FAST OF ESTHER / FEAST OF PURIM



fast of Esther

Days of Purim (Lots)

feast of Purim




The book of Esther mentions;


   - the ceremonial observance of two days of celebration,

              The Feast of Purim


   - some days of fasting (refer Esther 9:31)

              The Fast of Esther.


THE FEAST OF PURIM

The feast of Purim was declared as a time of celebration.


The feast is stated to have been observed on the 14th and 15th of
the twelfth month. It was to be celebrated with feasting and joy.
It would be a time for sending presents and considering the poor.


    Esth   9:21  to establish among them that they should celebrate
                 yearly the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the
                 month of Adar,
            :22  as the days on which the Jews had rest from their
                 enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow
                 to joy for them, and from mourning to a holiday;
                 that they should make them days of feasting and joy,
                 of sending presents to one another and gifts to the
                 poor.

These dates, 14th and 15th in the twelfth month, are not otherwise
biblically significant. However, the notion of sending 'presents'
to one another is found elsewhere.

    Neh    8:10  ... and send portions to those for whom nothing
                 is prepared;
            :12  And all the people went their way to eat and
                 drink, to send portions and rejoice greatly, ...

The above text of Nehemiah relates to the seventh month, to the
feast of that month. After the Jews came from their cities, they
gathered in front of the Water Gate at Jerusalem and listened to
the reading of the Law.
The Neh 8:2 reference to 'first day of the seventh month' appears
to refer not to the 1st day of that month, but to the 1st day of
the seven day Feast of Tabernacles. Refer also to Neh 8:18.


An obvious question - "Can the 15th of the twelfth month
                       mentioned in Esther, be the 15th
                       holy day of the seventh month
                       mentioned in Nehemiah?"


 [ NB: It is interesting to recall that the Old Testament defines
       years in at least two different ways,
           1) the festival cycle which began in the Spring
       and 2) the planting and harvest cycle which began in Autumn
              (this was used for land Sabbaths and Jubilee years).

       So, a reference to the twelfth month (Adar) in the book of
       Esther could be a reference to the twelfth month of the
       planting and harvest cycle, which would then correspond to
       the seventh month of the festival year (the month of the
       Feast of Tabernacles).

       Notice, that in Exodus 34:22 the Feast of Ingathering
       (also known as the Feast of Tabernacles) is said to occur
       "at the year's end". (NB: Jews who start their year with
       the 7th festival month are not in harmony with Exod 34:22,
       as this verse is indicating the 7th festival month was at
       "year's end", ie the twelfth month (not the first month),
       of the planting and harvest cycle year.)  ]


While the Jews have associated month positions with various month
names, such compilations should not be taken as truly accurate
and definitive. The bible has the right to over-rule, and show
as flawed, these listings.



THE FAST OF ESTHER


There are different opinions in respect to whether the fast of Esther
was to be commemorated, and if commemorated upon which days.

Recorded Fast of Esther



On the 13th of the first month, the month of Nisan, Haman issued a
decree for the annihilation of the Jews which was to take effect later
that year. Mordecai after reading the decree proceeded to inform Esther
and to encourage her to promptly plead the cause of her people before
her husband the king.


An aspect of Esther's response was,

    Esth   4:11  ... Yet I myself have not been called to go
                 in to the king these thirty days.

This comment is actually indicating that she had already been waiting
for a period of 30 days to raise the issue with the king. So if her
uncle Mordecai had first brought this concerning news to her attention
on the 14th of the first month, then she had made this statement on the
13th day of the second month. 


As Esther was concerned about directly approaching the king, she requested
that all Jews present in the city fast for the following 3 days, and she
and her maids would fast also. So, she would have been fasting on the 14th
to 16th of the second month.


With the Esther account what we find is that she (and others) fasted for
three days and yet Scripture records that she went to see the king on
the 3rd day.

    Esth   5:1   Now it happened on the third day that Esther put
                 on her royal robes and stood in the inner court
                 of the king's palace.


This type of scenario where 3 days are involved and a subsequent day is
described as occurring on a 'third day' (even though it is actually a
fourth day) is found elsewhere in Scripture. The resurrection of Christ,
is a good example, occurring 'after three days', but on the 'third day'.

For a more detailed chronology of the death and resurrection of
Jesus Christ refer to:
CRUCIFIXION / RESURRECTION CHRONOLOGY


So what is being implied?

