(פּוּרַים, Purim ; Sept. Φρουραί v. r. Φρουρίμ, etc.; also ימֵי הִפּוּרַים days of the Purim, Es 9:26,31), the annual festival instituted by Mordecai, at the suggestion of Esther, to commemorate the wonderful deliverance of the Jews in Persia from the destruction with which they were threatened through the designs of Haman (Esther 9; Josephus, Ant. 11:6, 13). (The following article is substantially compiled from Biblical and Rabbinical authorities. SEE FESTIVAL.
I. Name of the Festival and its Signification. — The name פּוּרַים (singular פּוּר), which is derived from the Persian pari, cognate with pars, part, and which is explained in Esther (Es 3:7; Es 9:24) by the Hebrew גּוֹרָל, lot, has been given to this festival because it records the casting of lots by Haman to ascertain when he should carry into effect the decree which the king issued for the extermination of the Jews (Es 9:24). The name Φρουρά, which, as Schleusner (Lex. in LXX, s.v.) and others rightly maintain, is a corruption of Φουραί , is the Greek pronunciation of the Hebrew term. In like manner, the modern editors of Josephus have changed (Φρουραῖοι into Φουραῖοι (Ant. 11:6, 13). In the following article we follow the Scriptural and Talmudical authorities, with illustrations from modern sources. SEE FESTIVAL.
It was probably called Purim by the Jews in irony. Their great enemy Haman appears to have been very superstitious and much given to casting lots (Es 3:7). They gave the name Purim, or Lots, to the commemorative festival because he had thrown lots to ascertain what day would be auspicious for him to carry into effect the bloody decree which the king had issued at his instance (Es 9:24).
Ewald, in support of his theory that there was in patriarchal times a religious festival at every new and full moon, conjectures that Purim was originally the fullmoon feast of Adar, as the Passover was that of Nisan, and Tabernacles that of Tisri.
II. The Manner in which the Feast was and still is observed. — All that the Bible tells us about it is that Mordecai ordered the 14th and 15th of Adar to be kept annually by the Jews, both nigh and afar; that these two days are to be made days of feasting and of joy, as well as of interchange of presents and of sending gifts to the poor, and that the Jews agreed to continue to observe this festival every year in the same manner as they had begun it (Es 9:17-24). No further directions are given about its observance, and the Bible here, as elsewhere, left the rites and ceremonies to develop themselves with the circumstances of the nation. It is not easy to conjecture what may have been the ancient mode of observance, so as to have given the occasion something of the dignity of a national religious festival. The traditions of the Jews, and their modern usage respecting it, are curious. It is stated that eightyfive of the Jewish elders objected at first to the institution of the feast, when it was proposed by Mordecai (Jerus. Gem. Megilloth; Lightfoot, one John 10:21). A preliminary fast was appointed, called "the fast of Esther," to be observed on the 13th of Adar, in memory of the fast which Esther and her maids observed, and which she enjoined, through Mordecai, on the Jews of Shushan (Es 4:16). SEE MORDECAI.
The following is the mode in which the festival of Purim is kept at the present day. The day preceding — i.e. the 13th of Adar — is kept as a fast- day, and is called "the fast of Esther" (תִּעֲנַית אֶסתֵּר), in accordance with the command of this Jewish queen (Es 4:5-6); and sundry prayers expressive of repentance, humiliation, etc. (סליחות), are introduced into the regular ritual for the day. As on all the fast-days, Ex 32:11-14; Ex 34:1-11, are read as the lesson from the law, and Isa 55:6-56:9, as the Haphtarah. If the 13th of Adar falls on a Sabbath, the fast takes place on the Thursday previous, as no fasting is allowed on this sacred day, nor on the preparation-day for the Sabbath. Some people fast three days, as Esther enjoined at first. On the evening of this fast-day — i.e. the one closing the 13th of Adar and introducing the 14th, as soon as the stars appear the festival commences, when the candles are lighted, and all the Israelites resort to the syvnagogue, where, after the evening service, the book of Esther, called, κατ᾿ ἐξοχήν, the iegillah (מגַלָּה, the Roll), is read by the praelector. Before commencing to read it he pronounces the following benediction: "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast sanctified us with thy commandments, and hast enjoined us to read the Megillah ! Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast wrought miracles for our forefathers in those dans and at this time. Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe, who hast preserved us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season!" The Megillah is then read. The praelector reads in a histrionic manner, suiting his tones and gestures to the changes in the subject-matter. As often as he pronounces the name of Haman the congregation stamp on the floor, saying, "Let his name be blotted out. The name of the wicked shall rot!" while the children spring rattles. The passage in which the names of Haman and his sons occur (Es 9:7,9) is read very rapidly, and if possible in one breath, to signify that they were all hanged at the same time, the congregation stamping and rattling all the time. It is for this reason that this passage is written in the MSS. in larger letters than the rest, andt that the names are arranged under one another. After the Megillah is read through, the whole congregation exclaim, "Cursed be Haman; blessed be Mordecai. Cursed be Zoresh (the wife of Haman); blessed be Esther. Cursed be all idolaters; blessed be all Israelites, and blessed be Harbonah who hanged Haman." The volume is then solemnly rolled up. Lastly, the following benediction is pronounced by the reader: "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe. who hast contended our contest, judged our cause, hast avenged our wrongs, requited all the enemies of our souls, and hast delivered us from our oppressors. Blessed art thou who hast delivered thy people from all their oppressors, thou Lord of salvation!" All go home and partake of a repast said to consist mainly of milk and eggs.
