Lots, a Jewish festival instituted by Esther and Mordecai, during the reign of Ahasuerus king of Persia, in memory of the providential deliverance of the Jews from the malignant designs of Haman. The propriety of the name appears form the fact that the lot was cast in the presence of Haman for every day from the first month to the twelfth, before an auspicious day was found for destroying the Jews; and thus the superstition of Haman was made the means of giving them time to turn his devices against himself, Pr 16:33; Es 3:7; 9:20-32. This festival was preceded by a day of fasting, and was observed by reading the book of Esther publicly in the synagogues, and by private festivities, mutual presents, alms, plays, and self-indulgence. Some think it is alluded to in Joh 5:1. It is still observed by the Jews, in the month of March.
(See ESTHER.) From a Persian word, "lots"; because Haman had east lots to find an auspicious day for destroying the Jews (Es 3:6-7; 9:24). The feast of Purim was kept on the 14th and 15th days of Adar. An introductory fast was subsequently appointed on the 13th, commemorating that of Esther and of the Jews by her desire before she ventured into Abasuerus' presence (Es 4:16). When the stars appear at the beginning of the 14th candles are lighted in joy, and the people assemble in the synagogue. Then the megillah "roll" of Esther is read through histrionically. On Haman's name being mentioned the congregation exclaim, "let his name be blotted out!" His sons' names are read in one enunciation to mark they were all hanged at once.
At the close of reading the megallah all cry out, "cursed be Haman, blessed be Mordecai; cursed be Zeresh (Haman's wife), blessed be Esther; cursed be all idolaters, blessed be all Israelites, and blessed be Harbonah who hanged Haman!" The repast at home is mainly milk and eggs. At morning service Ex 17:8-16, the doom of Amalek the people of Agag (1Sa 15:8), Haman's ancestor (Es 3:1), is read. Saturnalian-like drinking and acting, the men assuming women's attire (the Purim suspending the prohibition, De 22:5), and offerings for the poor, characterize the feast (Es 9:17-32). The feast began among the Jews of their own accord; Mordecai wrote confirming it, and Esther joined with him in "writing with all authority to confirm this second letter of Purlin."
(See JESUS CHRIST on "the feast of the Jews," Joh 5:1, not probably Purim (which the Vaticanus and the Alexandrinus manuscripts reading, "a," favors), but the Passover (which the Sinaiticus manuscript, "the," indicates).)
1. In the OT.
(lots), the annual festival instituted to commemorate the preservation of the Jews in Persia from the massacre with which they were threatened through the machinations of Haman.
... 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.
They gave the name. Purim, or "Lots," to the commemorative festival because he had thrown lots to ascertain what day would be suspicious for him to carry into effect the bloody decree which the king had issued at his instance.
The festival lasted two days, and was regularly observed on the 14th and 15th of Adar. According to modern custom, as soon as the stars begin to appear, when the 14th of the month has commenced, candles are lighted up in token of rejoicing, and the people assemble in the synagogue. After a short prayer and thanksgiving, the reading of the book of Esther commences. The book is written in a peculiar manner, on a roll called "the Roll" (Megillah). When the reader comes to the name of Haman, the congregation cry out, "May his name be blotted out," or, "Let the name of the ungodly perish." When 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." In the morning service in the synagogue, on the 14th, after the prayers, the passage is read from the law,
which relates the destruction of the Amalekites, the people of Agag,
the supposed ancestor of Haman.
The Megillah is then read again in the same manner. The 14th of Adar, as the very day of the deliverance of the Jews, is more solemnly kept than the 13th; but when the service in the synagogue is over, all give themselves up to merry making.