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Bible Study: *Hidden Messages In The Book (Scroll) of Esther*Part 1-7

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Bible Study: *Hidden Messages In The Book (Scroll) of Esther*Part 1-7 Empty Bible Study: *Hidden Messages In The Book (Scroll) of Esther*Part 1-7

Post  Admin on Mon 23 Mar 2009, 7:26 pm

*Hidden Messages In The Book (Scroll) of Esther*
Part 1 of 7
"In Shushan the palace there was a certain Jew, whose name was Mordecai." Esther 2:5

This is one of the most well known verses in the book of Esther. Most people do not appreciate its prophetic meaning. However, an ear tuned to the prophecies of Zechariah and familiar with Tanach immediately catches its irony, as: A Jew implies more than simply someone who is Jewish; Shushan the palace implies more than just 'the capital city' and Mordecai is not a Jewish name!

The phrase ish yehudi - A Jew - is mentioned only one other time in the entire Tanach - in Zechariah 8:23. There it describes a devout Jew in the city of Jerusalem, leading a group of non-Jewish followers in search of God.

The word ha-bira - the palace, is used by King David to describe specifically the Temple. (I Chronicles chapter 29:1,19)
The name Mordecai is probably the most provocative word in the entire book, for it stems from the name of the Babylonian deity -Marduk (II Kings 25:27 and Isaiah 39:1). Prior to the Babylonian exile, no one would have dared give his son such a 'goyish' name. This does not imply that Mordecai was assimilated, rather his name may reflect the assimilation of his generation.

All this leads to the fact that the book of Esther contains a prophetic message, related to its historical setting.
As every book of the Tanach contains a prophetic message, Megillat Esther should be no different. It is commonly understood that it teaches us how to see the 'hidden hand' of Yahveh behind the events that ultimately led to Israel's salvation from Haman. Some even suggest that the use of the name Esther (from the Hebrew verb 'lehastir' - to hide) instead of her real name - Hadassa (Esther 2:7) teaches us this very lesson.

The story in of Esther takes place during the Persian time period, after the Jews had the opportunity to return to Jerusalem but instead sent money. Ezra 1:1-9 Not much has changed in 2500 years.

*Hidden Messages In The Book (Scroll) of Esther*
Part 2 of 7

Jeremiah's Seventy Years
Jeremiah's final message to the Babylonian Exile in regard to what was 'supposed' to happen when these seventy years were over:

"Thus said Yahveh: when the 70 years are complete, I shall remember you and keep my promise to return you to this land. At that time you shall call out to Me. You shall come and pray to Me and I will hear you... and you will ask for Me and find Me; if you will search for me with all your heart. Then I will be there for you, and I shall turn away your captivity and gather you from all the nations wherein you may be dispersed, and I will return you to the land from which you were exiled." Jeremiah 29:10-14

According to Jeremiah, the return of the Exile would not be automatic, and would depend in part on Israel's sincere repentance and a yearning to return. Yahveh intended for the Babylonian Exile to be temporary. People don't stay in 'exile' unless they are forced to be there. Exile implies that one cannot return to his own land.

Yahveh's desire for the Jewish people to become His 'model' nation, through which all nations will come to recognize Him (Deuteronomy 4:5-8 and Exodus 19:4-6). The Temple in Jerusalem was to serve as a symbol of this national purpose. The decision to destroy that Temple and exile the people was for a rehabilitative purpose. Israel was supposed to 'learn its lesson' during these seventy years in Babylon. Afterward, Yahveh hoped that the nation would be spiritually ready and anxious to return to their homeland, and rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. Precisely as Jeremiah had predicted, seventy years after Babylon rose to power, the opportunity to return arose when the Babylonian empire fell to Cyrus the Great, the first king of the Persian Empire. (Jeremiah 25:11-12 and Ezra 1:1)

*Hidden Messages In The Book (Scroll)? of Esther*
Part 3 of 7

Missed Opportunity ?

Unfortunately, only forty thousand returned. The majority of the people remained in Babylon, willfully accepting the exile, because they did not wish to leave their homes? and businesses. (Sounds familiar?)

Even those who did return lacked enthusiasm. The apathy of the returnees is echoed in the prophecies of Hagai and Zechariah, the prophets of this time period. (Hagai 1:1-3; 2:3 and Zechariah 4:10; 6:15; 7:4-7; 8:6)

How does all of this relate to the Book of Esther?

The fact that Israel remained scattered among the 127 provinces of the Persian Empire, instead of returning a generation or two earlier to Jerusalem, relates to the prophetic message of the Book of Esther.

