Feast of Purim: Festival With A Prophecy

By on February 1, 2011

This year, the Jewish festival of Purim Katan (Little Purim) will be observed on the 18th of February (the 14th day of Adar I) and the full holiday of Purim is scheduled for March 20 (the 14th day of Adar II). Purim commemorates the victory of Esther and Mordecai over Haman, in the days of the Jewish exile in the Persian Empire.

In a 1991 article on Purim, Gary Stearman reminded us, “If we count the festivals, beginning with Rosh Hashanah, Purim is the tenth festival out of 22 in the Jewish calendar. Alphabetically, Rosh Hashanah is the first feast, represented by the first letter, aleph (t), the letter of “creation.” This feast signifies “the birthday of the world.” Purim corresponds with the Hebrew letter yod (h), which refers the “unseen hand of God.” Perhaps, for this reason, the name of God does not appear in the book of Esther and, therefore, can only be seen hidden in the context of the story.”

Queen Esther exposing Haman’s plot to destroy her people all across the Empire.

The Story Is Set in Persia

For some strange reason, the original story of Haman’s plot to kill the Jews takes place in the court of Ahasuerus, king of the Persian Empire. And, today, a new plot to destroy the Jews is emerging from that same country — Persia/Iran. As we shall see, there are at least three historical references implying that Persia/Iran will be the country that leads the world into the final conflicts of the Tribulation Period.

The Abrahamic Covenant

When God first established a covenant with Abraham, He said that He would “bless them that bless thee, and curse them that curseth thee” (Gen. 12:3). That curse targets those nations who become the enemies of God’s Chosen People. Whatever a nation does to hurt Israel, God will do the same to that nation. God seems to promise “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” to any nation that attempts to curse the Jews. It is God’s ultimate plan for “turning the tables on one’s enemies.”

The original biblical story takes place in the palace of King Ahasuerus at Susa in the Persian Empire. At a banquet, the king calls upon Queen Vashti to display her beauty before his guests. She refuses and through a strange turn of events the Jewish maiden, Esther, finds favor in his eyes. Eventually, she becomes his queen.

Her cousin, Mordecai, is also favored at court when he uncovers a plot to kill the king.  As a reward, those at court were told to honor him. But “Haman the son of Hammedatha, the Agagite,” found it difficult to pay homage to a Jew. Haman was an Edomite, through Esau’s son, Amalek. Agag was the king of the Amalekites. Contrary to the direct order of God, King Saul allowed him to live after the Israelites had defeated the Amalekites.

As the story goes, Haman, a descendant of the Amalekites, developed a burning hatred for the Jews. He was made grand vizier above all other princes, and plotted to kill all the Jews, starting with Mordecai.

Haman was so anxious to annihilate the Jews that he cast lots for a whole year to determine the best time to execute his plan. The Assyrian word for lots is “puru,” which enters the Hebrew language as Purim. He built a gallows and planned to use it to make an example of Mordecai. But in the end, through a final, subtle twist of events, Haman and his sons were hanged upon that same gallows.

Haman stands as an example of the fate given to those who attempt to destroy the Jews. Down through the years, many have shared Haman’s fate. In our generation, one of the most interesting examples is that of Julius Streicher, one of the chief propagandists of the Nazi regime in World War II.

Streicher was the editor of a Nazi newspaper. As Hitler rose to power, his newspaper consistently spread a hatred for the Jews all over Europe. He was out to destroy the Jews. Like Hitler, he felt that the “final solution” to the world’s problems would be the complete annihilation of the Jewish people.

World War II ended with the defeat of Germany. Julius Streicher was captured, tried at Nuremberg and sentenced to be hung. As he walked to the gallows in preparation for execution, he uttered these final words: “Purim, 1946! Purim, 1946!” Streicher realized that he was repeating the plot of Haman. In his own way, he was belatedly acknowledging the truth of the Bible. God will always bless those who bless Israel, and curse those who curse the Jews.

