18 March 2011 (Sheshi/Kippur)|
Day #367, 5934 AM
Vengeance is Yahweh's
Today millions of Jews of both the non-messianic and Messianic varities will be celebrating a festival known as Purim, the Feast of Lots. Traditionally the Book of Esther is read and the congregation in the synagogue boos whenever the name of Haman the Amalekite is mentioned.
"Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,' says Yahweh. Therefore 'If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.' Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Rom.12:17-21, NKJV).
In the reign of Ahasuerus (Xerxes, 485-465 BC) but possibly Artazerzes II (404-359 BC), Haman, the vizier, determined to massacre all the Judahaites in the kingdom. Since he was a superstitious man, he cast lots to find an auspicious day. The word pûr, which in Esther 3:7 and 9:24.26 is said to mean 'lot', is not a Hebrew word, but is almost certainly the Assyrian puru, which means a pebble or small stone, which would be used for casting lots rather like a dice.
The earliest reference to the festival outside the Tanakh (Old Testament) is 2 Maccabees 15:36, where a decree is made in 161 BC to celebrate annually the defeat of Nicanor by Judah Maccabaeus on "the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, which in the Syrian tongue is called Adar, the day before Mardoocheus (Mordechai's) day." If 2 Maccabees is dated somewhere in the middle of the 1st century BC, this shows that by 50 BC Purim was celebrated on the 14th day of Month 12 ('Adar'). The Parallel passage in 1 Maccabess 7:9 speaks of the institution of what was later called Nicanor's Day on the 13th day of Month 12 ('Adar'), but makes no reference to Purim on the 14th. No conclusion can be drawn from this silence.
Josephus, at the end of the first century AD, says that Nicanor's Day was kept on Adar 13 (Antiquities, 12.10.5) and Purim on Adar 14 & 15 (Antiquities 11.6.13). Curiously enough, Josephus does not use the term Purim, but says that the Judahites call the two days phoureas (other readings are phouraias, phoureous, and phouraios). This Greek word seems to be based on the verb phoureó, meaning 'guard' or 'protect'.
Nicanor's Day was not observed after the 7th century AD, but Adar 13 was gradually made a part of Purim. As opposed to Adar 14 & 15, which were days of lively celebration, Adar 13 was a day of fasting. There are Messianics who observe Purim for 1, 2 or 3 days, depending on their preference. Until we dropped the celebration of Purim (see Purim 2007: False Paradigms and Looking Ahead and Purim 2010: The Leaven of Babylon), we only observed a single day.
The celebration of Purim is not a commandment of Yahweh and not a part of the original Torah but is one of those 'add-on' festivals made under man's authority. Purim is not mentioned in the New Testament (though some claim it is the unnamed feast mentioned in John 5:1).
Whilst there are lessons that can be learned from this historical incident (such as trusting in and petitioning Yahweh with fasting when one's life is in the balance), it tends to serve Jewish nationalistic agendas (such as Zionism) better than it does spiritual ones. It fits in no divine tavnith (pattern) of the Redemption of Man from Sin by Messiah but rather tends to encourage revenge killing that has no part of the New Covenant.
Furthermore, there is some question about the accuracy of the Book of Esther which is conspicuous by its total absense in the Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS). And as shown in False Paradigms, there is considerable doubt that the version we have in the Protestant Canon is the longer original account, and the fact that there is a curious non-Hebraic, Greek addendum to the Book of Esther in the Apocrypha (chapters 10b-16) that is found in Catholic Bibles, interspersed in the Septuagint, compounds the mystery as to this book's true origin and throws considerable doubt as to its authenticity. We must wonder why the Essenes, apuritanical Jewish sect, left it out altogether.
Given the dubious origin of the Maccabee books and the festival of Hanukkah, the observance of which likewise is not commanded of us by Yahweh, and given the nationalistic elements in both Purim and Hanukkah, neither of which Yah'shua (Jesus) endorsed, Messianic Evangelicals do not observe these festivals. Such passages like the one that follows tend to reinforce the doubt that we have about this book's authenticity:
If Haman's 10 sons had already been killed, how could they be hanged the next day ("tomorrow")? Were the dead bodies strung up? Not even Jewish commentators try to make that interpretation which is macabre, to say the least. The only defence that I have come across is the traditional one made in the Talmud where the word "tomorrow", it is claimed, has two different meanings: "There is a tomorrow that is now, and a tomorrow that is later" (Tanchuma , No 13 & Rashi, Shemot 13:14) which sounds more like a Zen Buddhistic idea and totally unlike anything the Bible would ever say.
"On that day the number of those who were killed in Shushan the citadel was brought to the king. And the king said to Queen Esther, 'The Jews have killed and destroyed five hundred men in Shushan the citadel, and the ten sons of Haman. What have they done in the rest of the king's provinces? Now what is your petition? It shall be granted to you. Or what is your further request? It shall be done.' Then Esther said, 'If it pleases the king, let it be granted to the Jews who are in Shushan to do again tomorrow according to today's decree, and let Haman's ten sons be hanged on the gallows.' So the king commanded this to be done; the decree was issued in Shushan, and they hanged Haman's ten sons" (Est.9:11-14, NKJV).
We may never know how much of the Book of Esther is fact and how much is legend. But for those who believe in its absolute inspiration we must consider the unfortunate truth that it has been used to justify revenge killing (as opposed to legitimate self-defence) such as the hanging of the 10 Prime Nazi War Criminals in 1946 whom many have compared to the 10 sons of Haman.
Julius Streicher, the nazi editor of the anti-semitic periodical, Der Stürmer, who poisoned the minds of a generation with hatred, used Purim as justification for revenge killing and the holocaust that would follow. On the day of his execution on 16 October 1946, the day of the Talmudic Jewish Hoshana Rabba festival (Tishri 21 - the day on which Yahweh's verdicts are allegedly sealed) the last words he cried out on the gallows were, "Purimfest 1946!". Whether this was because his mind was deranged or whether this was because he understood that revenge was being exacted on himself and the other nine war criminals who suffered the same fate, we may never know. What is sufficient to know is that revenge was the theme and Yahweh has declared that we are not to take revenge on our enemies.
Purim is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it is a wonderful story about heroism and trusting in Yahweh for deliverance, but on the other it also sends out a negative message that revenge killing is legitimate. It absolutely is not. Vengeance is Yahweh's and Scripture directs us how to treat our enemies. Therefore we have a choice this Purim - to follow Scripture or the traditions of men.
The fact that Messianic Evangelicals doubt the authenticity of parts of the Books of Esther does not mean that we take a liberal theological position in respect of all the other books of the Protestant Canon of Scripture. On the contrary, we view them as inspired, plenary revelation in the original Hebraic autographs.