The Profound Lessons Of Megillat Esther

After These Events

My dear readers, I have been leading this blog for almost 5 years now, and that means that I am writing an article about Purim here for the fifth time. In previous years I spoke about many different things and told you many different stories related to Purim (here are the links to some previous posts on Purim: https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/jewish-studies/miracle-purim-reversal-evil/, https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/jewish-studies/the-book-and-the-festival-1/ , https://blog.israelbiblicalstudies.com/jewish-studies/purim-the-question-and-the-answer/ ). I thought that by now I had exhausted the topic completely. However, as I was reading the Book of Esther in preparation for this post, I was struck by something that I had not seen before – and this is the first thing I would like to share with you today.

The first two chapters of this amazing book tell us how a Jewish girl named Esther became queen of the Persian Empire—and only after that we read, in the first verse of the third chapter: “After these things King Ahasuerus promoted Haman, the son of Hammedatha the Agagite, and advanced him and set his seat above all the princes who were with him”[1].  After these things! Think about it: it was only after the remedy was ready for the salvation of Israel that Haman was allowed to be promoted.

Here we come to a point of great importance. You have probably already heard that the book of Esther doesn’t contain the name of God at all? Over the centuries, not once has the question arisen, as to why this book was included in the canon in the first place.

I believe we can find an answer in these three simple words: After these things אַחַ֣ר | הַדְּבָרִ֣ים הָאֵ֗לֶּה . The Book of Esther was included in the canon because, in fact, it is all about GodThe evil here is defeated through a series of events orchestrated by God – and that is how God reveals Himself to His people! Yes, the word “God” does not appear openly in this book, because oftentimes God remains hidden in our lives—until we recognize Him and His handwriting in the circumstances and events that unfold. Of course, it does happen sometimes that God’s salvation comes as a miracle, defying natural laws (like in the book of Daniel, for instance). More often than not, however, 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.

The very title of this book – Megillat Esther (the Scroll of Esther) – is extremely profound. I have written about it before, but I think it is worth mentioning again: the amazing dynamic between hidden and revealed is reflected in this title. The name Esther (אסתר) is related to the word “nistar”: “hidden”, “concealed”; while the word Megillah is related to the word “megaleh”: “reveal”. Therefore, the words “Megillat Esther” can literally be translated as “the Revelation of the Hidden” – and this is the message of this amazing book! God’s hand is at work, even when He is hidden and we don’t “see” Him acting in our lives, – and it will be revealed! And so important did this message seem to our sages, that, according to the Talmud, Esther is hinted at and “hidden” in the Torah, even though the story of Purim happened many centuries later. Here is what Talmud says: “Where do we hear about Esther in the Torah? [It says in Deuteronomy 31:18:] “And I will hide, really hide my face from them.”[2]

 

Descendants of Rachel versus Descendants of Amalek

In the Jewish commentaries, we find a very interesting observation:

Rachel was always meant to be Yaakov’s wife, as opposed to Leah who was initially destined to marry Esav. As a result, her (Leah’s) descendants don’t have the necessary strength to be Esav’s spiritual nemesis[3].

These words comment on a fact that every time the Jewish people fight their great enemy Amalek (who was the grandson of Esau), the battle is led by a descendant of Joseph or Benjamin, the sons of Rachel. It seems that the children of Rachel and their descendants are destined to fight Amalek throughout the history of Israel. The first battle with Amalek, after Israel leaves Egypt[4], was fought by Joshua who was from the tribe of Ephraim, the son of Joseph. The second time Israel faced Amalek, the battle was fought by King Saul, the son of Kish, from the tribe of Benjamin[5]:

Samuel also said to Saul…. Now go and attack Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and do not spare them… And Saul attacked the Amalekites, from Havilah all the way to Shur…  But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep… and were unwilling to utterly destroy them.

In the Purim story, Esther and Mordechai, from the tribe of Binyamin, confront Haman the Amalekite:

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 Mordecai the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite. 