Based on this historic and prophetic setting, one could suspect that the impending destruction of Israel by Haman may be a Divine punishment for their apathy. After all,? the Jews living in the Persian empire appeared to prefer living in Shushan rather than Jerusalem; serve Ahasueros rather than Yahveh and replaced the Temple with Ahasueros' palace!

The story of Vashti reflects Yahveh's utter disappointment with Israel for not returning to Israel to fulfill their divine purpose and become His 'model' nation:

"Vashti was called to come to the king and show all the nations her beauty... but she did not come as the King commanded, and he became very angry."? Esther 1:9-12

Vashti's behavior was similar to that of Israel, the King's conclusion was similar to Yahveh's, and the fear that all the women in the Persian kingdom will now disobey their husbands paralel to Israel - if they do not respond to their Divine call, what could be expect from the other nations? (Israel is often compared to Yahveh's wife - Hosea 2:4,16-18. Zechariah 1:1-3)
Part 4 of 7
*Who is the real king in the Book of Esther? *

The word 'ha-melech' - The King - refers to Yahveh and not to Ahasueros.
Haman's petition to to destroy Israel echos a similar complaint that Yahveh has against His own nation:

"There is a certain nation scattered among the nations whose laws are different than any other nation, but the laws of The King they do not keep, and it is not worthwhile for The King to leave them be." Esther 3:8
Haman's accusation is similar to Yahveh's threat to destroy Israel for not keeping His laws. (Deuteronomy 32:26) After all, what purpose is there for Him to keep His people if they refuse to obey Him and fulfill their divine calling?

Another similarity is found in the parallel between Ahasueros' palace and the Temple. This parallel is significant for it reflects the fact that Israel neglected the Temple in Jerusalem, preferring instead to be dependent on the palace of Ahasueros.

The Megilla refers to the most inner chamber of the king's palace as the 'chatzer ha-pnimit' - Inner court. (Esther 5:1) where entry is forbidden under threat of death, unless called to enter. (Esther 4:11) Here we find an obvious parallel to the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle.

The 'waiting area' outside the inner chamber is called the 'chatzer ha-chitzona' (Esther 6:4). Here people like Haman himself were allowed to enter freely. (Esther 1:14) This is parallel to the Holy Place where the kohanim (regular priests) were permitted to enter. (Ezekiel 40:18-19)

In front of the palace is 'sha'ar bet ha-melech' (the gate to the king's house) where people like Mordecai were permitted to stand, (2:18,21) however, they must dress properly. Therefore dressing in sackcloth (an expression of mourning) was not permitted. (Esther 4:2) This area is parallel to the outer court in the Temple.

The area in front of the king's gate is called the 'street' (Esther 4:2,6) where Mordecai could dress in sackcloth, and parallels the parts of Jerusalem surrounding the Tabernacle.

This parallel is strengthened by the use of the word 'bira' (the capital city of Persia) to describe Shushan. The only other time in Tanach prior to Esther where the word 'bira' is mentioned is in Chronicles, where it specifically describes the Temple. (I Chronicles 29:1,19)

For his big party Ahasueros donned the 'bigdei kohen gadol' ~ the High Priest's garments. Thus we see how the Book of Esther informs us that during this time period Israel had replaced Yahveh with Ahasueros; Yahveh's Temple with Ahasueros' palace; and Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, with Shushan ha-bira - Ahasueros' palace in his capital city!
Part 5 of 7

*70 Days / 70 Years*

*Another detail in the Book of Esther*
Concerning when the two decrees were sent alludes to this prophetic backdrop. Recall that the original decree calling for the destruction of the Jews was sent out on the 13th day of Nisan. (Esther 3:12) Several days later Haman was hanged and Esther requested the king to repeal this decree. (Esther 8:3-6) He agreed, though the actual letters were not sent out until the 23rd of Sivan - two months later. (Esther 8:9) What took so long?

By comparing these two dates, we find an amazing reminder of Jeremiah's prophecy of the seventy years. Between the 13th of Nisan until the 23rd of Sivan - 70 days elapsed. (17+30+23) During these seventy days, all the Jews throughout the Persian empire were under fear of impending destruction, thinking that their doom was inevitable. Could this be a reminder that Israel did not heeded Jeremiah's prophecy of what they were expected to do once the seventy years had expired?

