Persia, Purim and Prayer

Persia, Purim and Prayer


I posted the following blog on March 11, 2009 during the Jewish feast of Purim. Purim celebrates the victory of the Jews over the plot of Haman to annihilate them.

Unfortunately it's as timely now as it was then. Iran, the current day Persia, as another leader – Ahmadinejad, with the same plot as Haman's, to eradicate the Jews. But this time Iran is developing a nuclear bomb to fulfill its plan.

Now, after this week's meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Barack Obama, the plot is thickening and the confrontation nearing to see how this modern day Purim unfolds.

"Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews throughout the provinces of King Xerxes, near and far, to have them celebrate annually the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the month of Adar as the time when the Jews got relief from their enemies, and as the month when their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration.

He wrote them to observe the days as days of feasting and joy and giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor. So the Jews agreed to continue the celebration they had begun, doing what Mordecai had written to them. For Haman son of Hammedatha, the Agagite, the enemy of all the Jews, had plotted against the Jews to destroy them and had cast the pur for their ruin and destruction." Esther 9: 20-25

The celebration of Purim - born in the heat of Persian treachery more than 2,300 years ago - continues to this day. Just like in ancient Persia, Jewish family and friends still send gifts to one another and Jews around the world mark Purim by reading the Biblical account of the book of Esther.

It's also celebrated by wearing costumes. For example, today thousands of Israeli of all ages paraded through the streets of Jerusalem dressed up in all sorts of wild outfits. If someone from the U.S. showed up in Jerusalem during Purim, they might think it was Halloween in the middle of the fall rather than Israel on the cusp of springtime.

You'll likely see a mother with kids in tow dressed up like Spiderman, Superman or some other super hero. You might see a young girl dressed up as a young and beautiful Queen. Or your waitress might come and take your order wearing rabbit ears. It's a light-hearted holiday but underneath the merriment is a sobering story of intrigue with life and death consequences for the Jewish people and a lesson for today.

Purim is named for the "pur" or "lot" that Haman cast to destroy the Jewish people. It's where we get the term "lottery" and the expression "my lot in life." The book of Esther, sandwiched between Job and Nehemiah in the Old Testament, revolves around four main characters: the wicked Haman, the beautiful Queen Esther, her uncle Mordachai, and King Ahasuerus.

It's a story dripping with intrigue, worthy of any Hollywood script. By the way, the book of Esther carries the distinction as being the only book in the Bible that doesn't contain the name of God. But make no mistake; His Hand is seen clearly throughout this powerful story of deliverance.

Esther 3:8 contains the main theme of the story. Haman, the Grand Vizier of the Persian Empire, tells Persian King Ahasuerus that: "There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among all the peoples in your kingdom. Their laws are different from those of every people; neither do they keep the king's laws. Therefore, it does the king no profit to suffer them. If it please the king, let it be written that they be destroyed."

The "certain people" Haman wants to destroy are the Jews.


If this story sounds familiar, it is. In fact, for the past few years, you've probably been reading a story that closely mirrors the book of Esther. It's the growing confrontation between modern day Iran and the Jewish state of Israel. In 2000, Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned, "We have repeatedly said that this cancerous tumor of a state should be removed from the region." On Saturday, February 11, 2006, the 27th anniversary of the Islamic revolution, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad continued to thunder against Israel.

Here's part of his speech before hundreds of thousands of Iranians in a Tehran mass rally. "We ask the West to remove what they created 60 years ago and if they do not listen to our recommendations, then the Palestinian nation and other nations will eventually do this for them. Remove Israel before it is too late and save yourself from the fury of regional nations."

Earlier Ahmadinejad declared on October 26, 2005: "Our dear Imam ordered that the occupying regime in Jerusalem be wiped off the face of the earth." The "occupying regime" Ahmadinejad wants to destroy is the Jewish state of Israel.

Should we believe Ahmadinejad? Israel's top intelligence official once told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee "These are not slips of the tongue." He went onto say that "Iran's plan is to engulf or destroy Israel in three ways."

He said those three ways were:

1. Supporting Palestinian terror groups,
2. Psychological pressure on Israel, and
3. Pursuing its drive for nuclear weapons.

It appears then that the same scenario that unfolded in ancient Persia is reappearing in today's modern Middle East. Modern day Persia, Iran - despite U.N. sanctions and international opposition - is racing to build a nuclear device. Some intelligence officials estimate it's just a matter of months before Iran's acquires the technological nuclear know how. In fact, Israeli intelligence now believes Iran may have passed that nuclear technological threshold.

First target? Most likely Israel. Case in point: Iran has paraded its Shahav-3 missiles in Teheran carrying the slogan "Israel Should be Wiped Off the Map." Shahav-3 missiles are capable of both reaching Israel and carrying a nuclear bomb.

The parallels between Haman of the Book of Esther and Ahmadinejad today are striking. It's another potential genocide coming out of Persia and placing the Jewish people in peril.

Different time. Different leaders. Same story: Destroy the Jews.

In the meantime, questions hang over the Middle East. How close is Iran to getting a nuclear bomb? Will Israel attack Iran's nuclear facilities? Is the government in the making by Benjamin Netanyahu being raised up "for such a time as this" to protect the Jewish state? These questions remain but many believe that the One who promised to watch over Israel will not abandon His people in their time of need, both then and now.

posted on Wednesday, March 11, 2009 4:00 AM

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