On the morning of the 14th of Adar the Jews again re sort to the synagogue, insert several appointed prayers into the ordinary daily ritual; Ex 17:8-16 is read as the lesson from the law, which relates the destruction of the Amalekites, the people of Agag (1Sa 15:8), the supposed ancestor of Haman (Es 3:1), and the Megillah or the Book of Esther as the Haphtarah, under the same circumstances as those of the previous evening. The rest of the festival is spent in great rejoicings; presents are sent backwards and forwards! among friends and relations, and gifts are liberally forwarded to the poor. Games of all sorts, with dancing and music, commence. In the evening a quite dramatic entertainment, the subject of which is connected with the occasion, sometimes takes place, and men frequently put on female attire, declaring that the festivities of Purim, according to Es 9:22, suspend the law of De 22:5, which forbids one sex to wear the dress of the other. A dainty meal then follows, sometimes with a free indulgence of wine, both unmixed and mulled. According to the Gemara (Meille, 7:2), "tenetur homo in festo Purim eo usque inebriari, ut nullum discrimen norit inter maledictionem Hamanis et benedictionem Mardochoei." From the canons which obtained in the time of Christ, we learn that the Megillah had to be written in Hebrew characters, on good parchment, and with ink (Mishna, Megilla, ii, 2); that if the 14th of Adar fell on a Tuesday or Wednesday, the inhabitants of villages read the Megillah on the Monday in advance, or on Thursday, because the country people came to town to attend the markets and the synagogues in which the law was read and tribunals held (Megilla, i, 1-3); that any one was qualified to read it except deaf people, fools, and minors (ibid. ii, 4), and that it was lawful to read it in a foreign language to those who understood foreign languages (ibid. ii, 1). But though the Mishna allows it to be read in other languages, yet the Megillah is generally read in Hebrew.
The rejoicings continue on the 15th, and the festival terminates on the evening of this day. During the whole of the festival the Jews may engage in trade, or any labor, if they are so inclined, as there is no prohibition against it. When the month Adar used to be doubled, in the Jewish leap- year, the festival was repeated on the 14th and 15th of the second Adar.
It would seem that the Jews were tempted to associate the Christians with the Persians and Amalekites in the curses of the synagogue (see Cod. Theodos. 16:8, 18). Hence probably arose the popularity of the feast of Purim in those ages in which the feeling of enmity was so strongly manifested between Jews and Christians. Several Jewish proverbs are preserved which strikingly show the way in which Purim was regarded, such as, "The Temple may fail, but Purim never;" "The Prophets may fail, but not the Megillah." It was said that no books would survive in the Messiah's kingdom except the law and the Megillah. This affection for the book and the festival connected with it is the more remarkable because the events on which they are founded affected only an exiled portion of the Hebrew race, and because there was so much in them to shock the principles and prejudices of the Jewish mind. So popular was this festival in the days of Christ that Josephus tells us that, "even now, all the Jews that are in the habitable earth keep these days festivals, and send portions to one another" (Ant. 11:6, 13), and certainly its popularity has not diminished in the present day.
