Feast of Purim, Book of Esther and hidden messages in the text

Purim is perhaps the most joyful of all Jewish holidays. It is a holiday that affirms and celebrates survival and continuity of Jewish people throughout history. The events that led to the establishment of this holiday are described in the Book of Esther.

The story of the Book of Esther take place during the time of the Persian Empire. There was no independent Jewish kingdom at that time.

Over 2 centuries earlier (720 BC) Assyrians conquered northern Kingdom of Israel and carried away the people into captivity.

Over 1 century after this (586 BC) Babylonians defeated Kingdom of Judah. The Temple was destroyed, Judah lost its independence, and many people were forced to relocate to Babylon.

Following this the Jews ceased to have their own kingdom after Israel and Judah were conquered by their enemies.

However, soon after, first the Assyrians were invaded by the Babylonians, and then the Babylonians were invaded by the Persians. And in this way the Jewish people came under Persian rule.


After Cyrus the Great, who was the first ruler of the Persian Empire, conquered Babylon, he allowed the Jewish exiles to return (537 B.C) to the Jewish land. The return of the exiles to Judah and the rebuilding of Jerusalem were carried out in three waves. [1]

The first return was around 538 B.C. under the leadership of a man named Zerubbabel. It was during this period that the people of Israel built the second Temple.

About eighty years later, a second group, under the priestly leadership of Ezra, returned to the land.

Finally, under the leadership of Nehemiah, a king’s cupbearer, many more returned (445 B.C.). Nehemiah’s focus was to repair Jerusalem’s walls and gates.

The book of Esther falls historically between the book of Ezra, where the return of the first two groups is described, and the book of Nehemiah, which deals with the return of the third group, and concerns the Jews who still remained in Persia.

The story of the book of Esther takes place over the course of 10 years, during the reign of the 4th ruler of the Persian Empire, counting from Cyrus the Great. This fourth ruler is Xerxes.


Cyrus, after his death, will be succeeded by his son Cambyses as ruler of Persia.

Because Cambyses died childless and his younger brother is killed, Darius the Great became the third ruler of Persia.

It is believed that Ahasuerus, mentioned in the book of Esther, is Xerxes, the son of Darius the Great.


Of the many unique and interesting things found in the book of Esther is that the name of God is not explicitly mentioned even once in the entire book.

Nevertheless, God’s name appears in the text, but in a coded, hidden form.

God’s name “Yahweh – [יהוה]” (yod-hei-vav-hei) appears in the Hebrew text in form of acrostic, in four different places. [2]


In verse 5:4 we find forward acrostic. Letters at the beginning of each word form the name IHVW.

וַתֹּ֣אמֶר אֶסְתֵּ֔ר אִם־עַל־הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ ט֑וֹב יָב֨וֹא הַמֶּ֤לֶךְ וְהָמָן֙ הַיּ֔וֹם אֶל־הַמִּשְׁתֶּ֖ה אֲשֶׁר־עָשִׂ֥יתִי לֽוֹ׃


In verse 1:20 we find backward acrostic. Letters at the beginning of each word form the name IHVW.

וְנִשְׁמַע֩ פִּתְגָ֨ם הַמֶּ֤לֶךְ אֲשֶֽׁר־יַעֲשֶׂה֙ בְּכׇל־מַלְכוּת֔וֹ כִּ֥י רַבָּ֖ה הִ֑יא וְכׇל הַנָּשִׁ֗ים יִתְּנ֤וּ יְקָר֙ לְבַעְלֵיהֶ֔ן לְמִגָּד֖וֹל וְעַד־קָטָֽן׃


In verse 7:7 we find forward acrostic. Letters at the end of each word form the name IHVW.

