Many people remain puzzled over Obama’s current love affair with Iran and his contempt for Israel. In the natural realm this makes no sense but in the spiritual realm perhaps the real truth lies hidden in the story of Esther. The book of Esther brings to light the spiritual consequences of life in exile for the Jews who failed to return to the land of Israel to rebuild God’s House, the Holy Temple. That choice reflected their refusal to acknowledge God’s sovereign authority in favor of paying homage to the kings of Persia? If God’s name is hidden in the book of Esther, could this mean God’s hand of protection was also hidden because of their sin? Did their refusal to return to the land expose them to Haman’s threats of extermination?
Recently Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi of Efrat, compared President Obama to Haman and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Mordechai. He also drew an analogy between the conquest over Babylon by ancient Persia and the armed conflict between Iran and Iraq. Many were aware PM Netanyahu specifically chose Purim to deliver his speech to the US Congress addressing the dangers of a nuclear agreement with Iran. A comparison was quickly made between him and Mordechai. Obama’s humiliation over that speech triggered an increased animosity towards Israel and his wrath towards Netanyahu. This parallels the humiliation Haman experienced in response to Mordechai’s rise to power, which ultimately launched Haman’s planned genocide against the Jews.
Adding to the outrage, an Iranian journalist, serving as aide to Iran’s President Rouhani, accused the US negotiators of acting on behalf of Iran during the current nuclear talks in Switzerland. Michael Goodwin, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist, has suggested the current agreement being negotiated with Iran over its nuclear program would have the approval of the UN, a political body more than happy to give Iran control over four Arab capitals - Damascus, Beirut, Bagdad and Sanaa (Yemen). According to Goodwin, the United States is also acting as the Iranian air force becoming Iran’s ally in the fight against ISIS (not to be confused with ISIL). He went on to say that “alliances built up over decades have been shattered in a relative flash inviting aggression and endless conflict… the death and destruction in Syria could be the prototype of its new empire. Under Obama we have switched sides - an abomination that ensures a legacy of infamy.”
Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and the CIA recently commented, “Every conflict around the globe is being organized around this nuclear deal with Iran.” It appears the US administration is determined to sell out Israel and curry favor with Iran, the world’s number one sponsor of terror. The commander of the Basij militia of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards declared, “Erasing Israel off the map” is “nonnegotiable.” Netanyahu’s response, “but evidently giving Iran's murderous regime a clear path to the bomb is negotiable.”
The US administration’s endearment to Israel’s enemy appears completely irrational and misguided to the average thinking American. It’s not a stretch to suggest that if Iran’s stated goal is the annihilation of Israel, then Obama, now acting as proxy for Iran, shares a similar goal. Hence Rabbi Riskin’s comparison of Obama to Haman.
PM Netanyahu also suggested Iran’s real desire was takeover of the entire Middle East, perhaps in the manner of ancient Persia - the empire of Iran’s historical roots. Iran’s desire to conquer the Middle East is reminiscent of ancient Persia’s dominance over the world of its day. The Achmaenid Empire of Persia, initially founded by King Cyrus the Great in the sixth century BCE, eventually stretched from the Balkans to the Indus valley and included parts of Egypt and Libya. At its peak it covered portions of the continents of Asia, Europe and Africa. Today that represents: Israel, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, Iran, Syria, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, northern Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE and even parts of China. By 480 BCE the Persian Empire was home to over 50 million people, which represented 44% of the entire world’s population.
Perhaps there is an underlying connection between the historical Achmaenid Empire of Persia (550-330 BCE) and the United States of America. King Cyrus was the first to institute the decree that allowed the Jews to return to the land of Israel after seventy years in exile in Babylon. Cyrus the Great defeated the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 539 BCE and immediately began to expand. His victories brought the Persians in close contact with the Jews. Cyrus encouraged religious freedom, and in doing so, allowed many displaced peoples to return to their native lands - most notably the Jewish inhabitants of Babylon. He was called the “anointed of the Lord” (Is. 45:1) by the Jews. “I say of Koresh (Cyrus), He is my Shepherd, he will do everything I want. He will say of Yerushalyim, you will be rebuilt, and of the Temple, your foundation will be laid.” (Is. 44:28)
Over the course of its 220 years, the Achmaenid Empire of Persia remained friendly towards the Jewish people and religious life flourished. Although this historical period is referred to as the Babylonian exile, it could be argued it was the Persian exile as well. This is because most Jews chose to remain in Persia instead of returning to Israel. It appears on the surface they were not interested in facing the difficult economic, social, and religious conditions in the land. They were clearly comfortable and enjoying peace and prosperity in Persia. Perhaps they felt, in light of the current political situation, there was really no reason to leave. If the US is a mirror to ancient Persia it is not surprising that large numbers of American Jews have chosen to remain in “exile” in the US for similar reasons. Returning to Israel is simply not on their radar. Not yet anyhow.
