At the Alliance, we affirm God’s miraculous preservation of the Jewish people throughout centuries of annihilation attempts. One of those attempts took place around 450 BC in the Persian Empire during the reign of King Xerxes (Ahasuerus) and is recorded in the book of Esther. Every year, Jewish people celebrate their victory over this attempted genocide on the holiday known as Purim (lots), which takes place on 14 Adar of the Hebrew calendar (usually mid-March on the Gregorian calendar).
The Purim Story
The Purim story took place after Israel’s Babylonian exile. When the Jewish people were permitted to return to Jerusalem by the decree of Cyrus in 539, some chose to remain in the cities of their dispersion. In the mid-400s, those Jewish people who had stayed behind found themselves living comfortably under the reign of King Xerxes until an evil man named Haman rose to a position of prominence in the Persian Empire. Haman became indignant that Mordecai, a Jewish palace official, refused to obey the king’s order to bow to him (Esther 3:5). In response, Haman, with the king’s approval, issued a command for those in the empire to destroy the Jewish people––men, women, and children alike. He then cast lots (purim in Hebrew) to set the date, and the lots landed on 13 Adar (Esth 3:5–14).
When Mordecai heard of the decree, he sent a messenger to inform his cousin, Queen Esther, of Haman’s evil plan and directed her to beg the king to spare their lives, even though approaching the king without his request could earn a death sentence (4:8). Mordecai challenged Esther, saying, “Do not imagine that you in the king’s palace can escape any more than all the Jews. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?” (vv. 13–14).
Esther replied with a petition for all the Jewish people to fast and pray for her for three days, after which she would approach the king (vv. 15–16). She famously ended her request with the words, “And if I perish, I perish” (v. 16).
On the third day of the fast, Esther bravely approached the king and requested to host a banquet for him and Haman. She found favor in the king’s eyes, and he extended his gold scepter to her, sparing her life (5:1–7). That night, Haman bragged to his wife and friends about the queen’s request to host a banquet for him and the king. He bemoaned Mordecai’s refusal to bow to him. His wife and friends suggested he ask the king to hang Mordecai on a seventy-five-foot gallows, so he promptly set up the gallows and prepared to ask the king the next morning (v. 14).
However, in God’s divine providence, the king could not sleep that night, so he asked one of his attendants to read the history of his reign to him. During the reading, he was reminded that Mordecai had saved his life in the past and was never rewarded for his heroism (6:1–3).
Shortly after this realization, Haman approached the king, ready to ask him to hang Mordecai. Before Haman could speak, the king asked Haman what he would do to honor someone. Haman, thinking the king was talking about him, suggested:
For the man whom the king desires to honor, let them bring a royal robe which the king has worn, and the horse on which the king has ridden, and on whose head a royal crown has been placed; and let the robe and the horse be handed over to one of the king’s most noble princes and let them array the man whom the king desires to honor and lead him on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him, “Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor” (6:7–9).
The king loved Haman’s suggestion and––ironically––had Haman lead Mordecai through the streets honoring him in the way he had just described (v. 11). But Haman’s humiliation was just beginning.
Soon afterward, the king’s eunuchs led Haman to Esther’s banquet. There, Esther revealed to the king how Haman had intended to kill her and her people (7:1–6). The king was enraged and ordered Haman to be hung on the same gallows he had prepared for Mordecai (vv. 9–10). He then signed a new order commanding Jewish people throughout the empire to defend themselves against their enemies on the day he had previously set for their annihilation (8:7–17).
On that day of 13 Adar, the Jewish people fought and won the victory over their enemies who tried to destroy them (9:1–19). Mordecai and Esther thus inaugurated that day as the annual celebration of Purim among the Jewish people (vv. 20–32).
Throughout the ages, the Jewish people have honored Mordecai and Esther’s command to celebrate Purim annually. Today, the holiday is preceded by a day of fasting on the evening before Purim (erev Purim) to commemorate Esther and the Jewish people’s three-day fast.
Purim is a day of rejoicing and celebration. The rabbis command four things of the Jewish people on this day: reading the scroll (megillah) of Esther, sending gifts of food to friends, giving to the poor, and eating special holiday food. Whenever Haman’s name is mentioned in the retelling of the story in the synagogues, children twirl noisemakers (groggers), yell “boo,” and stomp their feet to blot out his name. Many also put on plays to reenact the events, hold carnivals, wear costumes, and eat hamantaschen, a special fruit-filled cookie resembling Haman’s hat or ears.
Purim reminds us that God is a promise-keeping God. He will bless those who bless the Jewish people, and He will curse those who do not (Genesis 12:3). Haman conspired to destroy the Jewish people, and both he and his plan were destroyed. God faithfully preserved the Jewish people in the Purim story, and He will continue to preserve them as He has promised until Messiah returns. Until then, let us continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and the salvation and preservation of God’s chosen people.
by Jennifer Miles
 “Our Hope for Peace: A Statement on Israel, the Nations, and the Gospel,” Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem, accessed March 21, 2022, https://allianceforthepeaceofjerusalem.com/statement/.
 Residents of Jerusalem celebrate Shushan Purim on 15 Adar instead.
 “Purim Around the World,” Chosen People Ministries, accessed March 21, 2022, https://www.chosenpeople.com/purim-around-the-world/.