Questions About Purim & Esther
By Dr. Michael Wodlinger Quebec Representative Chosen People Ministries (Canada)
Question: “Why do Jews celebrate Purim despite their killing of 75.000 including women and children? Is it a true story? Was Esther a real person?”
Throughout history, the Jewish people have suffered at the hands of those who would see us exterminated and wiped off the face of the earth. This hatred still fills the hearts of millions on every continent. The events in Persia that are recorded in the Biblical book of Esther have been investigated by historians and archeologists alike. The noted scholar and historian, Mitchell First, has examined the writings of Herodotus, a Greek writer, and Ctesias, a Persian author and scholar of that time period. Both authors focus on the king, Xerxes, the Greek name for Achashverosh, and his wicked wife, Amestris, who appears to be the same person known as Vashti in the Book of Esther.
Is this conclusive proof of the veracity of the story of Esther? Given there were no historians, as we know them now, during this early period, we do not know for sure. Our conclusions depend on how we view the Bible. If the Bible is allegory and parable only, then the story may indeed be a fable, just designed to teach. If we view the Bible as the inerrant Word of HaShem (God), then every story we read in it is true. There is a bias against the Bible in the world today; this means there is a predilection to see its stories as fiction.
Now, to your larger question: Why do Jewish people celebrate Purim, given there was a loss of Persian life? This is a slightly more difficult question to answer. In Jewish thought and highlighted again and again in Torah, God’s Life Instructions for His people, life is paramount. Indeed, when it comes between following a commandment in Torah and saving a life, the fulfillment of the Torah commandment may be set aside for the sake of the life.
The focus of Purim is not to commemorate the taking of Persian lives, but the saving of Jewish lives. Under Persian law, when a king has signed a decree, no one – not even the king – may rescind it. Thus, when Achashverosh (Xerxes) signed the order for the killing of hundreds of thousands of Jews throughout Persia, even he could not call that order back. Given the feelings of the people of Persia towards the Jewish people at the time, there were many who wished their destruction.
Among the Dead Sea Scrolls recovered at Qumran, is a copy the Book of Esther. The final portion of the Book speaks of the men who were attacking the Jewish people as the only ones killed by the Jewish people. Apparently, the innocent were not targeted.
I do hope this has answered your question and I would welcome more.
B’rakhot B’Shem Adonai Yeshua – blessings in the name of Jesus,
Dr. Michael Wodlinger
Chosen People Ministries (Canada)