The Feast of Purim: Its meaning in Hebrew and Why it’s Relevant in 2024

The Feast of Purim: Its meaning in Hebrew and Why it’s Relevant in 2024

The Jewish feast of Purim is especially relevant in 2024. The book of Esther sheds light on the circumstances that brought the Jews to celebrate this feast in the Persian empire for the first time almost 2500 years ago. Today, when Purim comes, people of all ages don costumes and go out to the streets. Originally Purim costumes were characters from the Bible account, but today anything goes. The atmosphere is very joyful, sometimes even a bit extreme in its nonsensical celebrations reminiscent of Carnival. A long held tradition is reading the entire scroll of Esther while congregants make noises to drown out Haman’s, the villain’s, name.
The typical Purim treat is a cookie called “Haman’s ear,” from the name of the powerful man who served King Ahasuerus in the Persian empire. Dating back to an Italian Purim play in 1550, historians believe confusions between manna in the desert and the story from the book of Esther may have brought about this rather macabre cookie name.
Known as Haman the Agagite, he was most probably a descendent of Agag, king of the Amalekites. Though the spirit of Purim today is very joyful, it was not always so. It started when Haman, out of his hatred, decided to kill all the Jews living in the empire of Ahasuerus.
Haman came to this awful conclusion because a Jew – yes, just one – did not want to bow before him. Haman was promoted by King Ahasuerus to be above all the other officials (Esther 3:1). He was filled with fury when he found out that there was one man – the Jew Mordecai – who did not bow down and pay homage before him. He decided to kill not only Mordecai, but all of his people.
Haman ordered letters to be sent to all the provinces of Persia with instructions to kill and annihilate all the Jews, young and old, women and children, on one day: the thirteenth day of the twelfth month (3:13). This specific day was chosen by Haman by casting lots — in Hebrew pur. From this word comes the name of the feast “Purim,” the plural of pur. The complete destruction of the Jews was planned and the specific day of this genocide was designated by casting pur.
Thousands of years have passed after that day that threatened death for the Jews. In a few days this memory of what could have been the end of the Jewish nation will be revived with joy and celebration. Today, we can all see with our own eyes the evidence that no one in history who planned to kill all the Jews, like Haman, has succeeded in his purpose.
Even in 2024 the Jews, and all those who celebrate Purim, can testify that God has preserved the people of Israel through history. God turned the plans of her enemies upside-down. The circumstances also turned upside-down for Haman himself. The Persian king hanged him on the structure that Haman had prepared for Mordecai. His fate was sealed once King Ahasuerus found out that Haman’s plan to kill all the Jews implied also the death of his beloved Queen Esther (7:3,4).
With the feast of Purim near we dwell on God’s faithfulness to His promises and His ability to change the curse into a blessing. Purim 2024 renews the promise of the month that had been turned for the Jews from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; (9:22).
Haman met his death on the structure he himself prepared, but many proposed again and again throughout history his plan to kill all the Jews, even to this day. The hatred towards the Jews is getting stronger, as it was at that time, and it involves all Jews indiscriminately. This hatred can not be explained with human reasoning. But it has to be put under the light of the Bible and analyzed according to biblical reasoning. Even though the name of God never appears in the book of Esther, the readers of the Bible can explain this hatred as an action of God’s enemy against His faithfulness to His Word, His work behind the scenes, His rescue for those who call upon Him.

3 thoughts on “The Feast of Purim: Its meaning in Hebrew and Why it’s Relevant in 2024”

  1. Thank you for sharing your insights on this great story of God and his faithful people!

    Many blessings during this upcoming special season!

    Penny Rader

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