וְהַמֶּ֜לֶךְ קָ֤ם בַּחֲמָתוֹ֙ מִמִּשְׁתֵּ֣ה הַיַּ֔יִן אֶל־גִּנַּ֖ת הַבִּיתָ֑ן וְהָמָ֣ן עָמַ֗ד לְבַקֵּ֤שׁ עַל־נַפְשׁוֹ֙ מֵֽאֶסְתֵּ֣ר הַמַּלְכָּ֔ה כִּ֣י רָאָ֔ה כִּֽי כָלְתָ֥ה אֵלָ֛יו הָרָעָ֖ה מֵאֵ֥ת הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃


In verse 5:13 we find backward acrostic. Letters at the end of each word form the name IHVW.

וְכׇל־זֶ֕ה אֵינֶ֥נּוּ שֹׁוֶ֖ה לִ֑י בְּכׇל־עֵ֗ת אֲשֶׁ֨ר אֲנִ֤י רֹאֶה֙ אֶת־מׇרְדֳּכַ֣י הַיְּהוּדִ֔י יוֹשֵׁ֖ב בְּשַׁ֥עַר הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃


However, because there are no explicit references to GOD or to prayer in this book, some people, including Martin Luther, argued that this book was not canonical.

Although we do not see a direct reference to God in this book, we do see the invisible hand of God working in the background, in the secret, changing circumstances for his people. In this book, more than any other book of the Bible, we see the PROVIDENCE of God.


Turning to the text of this book, chapter 1 begins with King Xerxes holding a feast, for those ruling over his empire, in his palace in Susa, which would be in modern Iran today (Esther 1:3). This celebration, which lasted half a year, was a part of the preparation for the war with Greece.

This was the second Persian invasion of Greece (480 – 479 B.C.). The first invasion (492–490 BC) was attempted by Xerxes’ father, Darius, and ended with the defeat of the Persian troops. Xerxes wanted to repay, first of all, the Athenians for humiliating his father.


At the end of the celebration, an incident occurs with queen Vashti. The queen ignores the king’s request to come and show herself to the king’s guests. As a consequence of her disobedience, in the end she loses her title as a queen and her royal estate. The king’s decision had such serious consequences, because this incident was witnessed by the most powerful people in the empire.

However, already here we see the hand of God who, knowing the future, prepares a place for Esther.


According to some rabbinical sources Vashti was granddaughter of Nebuchadnezzar. Later Vashti’s son, Artaxerxes, who will succeed his father to the throne, will play an important role in the rebuilding of the Temple and Jerusalem, which is described in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. [3] Also, those interested in biblical prophecies know that Daniel’s prophecy of the 70 weeks is counted from the decree issued by Artaxerxes (445 B.C.).


Like his father a decade earlier, Xerxes would also fail in the war against the Greeks. After the war the king came home a bitter man, seeking some kind of comfort in his own home. But then he remembered that Vashti had been deposed and he was without a queen. The king’s advisors advised him to choose a new queen.

Is some sense, Vashti is a figure or type of ‘Israel’, and Esther is a figure or type of the ‘Church’.

Unbelieving Israel as a disobedient wife of  Yahweh, the God, and the Church – consisting both of Jews and Gentiles – as a Bride of Christ.

Of course, this comparison is limited because God did not replace Israel with the Church. Throughout history, God has continually worked both among unbelieving Jews and in the church. Evidence of this we see in the founding of the modern state of Israel. Nevertheless, in Vashti and Esther we can see some resembles to what happened in biblical history.


To choose a new queen, young women from all over the empire were gathered in the royal palace. Esther also was taken to the king’s palace. From the moment she arrives at the royal haram, we see that God is with Esther and gives her the favour of those around her. She won favour of ‘Hegai, who had charge of the harem’ (Esther 2:8) and later also won favour of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch who was in charge of the concubines.

This reminds us of the story of Joseph when he was sold to slavery in Egypt. There the Lord granted him favour from Potiphar, Pharaoh’s courtier (Gen 39:1). Later, when Joseph was imprisoned, the Lord provided him with the favour of the prison guard  (Gen 39:21).

