The Great Significance Behind the Jewish Holiday of Purim

“And in every province and in every city, when the king’s command and decree arrived, there was gladness and joy among the Jews (‘yehudim’), a feast and a holiday. And many of the people of the land were ‘mityahadim’ for the fear of the Jews had fallen on them.” (Esther 8:17)

Last March, before the Jewish holiday of Purim, the US Secretary of State sat down for an interview in Jerusalem with the Christian Broadcasting Network. In his televised remarks, Mike Pompeo claimed to CBN bureau chief Chris Mitchell that President Trump is a modern day Queen Esther, raised up by God to defend Israel against Iran, “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

Secretary Pompeo’s interview set off a media firestorm about the growing influence of powerful Evangelical Christians on American foreign policy. More recently, Vice President Mike Pence, a devout Evangelical, recited a Hebrew blessing in Hebrew at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem, and a few days later, Evangelical pastors and Orthodox rabbis stood side by side in Washington, DC for the release of President Trump’s “Deal of the Century.”

Many in the Jewish community are surprised to hear that Christians today sound a lot like Jews in recognizing the spiritual significance of the State of Israel. Others are understandably skeptical at this sudden outpouring of love from our historic adversaries. However, Jewish tradition teaches us that, in fact, Jews and non Jews will come together in the End of Days. This lesson is taught in the Scroll of Esther, which Jews read in synagogue on the upcoming holiday of Purim, on March 10.

Esther tells the story of the wicked Haman who plots to annihilate all of the Jews in ancient Persia. When King Ahashverosh marries the beautiful Queen Esther, she secretly works with her uncle Mordecai, the leader of the Jewish community, to foil Haman’s genocidal plans. God works behind the scenes in this Biblical story, yet saves the Jewish people in a most dramatic manner.

There is a curious line toward the end of the Scroll of Esther. After the main narrative is over and the Jews are no longer in grave danger, it says:

“And in every province and in every city, when the king’s command and decree arrived, there was gladness and joy among the Jews (‘yehudim’), a feast and a holiday. And many of the people of the land were ‘mityahadim’ for the fear of the Jews had fallen on them.” (Esther 8:17)

An ancient Judaic scholar known as the “Ibn Ezra” points out that the Hebrew word “mityahadim” is an unusual word, in fact this is it’s only appearance throughout the entire Hebrew Bible. It means that, at the time of the Esther story, many non Jews came close to the Jewish people. This line serves as a dramatic capstone to the original miracle of deliverance and salvation, where the very enemies who tried to harm the Jewish people became our allies at the end of the story.

This passage not only teaches an important insight into our ancient history, it has great meaning for our present and future as well.

Jewish tradition teaches that just like the non-Jews were “mityahadim” at the time of the Purim story, so too in the future and End of Days, the nations of the world will turn toward the Jewish people. Scripture attests to this in the words of the prophet Zephaniah (3:9) whose prophetic vision for the world is simply incredible, “For then I will change the nations and grant them purity of speech, so they will all call out in the name of God and serve Him with one accord.”

Throughout history, the Jewish people have had few friends and many enemies, with new adversaries rising up in every generation. Anti-Semitism has reared its ugly days from the times of the evil Haman until the modern day Iranian menace and Islamic jihadists that constantly threaten the Jewish State of Israel.

The Hebrew word “mityahadim” in the Scroll of Esther is a variation on the root word of “Yehudim” which means ‘Judean’ and comes from the root ‘to give thanks’ in Hebrew. As a Jew, I am excited about the upcoming holiday of Purim in deep appreciation for the non Jews today, such as my friends from the Israel365 community, who have done so much this year for Israel and are coming close to the Jewish People, just like in the Biblical times of Mordecai and Esther. 

As we approach the joyous festival of Purim, we should all be so grateful to live in a generation such as ours when Jews and Gentiles can put aside centuries of animosity and come close together in fellowship and love. We all can do our part to stand with the State of Israel, like Secretary Pompeo and President Trump, “for such a time as this.”