My readers know that one of the most important words in my writings is “hidden”. I have written many articles here about Hidden Messiah; I also wrote about the hidden, secret meaning of scripture at the last level of the PARDES technique –Sod. Today, as we approach Purim, it is a great joy and blessing for me to write about the book of Esther, because there are a lot “hidden” elements in this book.
THE STORY: EVIL REVERSED
I suppose you all know the story: expelled from the Holy Land, many Jews settled in the different towns of the Persian Empire. Some lived in the capital of Persia, Shushan. The king of the Persian Empire, the emperor Ahasuerus, was looking for a new wife and thus the beautiful and pure Esther – Haddasah, an orphan raised by her cousin, a godly Jewish man named Mordechai – became a queen of this world empire. Obedient to Mordechai’s command, she did not reveal her background to anyone. (This is our first “hidden”, by the way: a righteous Jewish girl with God’s light inside of her heart, is hidden inside this dark heathen place – the King’s palace)
As the story goes, Mordechai refused to bow his head in honor of Haman, who was Prime Minister to the emperor Ahasuerus. Infuriated, Haman pays off the King to decree a genocide of all Jews: “to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate all the Jews, both young and old, little children and women, in one day.”[i] The day selected by Haman’s pur (lottery) was the 13th of Adar.
We then have an amazing conversation between Mordechai and Queen Esther: Mordechai tells her about Haman’s plot and the King’s decree, and asks her to save her people. She is full of doubts at first, and he speaks these well-known words to her:
“Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?[ii]”
Mordechai rallied the Jews to fasting and prayer, Esther also fasted and prayed for three days, and as a result, the miracle happened and the evil was reversed. Esther was able to convince Ahasuerus to hang Haman and to allow the Jews to defend themselves. On the 13th of Adar, battles were fought throughout the entire empire between the Jews and those who sought to destroy them. The following day, Adar 14, became a day of celebration of the ensuing Jewish victory. Since the battle in Shushan went on for two days, the celebration there was held on Adar 15. Thus were these two days instituted as the festival of Purim – Adar 15 in walled cities, and Adar 14 in unwalled towns.[iii]
MEGILLAT ESTER: THE REVELATION OF THE HIDDEN
Now, what is so unique about this book? The answer to this question might surprise you at first: The book of Esther is the only book in the Bible that does not explicitly mention God! What?! So why is it in the Bible, anyway? Why was it included in the canon in the first place?
And here we come to a point of great importance. This book was included in the canon because, in fact, it is all about God. The word “God” doesn’t appear openly in the Book because oftentimes God remains hidden in our lives until we recognize Him and His handwriting in the circumstances and events that unfold. Yes, it sometimes happens that God’s salvation comes as a miracle, defying natural laws (like in the book of Daniel for instance). However more often than not, divine salvation is “disguised” in ordinary events – “hidden” in what can be perceived as a series of “coincidences” – like what happens here in the book of Esther. Even the name of this book – Megillat Esther (the Scroll of Esther) – is very profound and reflects this amazing dynamic between hidden and revealed: the name Esther (אסתר) is related to the word “nistar”: “hidden”, “concealed”; while the word Megillah is related to the word “megaleh”: “reveal”. So, the words “Megillat Esther” can literally be translated as “the revelation of the hidden” – and this is the meaning of the name of this amazing book!
We’ve encountered a very similar dynamic between hidden and revealed previously. Do you remember when we spoke about Joseph recognizing his brothers and at the same time, making himself strange to them? We discovered that the verb for ‘he knew them’ (וַיַּכִּרֵם), and the verb for ‘he made himself strange unto them’ (וַיִּתְנַכֵּר אֲלֵיהֶם) are derived from the same root. These two actions, not only very different, but in a sense, completely opposite – “to recognize” and “to disguise” – are expressed by Hebrew verbs coming from the very same root. Even though the eyes of the brothers could not recognize Joseph, their hearts were burning under the touch of God’s spirit – their hearts perceived what their eyes did not.
The Book of Esther is also about this mystery: the mystery of the God being hidden – disguised – revealed – recognized. In the story of Esther, just as in the story of Joseph, the evil is reversed – and that’s how God reveals Himself in these stories. And that is how He is recognized in these stories.
THE HIDDEN BEGINNING
Before we finish this article, let us reveal one more hidden theme in this book – one which is hidden so deeply that it is often overlooked. However it is also, like all the events of this book, “the revelation of the hidden” – and one more reason to see God behind all the events of Purim; one more reason to know that he is the One who has orchestrated these events.
In 1 Samuel 15, we read: Samuel also said to Saul…. 3 Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them…
7 And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur, which is east of Egypt.… 9 But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them…
We see that Saul spared Agag, and by so doing, he clearly disobeyed God and His commandment. That’s why we read in the same chapter: 10 Now the word of the Lord came to Samuel, saying, 11“I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king, for he has turned back from following Me, and has not performed My commandments.” Saul spared Agag, and right after that he was rejected as King. Agag had to be destroyed – and it seems that his destruction was very important in God’s eyes. Now bear with me please:
Esther 3:1 After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite…
Esther 2:5 In Shushan the citadel there was a certain Jew whose name was was Mordecai the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite.
1 Sam. 9:1 There was a man of Benjamin whose name was Kish the son of Abiel, the son of Zeror, the son of Bechorath, the son of Aphiah, a Benjamite, a mighty man of power. 2 And he had a choice and handsome son whose name was Saul.
Can you see “the revelation of the hidden” here? Saul was commanded to destroy Agag – but he didn’t do it. In fact, the story of Purim started here – but it was a hidden beginning. The line of Agag and the line of Kish would have to meet again in the future. According to Jewish tradition, Mordecai had to destroy Agag’s descendant, Haman, because Saul didn’t destroy Agag. And this is just one more profound lesson found in this fascinating book.
[ii] Est.4: 13-15
[iii] Today, the only city in which Purim is celebrated on the fifteenth of Adar is Jerusalem.