We know that in the end, Esther will find favour in the eyes of the king himself and will be chosen to be his new queen.


Esther was a young Jewish woman whose real name was Hadasa (הֲדַסָּה), which means myrtle, which is kind of flowering plant.

However, the three letter root of the word Esther in Hebrew is str (סתר‎), from which we get the word ‘hide, conceal’.

This is why some Hebrew lexicographers say that ‘Esther’ means “something hidden”.

Which may relate to two things: first, with her new name she was hiding her Jewish identity; second, it may relate to things hidden in this book, like the name of God, and other.

Esther’s family did not return to their homeland under the decree by Cyrus. We know about her, that she was an orphan. When both of her parents died, Mordecai, her relative, took her in and raised her as his own daughter. The beauty of Esther is well established in Scripture (2: 7, 9, 15).

Returning to the biblical typology, the rabbis say that queen Esther, because she didn’t have father and mother, is the only female type of the Messiah.  We see this in that Esther, through personal risk and sacrifice, bringing deliverance to her people.


About Mordecai we know that he was employed by the royal court. [4] It is written about him in chapter 2:5-6 that he was “a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin, (…) son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, who had been carried into exile from Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, among those taken captive with Jehoiachin king of Judah.” (Esther 2:5-6)

This detail that Mordecai was a descendant of Shimei is quite important. When king David and his men were fleeing from Jerusalem to get away from Absalom and his forces, this Shimei came out and cursed David, throwing stones and dust at him  (2 Sam 16:5-13). Shimei was of the house of Saul, and he accused David of being a corrupt and bloody man and of wiping out the house of Saul when he became king, which wasn’t true. One of David’s soldiers wanted to kill him, but David did not allow it. Because David spared Shimei, Mordechai, one of his descendants, could later be born.


From that passage (2:5-6) we can also see that Mordecai and Esther were related to the King Saul (1 Samuel 9:1-2, 2 Samuel 21:14).

Why would this be important?

To find out why, we need to go back from Esther’s narrative to about 500 years earlier.

In 1 Samuel 15, God commanded King Saul to execute judgment on the Amalekites for how they attacked the people of Israel when they left Egypt. The Amalekites were the first nation who attack the Israelites during their journey to the promise land.

In the book of Exodus 17, this famous battle with the Amalekites is described, during which as long as Moses kept his hands up, the Israelites were winning, but whenever he lowered his hands, the Israelites were beginning to lose. And in the end Aaron and Hur held Moses’ hands up, so that his hands remained up till sunset. And this way they defeated the Amalekites that day. (Exodus 17:8-16; Deuteronomy 25:17-19)

Later Saul is given command by God to completely destroy all Amalekites. Instead, Saul only obeys half of the command. He eliminates most of the people but saves King Agag and plunders some of the spoils along with the best sheep and oxen. Saul’s failure to fulfil the Lord’s word cost him his position as king. Instead, the Lord will choose David as king.

But that’s not all. His disobedience will affected the Jewish People 500 years later, when a descendant of King Agag rose to a royal position in a Persian kingdom, during the times of Esther. His name was Haman.

Here, in the book of Esther, comes to the confrontation between a descendant of the family of King Saul and the royal descendant of the Amalekites. Because of Saul’s disobedience, in Esther’s time, the Jewish nation faces the threat of complete annihilation.


King Xerxes had not only promoted Haman to the second position in the empire, but had also made a commandment that all the servants of the palace had to bow in reverence before him. However, Mordecai refused to bow before Haman. Initially, Haman did not know about it, but other king’s servants reported Mordecai’s behaviour to him.

To bow down before another in reverence is not a sin, for Joseph’s brothers bowed down before him (Gen. 42:6). David bowed down to Saul (I Sam. 24:8) and Jacob and his family bowed before Esau (Gen. 33:3, 6-7). So then Mordecai, it would seem, did not bow because Haman was an Amalekite, an enemy of the Jews.


