(Therefore these days were called Purim, from the word pur.) Because of everything written in this letter and because of what they had seen and what had happened to them . . . — Esther 9:26
The story of Esther is a stirring call to stand against persecution wherever it may exist. Its lessons have reverberated through time and place, particularly today, as acts of anti-Semitism and Christian persecution are on the rise throughout the world. This is one of 12 devotions exploring the many lessons we can learn from this inspirational account. To learn more about the life of Queen Esther, download a copy of our free Bible Study.
The struggle described in the book of Esther between Haman and Mordecai is part of an epic battle that began long before the two ever lived and continues until this very day. Haman is a descendent of Amalek. Mordecai is a Jew. The first confrontation between the Amalekites and the Jews occurred just after the children of Israel were freed from Egypt. What happened then describes the conflict that continues today.
The Amalekites were the first nation to attack the Israelites after the miraculous plagues and the parting of the sea. Until then, the Israelites were invincible. They had God on their side and no one was about to mess with them. The Amalekites came along with the intent of showing the world that there was no such thing as Divine providence. From their perspective, the Israelites got lucky with Egypt, but their luck would run out.
Unfortunately, for the Amalekites, they were wrong. God does watch over His people, and the weaker Israelites were able to defeat their aggressors. But that didn’t stop the Amalekites from trying again and again and again. They were not going to stop until they could prove to the world once and for all that life is random and that there was no such thing as God.
The Jews, or in Hebrew, Yehudim, were all about the opposite. The root of the word Yehudim means “to acknowledge.” The Yehudim acknowledge that there is a Creator. They acknowledge that nothing in the world is happenstance. The hand of God permeates every single aspect of life. The struggle recounted in the book of Esther is the eternal struggle between those who believe in the existence of God and those who believe that life is little more than a random accident.
One word in the book of Esther captures the essence of the battle between the believer and the non-believer and gives the holiday of Purim its name. That word is “pur,” Persian for “lots.” When Haman wanted to pick a date for the annihilation of the Jews, he picked it at random, using a lottery. However, the message of the book of Esther is that nothing, not even the lottery, is the result of chance. The events recalled in Esther shout out that every single detail that happens is totally by design — divine design.
You are a warrior in an eternal spiritual battle. Every time you acknowledge the hand of God in your life, and everywhere you see divine providence, you deliver a blow to the spirit of Amalek and you bring the world one step closer to God.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President