A similar concept of suffering for a sin, a day for a year (and vice versa), is found twice in Tanach in related circumstances. After the sin of the spies, the forty days were replaced by the punishment of forty years of wandering. Here, too, Israel did not fulfill their Divine destiny, preferring to return to Egypt rather than go to their promised Land. Ezekiel, too, was required to suffer 'a day for each year.' (Ezekiel 4:1-14)

The Rabbis tell us that Ahasueros threw his 180 day party in celebration of the fact that Jeremiah's seventy years were over and the Tabernacle was not rebuilt. Why should the most powerful king of his time worry about the prophecies of Jeremiah, while the Jews themselves did not care? Apparently Yahveh revealed to Ahasueros what Israel forgot or willfully ignored.

Part 6 of 7
*Passover And Purim *

Israel's salvation from Haman's decree came only after Israel collectively accept a three day fast. This fast took place on the 15,16 and 17th of Nisan. Interestingly, the events that led to the repeal of Haman's decree took place during Passover - the holiday on which we celebrate freedom from slavery to a foreign nation and the beginning of the journey to the Promised Land.

The Book of Esther is filled with allusions to the fact that the people of Israel did not answer their Divine call during the Persian time period. The question remains, why is this message only hinted at and not explicitly stated in the book? In order to strengthen the message, a powerful point is not explicitly stated, but only alluded to. The direct approach used by the other 48 prophets of Tanach had not been very successful. Likewise, Natan's allegorical message to King David in regard to his sin with Bathsheba was much more powerful. (II Samuel 12:1-7)

The story of the Book of Esther takes place after the return to Zion but before the second Temple was actually built. The events of the Megilla had a tremendous affect on the situation in Jerusalem. Two years after the story of Megilla, King Darius, son of Esther gave the Jews permission to return and build the Second Temple, with the construction begining during the second year of Darius. This brought many more Jews back to their land a few years afterward, during the seventh year of his reign of Darius. Ahasueros was the Persian king who succeeded Darius. (486 - 465 BC) The story of the Book of Esther took place forty years after the second Temple was built, after Hagai and Zechariah's plea to return.

Over two decades passed before a new wave of Jews returned with Ezra and Nehemiah to help strengthen the city of Jerusalem. Why don't we find a mass aliya movement immediately after the miracle of Purim. (Jews of the twentieth century could ask themselves a similar question.)

Furthermore, why is it necessary to celebrate Purim for all generations? Purim is not the only time in Israel's history when they were saved from terrible enemies.

The prophecies of Zechariah concerning the Second Temple precede the Book of Esther. The first six chapters focus on the return of the Shechinah to Jerusalem. However, Zechariah warned numerous times that the Shechinah's return will hinge on Israel's Covenantal commitment. (Esther 6:15) Israel's 'spiritual' return was no less important than their physical return. (Zechariah 1:3; 8:7-8)

*Hidden Messages In The Book (Scroll) of Esther*

Part 7 of 7
Ish Yehudi ~ A Jew

Zechariah had a vision of people from many great nations coming to Jerusalem in search of Yahveh. They will gather around the ish yehudi ~ a Jew, asking for his guidance, for they will have heard that Yahveh is with His people. (Zechariah 8:20-23) Had Israel heeded his prophetic call in the time of Cyrus and Darius, they would not have been scattered among 127 provinces during the time of Ahasueros. Instead of celebrating with the Persians at the party in Shushan, the Jews could (and should) have been celebrating with Yahveh at His Holy Temple in Jerusalem. The ish yehudi ~ a Jew, would have been in Jerusalem, making Yahveh's Name known to other nations; instead, the Book of Esther opens with "a Jew" in the Palace (temple) of Ahasueros in Shushan, carrying the name of foreign god, i.e. Mordecai.

This parallel to Zechariah explain the reason for the special commandments that Mordecai instituted for Purim. (Esther 9:20-22). They reflect Zechariah's repeated message of helping the needy and one's neighbors. Mordecai and Esther sent out a second letter explaining in one short phrase the importance of expressing words of "Peace and Truth" to each other. (Esther 9:30) These two key words point us to Zechariah's prophecy about the fast days becoming holidays (Zechariah 8:18-19) when Israel keeps Shalom and Emet ~ Peace and Truth as a yearly reminder of the yet unfulfilled prophecies of Zechariah.

Torah Studies: http://rinahshal.tripod.com /
Times of Refreshing I: http://rinah--shalom.tripod.com/
Times of Refreshing II: http://rinah.shalom.tripod.com/
Moadim - Jewish Holidays: http://rinah-shalom.tripod.com/
His Word: http://rinahshalom.tripod.com/
Wisdom For Living: http://rinahshal.tripod.com/wisdomforliving

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