Purim and Anti-Semitism

The Feast of Purim, described in the Book of Esther, celebrates God’s deliverance of the Jews in an early instance of the age old problem of Anti-Semitism.  The issue of Anti-Semitism, the whys and wherefores, has been debated by scholars for over 50 years.  The Purim story highlights one of the major reasons for this problem - the refusal by the Jews to violate God given commandments, despite living in foreign countries.  One of the first of the 10 commandments is to not bow down to any other god.  In the ancient world many of the kings were considered by their societies to be divine.  In the Purim story, the king requires his people to bow down to his chief assistant, Haman.  But Mordecai, the Jew, refuses.  His action begins a process that ultimately leads to a ruling by the king to destroy all the Jews in his empire, which at that time, probably meant the vast majority of the world’s Jews.  This same conflict between a Nation’s laws and Jewish law repeats itself for millennia during the Greek empire, the Roman empire, the Islamic empire, Christian Europe, etc.  But it fails to explain the more modern forms of Anti-Semitism, best expressed in Nazi Germany, and now once again tragically expressed in Western Europe and in many Muslim nations. 

What is the driving force behind Anti-Semitism?  It must be spiritual.  Since the time of Abraham, God called the Jewish people to be a witness people to the world.  In Exodus at Mt. Sinai God declares the whole earth is His, but the Jews will be His treasured possession, representing Him as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.  And while Israel and the Jews often failed to live up to His expectations, He makes it clear in both Testaments of the Bible that His calling on the Jewish people remains irrevocable.  God even links the promises of the New Covenant to the continuation of the Jewish race (Jer. 31).  So, why such persecution?  If the Jews are destroyed, then God’s promises are made void.  If He can’t fulfill His promises to them, can He fulfill His promise to anyone?  Hence, throughout history demonic forces find any reason whatsoever to fuel hatred of the Jewish people.  The hatred and the history of persecution are not rational.  But the apostle Paul says, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world-forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”  In our post-modern world, this kind of thinking seems silly.  But ironically it’s the only rationale for persistent Anti-Semitism that makes any sense. 

As we stomp our feet, boo and twirl our noisemakers at the mention of Haman’s name during the Purim celebration, let’s make the connection between him, Anti-Semitism and hatred in general.  Together, let’s fight for God’s justice in this world.  Remember Yeshua’s words, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come that you might have an abundant life.” 

Jamie Cowen 2006