In fact, we can see the story of Esther and Mordecai as a continuation of that story that happened six hundred years before, with King Saul and Agag. Here we can trace one of those amazing spiritual laws that the Bible tells us about: Agag had to be destroyed – and it seems that his destruction was very important in God’s eyes, since Saul was commanded first to destroy Agag “utterly”, and then he was rejected as king right after he had spared him. Moreover, his failure to destroy Agag almost resulted in the slaughter of the Jews by an Agagite six centuries later: Haman was a descendant of Agag; Mordecai was a descendant of Kish and Benjamin; the line of Agag and the line of Kish had to meet again. According to Jewish tradition, Mordecai had to destroy Agag’s descendant, Haman, because Saul didn’t destroy Agag. Thus, the story of Purim began six hundred years before Esther, with Saul and Agag—but this was a hidden beginning. This, perhaps, is one of the brightest biblical examples of the spiritual accountability that each one of us carries: each of us is obliged to remember that what we did or didn’t do during our lifetime can, in the most unexpected way, surface in the lives of our descendants. And this is another profound lesson of this amazing book!

CHAG PURIM SAMEACH, MY DEAR READERS!

[1] Esth.3:1

[2] Talmud – Chullin 139b

[3] Breishit Rabba 73:5

[4] Exodus 17:9

[5] 1-Samuel 15:1-3

The insights you read on these pages are typical of what we share with our students during DHB (Discovering the Hebrew Bible) or WTP (Weekly Torah Portion)  classes. If these articles whet your appetite for discovering the hidden treasures of the Hebrew Bible, or studying in-depth Parashat Shavua, along with New Testament insightsI would be happy to provide more information (and also a teacher’s discount for new students) regarding eTeacher courses  (juliab@eteachergroup.com). Also, if you like the articles on this blog, you might enjoy also my books,  you can get them here 

 

About the author

Julia BlumJulia is a teacher and an author of several books on biblical topics. She teaches two biblical courses at the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies, “Discovering the Hebrew Bible” and “Jewish Background of the New Testament”, and writes Hebrew insights for these courses.

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  1. Wesley

    Thanks Julia for this spiritual eye opener. Blessings

  2. Yuliya Nalarinke

    Ps: Esther 2:7. Her Hebrew name is Hadassah. From Bible commentary: “Verse 7. – He brought up Hadassah, that is, Esther. “Hadassah” has been compared with “Atossa,” and “Esther” with “Amestris;” but there is probably no more ground for the one identification than the other. Mordecai’s cousin received originally the Hebrew name of “Hadassah,” a derivative of hadas “myrtle” (compare “Susannah” from shushan, “lily”); but was subsequently called by the Persians “Esther,” which may either be Ishtar, “Venus,” or an equivalent of the Zend ctare, Mod. Pers. sitareh, Greek ἀστήρ, Engl. “star,” etc. His uncle’s daughter.” -end quote.

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you for taking time to write all these comments, Yulia! I enjoy reading them, your knowledge is truly impressive!

      1. Yuliya Nalarinke

        Thank you Julia,
        But the credit – the knowledge and so on – belongs to Yahuwah my Elohim; to Yeshua the salvation of Yah, the One who restores my soul ( the One who brings me back). Psalm 23:3
        There’s so much more than words can express: Lamentations 3:23 Great is Your faithfulness.
        Incidentally , Lamentations is the one that went to my heart powerfully- theres reason. I kept reading it over and over.
        Psalm 73:26-27
        25Whom do I have in the heavens? And I have desired no one besides You on earth.
        26My flesh and my heart fails, But Elohim is the rock of my heart And my portion forever.

  3. Yuliya Nalarinke

    Few years ago in a Messianic Jewish congregation messianic rabbi was mentioning Haman. Usually when word Haman was mentioned, people in congregation were saying booo! This time rabbi mentioned Haman and there was silence. I look around and people were silent. I thought: I should boo. But I did not. Then rabbi said: I said Haman and not a single boo! I was thinking: I thought of booing – they said it is the thought that counts – does it count i was thinking of it? But I did not say anything.
    During my painful times not long ago I read Esther in ISR translation.