What is being implied is that this second month was actually the month
of the start of the festival year! This month was the month of Abib,
the month of Passover and the start of the grain harvest.


[ NB: The month of Abib is normally the month which begins the
      year, however the biblical calendar year is shorter than
      the actual 365 day year - which means an extra month has
      to be added to some years (to maintain harmony with the
      seasons).
      (The Jews have historically thought the extra month was
      added as 13th month of the prior year, however an analysis
      of the Flood account shows the extra month was to be added
      as the initial month at the start of the new year. ]


What this is telling us is that the month of Nisan in this year was
an added month and the month when Esther directly approached the king
was the month of Passover and Unleavened Bread observances. Actually
the three fast days would have fallen on the 14th Passover day and
the 15th and 16th, the initial two days of the Feast of Unleavened
Bread!


 [NB: The term 'third day', is actually a term referencing the
      third day of the 'Feast of Unleavened Bread'. ]


So Esther would have completed her 3 days of fasting, and then on
the 'third day', the 17th of the month, dressed herself in her royal
robes and entered the inner court of the king's palace.


Other Fastings in Book of Esther



Those in the Provinces

While the fast of Esther, and those Jews living in Shushan, took place
over three days those living in the provinces fasted over various days
and wailed their fate, from when Haman's decree reached them until news
of the death of Haman was received.

    Esth   4:3   And in every province where the king's command
                 and decree arrived, there was great mourning
                 among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and
                 wailing: and many lay in sackcloth and ashes.


Esther's Second Fast(?)

In addition to Esther's first fast, she and Mordecai (and others),
may have fasted a second time prior to the second occasion when Esther
risked her life in appearing uninvited before the king.

    Esth   8:3   Now Esther spoke again to the king, fell down
                 at his feet, and implored him with tears to
                 counteract the evil plot of Haman the Agagite,
                 and the scheme which he had devised against
                 the Jews.
            :4   And the king held out the golden sceptre toward
                 Esther. So Esther arose and stood before the
                 king.

Notice that Esther had again entered the inner court without having been
called, so unless the king once again held out the golden sceptre to her
she was to be executed (Esth 4:11).



ANOTHER FEAST - A HOLIDAY


Having a second time obtained the king's favour the king's scribes were
called and Mordecai prepared a decree to protect the Jewish people.

The day Esther appeared before the king was the day the decree was
prepared. The decree was quickly distributed to the provinces and
following receipt in the provinces a feast and holiday was observed.

    Esth   8:8   "You yourselves write a decree for the Jews,
                 as you please, in the king's name, ..."
            :9   So the king's scribes were called at that
                 time, in the third month, which is the month
                 of Sivan, on the twenty-third day; and it was
                 written, according to all that Mordecai
                 commanded, ...
            :10  ... and sent by couriers on horseback, riding
                 on royal horses bred from swift steeds.
            :14  Then the couriers who rode on royal horses
                 went out, hastened and pressed on by the king's
                 command. ...
            :17  And in every province and city, wherever the
                 king's command and decree came, the Jews had
                 joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday. ...


The provided dating, "in the third month, which is the month of Sivan,
on the twenty third day".


The kingdom of the king Ahasuerus extended from India to Ethiopia
(refer Est 1:1) so this feast and holiday had to be determined in
advance. Also, the royal and swift horses would have to be able to
reach all the 127 provinces before this feast and holiday occurred.

The feast / holiday is not named or dated in the text. What day
was this? After the Feast of Unleavened Bread there is in God's
Law a day, which was both a feast and a holiday - the Feast of
Weeks.

The Feast of Weeks fell in the third month of the calendar, between
the dates of the 4th to the 10th. As the first month of this year
was a calendar adjustment month, the feast would fall in the fourth
month.



COMMERATION OF FASTINGS


Following the letter written by Mordecai to establish the 14th and
15th days (Est 9:20-21) there was a second letter written by Esther
and Mordecai (Est 9:29).

While the second letter mentions 'Purim' and 'days of Purim' it is
apparent from the latter portion of verse 31 that the second letter
was about establishing days of fasting and lamenting.

The verse states,

    Esth   9:31  ... and as they had decreed for themselves and
                 their descendants concerning matters of their
                 fasting and lamenting.

