The origin of the name Purim (Esth 9:24-9:28)

“Haman the Agagite son of Hammedatha, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them. He had cast Pur that is ‘the lot’ to crush and destroy them. When Queen Esther came before the king, he gave orders in writing that the wicked plot that Haman had devised against the Jews should come upon his own head. He and his sons should be hanged on the gallows. Therefore they called these days Purim, after the word Pur. All of this was written in this letter. Because of what they had faced in this matter, and of what had befallen them, the Jews established and accepted as a custom for themselves and their descendants, and all who joined them. Without fail they would continue to observe these two days every year, as it was written, and at the time appointed. These days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, in every family, province, and city. These days of Purim should never fall into disuse among the Jews. The commemoration of these days should never cease among their descendants.”

This is an official explanation of the feast of Purim. Since this does not have Torah approval, there is a strong emphasis on written documents. After the captivity and exile there is a great insistence on written documents. Purism comes from the idea of casting lots, which Haman did, to decide on what day the persecution and the destruction of the Jews should take place. The movement of Pur into Purim is simple enough. Interesting enough, the Greek text continued to call Haman a Macedonian rather than an Agagite. In the Greek text there is the explicit information that Pur means casting lots in Persian. The Greek text insists that Mordecai established this feast.

The official institution of Purim (Esth 9:20-9:23)

“Mordecai recorded these things. He sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Artaxerxes, both near and far. He enjoined them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month of Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same month, year by year. These are the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies. This is the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness, and from mourning into a holiday. They should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another, and presents to the poor. Thus the Jews adopted as a custom what they had begun to do, as Mordecai had written to them.”

Mordecai put in a decree for the Jews of the Persian kingdom, a custom that they had already started. This became known as Purim. Each year they should remember what happened to them on the 14th and 15th of Adar. They should exchange food gifts and give to the poor. They were to remember that on this day that they turned from sorrow to gladness and from mourning to feasting. In modern day Judaism, this has become a big holiday eating and drinking for Conservative and Orthodox Jews, much like a Halloween feast. Children dress up and exchange treats. They read the Book of Esther, while booing Haman and cheering Mordecai.

The Jews in Susa celebrate (Esth 9:18-9:19)

“The Jews, who were in Susa, gathered on the thirteenth day and on the fourteenth day. They rested on the fifteenth day of Adar, making that a day of feasting and gladness. Therefore the Jews of the villages, who live in the open towns, hold the fourteenth day of the month of Adar as a day for gladness and feasting and holiday-making. This is a day on which they send gifts of food to one another.”

There was a difference between the Jews in Susa and those in the various villages. Since the Jews in the city of Susa defended themselves for 2 days, they did not celebrate until the 15th or Adar instead of the 14th as the rest of the provinces. During this day of celebration they sent gifts of food to one another.

The Jews kill 75,000 people in the provinces (Esth 9:16-9:17)

“Now the other Jews who were in the king’s provinces also gathered to defend their lives. They gained relief from their enemies. They killed seventy-five thousand of those who hated them. However, they laid no hands on the plunder. This was on the thirteenth day of the month of Adar. On the fourteenth day they rested and made that a day of feasting and gladness.”

The Jewish people in the provinces gathered to defend themselves. They gained relief from their enemies by killing 75,000 of those people who hated them. However, they took no plunder. The day after, they celebrated with feasts and gladness as they rested.

The killing of the ten sons of Haman in Susa (Esth 9:5-9:15)

“The Jews struck down all their enemies with the sword, slaughtering and destroying them. They did as they pleased to those who hated them. In Susa the capital, the Jews killed and destroyed five hundred people. They killed Parshandatha, Dalphon, Aspatha, Poratha, Adalia, Aridatha, Parmashta, Arisai, Aridai, and Vaizatha, the ten sons of Haman son of Hammedatha, the enemy of the Jews. However they did not touch the plunder. That very day the number of those killed in Susa the capital was reported to the king. The king said to Queen Esther.

‘In the capital of Susa,

The Jews have killed five hundred men.

They have killed the ten sons of Haman.

What then have they done in the rest of the king’s provinces?

Now what is your petition?

It shall be granted you.

What further is your request?

It shall be fulfilled.’

Esther said.

‘If it pleases the king,

Let the Jews who are in Susa

Be allowed tomorrow also to do according to this day’s edict.

Let the ten sons of Haman be hanged on the gallows.’

Thus the king commanded this to be done. A decree was issued in Susa. The ten sons of Haman were hanged. The Jews who were in Susa gathered also on the fourteenth day of the month of Adar. They then killed three hundred persons in Susa. However, they did not touch the plunder.”