    Haman was promoted and everyone bowed down to him – except Mordecai. That enraged Haman.

    Esther 3

    1After these events Sovereign Aḥashwĕrosh promoted Haman, son of Hammeḏatha the Ag̅ag̅ite, and exalted him and seated him higher than all the princes with him.

    2And all the sovereign’s servants who were in the sovereign’s gate bowed and did obeisance to Haman, for so the sovereign had commanded concerning him. But Mordeḵai would not bow or do obeisance.

    5And when Haman saw that Mordeḵai did not bow or do obeisance, Haman was filled with wrath.

    6But it was despicable in his eyes to lay hands on Mordeḵai alone, for they had informed him of the people of Mordeḵai. Therefore Haman sought to destroy all the Yehuḏim who were throughout all the reign of Aḥashwĕrosh, the people of Mordeḵai.

    –In the pagan country, in the face of danger – acknowledge only YHWH, not anyone else. I have no other Elohim and I will not bow to anyone else – even at the cost of my life.
    Haman purpoused to destroy Elohim’s people – which is attack on Elohim Himself. Haman’s humiliation is described in:

    Esther 6
    6And when Haman came in, the sovereign asked him, “What is to be done for the man whom the sovereign delights to value?” Now Haman thought in his heart, “Whom would the sovereign delight to value more than me?”

    7And Haman answered the sovereign, “For the man whom the sovereign delights to value,

    8let a royal robe be brought which the sovereign has worn, and a horse on which the sovereign has ridden, one with a royal crest placed on its head.

    9“And let this robe and horse be given into the hand of one of the sovereign’s most noble princes. Let them dress the man whom the sovereign delights to value. And make him ride on horseback through the city square, and proclaim before him, ‘Thus it is done to the man whom the sovereign delights to value!’ ”
    13And when Haman related to his wife Zeresh and all his friends all that had befallen him, his wise men and his wife Zeresh said to him, “If Mordeḵai, before whom you have begun to fall, is from the seed of the Yehuḏim, you are not going to prevail against him but certainly fall before him.”
    Esther 7
    9Then Harbonah, one of the eunuchs attending the king, said: “There is a gallows fifty cubits high at Haman’s house. He had it built for Mordecai, who gave the report that saved the king.” “Hang him on it!” declared the king. 10So they hanged Haman on the gallows he had prepared for Mordecai.

    From your article and I quote: “In the Jewish commentaries, we find a very interesting observation:
    Rachel was always meant to be Yaakov’s wife, as opposed to Leah who was initially destined to marry Esav. As a result, her (Leah’s) descendants don’t have the necessary strength to be Esav’s spiritual nemesis” – end quote.

    Ruth 4:11( in reference to Boaz marrying Ruth)
    Then all the people who were at the gate and the elders said, “We are witnesses. May YHWH make the woman, who is coming into your house, like Rachel and Leah, who together built up the house of Israel.

    They both – Rachel AND Leah build the house of Israel. One should not be put against another. The strength comes from Elohim, not ourselves. Remember, it was Rachel who stole idols and in a way brought idols into Israel, not Leah. ( Genesis 31:19Now while Laban was out shearing his sheep, Rachel stole her father’s household idols.
    Exodus 20:3 You have no other mighty ones (no other elohei) against My face.4“You do not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of that which is in the heavens above, or which is in the earth beneath, or which is in the waters under the earth,5you do not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, יהוה your Elohim am a jealous Ěl..)

    —- In the world and from the world you will have tribulations–‘
    John 16
    These words I have spoken to you, so that you do not stumble.

    2“They shall put you out of the congregations, but an hour is coming when everyone who kills you shall think he is rendering service to Elohim.

    3“And this they shall do to you because they did not know the Father, nor Me.

