The book of Esther is seemingly unlike any other in Scripture.
On the surface, it’s a thrilling page-turner about a secretly Jewish young woman living in Persia during the captivity who auditions to become the queen to a pagan king, thus saving her people from annihilation.
The God of Israel is never specifically mentioned.
The words “pray” and “prayer” are never used.
The historicity of the book has been questioned by skeptics, although that is not unusual.
Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation, suggested the book didn’t even belong in the Bible.
The book of Esther has been adapted in movies, plays, books, TV miniseries, musicals, music videos, cartoons and even an episode of “VeggieTales,” thus making the storyline as familiar to non-believers as almost any in the Bible.
But can we really find the Gospel in this book?
Let’s start with the obvious.
Satan has, on many occasions, attempted to foil God’s redemption plan by killing His chosen people.
He did it in Egypt by persuading Pharaoh to slay the newborn baby boys in the time of Moses.
He did it again when the children of Israel left Egypt at the Red Sea.
He did it again during the 40-year Exodus with various attackers, including Amalek.
He even tried to kill the Redeemer-Messiah Himself through Herod’s slaughter of the innocents in Bethlehem.
As a matter of fact, we see a ferocious rise in anti-Semitism all over the world today – even, shamefully, in the U.S. Congress and the Democratic Party!
Clearly, what we see in Esther is another important telling of a similarly unsuccessful genocidal bid against the Jews by a man named Haman, an Agagite, which is synonymous with Amalekite by the way, during the Persian diaspora.
Yet, there’s clearly much more in this thoroughly engaging story. In fact, the entire book can easily be viewed as an allegorical retelling of the Gospel message, as my good friend and co-laborer Joe Kovacs explains in his book, “Shocked by the Bible 2.”
Queen Vashti symbolizes the physical nation of Israel that rejected the commandments of God and suffered divorce, at least temporarily, as a result. (Jeremiah 3:8)
Esther represents spiritual Israel, all faithful followers of God.
Mordechai symbolizes Jesus.
Haman represents Satan.
And the king represents, not surprisingly, our heavenly King.
It’s hard to miss it when reading Esther with this possibility in mind. In other words, despite the fact that God does not explicitly enter the picture in Esther, it’s difficult not to see the story of redemption, the good news that still leads Jews, and some Christians, today to observe the feast of Purim, which celebrates the way Haman’s plot to eradicate the Jews was foiled by the actions of Esther and Mordechai – not to mention the fasting, if not overt prayer, by the Jewish believers throughout Persia.
It’s also hard not to notice the fact that Esther plays a dual role as gentile and Jew – and part of the good news of the Gospel is the way redemption was opened wide to non-Jews.
After all, aren’t we told in Luke 24 of the way Jesus, on the road to Emmaus, opened up the Hebrew Scriptures and explained how they all pointed to His Coming? It’s also a fact that the book of Esther was a part of those Hebrew Scriptures at the time of Jesus – as they are to this day. In fact, a pretty good case can be made for Jesus having observed Purim during His life on earth.
Why would that be significant? Because it would be an affirmation of the book of Esther. And why should we suspect that is the case?
In John 5:1 there is mention of an unnamed feast: “After this there was a feast of the Jews; and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.” In John 6:3-4, we learn a little bit about the timing of the observance: “And Jesus went up into a mountain, and there he sat with his disciples. And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was nigh.” In John 5:16, we learn that this feast fell on a weekly Sabbath day, yet, that was not true of any spring feasts in the years from A.D. 25 through 35 except Purim in A.D. 28.
Remember, Purim is not one of the “feasts of the Lord” declared by God in Leviticus 23. It is considered a “minor” observance, like Hanukkah, that was established by men for historical and inspirational reasons. It appears obvious that Jesus did observe Hanukkah, mentioned in John 10:22-23, as “the feast of dedication.”
Why would Jesus observe such a man-made “feast,” given His repeated Gospel expressions of revulsion to the Pharisees over man’s eagerness to follow his own traditions? Perhaps the difference was that neither Purim nor Hanukkah were changing, eliminating, substituting or adding to any of God’s commandments.
Speaking of Purim, it begins sundown on March 16 and ends sundown the following night. Timely. It also doubles that day with St. Patrick’s Day this year – a man who celebrated the Sabbath!
One last thought about Esther.
Without question, the most famous verse in the book is found in Esther 4:14: “For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”
While there is no explicit mention of “God” in the book, the power of the Almighty is certainly implied in this key verse. Here, Mordechai warns Esther that if she does not act, she and her household may perish, but the deliverance of the Jews shall arise from another place. What does that suggest? It suggests both Mordechai and Esther believed that “deliverance” was inevitable, because it had been ordained by God. I also note the use of the term “kingdom” somewhat ambiguously and possibly purposefully. Which kingdom is Mordechai referring to – the kingdom of Persia or the Kingdom of God? Or perhaps both?
I’ll tell you the truth. With the viciousness of the growing plague of anti-Semitism, I can’t wait to observe Purim this year. Maybe we all should. History seems to be repeating itself. Satan and evil are on the march. We need to pray and act!
After all, who knows if you and I were not placed in this kingdom for such a time as this?
ALSO: Get Joseph Farah’s book “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians, and the End of the Age,” and learn about the Hebrew roots of the Christian faith and your future in God’s Kingdom. Also available as an e-book.
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