Proper 21, Year B, Old Testament Lesson
Scripture:Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22
This reading is set during the Persian Empire (539-333 BCE). Queen Esther stands up for her people to King Ahasuerus at Mordecai’s urging. She stands up for her Jewish faith and the result is an edict that allows Jews to assemble and defend themselves. This leads to a great celebration that the Jews observe through Purim. Purim celebrates the liberation of the oppressed and this festival meal forbids mourning during its remembrance.
The Book of Esther is popular with members of the Jewish faith because it gives a historical account of their plight during the Persian Empire. Queen Esther, a Jew, chose to speak up for her people after her father urged her to. The daughter of Mordecai, Esther, is the former Queen’s replacement, chosen through a contest. Esther refuses to bow to the second in command, Haman. Haman wants King Ahasuerus to kill all Jews. Mordecai encourages Queen Esther to stand up for her people. King Ahasuerus favors Queen Esther and he honors her plea for her life and that of the Jewish people. Haman is hung where he had hoped Mordecai would be hung. A new edict is signed by King Ahasuerus that allowed the Jewish people to assemble and defend themselves. This led to the creation of the Jewish Holy Day, the festival of Purim. This festival is still celebrated in the present day. This Holy Day for the Jewish community is one of celebration and allows for fun filled days and noise making. In observance of Purim, the Book of Esther is read at the synagogue and noise is made every time Haman’s name is mentioned. This is believed to help eradicate his name. Purim helps Jews celebrate their unity as a people. This Holy Day also includes the care of those less fortunate. Jews are asked to give money or food to needy people. In addition, Jews send food as gifts to their friends. Lastly, Purim is celebrated among family and a large feast is included.