Purim – a parody in misplaced confidence

“And the king said to him, ‘What shall be done to the man whom the king delights to honour?’ And Haman thought in his heart, ‘To whom would the king delight to do honour more than to myself?’ And Haman answered the king, ‘For the man whom the king delights to honour, let the royal clothing be brought, which the king wears, and the horse that the king rides on, and the royal crown which is set on his head. And let this clothing and horse be delivered to the hand of one of the king’s most noble princes so that they may dress the man whom the king delights to honour, and bring him on horseback through the streets of the city, and proclaim before him, ‘This is what shall be done to the man whom the king delights to honour.’” (Esther 6:6-9)

If there is one universal desire common to all people it is the desire to be proved right. No wonder then that Purim out of all the feasts, is commemorated with such excessive joy and delight, anticipating, as it does, the final vindication of the Jewish people.

As one writer imagines – placing God in the role of King Ahasuerus – “And I wonder, as the King of kings reads, and He comes upon the case of the Jew, does He ask the question, What has been done unto him, what honour, dignity or reward to this despised of all peoples, to this Mordecai among the nations … sitting in the King’s gate! He has been sitting there for centuries untold. He has acted as the wise lookout, constantly on guard against possible dangers to the King’s cause on earth. His has been an eternal vigilance, matched only by the mysterious divine watchfulness above. He has performed a service whose like history does not record. He has spread the knowledge about the King – the King’s goodness, the King’s greatness, and all that the King cherishes and holds dear – throughout the world. Occupying as he did the place in the gate, at the world’s threshold, he has given information to all passers-by of the splendour of the palace and the graciousness of the King enthroned therein. And for this, what has been done unto him?” [1]

But in this generous self-assessment lies the potential for a further paradox, a further twist to the Purim tale.

The New Testament gospel contains a remarkable parallel to the Purim story. At a time when Jewish history was fervent in messianic expectation, when the Sadducees and Pharisees of that day were expecting God’s imminent intervention, to bring them honour and glory in the sight of the nations – crowds of ordinary Jewish men, women and children led Jesus of Nazareth into Jerusalem instead.

Unlike Mordecai, he was not paraded on horseback, but came ‘poor and riding on a donkey’ as Zechariah the prophet foretold [2] – signifying the triumph of humility and peace.

For him also, a gallows was erected. But in this detail, also, his story departs from Mordecai’s. For the cross was never intended as a weapon against those who had supposedly erected it (although, shamefully, it has been used for that purpose). While the wheels of history turn on man’s desire to elevate and vindicate himself – usually at the expense of others – here was the end of it all. For the innocent one went willingly to the gallows on behalf of the guilty! And the cross becomes the weapon against all human pride and self-sufficiency. “Having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” [3]

Our writer anticipates: “And when the day of victory comes … On that day will the nations gather in mighty throng and bring homage to the long despised [Jews]: ‘Thus shall it be done to the people that the King delighteth to honor!’”[4]

But the prophet Daniel foresaw a different scenario: “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him” (Daniel 7:13-14). The New Testament expectation is consistent with Daniel’s vision:

He humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that he is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


[1] Joel Blau, The Last Purim Pageant, in The Purim Anthology, Philip Goodman, ed., The Jewish Publication Society of America, Philadelphia, 1949. Pp. 165-166.
[2] Zechariah 9:9.
[3] Colosians 2:15
[4] Joel Blau, op. cit.. P. 167.