Every year around this time, Jewish people around the world celebrate Purim—a holiday commemorating the time when Persian King Ahasuerus (traditionally identified as Xerxes I), extended to the scattered descendants of Judah’s captivity the right to defend themselves against their enemies. It was a momentous day, when a mighty world ruler—hardly a Jew himself—intervened against one of his own advisor’s schemes, and prevented persecution of the beleaguered Jewish minority living in his kingdom.
Although romantically depicted in the movie, “One Night With the King,” the story of Esther—the Jewish maiden who became queen of the Persian Empire—and the ruler who purportedly brought her into his court, is a familiar story of a Father’s love more than a mortal romance. And what a story—a truly epic drama!
A beautiful maiden (Esther), caught in epic circumstances beyond her control; a rags to riches story of an orphan girl made queen; a dastardly plot by a scheming villain (Haman the Agagite), bent on destroying everyone the tragic heroine loves; a loyal cousin and mentor (Mordecai), coming to the rescue of a well-meaning but somewhat naïve young king; and a powerful ruler who can fulfill—or destroy—the protagonists’ most desperate hopes with the proverbial scattering glance (Proverbs 20:8).
According to the Bible and other sources, all of this really happened. Almighty God—the author of prophecy and the rise and fall of nations—delivered the dispossessed remnant of His people from total destruction at the hands of jealous anti-Jewish factions within the Persian Empire. He placed the right pieces at the right time, even using a pagan king to work His will—a precedent He had set at least once before, according to the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 44:28, 45:1).
Haman, the Persian Vizier, sought to manipulate the king into allowing him to plunder and destroy the Jewish people. Haman’s lies secured permission from Ahasuerus to conduct a government-sanctioned pogrom against his hated enemies. However, God orchestrated a masterful intervention using human instruments, leaving Haman and his allies with no support while granting the Jews the legal right to defend themselves—resulting in a reversal of fates. The would-be plunderers were thwarted, and Haman was executed for his treachery.
What does this mean for today? A great deal, if you consider the circumstances that the tiny nation of Israel faces now. The Jewish people are no less scattered throughout the world in 2015ad than they were in 500bc. And, they are no less surrounded and beleaguered in their own homeland, considering how many nations and factions of the Middle East are or have been at war with them.
Throughout history, the Jewish people have suffered immeasurably—Anti-Semitism is alive and well to this day—but God, according to His purpose, will continue to preserve their remnant (Isaiah 10:20; Romans 11). Only He can truly try and test His peoples’ hearts, but He does so for their ultimate good (Proverbs 3:12). He has the power over life and death, and to set things right—for all souls who ever lived (Ezekiel 37; Jeremiah 12:15; Revelation 20:12).
But before that happens, a time is coming when deliverance will be needed more than ever, and the Jewish people—and many others—will stand on the brink of total destruction.
The Bible warns that this fate—largely the result of national sin and a great turning away from God to reliance on their own strength and stubborn will—will befall all the scattered children of Israel—not just the Jews. Destruction will only be averted by the intervention of a greater King than the ancient ruler of Persia—a Messiah with unlimited might to stay the hands of Israel’s many seen and as yet unseen enemies.
Purim is an important holiday to the Jewish people, but there are other annual festivals recorded in the Bible that explain God’s plan of salvation—for all mankind! You can find out more about these by reading The Holy Days: God’s Master Plan.