In the capital city of Susa, the Jews killed 500 of their enemies. This included the 10 sons of Haman. However, they took no plunder. In fact, Queen Esther and Mordecai were given everything that belonged to the house of Haman in the preceding chapter. However, when this was reported to the king, he asked Queen Esther if she had any other requests. She wanted the 10 dead sons of Haman to be hanged on the gallows like their father. She also requested one more day for the Jewish people to kill their enemies. The king, as usual, said okay. Thus the Jews hung the 10 sons of Haman and then killed another 300 people in Susa on the next day.

The great day of execution arrives (Esth 9:1-9:4)

“In the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar, on the thirteenth day, the king’s command and edict were about to be executed. On the very day that the enemies of the Jews had hoped to gain power over them. However, it had been changed to a day when the Jews would gain power over their foes. That day, the Jews gathered in their cities throughout all the provinces of King Artaxerxes to lay hands on those who had sought their ruin. No one could withstand them because the fear of them had fallen upon all the people. All the officials of the provinces, the satraps, the governors, and the royal officials were supporting the Jews because the fear of Mordecai had fallen upon them. Mordecai was powerful in the king’s house. His fame spread throughout all the provinces. The man Mordecai grew more and more powerful.”

When the 13th day of Adar arrived, the edict and decree of the king was to be executed. Originally, this was to have been a day set up by Haman to exterminate all the Jews. There must have been some hostility towards the Jews to make this seem plausible. Now, however, it had been changed to a day when the Jews would retaliate against their enemies. There must have been some real enemies of the Jews. Earlier a great fear had spread among the Jews. Now all the people were afraid of the Jews. Moreover, the royal and provincial officials were also afraid of Mordecai as he became more powerful in the Persian kingdom. These satraps were like ambassadors of the king.

The triumph of Mordecai and the Jews (Esth 8:15-8:17)

“Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king, wearing royal robes of blue and white, with a great golden crown and a mantle of fine linen and purple. The city of Susa shouted and rejoiced. The Jews had light and gladness, joy and honor. In every province and in every city, wherever the king’s command and his edict came, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a festival and a holiday. Furthermore, many of the peoples of the country professed to be Jews, because the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them.”

We have a complete reversal of fortunes for Mordecai and the Jews. Mordecai now wore the royal blue and white robes with a golden crown with purple. He was like the king of Susa, at least the 2nd in command. The Jews in the various provinces or countries, because we are that time of the Diaspora, were glad and joyous. They held festivals and holidays. In fact, the other people sometimes professed to be Jews because they began to fear the power of the Jews. The Jewish fasting had turned to feasting.

The sending of the royal edict that favors the Jews (Esth 8:13-8:14)

“A copy of the document was to be issued as a decree in every province, and published to all peoples. The Jews were to be ready on that day to take revenge on their enemies. So the couriers, mounted on their swift royal horses hurried out, urged by the king’s command. The decree was issued in the citadel of Susa.”

Now we are back at the Hebrew text, which summarizes the letter. A copy of this decree was sent to every one of the 127 provinces so that all the people knew about this. The Jews were to be ready on the 13th of Adar to take revenge against their enemies. This word went out by the royal couriers with their swift royal horses. The king had urged them on, since this decree came from the Persian capital of Susa.

Follow this order carefully (Greek text only)

“Therefore you shall observe this with all good cheer

As a notable day among your commemorative festivals.

Both now and hereafter it may represent

Deliverance for you and the loyal Persians.

However, this will be a reminder of destruction

For those who plot against us.

Every city and country, without exception,

That does not act accordingly

Shall be destroyed in wrath with spear and fire.

It shall be made not only impassable for human beings,

But also most hateful to wild animals and birds for all time.”

The Greek text of the document concludes that this should be a festival day because it represents deliverance for all loyal Persians. Now this festival is not only a Jewish remembrance but a Persian holiday showing what happens to those who plot against the Persians. Anyone who does not follow this decree will be wiped out, not only the humans there, but also the animals and birds of that area.

The problem of the thirteenth day of Adar (Greek text only)

“You will therefore do well

Not to put in execution

The letters sent by Haman son of Hammedatha.

Haman, the man who did these things,

Has been hanged at the gate of Susa,

With his entire household.

God, who rules over all things,

God has speedily inflicted on him the punishment he deserved.

Therefore post a copy of this letter publicly in every place.

Permit the Jews to live under their own laws.

Give them reinforcements,

So that on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month,

Adar, on that very day,

They may defend themselves

Against those who attack them at the time of oppression.

God, who rules over all things,

God has made this day to be a joy

For his chosen people

Instead of a day of destruction for them.”

We continue on with the Greek text of the second letter to the Persian people from King Artaxerxes. However, here the king and Mordecai clearly state that the original letter was sent by Haman and not the king. Until this point, the king was presumed to have sent the first letter also. However, Haman has been hung at the gate to Susa with his whole family. God inflicted on him the punishment that he deserved. This new public document should be published so that all the Jews may live under their own laws. On the 13th day of Adar, they were to give reinforcements to the Jews so that they might defend themselves against any attacks. God will make this a day of joy rather than a day of destruction.