III. Did Christ celebrate this Feast? — It was first suggested by Kepler that the ἑορτὴ τῶν Ι᾿ουδαίων of Joh 5:1 was the feast of Purim. The notion has been confidently espoused by Petavius, Outram, Lamy, Hug, Tholuck, Lucke, Olshausen, Stier, Wieseler, Winer, and Anger (who, according to Winer, has proved the point beyond contradiction), and is favored by Alford and Ellicott. The question is a difficult one. It seems to be generally allowed that the opinion of Chrysostom, Cyril, and most of the fathers, which was taken up by Erasmus, Calvin, Beza, and Bengel. that the feast was Pentecost, and that of Cocceius, that it was Tabernacles (which is countenanced by the reading of one inferior MS.), are precluded by the general course of the narrative, and especially by Joh 4:35 (assuming that the words of our Lord which are there given were spoken in seed- time) compared with 5:1. The interval indicated by a comparison of these texts could scarcely have extended beyond Nisan. The choice is thus left between Purim and the Passover.
The principal objections to Purin are, (a) that it was not necessary to go up to Jerusalem to keep the festival; (b) that it is not very likely that our Lord would have made a point of paying especial honor to a festival which appears to have had but a very small religious element in it, and which seems rather to have been the means of keeping alive a feeling of national revenge and hatred. It is alleged, on the other hand, that our Lord's attending the feast would be in harmony with his deep sympathy with the feelings of the Jewish people, which went further than his merely "fulfilling all righteousness" in carrying out the precepts of the Mosaic law. It is further urged that the narrative of John is best made out by supposing that the incident at the pool of Bethesda occurred at the festival which was characterized by showing kindness to the poor, and that our Lord was induced, by the enmity of the Jews then evinced, not to remain at Jerusalem till the Passover, mentioned Joh 6:4 (Stier).
The identity of the Passover with the feast in question has been maintained by Irenseus, Ensebius, and Theodoret, and, in modern times, by Luther, Scaliger, Grotius, Hengstenberg, Gresswell, Neander, Tholuck Robinson, and the majority of commentators. The principal difficulties in the way are, (a) the omission of the article, involving the improbability that the great festival of the year should be spoken of as "a feast of the Jews;" (b) that as our Lord did not go up to the Passover mentioned Joh 6:4, he must have absented himself from Jerusalem for a year and a half, that is, till the feast of Tabernacles (Joh 7:2). Against these points it is contended that the application of ἑορτή without the article to the Passover is countenanced by Mt 27:15; Lu 23:17 (comp. Joh 18:39); indeed, it makes but little difference in Hellenistic Greek whether the article is present or absent with a noun thus in regimen with a following cognitive; that it is assigned as a reason for his staying away from Jerusalem for a longer period than usual, that "the Jews sought to kill him" (Joh 7:1; cf. 5:18); that this long period satisfactorily accounts for the surprise expressed by his brethren (Joh 7:3); and that, as it was evidently his custom to visit Jerusalem once a year, he went up to the feast of Tabernacles (Joh 7:2) instead of going to the Passover. A still more conclusive argumment in favor of the Passover is the use of the peculiar epithet δευτερόπρωτος in Lu 6:1, for the Sabbath following, which can mean no other than that occurring after the Paschal week. Moreover, the fact of the ripe but unharvested barley at that time leads to the same conclusion. SEE PASSOVER.
The arguments on one side are best set forth by Stier and Olshausen on Joh 5:1, by Kepler (Ecloge Chronicoe, Frankfort, 1615), and by Anger (De Temup. in Act. Apost. i, 24); also, in Hug's Introd. (pt. ii, § 64), and in Lucke's Comment. on St. John's Gospel (see the English translation of Lucke's Dissertation in the appendix to Tittmann's Meletemata Sacra, or a Commentary on St. John's Gospel, in Bib. Cabinet, vol. xlv); those on the other side, by Hengstenlberg (Christology vol. ii, "On the Seventy Weeks of Daniel," p. 408-414, Engl. transl., Washington, 1839); Robinson, Harmony, note on the "Second Passover;" and Neander, Life of Christ, § 143. See also Lightfoot, Kuinoll, and Tholuck, on Joh 5:1, and Gresswell, Diss. 8, vol. ii; Ellicott Lect. 135.
IV. Literature. — See Carpzov, App. Crit. iii, 11; Reland, Ant. 4:9; Schickart, Purim sire Bacchanalia Judaeorums (Crit. Sac. iii, col. 1184); Buxtorf, Syn. Jud. 29. The Mishnical treatise Megilla contains directions respecting the mode in which the scroll should be written out and in which it should be read, with other matters, not much to the point in hand, connected with the service of the synagogue. See also Stauben, La Vie Juive en Alsace; Mills, British Jews, p. 188; Axenfeld, Betrachten ֹםy1rVP li (Erlang. 1807); Bible Educator, iii, 26. SEE ESTHER.