Have you read the Book of Esther in the Bible lately? Did you know the Jewish celebration of Purim was born out of that story? This year 2023, the Purim celebration begins at sundown on March 6 and ends at sundown on March 7.
The story has four main characters: The King of Persia who held the children of Israel captive; Esther (a Jew) who was chosen as queen; protagonist Mordecai (a Jew), the cousin of Esther, who raised her; and antagonist Haman who sought to destroy all the Jews.
Haman was an indirect descendant of the Amalekites – a tribe whom God had previously instructed King Saul to utterly destroy, but he disobeyed, sparing the life of King Agag and other spoils according to 1 Samuel 15. Haman came from the tribe of the Agagites; believed by scholars to be named after King Agag, so they too would be enemies of the Jews.
Because he did not believe in the God of the Israelites who were scattered among all the provinces of Persia, Haman disdained Mordecai for not bowing down to him when he passed through the courts. So, he privately convinced the King of Persia to issue an edict throughout the kingdom that all Jews were to be killed on a certain date. When he learned of this plot, Mordecai appealed to a reluctant Esther – fearing for her own life – to intervene before the king saying:
“[If] you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14, NIV).
The twist of the story is similar to what Joseph said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20 – “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”
Esther was raised in a society where men expected women to be passive, obedient, innocent, modest, and shy. Her story offers us an example of how imperfect, yet faithful people can continue to live faithfully in a culture that does not acknowledge God (have you ever noticed that the name of God is not mentioned at all in the Book of Esther?). Her belief in God, her faithfulness, and “go for broke” attitude gave her the confidence to approach the king which resulted in saving the Jews from slaughter.
During this Women’s History Month, we salute those who stood and are standing in the gap faithfully, courageously, and unselfishly making a humanitarian difference in our society. May God bless you!
Larry Buford is the author of “Things Are Gettin’ Outta Hand” and “Book To The Future” (Amazon). Email: [email protected]