    4“But I have said these words to you, so that when the hour comes you remember that I told them to you. And these words I did not say to you at the beginning, for I was with you.

    20“Truly, truly, I say to you that you shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice. And you shall be grieved, but your grief shall become joy.

    21“The woman has grief when she is in labour, because her hour has come, but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the affliction, for joy that a man was born into the world.

    22“And you, therefore, have grief now, but I shall see you again and your heart shall rejoice, and no one takes your joy away from you.

    33“These words I have spoken to you, that in Me you might have peace. In the world you have pressure, but take courage, I have overcome the world.”
    This is the victory that overcomes the world : our faith:

    1 John 5
    4because everyone having been born of Elohim overcomes the world. And this is the overcoming that has overcome the world: our belief.
    5Who is the one who overcomes the world but he who believes that יהושע is the Son of Elohim( john 17:3And this is everlasting life, that they should know You, the only true Elohim, and יהושע Messiah whom You have sent)

    As painful as outward trials are- and they are very painful- inward ones are much, much more painful.
    Luke 9
    23Then Jesus said to all of them, “If anyone wants to come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.
    Matthew 10:39
    Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
    Luke 17:33
    Whoever tries to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will preserve it.
    John 12:25
    Whoever loves his life will lose it, but whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

    We are not promised an easy life in this fallen world . I posted this a few times before:
    In the book called Glory in Sacrifice author timothy pain mentions Aqedat- binding of Isaac. Timothy said when Abraham raised the knife he reached the heights of worship unknown to many today who regularly raise their hands in praise and prayer . Hebrew word for worship means bow down.God is worshipped when self is bowed down to Him with recognition His will is the best and should be accepted with thanksgiving. His will may mean waiting, failing, suffering and even dying and when all those are embraced – God is worshipped. God shares in our pain, anguish and desolation -and the end result of it is glory – His glory ( and it becomes our glory because He gives Himself to us, share His anguish and share His triumph) – that’s why book is called glory in sacrifice. It is reference to Yeshua’s sacrifice on the cross. He told His disciples to deny themselves pick up their cross daily and follow Him.luke 9:23. We are to say what Yeshua said : not my will but Yours be done. Joy or pain. Timothy the author of glory in sacrifice book says: glory without sacrifice is impossible.

    1. Wesley

      Thanks Yuliya.

  4. Beth

    Thank you Julia. I echo the gratitude of others. Never knew the Leah and Esau connection. Praise God that He completes His work according to His perfect will. God bless you all.

  5. Gladys Fox

    Thank you Julia , You are my favorite teacher next to God of course Your insights are amazing to me and thank you for including links to your past lessons
    May God Bless you and all your readers
    Chag Purim Sameach , my Dear Teacher .

    1. Julia Blum

      Thank you, Gladys, for your generous words – and thank you for being my faithful reader. I am always happy to see your name and to read your comments here!

  6. Viera Emunah of Bajtosova

    Chag Purim Sameach , dear Julia. Thank you !

    1. Gaea Singer

      Dear Julia,

      You are one of my favorite teachers. Your insights are always so eye opening!!
      I have never before heard that Leah was supposed to marry Esau. I looked at your previous blogs for understanding, but did not see a connection. Is there Scriptural support for this thought?
      I do understand the tribal connection with Saul and Mordecai and King Agag and Haman.

      Sincerely, Gaea

      1. Julia Blum

        Hi Gaea, thank you for your kind words. There is no scriptural support for the idea that Leah was supposed to marry Esau, this idea is found in the Jewish commentaries only. However, there is clear scriptural support for the fact that these were the descendants of Rachel who always fought Amalek in the history of Israel. The first battle with Amalek was fought by Joshua who was from the tribe of Ephraim, the son of Joseph; the second time the battle was fought by King Saul, the son of Kish, from the tribe of Benjamin; finally, in the Purim story, Mordecai and Esther, also from the tribe of Benjamin, defeated Haman. I think, this whole concept, of Leah who was supposed to marry Esau, was born out of these facts.