the women and toddlers, all on one day (the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar) and to seize their possessions as war plunder” (Esther 3:13).
A Jewish bird in a gilded cage
The Scroll of Esther lays out the plot. The Jewish people had been exiled by God (Leviticus 26:14-39) to Babylon for 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11-12), and were now sheep without a shepherd (Jeremiah 50:6). Their Davidic dynasty was shattered. It would be millennia before it would be fully restored (Amos 9:11-12; Jeremiah 23:5-6). The new Persian conquerors took over from Babylon and in 539 B.C. King Cyrus issued a decree (2 Chronicles 36:22-23) allowing Jews to return to the Promised Land. But less than 50,000 Hebrews took up that challenge, wending their way back to Judea as pioneers and settlers. Most Jews preferred the gilded cage of Iranian and Iraqi Exile for the next 2,500 years. Today most Jewish people avoid the term ‘the Exile,’ but adopt a euphemistic and more ‘politically correct’ term ‘the Diaspora’ (διασπορά, Greek for ‘the scattering’).
Miss Tehran, Persian hit teams and narcissists galore
The Book opens in the middle of a royal Middle Eastern drinking party, MCed by the hot-tempered, impulsive and narcissistic King Ahasuerus. The story segues quickly into an Imperial beauty contest, where a ‘new and improved’ beauty queen (Esther 2:2-14) would soon become the new bride in the harem. Fast forward to an Iranian assassination squad led by two offended royal officials (Esther 2:21-23) whose plot is exposed by Esther’s Jewish cousin Mordechai (Esther 2:7). Nearly all the players are now stage front and center, except Haman, a bully and a high official whose ambitions are only outdone by his murderous bent.
Haman’s hatred for Mordechai sparked a demonic anti-Semitic hatred, and triggered his genocidal plans against all the Jews on planet earth (since all Jews were basically living under Persian control at that time – Esther 1:1; 3:10, 13). In David Pryce-Jones’ classic ‘The Closed Circle: an interpretation of the Arabs’, he explains that “acquisition of honor, pride, dignity, respect and the converse avoidance of shame, disgrace, and humiliation are keys to Arab motivation, clarifying and illuminating behavior in the past as well as in the present” (page 34). This dynamic is found throughout the Middle East, among non-Arab peoples as well, he adds. Pryce-Jones notes that “by definition, honor and shame involve publicity” (page 40).
The God who is hiding
The writer of the Book of Esther never mentions the name of God or His existence. YHVH’s sovereignty in protecting and rescuing His Jewish people is silently brooding over the book, even though it may seem that He is ignoring the clear and present dangers facing His people. God seems to be ‘hiding His face’ (‘hester panim’ in Hebrew, a word play on the Hebrew name ‘Esther’), but in no way is He sleeping or slumbering. He protects us, preserves us and will fulfil every prophetic promise over us to bring us back both to the Land of Israel and to Himself. Though in the Book of Esther the fate of the Jewish people seems to turn on something as capricious as the ‘purim’, the lot, the ‘toss of the dice’ – the Jewish people’s survival rests in very secure divine hands.
Even today, as the world nervously considers a similar scenario – the Islamic Republic of Iran’s nuclear conspiracy to destroy Israel (the Jewish state) and to wreak havoc on pro-Western forces and neighbors – we can draw encouragement that the same Rock of Israel is watching over His Jewish people.
- Why do you say, Jacob, and you assert, Israel, “My way is hidden from YHVH, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, YHVH, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives strength to the weary, and to the one who lacks might He increases power. (Isaiah 40:27-29)
Hitler and his fellow Nazis took demonic delight in twisting Jewish themes and traditions into murderous weapons to be used against the sons and daughters of Jacob. Here are some examples of how Nazis perverted the Biblical Purim account:
- On November 10, 1938 (the day after the Nazi pogrom ‘Kristallnacht’ or Night of the Broken Glass’), Julius Streicher, editor of the Nazi paper Der Stürmer, delivered a speech to over 100,000 at Adolf Hitler Plaz in Nuremberg, referencing Purim: “Do not forget that this murderer is a Jew. The Jew has the murder of Golgotha on his conscience. This people cannot be a ‘chosen’ people . . . In one night, the Jew butchered 75,000 Persians. As he left Egypt, he killed all the firstborn, that means the whole posterity of Egypt. What would have happened if the Jew had succeeded inciting the peoples into a war against us, and if we had lost that war? Under the protection of foreign bayonets, the Jew would have butchered and murdered us . . . The Jews would have instituted a new Purim festival in Germany.”
- In Adolf Hitler’s December 11, 1941 speech declaring war against the United States, he stated that Roosevelt (FDR) “was strengthened in this [warlike] resolve by the Jews around him. Their Old Testament thirst for revenge thought to see in the U.S.A. an instrument for preparing a second ‘Purim’ for the European nations which were becoming increasingly anti-Semitic. The full diabolical meanness of Jewry rallied round this man, and he stretched out his hands.”