Mordecai’s behaviour was a personal insult to Haman. When Haman learned that Mordecai was a Jew, he decided to plot the murder not only of Mordecai, but also of all the Jews in the Persian Empire.

Haman, having set his heart to destroy the Jewish people, casts lots over the calendar to determine the favourable date to execute his plan.

7 In the twelfth year of King Xerxes, in the first month, the month of Nisan, the pur (that is, the lot) was cast in the presence of Haman to select a day and month. And the lot fell on the twelfth month, the month of Adar. (Esther 3:7)

The Hebrew word for lot is pur [פּוּר], from which the Jews get the celebrated feast Purim [פּוּרִים] (Esther 9: 26).

As Haman cast the lot day by day and month by month they landed on the twelfth month and the thirteenth day of the month.

Next Haman, persuaded the king to issue an edict of extermination of all the Jews in the Persian Empire. In doing so, Haman did not tell the king what group of people he was had on mind. Moreover, neither the king nor Haman knew that Queen Esther was Jewish. Her nationality has been hidden until now.

In verse 3:13 we can read that Haman sends letters throughout the empire, signed with the king’s name “with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews – young and old, women and children – on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.” (Esther 3:13)

This royal order was a great tragedy for all Jews living in the Persian Empire, and this included the Jews who returned to Jerusalem. Jerusalem, and the former land of Israel, was now one of the provinces of Persia and was subject to the same ordinance. If Haman had carried out his plan, there would have been no Jewish nation, and there would have been no Jewish Messiah.


We must take into account that these events take place approximately 5 years after Esther becomes the queen. After learning from Mordecai about the entire situation, Esther is forced to ask the king for help. And so, Esther, on Mordecai’s advice, puts her life at risk, by appearing before the king-without being invited – in order to intercede for her people.

According to Persian law, no one could come to the king without prior notice, not even his wife. The penalty for appearing before the king without notice was death. Moreover, the king had not called Esther to see him already for a month.


Next in the book we see this profound exchange of words between Mordecai and Esther.

12 When Esther’s words were reported to Mordecai, 13 he sent back this answer: “Do not think that because you are in the king’s house you alone of all the Jews will escape. 14 For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” 15 Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: 16 “Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my attendants will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:12-16)


We see here Mordecai’s deep faith in God. He has no doubt that God’s help will come, one way or another. But he also seems to understand that maybe this is Esther’s calling. Therefore, he tells her that maybe that is why she was raised to a royal position at this particular time.

We see from here is that God calls people to specific tasks at specific times. We see also that man’s disobedience cannot hinder God’s purposes. God will accomplish what He has planned by another means, but the man who fails will suffer some loss. Of course, we live under God’s grace, but not fulfilling our calling will in itself be a huge loss for us, because we will not receive the blessing that comes with it.


Esther then asks Mordecai to call all the Jews to fast for her for 3 days and 3 nights. After this time, she will go to the king, even if it cost her life.

As I said earlier, Esther is the only female type of the Messiah. In Esther, ready to give her life for her nation, we see Jesus who gave his life for people. And in these three days and three nights of fasting I think we can see another analogy to the three days and three nights when Jesus was in the tomb.



1 On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the hall, facing the entrance. 2 When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the gold sceptre that was in his hand. So Esther approached and touched the tip of the sceptre. (Esther 5:1-2)

In the image of the king sitting on his royal throne, with a sceptre in his hand, we can see an analogy to God the father.

Esther waits for the king to call her over. When the king held out his sceptre to queen Esther, it meant that he was willing to pardon her transgression of the law and she is allowed to come to him.

This reminds us of the biblical truth that no one can come to God unless God draws him to Himself. (John 6:44)

Another biblical truth contained in this example is that we cannot come before God without God’s pardon of our transgressions.


It is also worth noting that, there are many similarities between the Book of Esther and the Book of Revelation.

In the Book of Revelation, we read about seven churches, seven golden lampstands, seven angels of the seven churches, etc.

