Although Purim is not one of the Biblical feasts, David Nekrutman, the executive director for the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC), notes how the holiday is powerfully relevant for Christian Zionists.
Nekrutman maintains that the presence of the Book of Esther in the Christian canon is divinely guided, intended to preserve the message that God wants non-Jews to stand with the Jews against antisemitism.
“Purim is clearly relevant to the non-Jews,” Nekrutman told Breaking Israel News. “Jews have specific mitzvoth (Torah commandments) to commemorate the holiday but there is clearly a part of the story where the non-Jews are right there.”
Nekrutman cited a verse from the Book of Esther to illustrate his point, a verse that describes how the non-Jewish Persians took up arms alongside the Jews in the battle against the forces of Haman. It should be noted that there are Jewish commentators that interpret “many of the people of the land professed to be Yehudim“ (Esther 8:17) as a mass conversion took place at that time. However, Nekrutman said that it is also possible to interpret these words to mean they affiliated with the Yehudim by finally recognizing the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and taking on some Jewish practices of the time, but without conversion into Judaism.
“Some opinions say they converted and some opinions say they that these were people who finally realized that God was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” Nekrutman explained.
The relevancy of Esther today for Christian Zionism is more nuanced than ever before, observed Nekrutman. “There are certain foundational verses that have expanded this movement to the tens of millions around the world who actively support Israel and the Jewish people:”
I will bless those who bless you And curse him that curses you; And all the families of the earth Shall bless themselves by you.” Genesis 12:3
But Rut replied, “Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you. For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Ruth 1:16
On the contrary, if you keep silent in this crisis, relief and deliverance will come to the Yehudim from another quarter, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis. Esther 4:14
“By their own definition, Christians used the Book of Esther, which was never supposed to be in their canon,” he said. “Christian history from the Church Fathers to Martin Luther has shown that the book was too Jewish and had no relevance in a Christian canon. Yet here it is, a part of their canon of scripture.”
The inclusion of Esther in the Christian canon was so astounding that Nekrutman sees a higher power at work.
“The book of Esther is not only written and canonized within Tanach (the Hebrew Bible) by the Ruach Hakodesh (holy spirit), the establishment of the Purim on the Jewish calendar is also done by the work of the Ruach Hakodesh,” Nekrutman said. “With the mandate to read Esther twice along with the other mitzvot (commandments) such as gifts to the poor and friends, it would seem at first glance that this holiday has no relevance to non-Jewish community. However, David Nekrutman, the executive director for the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC), observes that story of Purim is extremely pertinent for Christian Zionists. He maintains that the presence of the Book of Esther in the Christian canon is divinely guided, intended to preserve the message that God wants non-Jews to stand with Jews against anti-Semitism.
“In my opinion, it was a move by God to ensure that the veracity of what this book meant remains clear to all,” Nekrutman said. “It is a book about anti-Semitism, plain and simple. It is a book that identifies the people of Israel as Jews. It is the first time that we are referred to as Jews and the only time we refer to ourselves in liturgy as Jews and not Yisrael.”
He referred to a line from the Havdalah service recited at the end of the Sabbath.
“This refers to us as Jews,” Nekrutman noted. “Not in the sense of Judean but, for the first time, as a faith.”
Nekrutman explained that the decision to join the Jews in their battle against the Jew-haters was a declaration of faith.
“In the end of chapter eight, just before the battle, there are Persians that realize that God’s plan is unfolding in history, meaning the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” he argued. “These are total heathen, idolators, who have attached themselves to the nation of Israel and stood alongside the Jews. In this fight against antisemitism, the Jews were not alone.”
This aspect of the Book of Esther has a powerful relevance that is re-emerging through Christian Zionism. For this reason, Nekrutman suggested that Christian Zionists should join with Jews in one aspect of the holiday.
“It is truly a miracle that Esther remained in the Christian canon,” Nekrutman said. “From the early Church Fathers to Martin Luther that promulgated the theological view of Replacement Theology and divorced itself from its Jewish roots, a book about a Jewish victory was too Jewish for Christian Scriptures.” The struggle of Esther remaining in the Christian canon is well documented, but for the Christian Zionist movement now to quote it as their banner verse to support Israel and the Jewish people is truly a move of God.”
Esther is the first sacred work that publicly addresses the issue of anti-Semitism. The Nation of Israel is identified within Esther as Yehudim, Jews. Haman’s anti-Semitic argument that Jews are different (Esther 3:8) is still being broadcasted today and used to commit acts against Israel and the Jewish people worldwide. “Christian Zionists, our dear friends, are identifying with the Jewish people and taking up the cause to battle anti-Semitism. Would it not be a good idea for Christian brothers and sisters to read Esther on Purim with the Jewish people?” remarked Nekrutman.
“If Christian Zionism is using the verse from Esther for standing with Israel, it would be entirely proper for Christians to read this book on Purim, on the day that the Jews read Megillat Esther. The Book of Esther is more relevant today than ever. Jews are dealing with our identity as a faith and as a nation. And just like in the Book of Esther, non-Jews are standing with us.”