The customs of Purim exist because of God’s grace. What should have been remembered as a day of sorrow because of evil events planned by an enemy of the Jews was turned into joy.
The word Purim, which means “lots,” is plural for the Hebrew word Pur. Esther 3:7 reads…
“In the first month, which is the month of Nisan, in the twelfth year of King Ahasuerus, they cast Pur (that is, the lot), before Haman to determine the day and the month, until it fell on the twelfth month, which is the month of Adar.”
But God had different plans, proving Proverbs 16:33, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.”
Haman’s plans of destroying the Jewish people would not prevail because they did not align with God’s plan. Rather God’s plan was to turn a day planned for sorrow into a festival of joy.
Takeaway: The customs of Purim exist because sorrow was turned into joy!
How the Customs of Purim Started
Purim is celebrated on the 14th and 15th of days of the Hebrew month of Adar. These dates correspond with dates during either February or March on the Gregorian calendar.
The story of Purim centers around the events in the book of Esther.
- Esther, the cousin of Mordecai, was taken to the palace with dozens of other candidates for the position of queen due to her beauty.
- By the grace of God, she was chosen to take the place of Vashti.
- After a plot to kill her people was made known by Mordecai, she went before the king to petition the life of her people—the Jews.
- She risked death because she trusted in her God. Trust was all she had.
- She saved the Jews. But God wasn’t done.
God saw the tears and fasting of His people as He was preparing Esther for her call. He responded because of His covenant love. His promises to them could not be thwarted, even though the enemy had other plans.
As mentioned earlier, it was a day of sorrow turned to joy.
The merciful acts of God were made evident.
- Softened the king’s heart to receive Esther and ultimately discovered how Mordecai prevented and exposed a conspiracy to kill him. Thus the king honored him for this act.
- Defended the Jewish people when there was a plot to kill them.
- Gave them honor and glory after He defended them.
The Takeaway: Though God does not require the festival, the customs of Purim surround these remarkable and memorable events, helping us to honor the Lord even when we can’t see His plan.
Customs of Purim
The customs of Purim have little in common with other Jewish holidays. It is a holiday that releases joyfulness from those who observe it. While other Jewish holidays can indeed be joyful, their purposes can, at times, be more solemn.
Because the festival is uniquely appointed in the Word to be a holiday of feasting and joy, there are many joyous customs of Purim.
Esther 9:20 tells us that Mordecai “wrote these things and sent letters to all the Jews, near and far.” The customs of Purim were put in place by Mordecai and Esther so that God’s deliverance would be remembered.
These customs of Purim still exist today…
- Remembering what God did on Purim; celebrating it with gladness and joy
- Sending presents to one another
- Giving of gifts to the poor
- Celebrating for two days—because while the edict against the Jews had been for one day, the edict in their favor lasted for two days
- Remembering and celebrating the events of Purim were to be held on these two days every year, for all of their descendants without end
While these customs of Purim are still carried out today, minor additions and new traditions have been made as well.
Some of these additions to the customs of Purim are…
- The reading of the book of Esther in remembrance—Whenever Haman’s name is mentioned the listeners are supposed to “booo” loudly.
- The wearing of costumes—This tradition likely stems from Esther having masked her Jewish identity. It could unknowingly relate to Haman masking his evil in a cloak of princely garb (though this is less likely as Purim is focused on God and joy). Traditionally, this custom of dressing in costumes includes wearing robes, masks, and crowns. Therefore, the custom could reflect Mordecai’s advancement to becoming second to King Ahasuerus.
- The baking, giving, and eating of a three-cornered sweet-filled pastry known as Hamantaschen—The pastry is named after Haman because it is believed to be akin to his hat or ears. However, since it is filled with sweetness, it also fits the themes of joy and overcoming.
- The giving of gifts to friends—These gifts include giving Hamantaschen and other sweet treats.
- The giving of gifts to the poor—This custom has changed slightly over the years, as it usually has an arbitrary minimum of two gifts for the poor. Though this is not required, great generosity has become the customary response to the merciful grace of God revealed in the story of Purim.
Aside from those traditions mentioned within the book of Esther, not every family or individual engages in these newer traditions. However, they have become increasingly common…
Children love dressing up in costumes. And this custom of Purim has a beautiful biblical theme.
Reading the book of Esther is a great way to bring the Word into your home as you enter into a season of preparing for Passover (as Purim falls approximately one month before Passover).
Eating sweet Hamantaschen with your family and friends is always welcome.
Giving gifts to those in need with a cheerful heart captures the attention of God. In our giving, joy and remembrance is brought to everyone.
The Takeaway: With all of these customs of Purim, the great festival of joy is truly about remembering God’s mercy and deliverance.
Spiritual Blessings Released through the Customs of Purim
We encourage you to look deeper into these customs of Purim. We know that you will find blessings and the spiritual significance of each.
Purim reminds us to be glad, to give so that joy may increase. It is a lesson of God’s goodness and mercy, as well as a reminder that we are to be more like Him. It is a call to share the kindness, goodness, generosity, and love that God has shown us in His Son.
The Word tells us that it is a blessing to give.
“I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”—Acts 20:35
We are not meant to store up earthly treasures. We are to give as we have been given (see Matthew 10:5-8).
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”—Matthew 6:19-21
We are not meant to be alone, but to rejoice together—in fellowship with one another.
We are the light to the world, but we cannot be that light if we hide ourselves from the world. We are meant to fellowship and grow in unity, as One New Man in Yeshua (see Ephesians 2:14-16).
“God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”—1 Corinthians 1:9
“…if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”—1 John 1:7
It is a blessing to gather and rejoice in agreement, so that we may be lifted up and encouraged in our call.
“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.”—Matthew 18:20
“…Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.”—1 Corinthians 14:26
Purim reminds us to trust in the Lord, not in our circumstances. We can trust in knowing that “God is not a man that He should lie” (Numbers 23:19), that He keeps His covenants, and that He is always the same, never changing.
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”—Hebrews 13:8
“Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”—Deuteronomy 7:9
The blessings of trusting God and walking by His Spirit is listed as the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23. However, trusting in the One who created you for a purpose is not limited to a list.
The blessings that come with trusting God mean you can present your needs before Him with a thankful heart, knowing He will always answer best for you.
The blessing of this trusting relationship is found in Philippians 4:7… “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Do you need more peace today? Then give, rejoice, and trust. Use the customs of Purim to reveal the story of God’s deliverance. And remember, the joy of the Lord is your strength.