In the Book of Esther, the number seven also appears in many places. We read that king’s ‘banquet, lasting seven days’ (1:5); king had ‘the seven eunuchs who served him’ (1:10), and there were also ‘the seven nobles of Persia and Media who had special access to the king’ (1:13). Also Esther had ‘seven female attendants’ (2:9), and ‘she was taken to King Xerxes in the royal residence … in the seventh year of his reign’ (2:16).

Moreover, as in the Book of Revelation, here we also have the tribulation, the rescue, and the subsequent time of celebration.

In the book of Revelation there is the beast (is a sense of the political system of the last days) and the Antichrist, here there is the Persian system of oppression and Haman.


After Esther appeared before the king, she invited him and Haman to a private banquet. During this banquet, she repeated her invitation to the king and Haman to the banquet the next day.

On the night between the first and second banquet, a miracle happens. The King of Persia is unable to sleep and asks for the historical record of his reign to be read to him. It just so happens the record of when Mordecai saved the king’s life is recounted. The king realizes Mordecai was never honoured for saving his life and asks Haman what should be done for someone the king wanted to honour. Haman in pride thinks the king is speaking of him and provides his wish list. King Xerxes then commands Haman to perform this wish list for Mordecai.


Next day, Queen Esther revealed her Jewish origin to the king and begged for her life and the life of her people. Haman’s cunning plan is revealed. Everything that Haman had planned for the Jews fell upon his own head and his families.

The final verse of chapter 7 is one of the greatest ironies in all the Bible:

So they impaled Haman on the pole he had set up for Mordecai …” (Esther 7:10).


One of the things we see in the book of Esther is that God’s purposes are in His timing.

– God waited until the third year of the king’s reign before taking Vashti off the throne.

– Then He waited another four years (2: 16) before placing Esther on the throne.

– It was not until the king’s twelfth year (3: 7) that God allowed Haman to invent his evil plans.


But the king’s law could not be changed and the judgment against the Jewish people still stood.

Here we see another type, an image, illustrating the truth of God’s word.

The king gave a decree, which is like Torah (the God’s Law), and the king’s decree could not be revoked, just as the Torah cannot be broken. But there is an intercessor before the throne: Queen Esther. In our case this intercessor is Jesus Christ.

God gives Mordecai and Esther wisdom on how to rewrite the decree. In this new decree we can see an analogy with the New Testament. The New Testament does not invalidate the Torah, just as a new royal decree did not invalidate an earlier decree. However, following the example of this new decree, the New Testament opens the way to the salvation of people while maintaining the integrity of God’s law, the Torah.

Following all of this, the enemies of the Jewish people are exposed. We see the fear of the Lord is upon all the officials and provinces. Rather than being annihilated, the Jewish people defeat their enemies on the thirteenth of Adar.

One very interesting detail in chapter nine is that three times we are told that the people did not touch any of the plunder. This fact brings the story full circle from Saul’s rebellion. Saul failed the Lord’s commands, but Mordecai and Esther are God’s instruments to bring redemption for Saul’s failure.

After all these events Mordecai and Esther writes letters to all the Jews instituting the feast of Purim on the 14th & 15th days of the month of Adar. It is to be a day of feasting and joy and of sending portions one to another and gifts to the poor. The modern-day feast of Purim is still celebrated today on the 14th day of Adar. [5]


What we learn from this book?

1) Absent God

The first thing we notice reading the story of Esther is that God is never mentioned.

It is likely that this book was written in this way intentionally, to pass to us this very important truth: the truth that God is never absent from his people, even when we don’t see him.

In the story of Ester we see invisible hand of God in “behind the scenes coincidences” and the work of people in “just the right place in the right time” situations. We can be encouraged by this as Christians, knowing that God is always working for our good, even when we don’t see Him.

Purim gives us the message of courage and strength to seek the hidden hand of God through the dark clouds in our lives.