The hanging of Haman was not the end of the story. Mordecai the Jew was given a place of honor by the king. His fame spread throughout all the provinces of the kingdom to such a degree that the provincial rulers feared him. And to their dismay, Ahasuerus issued a nationwide decree, stating that on the 13th day of the month Adar, the Jews could legally avenge themselves upon their enemies. Esther 9:5 tells what happened:

“Thus the Jews smote all their enemies with the stroke of the sword, and slaughter, and destruction, and did what they would unto those that hated them.”

Thereafter, the Jews began to commemorate Purim on the two days following their victory — Adar 14 and 15. The entire nation of Persia was not against the Jews, only a certain faction of their society. Thus it is today in Modern Persia. Most of the Iranians do not agree with the ruling faction of hardened enemies against Israel.

Esther Ascends the Persian Throne

Her name was Esther, Persian for “star,” but her Jewish name was Hadassah, meaning “myrtle.” Like Esther, the myrtle is both beautiful and meaningful. It is an evergreen, whose pink blossoms yield blue-black berries that are used in the making of perfume. Its boughs are gathered to make booths for the Feast of Tabernacles. Thus, it speaks of the peace and beauty of the kingdom. It is significant that Esther was divinely placed in her position at the king’s side in his royal court.

Traditional shrine and tomb of Esther and Mordechai in the city of Hamadan, Iran.

Haman’s Hatred

Haman’s hatred for Mordecai drove him to initiate a vengeful conspiracy. He managed to convince Ahasuerus to sign a law that sentenced all Jews to death on a designated day. But Esther appeared before the king and interceded on the Jews’ behalf. In a stunning reversal, Mordechai and the Jews were saved. Haman — and his ten sons — went to the gallows.

Nowhere in the story does the Lord’s name appear. But His influence is everywhere. The Jews are protected and preserved by divine action — the hidden hand of God. This is the very essence of the letter yod [h], in which God’s plan is present, but unseen by men. It is the Hebrew symbol of the metaphysical — the hand of God that lies just behind the scene.

A Prophecy in the book of Ezekiel

Ezekiel was a Levite exiled during the Babylonian Captivity. He is one of the most important Old Testament prophets to give us a view of the world’s final battle — called in Ezekiel, “The Battle of Gog and Magog.” Ezekiel’s adventures (if we can call them that) were spectacular. In chapter 38, he foresaw the Battle of Gog and Magog, which leads to the final confrontation, referred to in John’s Apocalypse as the “Battle of Armageddon.” Ezekiel tells us that Persia will be the Number One confederate with Gog in the future invasion of Israel:

“I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed with all sorts of armour, even a great company with bucklers and shields, all of them handling swords:

Persia, Ethiopia, and Libya with them; all of them with shield and helmet” (Ezekiel 38:4,5).

Ezekiel continues with an unusual battle strategy gone terribly wrong for Israel’s enemies:

“Every man’s sword shall be against his brother” (Ezekiel 38:21).

Confusion will cloud the minds of the invading army and cause the Persians and their confederates to turn against each other.

A Prophecy in The Book of Enoch

The Book of Enoch appears to be the oldest book ever written. And though it has been corrupted from time to time by would-be authors, it is fairly easy to determine its original autographs. According to the second of seven scrolls that comprise the ancient writing, Enoch was told that Persia would lead the world in its final attempt to destroy the Jews:

“And in those days the angels will assemble, and turn their heads toward the east, towards the people of Parthia and Media [Persia/Iran], in order to excite the kings, and that a spirit of disturbance come over them, and disturb them from off their thrones, that they come forth from their resting places like lions, and like hungry wolves amidst their flocks.

“And they will ascend and step upon the land of their chosen, and the land of his chosen will be before them a threshing-floor and a path.

“But the city of my just will be a hindrance to their horses, and they will take up a battle amongst themselves, and their right will become strong against themselves, and a man will not know his neighbor or his brother, nor the son of his father or his mother, until there shall be sufficient bodies by their death and their punishment over them — it will not be in vain.