The Hebrew word for 'fasting' is actually plural (which is unusual) and
so translations should render 'fastings and lamenting'.

So in summary, we are trying to determine what periods of fasting are
being implied.


The first period of fasting is quite easily assumed, it would be the
3 days of fasting discussed in the text. The days 14th, 15th and 16th
prior to Esther's entry into the king's inner court.


The second period of fasting is less easily determined. However, since
Esther subsequently again entered the king's inner court it is likely
she (and the other Jews in the city of Shushan) once again fasted and
sought God's favour. Praying that the Jews, particularly those in the
other cities of the king's dominion, would be protected and able to
triumph over their enemies on the 13th day (of the twelfth month).

Therefore, the three days prior to the quoted 'in three and twenty'
(Est 8:9) appear to represent the second set of fasting and lamenting
days.



THE TWENTY THIRD DAY


There are several alternate views on how this 23rd day reference should
be understood.

23rd Day of the Third Month


The simplest way to understand this verse is to understand this
reference as simply the 23rd day of the third month.

A concern is that this may not actually allow enough time for the
decree to be spread across the kingdom, before the observance of
the feast of Weeks.

23rd Day of the Count to the Feast



The second alternative picks up on a requirement associated with
the Feast of Weeks.

Part of the requirement for fixing the actual day of the Feast of
Weeks, was a necessity to count the days from the Wave Sheaf day.

So, the reference may be to the 23rd day of such counting and that
would result in an earlier timing in the third month.

In Third Week and Twenty Day of Count to Feast


A third alternative attributes separate meanings to the 'three'
and the 'twenty'.

The Hebrew actually says, "in three and twenty"

So it could be inferred that this was the 3rd week and the 20th
day of counting toward the Feast of Weeks. (Note, the Law required
both weeks and days were to be counted.) Since the Feast of Weeks
occurs on the 50th day, that would allow 30 days (the 20th day and
29 more days) for the decree to be notified to the people of the
kingdom.


Conclusion for 'in three and twenty'


The third alternative allows the most days for the distribution of
the decree.

However, it is the inferred existence of the three days of prior
fasting which tends to indicate that the second alternative is
favourable.

The reason is that fasting on the 20th, 21st and 22nd of the count
toward the Feast of Weeks would mean the three days would pivot
around the third of the seven counted weekly Sabbaths. (The third
Sabbath always falling on the 21st day.)

The biblical symbolism of the third Sabbath is quite likely to
be note-worthy enough, to suggest that Jews should be humbling
themselves both before and after, and during the time of the
represented event. 



A NEW TESTAMENT VERSE


There is a verse in the New Testament which seems to referring to the
observance of the fast of Esther.

    Luke  18:11  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus ...
            :12  I fast twice the week {not 'a week'}, ...


Why does the Pharisee not say that he fasts 3 days?

The reason for this may be his involvement in the observance of the
temple Passover of the 14th. Nevertheless, he is able to fast on the
subsequent two days, of the 15th and 16th.

The expression 'the week' in the context of this verse may be a
reference to the seven day Passover week of the 14th to 20th.
(NB: When Israel left Egypt this was the week they travelled;
immediately prior to the planned sacrificial worship day of the
21st. (Refer Exod 5:1 and Exod 3:18).


However, there is a completely different perspective.

As it is likely that Esther and others fasted on two occasions. This
is likely the reason why Luke 18:12 says twice!

When Esther and Mordecai instituted a fasting memorial, it is unlikely
that it required future Jewish generations to fast twice for three days
every year. Most likely it only required Jews to fast one day for each
occasion.

With this perspective the 'week' in this verse may refer to the entire
period of seven Sabbaths which were counted prior to the fiftieth day,
when the Feast of Weeks was observed.

Why the entire period? Due to the fact that some of those living in
outlying cities would have been fasting and lamenting up until news
of their reprieve finally reached them.


So, combining the narrative of Esther with Luke 18:11-12 we can discern
that the fasting and lamenting decree of Esther and Mordecai simply
required Jews, and their descendants, to observe two separate fasting
days over the period of the seven Sabbaths.



THE BOOK OF ESTHER


The Book of Esther has disguised references to the three annual festival
occasions.

What many have not realised is that both the proclaimed Esther feast and
fasting days aligned with the established Old Testament appointed days
and prescribed periods.


The Book of Esther is truly an integral part of the Word of God.







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