2) Reversal of roles

The Book of Esther also teaches us that what man meant for evil, God will turn into good for those who love Him and trust Him.


28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)


3) Victory of God’s people against their enemies

In the Book of Esther we read about Haman and his attempt to annihilate the Jewish nation. As I have already mentioned, Haman is only a type, an image, of the Antichrist. However, the real Antichrist will come in the future and will also attempt to annihilate God’s people – Jews and true Church – born again Christians.

The time in which this will take place is called in the Bible the time of the Great Tribulation. There are many warnings in the Bible, both in the Old and New Testaments, regarding this time.


Daniel 12:1

‘At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people – everyone whose name is found written in the book – will be delivered.


Jeremiah 30:7

How awful that day will be! No other will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it.


Matthew 24:21

For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equalled again.


When the great tribulation is mentioned, the emphasis is primarily on Israel. It will be Israel and the Jews who will be at the centre of all this. Of course, Satan will want to destroy all of God’s people, and that means Jews and born-again Christians.  However, he will start with the Jews.


This order is clearly explained in Revelation 12.

There, in chapter 12, we see the war of the dragon, or Satan, against the woman, who is a symbolic representation of the Jewish nation, Israel.

The description of this war ends with these words


Revelation 12:17

Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspringthose who keep Gods commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.


After the Antichrist tries to destroy the Jews and shows his true face, he will then start getting rid of true Christians.

So, just as Haman failed to destroy the Jewish people, the Antichrist will not succeed in destroying God’s people in the end days.

In the days of Haman, it was Esther – a type of the Messiah – who saved the Jewish nation, but in the end days, it will be the Messiah himself, Jesus Christ, who will return at that time.



[1] Peter Colón, The Exiles Return, Israel My Glory

[2] According to Chuck Missler the name of God is hidden no less than eight times in acrostics in the text. Four times it appears as an acrostic, the famed Tetragammaton, “YHWH” or “Yahweh” or “YeHoVaH”; once as “EHYH” or “I AM” as at the Burning Bush. Also, Meshiach (“Messiah”), Yeshua (“Jesus”), and El Shaddai (“The Almighty”), also appear as equidistant letter sequences. These are addressed in the book, Cosmic Codes – Hidden Messages From the Edge of Eternity.

[3] In the seventh year of his reign, Artaxerxes allowed Ezra the priest to take as many Israelites as he wished back to Jerusalem, even providing gold and silver for the people to purchase offerings and whatever else was needed for the temple (Ezra 7:11–20). In the twentieth year of his reign, Artaxerxes allowed Nehemiah to return to Jerusalem to repair the city walls, giving him letters assuring Nehemiah’s safe journey and supplying him with wood (Nehemiah 6:15).

[4] In chapter 2: 19, 21, we see him fulfilling a regular duty at “the kings gate” and in chapter 3: 2, we see him counted among the “king’s servants” which served at the gate.

[5] The following contemporary festivities would fall in accordance with what Mordecai instituted, with some additions:

  • The reading of the Megillah (the Book of Esther) twice; once in the night of Purim and once in the day of Purim.
  • During the reading, when the name of Haman is mentioned, you can twirl graggers (noise makers) or stamp your feet and plug your ears and yell “away with him.”
  • It is a time to give to the poor, giving money to at least two needy people during the daylight hours. Synagogues will typically have collection boxes for this purpose.
  • Sending portions (food) to friends. These are to be ready to eat items of food or drink (men to men and women to women).
  • A feast with all the family members beginning before sundown and lasting well into the evening.
  • Special reading in the morning services would include Exodus 17:8-16, describing the battle Joshua waged against Amalek, Haman’s ancestral nation.
  • Children would masquerade in costumes to signify the mighty hand of God at work, disguised by natural events.


Image: Esther Denouncing Haman (1888) by Ernest Normand – Wikipedia

Artur Pluta

Dodaj komentarz

Twój adres e-mail nie zostanie opublikowany. Wymagane pola są oznaczone *