- On Purim 1942, Nazi forces hanged ten Jews in Zduńska Wola (Polish town near Łódź) to ‘avenge’ the hanging of Haman’s ten sons. Both Maximilian Kolbe (murdered in Auschwitz) and Maksymilian Faktorowicz (founder of Max Factor cosmetics) were from that town.
- On Purim 1942, Nazis murdered over 5,000 Jews, mostly children, in the Minsk Ghetto, Belarus. The victims were shot and buried alive by the Nazis, with Purim candies distributed to the dying children by Nazi SS Generalkommissar Wilhelm Kube.
- On the Eve of Purim March 20, 1943, over 100 Jewish doctors and their families were shot by the Nazis in Częstochowa, Poland.
- On Purim, March 21, 1943 in Piotrkow Trybunalski, a Polish town near Łódź, on the date chosen to coincide with the Jewish feast, the Nazis took 10 scholars, doctors and lawyers, claiming they would be exchanged for Palestinian Germans from Sarona. Doctors Brams and Glatter, attorneys Silberstein and Stein, their families, and others were brought to the Jewish cemetery, ordered to strip naked, and together with the Jewish watchman of the cemetery and his wife, they were all shot.
- On January 30, 1944 Hitler stated in a speech that if the Nazis were defeated, “the devastating Jewish Ahasuerus would then be able to celebrate a destroyed Europe in a second triumphant Purim-feast” (“Der verwüstende jüdische Ahasver aber könnte dann das zerstörte Europa in einem zweiten triumphierenden Purim-Fest feiern”).
- Julius Streicher, publisher of the Nazi Der Stürmer, ascended the gallows on October 16, 1946 with this declaration as his last words, “Purim-Fest 1946!” (‘The Feast of Purim – 1946!’). Streicher was ironically stating that the Jewish people would remember his own hanging in their future history books – in the same way as they remembered the divine victory at the Feast of Purim – the hanging of Haman and his ten sons (Esther 7:9-10). Haman had called for and planned the genocide of the Jewish people (Esther 5:13-14) as had Hitler, but in the end he was destroyed on the very gallows he intended to use against Mordechai.
Two other historical events happened on Purim which have relevance here:
- People’s Commissar and General Secretary Joseph Stalin was suddenly paralyzed on Purim, March 1, 1953, and died four days later. As a result of his death, nationwide pogroms against Jews throughout the Soviet Union connected to Stalin’s anti-Semitic and murderous Doctor’s Plot were averted.
- On March 4, 1996 the jihadi terror group Hamas carried out the Dizengoff Center suicide bombing in Tel Aviv on the Eve of Purim, killing 13 and wounding 130 civilians.
Purim – YHVH’s revolutionary feast
U.S. Corporal Sidney Talmud of Brooklyn was marching through Germany with the 38th Signal Construction Battalion in 1945 when a rare opportunity came his way. Schloss Rheydt, the Renaissance-era palace in Mönchengladbach had been use by Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels as a vacation home. The Allies called it ‘Goebbels’ Castle.’ Since Goebbels had played the key role in the attempted destruction of Europe’s Jews, Army brass thought that it would be poetic justice to use that newly liberated venue to commemorate Jewish holidays (Purim and Passover) celebrating the liberation of the Jewish people.
In the US Army Weekly ‘Yank’ on April 12, 1945, a photo was published from that unusual Purim: a Jewish Welfare Board flag with the Star of David laid out on a table. The Jewish chaplain’s symbol hangs on a flag in the window. The German swastika is left visible in the center, but surmounted by the Torah and the ark. In the magazine, it was written that the Jewish clergy “raised their voices in an ancient Hebrew hymn of jubilation sung at Purim to celebrate the deliverance of the Jews from an earlier Hitler–Haman of Persia, who long held the Hebrew in captivity in Biblical Times.”
The God of Israel has not changed His heart about His Jewish people, nor has He stopped protecting them from the Pharaohs, the Hamans, the Hitlers, the Hamasniks and the Ayatollahs of this world. As we remember the suspenseful victory brought about by the God who is hiding, let us redouble our prayers, intercession and proactive measures for the salvation and survival of the Jewish people!
How should we then pray?
- Pray for all those who are reaching out to protect, preserve and share God’s light with Messiah Yeshua’s Jewish people
- Pray for safety, rescue and deliverance for Ukraine’s Jews who are teetering on the lip of war and destruction – that they will be able to return home to their prophetic motherland
- Pray for the raising up of Ezekiel’s prophetic Jewish army throughout the earth
Your prayers and support hold up our arms and are the very practical enablement of God to us in the work He has called us to do.
In Messiah Yeshua,
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