God’s deliverance of the Jews is such an important event that it is commemorated each year. The description of the festival emphasises the reversal: from fasting, mourning, and sadness to feasting, relief, and gladness (Esther 9:22). Different days are set for the Jews in Susa (the edict had been extended one more day for them; see verse 15) and the rural Jews to celebrate (vv. 17-19). It is a time of giving presents of food to one another and gifts to the poor (vv. 19, 22). This makes sure that all members of God’s community can celebrate, not just the wealthy. Sharing food brings out the social aspect of celebration and worship, and perhaps the presents remind people that the deliverance is a gift from God.6 Mordecai records the events and establishes Purim as an annual festival. He thus makes sure that there is a yearly reminder of the deliverance of God’s people (vv. 21-22).
There is a dominant note of joy in this celebration of God’s deliverance. The words ″happiness″, ″joy″, or ″gladness″ are mentioned nine times in chapters 8 to 9 (Esther 8:16 [twice], 17 [twice]), five of which are in today’s reading (Esther 9:17-19, 22). Even for Jews today, the Festival of Purim is the loudest and the most fun of all. And why wouldn’t God’s people be overjoyed? This pattern of deliverance followed by rejoicing is found elsewhere in the Old Testament. For instance, Moses and the people sang a song of praise to God after He delivered them from Pharaoh and the Egyptians (Exodus 15). Deborah and Barak sang a song of praise after God delivered them from their Canaanite oppressors (Judges 5).
As Christians, we too should live a life bursting with gladness and joy! We too have been delivered. Did you notice that the Jews celebrated with joy even before their day of self-defence arrived (Esther 8:16)? Why could they celebrate? Because they knew that God was on their side. Their archenemy and accuser had been defeated. Victory was a foregone conclusion. If you think about it, we are in the same boat as the Jews before their day of self-defence. Jesus has already defeated Satan. We are saved in Jesus. Our final deliverance is a foregone conclusion.
6See Barry G. Webb, Five Festal Garments: Christian Reflections on the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Esther, New Studies in Biblical Theology (Leicester: Apollos, 2000), 132.
Meditate on Colossians 1:9-14. What has God delivered or rescued us from? How should we live our lives in response?
Do people more often describe you as grumpy and mournful or happy and joyful? Read 1 Peter 1:8. How can we be ″filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy″?