God’s Word of Joy
Esther 9:20—10:3: The events in the Book of Esther take place among the Jewish diaspora community in the Persian Empire during the reign of the Persian emperor Xerxes (486 – 465 B.C.). The story centers around Esther who, by her great courage and devotion to her people, saved them from being exterminated by their enemies. Today’s reading describes the origin of the festival of Purim, an annual celebration to commemorate the triumph of the Jewish people over their enemies. Mordecai, Esther’s cousin, who had become a high official in the king’s court, writes a letter to all the Jews with instructions for observing the festival.
The Festival of Purim
20Mordecai had these events written down and sent letters to all the Jews, near and far, throughout the Persian Empire, 21telling them to observe the fourteenth and fifteenth days of Adar as holidays every year. 22These were the days on which the Jews had rid themselves of their enemies; this was a month that had been turned from a time of grief and despair into a time of joy and happiness. They were told to observe these days with feasts and parties, giving gifts of food to one another and to the poor. 23So the Jews followed Mordecai’s instructions, and the celebration became an annual custom.
24 Haman son of Hammedatha—the descendant of Agag and the enemy of the Jewish people—had cast lots (“purim,” they were called) to determine the day for destroying the Jews; he had planned to wipe them out. 25But Esther went to the king, and the king issued written orders with the result that Haman suffered the fate he had planned for the Jews—he and his sons were hanged from the gallows. 26That is why the holidays are called Purim. Because of Mordecai’s letter and because of all that had happened to them, 27the Jews made it a rule for themselves, their descendants, and anyone who might become a Jew, that at the proper time each year these two days would be regularly observed according to Mordecai’s instructions. 28It was resolved that every Jewish family of every future generation in every province and every city should remember and observe the days of Purim for all time to come.
29Then Queen Esther, the daughter of Abihail, along with Mordecai, also wrote a letter, putting her full authority behind the letter about Purim, which Mordecai had written earlier. 30The letter was addressed to all the Jews, and copies were sent to all the 127 provinces of the Persian Empire. It wished the Jews peace and security 31and directed them and their descendants to observe the days of Purim at the proper time, just as they had adopted rules for the observance of fasts and times of mourning. This was commanded by both Mordecai and Queen Esther. 32Esther’s command, confirming the rules for Purim, was written down on a scroll.
The Greatness of Xerxes and Mordecai
1King Xerxes imposed forced labor on the people of the coastal regions of his empire as well as on those of the interior. 2All the great and wonderful things he did, as well as the whole story of how he promoted Mordecai to high office, are recorded in the official records of the kings of Persia and Media. 3Mordecai the Jew was second in rank only to King Xerxes himself. He was honored and well-liked by his fellow Jews. He worked for the good of his people and for the security of all their descendants.
Today’s Key Verse: Esther 9:22b
They were told to observe these days with feasts and parties, giving gifts of food to one another and to the poor.
The Festival of Purim is still celebrated by Jews around the world today, normally in early March. It is preceded by a day of fasting. The festival gets its name from “purim,” which is the Babylonian term for the lots that were used to determine the day on which the Jews were to be killed. Instead, the Jews survived and their enemies were destroyed. What were Mordecai’s instructions for the celebration (verses 20-23)? Verses 24-28 provide a summary of the events that led to this particular commemoration. What reason is given?
Almighty God, eternal is your reign. Thank you for your steadfast love and faithfulness. Daily will I praise you and glorify your holy name. Amen.
Job 42:1-17: Job’s prosperity is restored.