“And in those days the mouth of Sheol will be opened, and they will sink into it; and their destruction, Sheol, will devour the sinners from the presence of the chosen” (Enoch 56:5-8).

It is possible that this was written before the death of Adam. And, though Persia did not exist at that time, we are told that Enoch traveled into the future on several occasions. As we can tell from the prophecies of Ezekiel, Enoch corresponds with the biblical view that Persia will have an important part in shaping the world’s final battles. Notice that Enoch and Ezekiel both said that the enemy would turn on itself at the height of the confusion and begin to battle each other. Enoch said, “They will take up a battle amongst themselves, and their right will become strong against themselves, and a man will not know his neighbor or his brother, nor the son of his father or his mother …” while Ezekiel put it this way: “Every man’s sword shall be against his brother.”

Iran’s recent long-range missile tests prove their ability to deliver nuclear bombs.

A Prophecy in the Jewish Commentary Zohar

So far, we have a biblical prophecy and an extra-biblical source identifying Persia as the main player in history’s final confrontation with the Jews. Now, let’s look at the Zohar.

The online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, says: “The Zohar first appeared in Spain in the 13th century, and was published by a Jewish writer named Moses de Leon. De Leon ascribed the work to Shimon bar Yochai, a rabbi of the 2nd century during the Roman persecution who, according to Jewish legend, hid in a cave for thirteen years studying the Torah and was inspired by the Prophet Elijah to write the Zohar.” In this fascinating book, the children of Ishmael were targeted as the end-time enemy of Israel:

“The children of Ishmael will at the same time rouse all the peoples of the world to come up to war against Jerusalem, as it is written, ‘For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle …’ (Zechariah 14:2), also, ‘The kings of the earth stand up and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his anointed’ (Psalm 2:2); and further, ‘He that sitteth in heaven laugheth, the Lord hath them in derision’ (Psalm 2:4).”

Could he be referring to the wars that lead up to the battle of Armageddon? Of this we need not speculate. The rabbi quotes enough Scripture to convince us that he definitely has Armageddon in mind. Only the resurrection could be in mind as Rabbi Simeon concludes:

“Happy are those who will be left alive at the end of the sixth millennium to enter on the Sabbath, for that is the day set apart by the Holy One on which to effect the union of souls and to cull new souls to join those that are still on earth, as it is written, ‘And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written into life in Jerusalem’ (Isaiah 4:3).

So, there you have it. There are three different sources — all from the Jewish Library of books and commentaries that were once kept in the Temple in Jerusalem, and later, in the caves of Qumran. Persia and the children of Ishmael are regarded by Jewish theologians as the enemy who will attempt to destroy the Chosen People in the end-time.

As in the case of Haman, he represented only a small faction of Persians who hated the Jews. Most of the Persians appreciated God’s Chosen People. Cyrus had allowed them the resources to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their Temple. And so it is today. Most of the Modern Persians do not hate Israel. Nor do they want a madman to lead their government. But in the last election, they were unable to rid themselves of their dictator, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iran’s modern madman recently announced that he has enough enriched uranium to build a bomb. Also, according to The Huffington Post, “during a [recent] speech, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad questioned whether the Holocaust was ‘a real event’ and called it a pretext used by Jews to trick the West into backing the creation of Israel. He said the Jewish state was created out of ‘a lie and a mythical claim.’

“Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said that Ahmadinejad ‘yet again shames the great tradition of the noble Iranian people’ and has chosen ‘the violent repression of Iranians over a policy of friendship and cooperation that would have promoted their welfare and their honor.’

“Along with his anti-Israel and anti-U.S. rhetoric, Ahmadinejad often portrays himself as the champion of a new world order ending Western domination and providing justice for developing nations.”

In the final analysis, it will be important for us to keep an eye on Iran and their constant ranting against Israel. We have every reason to believe that Iran will spark the war of wars in the Middle East and bring the world down to the place of Divine Judgment. We may be that close to the Second Coming of Christ.