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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [1]


1. In the OT . On the 14th and 15th of the month Adar (March) fell the celebration of the Feast of Purim or Lots. This commemorated the deliverance of the Jews from Haman, who in b.c. 473 had plotted their extermination throughout the Persian empire (  Esther 3:7;   Esther 9:15-32 ). In 2Ma 15:36 it is called ‘Mordecai’s day.’ The observance of this festival was probably not at first universal, but Josephus mentions its occurrence, and it held an established position before the time of Christ. At first no special religious services were enjoined to mark it, nor was there any prohibition of labour. It was a time of feasting and joy, of the giving of presents and alms. In later times it was celebrated by a synagogue meeting on the evening of the 13th and the morning of the 14th, when the Book of Esther was read through, special prayers and thanks were offered, and the congregation ejaculated curses on Haman and blessings on Esther and Mordecai. The rest of the feast was given up to good cheer and boisterous enjoyment of an almost Bacchanalian character. In 1Ma 7:49 and 2Ma 15:36 , as also in Josephus, the 13th of Adar is recorded as a feast-day in commemoration of the defeat of the Syrian general Nicanor in b.c. 161. But later ages observed it as the Fast of Esther (cf.   Esther 9:31;   Esther 4:3 ), the celebration taking place on the 11th, if the 13th happened to be a Sabbath.

The origin of the Purim feast is a matter of dispute. It is difficult to identify any known Persian word with pur (  Esther 3:7;   Esther 9:26 ), which gave the festival its name. Various theories have been put forward, of which the most noteworthy are: ( a ) that which derives it from a Persian spring festival; ( b ) that which regards it as a transformation of an old Zoroastrian festival of the dead; ( c ) that which traces its origin to a Babylonian New Year’s festival.

2. In the NT . Some have supposed that the nameless feast mentioned in   John 5:1 was Purim. But this is not convincing, for ( a ) Purim was never one of the great national solemnities which called for attendance at Jerusalem: it was observed locally and not only at the capital; ( b ) Christ would naturally go up for the Passover in the next month. And it is more probable that the Passover is the feast here intended. Cf. art. Chronology of NT, I. § 2 .

A. W. F. Blunt.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [2]

Pu'rim. (Lots). Purim, 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.  Esther 9:1. 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.  Esther 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.  Esther 9:24.

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,  Exodus 17:8-16, which relates the destruction of the Amalekites, the people of Agag,  1 Samuel 15:8, the supposed ancestor of Haman.  Esther 3:1. 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.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [3]

PURIM. —A feast of the Jews occurring on the 14th and 15th of the month Adar, one month before the Passover. It had only the slightest religious character, and was devoted to feasting and holiday.

The Book of Esther purports to give the origin of Purim in the feast kept by the Jews when the afflictions that threatened them through Haman were turned into joy and blessing. This explanation is now generally regarded as fanciful, in part because of the antecedent improbability of the narrative in Esther and the lack of historical evidence for its truthfulness, and in part because of the impossibility of verifying in Persian the meaning of the word purim (= ‘lot’), upon which the connexion rests.

Several different theories have been held of its origin. (1) The outgrowth of the Nicanor festival kept on the 13th of Adar, to celebrate the victory over that general in b.c. 161. (2) Derived from a New Year’s festival of Parthian origin. (3) A Persian spring festival. (4) Connected with the Persian Fûrdigân , festival of the dead. (5) The Greek Pithoigia , corresponding to the Roman Vinalia . (6) Others most recently (Zimmern, Jensen, Meissner, Wildeboer) derive it from a Babylonian New Year’s festival, and make Mordecai the same as Marduk, and Esther = the goddess Ishtar.

The feast is not mentioned by name in the NT, but is by some supposed to be the ‘feast of the Jews’ of  John 5:1. If so, this Gospel mentions three Passovers during the ministry of Jesus ( John 2:13,  John 6:4,  John 12:1), and His ministry thus extends, according to Jn., over two and a half years. On the other hand, if the alternative view is held, that  John 5:1 is a Passover feast, there are four mentioned, and the ministry, according to Jn., extends over three and a half years. Before either figure can be assumed as giving the correct chronology of the life of Christ, the accounts in the Fourth Gospel must be subjected to criticism in connexion with those of the Synoptics. See artt. Dates, Feasts, Ministry.

O. H. Gates.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [4]

(See Esther .) From a Persian word, "lots"; because Haman had east lots to find an auspicious day for destroying the Jews ( Esther 3:6-7;  Esther 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 ( Esther 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  Exodus 17:8-16, the doom of Amalek the people of Agag ( 1 Samuel 15:8), Haman's ancestor ( Esther 3:1), is read. Saturnalian-like drinking and acting, the men assuming women's attire (the Purim suspending the prohibition,  Deuteronomy 22:5), and offerings for the poor, characterize the feast ( Esther 9:17-18-19-32). 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,"  John 5:1, not probably Purim (which the Vaticanus and the Alexandrinus manuscripts reading, "a," favors), but the Passover (which the Sinaiticus manuscript, "the," indicates).)

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [5]

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,  Proverbs 16:33   Esther 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 selfindulgence. Some think it is alluded to in  John 5:1 . It is still observed by the Jews, in the month of March.

King James Dictionary [6]

PU'RIM, n. Among the Jews,the feast of lots, instituted to commemorate their deliverance from the machinations of Haman.  Esther 9

Webster's Dictionary [7]

(n.) A Jewish festival, called also the Feast of Lots, instituted to commemorate the deliverance of the Jews from the machinations of Haman.

Holman Bible Dictionary [8]


Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [9]

See Pur

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [10]

Pu´rim (; , sq.), a celebrated Jewish festival instituted by Mordecai, at the suggestion of Esther, in the reign of Ahasuerus, king of Persia, to commemorate the deliverance of the Jews from the designs of Haman [[[Esther; Haman; Mordecai]]] It derived its name from the lots cast every day for twelve months in presence of Haman, with the view of discovering an auspicious day for the destruction of all the Jews in the Persian dominions; when the lot fell on the 13th day of Adar (February and part of March) [FESTIVALS].

The particulars of the mode in which the Jews observe this festival will be found detailed by Buxtorf. We shall select a few of the most striking. The book of Esther is read from beginning to end; and even the reading of the law is on this day postponed to it. It may be also read in any language which the reader understands. When Mordecai's name occurs, the whole congregation exclaim, Blessed be Mordecai! and, on mention of that of Haman, they say, May his name perish! and it is usual for the children to hiss, spring rattles, strike the walls with hammers, and make all sorts of noises. These noisy portions of the ceremony have, however, been long discontinued in England, except in the synagogues of some foreign Jews. The remainder of the day is spent in festivity, in commemoration of Esther's feast: upon which occasion the Jews send presents to each other, the men to the men, and the women to the women. They also bestow alms on the poor, from the benefit of which Christians and other Gentiles are not excluded. Plays and masquerades follow; nor is it considered a breach of the law of Moses on this occasion, for men and women to assume the garb of the other sex. Purim is the last festival in the Jewish ecclesiastical year, being succeeded by the next Passover.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [11]

Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Purim'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/p/purim.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.