The Masked Lessons of Purim

In Blogs, Jewish Culture and Customs by Bruce ScottLeave a Comment

At first glance, you might not think the story of Purim found in the Book of Esther is anything but –
  • Jewish girl meets King
  • Bad man hates Jews
  • Bad man tries to kill Jews
  • Jewish girl and cousin rescue Jews
  • Bad man ends badly
  • Jews have holiday

However, there’s much more to the Book of Esther than meets the eye. As Chris Katulka pointed out in last week’s post Planning and Preparing for Purim, not only do the celebrants of Purim wear masks, but even the lessons do. Here are a couple.

God keeps His Word, even when He seems to be silent.

What’s unique about the Book of Esther is that it’s the only book in the Bible that doesn’t contain the name of God. One could interpret the absence of God’s name as the absence of God Himself.

Instead, although the Lord appears to be silent, He’s actually working behind the scenes to carry out His purposes. Though Haman had cast lots to destroy God’s people, God had the final say (Prov. 16:33).

One could also make the same misinterpretation of God’s character from a more recent example of anti-Semitism. Some believe God was inattentive, indifferent, or impotent during the Holocaust.

In fact, even while the monstrosity of man was running amuck, God was being faithful to His Word.

He preserved His people.

In every generation there’s been a Haman, Hitler, or Hussein wanting to accomplish what others could not – the total destruction of the Jewish people. All have failed. The reason? God promised the nation of Israel would remain forever (Jer. 31:35-36).

Has God ever seemed silent in your life? If so, it might be well to remember that the eyes of faith see the handiwork of God behind even the darkest cloud. Just as Job learned, enduring faith believes God is faithful, even when He’s silent.

Laugh with God.

During the Persian Gulf War in 1991, which ended on Purim, Israelis were forced to wear gas masks. They were fearful that Saddam Hussein would arm his Scud missiles with chemical weapons. Playing off the practice of wearing masks on Purim, Israeli humorists came up with an appropriate joke.

“How is Saddam different from Haman?” they asked.

“With Haman, first we hung him, then we put on the masks.”

When we hear a joke, we laugh. But what makes the joke humorous? It’s the irony or dissonance within the punch line that tickles our funny bone. The Book of Esther is filled with irony and variance. It seems God intended a good deal of reverent laughter to accompany the story of Purim. Watch this –

  • Out of all the beauty pageant contestants, the one that’s finally chosen isn’t from a royal, Persian family line, but of a subjugated, foreign people.
  • On the morning that Haman enters the king’s palace to ask for the execution of Mordecai, he’s forced to parade and glorify the very one he wanted to kill.
  • Having built a seventy-five foot high gallows for Mordecai, Haman is hung upon it himself.
  • On the day the Jewish people are to be destroyed, they gain a tremendous victory instead.
  • Though God isn’t mentioned anywhere in the book, His hand is obviously everywhere.

Yes, God preserved His people Israel from annihilation. Still, without being sacrilegious, we discover within the Book of Esther the greatest example of wit and humor ever written, coming from the Creator of laughter Himself.

It’s as if God is playfully nudging us, and saying,

“Come, laugh with Me. I know a story. Have you heard the one about Mordecai and Esther . . .”

About the Author
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Bruce Scott

Bruce Scott is the director of Program Ministries at The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry and is the author of The Feasts of Israel: Seasons of the Messiah.

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