Annually, since the days of Queen Esther, the Jews have celebrated a feast called Purim. There are some interesting details in this story that should be considered. The enemy of the Jews in Esther's day, Haman, was a direct descendant of the king of the Amalekites, King Agag. (Esther 3:1) The Lord had instructed King Saul of the tribe of Benjamin to go to battle against the Amalekites. He said, "Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camel and donkey." (1 Samuel 15:3) Saul disobeyed God's instructions, allowed King Agag to live, and took as plunder "everything good." His disobedience set into motion a continuing battle for the Jews against an anti-Semitic spirit that still lives today.
We can see the impact of Saul's sin on the Jews who lived in the territory of the Persian king, Xerxes. During his reign a search was made for beautiful young virgins that could be brought to the citadel of Susa where they would receive beauty treatments. It was the king's desire to select a queen from among these virgins. Esther, an orphaned Jewish girl, had been brought into exile from Jerusalem along with her cousin Mordecai, from the tribe of Benjamin. She was the favorite from the king’s harem and was eventually appointed queen. Mordecai kept watch at the king's gate the entire time that Esther was in the palace.
There was a certain noble in the king's court named Haman. He was a descendant of King Agag of the Amalekites who hated Mordecai and schemed to kill him and all his people. He chose a day to implement his decree to kill all the Jews through casting a lot (Pur). Esther was in a position to petition the king for the life of her people. Mordecai pointed out that she may have come to her royal position "for such a time as this." (Esther 4:14) Even though death could come to anyone who approached the king without being called, Esther willingly went before him. He extended his golden scepter to her so that she was able to garner his support in reversing Haman's evil decree.
Mordecai was given the king's signet ring to seal a new decree. The king's edict "granted the Jews in every city the right to assemble and protect themselves; to destroy, kill and annihilate any armed force of any nationality or province that might attack them and their women and children; and to plunder the property of their enemies." (Esther 8:11) On the 13th and 14th day of Adar the edict was carried out. Ester 9:10 and 15 both tell us an interesting fact about the plunder: "But they did not lay their hands on the plunder."
I have been pondering this statement about plunder. One of the purposes of plunder is for honoring and obeying God. Is it possible that they thought it would not have been honoring to God to take the plunder in this instance? It may be. And, perhaps God was giving them an opportunity to right a wrong. I do not think it is a coincidence that both Saul and Mordecai were from the tribe of Benjamin. In any event, the Jews began the celebration of Purim to remember God's faithfulness in protecting them from their enemies and to remember how their sorrow was turned to joy. They will begin the celebration of Purim on Wednesday evening and will retell the story of Esther. Retelling this story is a reminder of God's faithfulness and His grace in giving us opportunities to right any wrongs. Let us also celebrate God's faithfulness to us.
Joan E. Mathias