Saturday, March 19, 2011

Purim 2011

Esther 9:26-28  “So they called these days Purim, after the name Pur. Therefore, because of all the words of this letter, what they had seen concerning this matter, and what had happened to them, the Jews established and imposed it upon themselves and their descendants and all who would join them, that without fail they should celebrate these two days every year, according to the written instructions and according to the prescribed time, that these days should be remembered and kept throughout every generation, every family, every province, and every city, that these days of Purim should not fail to be observed among the Jews, and that the memory of them should not perish among their descendants.”
Tomorrow, March 20, is Purim, a holiday that Jesus celebrated as did all of the Jews. But it would take an ironic twist in the first year of his ministry when echoes of the story revealed themselves in other guises. 
Esther 1:5   “And when these days were completed, the king made a feast lasting seven days for all the people who were present in Shushan the citadel, from great to small, in the court of the garden of the king's palace.”
Esther 1:11   “ bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold."
For just as in Esther, where King Ahasuerus threw a large drinking party, and sought to show off his beautiful wife, so another frustrated King (for he was actually a tetrarch), Herod Antipas, threw a large party and showed off his new wife, Herodias. 
Mark 6:21a   “Then an opportune day came when Herod on his birthday gave a feast for his nobles, the high officers, and the chief men of Galilee [in the city of Tiberias]."
Herodias had been the wife of his half-brother Herod Philip. Through a wicked scheme, Herod Antipas convinced Herodias to divorce Herod Philip while Herod Antipas would take care of his wife, a Nabataean princess, who is unnamed in the Gospels. She, hearing of the plot and knowing of the ruthlessness of her husband, escaped to the fortress of Machaerus where she was picked up by her family (King Aretas) and taken off to Petra. Eventually Herod Antipas married Herodias and her teenage daughter Salome came along for the ride. 
It was John the Immerser’s preaching against this marriage that got him arrested. Herodias was furious with him and wanted him killed, but Herod Antipas, having a sense of respect for John, had him imprisoned in the fortress of Machaerus, just east of the Dead Sea.
Mark 6:21b    “And when Herodias' daughter herself came in and danced, and pleased Herod and those who sat with him, the king said to the girl, "Ask me whatever you want, and I will give it to you." He also swore to her, "Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half my kingdom."
Esther 5:3   “And the king said to her, "What do you wish, Queen Esther? What is your request? It shall be given to you—up to half the kingdom!"
Unfortunately, if that is the right word, the tables do not turn for the better in John the Immerser’s story. Machaerus had been a safe haven for the Nabataean princess, but it would prove to be the place of John's death. Were the Gospel writers aware of these parallels? Probably; they were relying just as much on the sovereignty of God; for both stories resulted in salvation. 
If you did not read my Purim post from last year (February 28, 2010), then I encourage you to search in the archives for the post, just as King Ahasuerus did when he could not sleep. It tells the remarkable parallel between the hanging of Haman’s 10 sons and the hanging of the 10 criminals at the Nuremburg trials (you can also search on the name Streicher). You can shake your noise maker at the sound of that name!

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