The purpose for the decree enacted by King Cyrus was so all the Jews could return to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple, which had been destroyed by the Babylonians under King Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BCE. But instead of placing their faith and trust in the God of Israel, the Jews instead chose to serve the Persian kings. By doing so they placed themselves in a vulnerable position, which not surprisingly, led to their persecution and potential annihilation by Haman.
It is the sin, which kept the divine promise with regard to the Second Temple from being fulfilled. Divine providence was ready to restore everything as it had been at first, if they had willingly consented to return. But only part was ready to do so, while the majority and the aristocracy remained in Babylon, preferring dependence and slavery, and unwilling to leave their houses and their affairs. (Rabbi Judah Ha-Levi)
A majority of Jews have chosen to remain in the US and eat at the “banquet table” of their king. Their allegiance is to America’s “halls of power” instead of to the God of Israel much like the Jews of ancient Persia. Many of the more influential Jews in America continually feed at the government trough as lobbyists, heads of giant corporations, Hollywood moguls, and media elites. Obama has taken full advantage of this self-inflicted enslavement and now “Haman” has begun to turn on the Jewish community. Vice President Joe Biden recently told Jewish leaders that if the American Jewish community was in danger, it had only Israel to rely on and not America. America, once a haven for persecuted Jews, is now selling out the Jewish people and the State of Israel.
The first wave of Jews, about 43,000 according to Ezra (Ezra 2), who made the decision to return were constantly harassed and threatened by local tribes who were less than overjoyed by their presence. Their return was marred by many other difficulties; number one being security issues since the city walls had been destroyed. Friction also arose among the Jewish leadership with some wanting full independence from Persia while others were content to leave well enough alone. In addition, the Persian kings from Cyrus to Darius regularly received reports of ongoing intimidation and provocation against the Jews who were trying to rebuild. This is the backdrop for the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, which detail the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and the Holy Temple.
A similar situation exists in Israel today as the Palestinian Wakf, with tacit approval from local Israeli police, continually prevent, harass and even attack Jews wanting to ascend and pray on the Temple Mount. Rabbi Richman, International Director of the Temple Institute in Jerusalem also explained recently regarding the Korban Pesach (Passover offering), “It is unconscionable and untenable that the Jewish people are prevented from conducting their Torah-mandated Passover offering on the Temple Mount as required by Jewish law.”
The return of the remnant to the land took place over the course of 110 years and was referred to as the “Return to Zion.” The term, Aliyah (to go up), although first used after the destruction of the second temple, was essentially attributed to the return of the Jews from the “Babylonian (Persian) exile.” Most who returned were from the tribes of Judah, Levi, and Benjamin and most were men. This was the first time a people in exile had returned to re-establish their homeland and their identity. It would, of course, happen again over the course of the twentieth century culminating in Israel’s independence in 1948. Today Aliyah is the definition used for all Jews who return to the land of Israel.
Although there was a brief period when Cyrus’s son Cambyses reversed policy and forbade the further building of the temple, once King Darius took the throne construction resumed. The Temple was completed in the sixth year of Darius in 516 BCE (Ezra 6:1-5). King Ahasuerus (Xerxes, 486 - 465 BCE) followed King Darius as the fifth king of the Achmaenid Empire. His reign is the backdrop for Esther (Es. 10:1-3). What is completely overlooked by most reading the book of Esther is that the Temple in Jerusalem is standing and fully operational while the exiles in Shushan are being subjected to Haman’s intimidation. This is perhaps the most significant aspect to the story.
Allusions to the Temple in the book of Esther are a powerful reminder that building God’s House and worshipping there is His will for the entire nation. There are a number of examples of Temple imagery. First, Shushan is generally referred to as the capital, but it is actually called birah meaning palace or fortress. The only other time birah is used is in reference to the Temple. “Also grant to Solomon my son a perfect heart…to carry out everything and to build the palace (birah) for which I have prepared.” (I Chr. 29:19)
Descriptions of Ahasuerus’s palace are related to the Tabernacle in the wilderness and include: Techelet (blue), argaman (purple), shesh (linen), gold and silver, pillars, and wine libations from golden cups (Ex. 25:3-4, Es. 1:6-7). The palace complex had both an outer and inner courtyard like the Temple (6:4 4:11). Entering the king’s inner sanctum (Holy of Holies) without following the proper protocol meant certain death, which is reminiscent of the High Priest entering the Holy of Holies at Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement). The “couch or bed” was an idiom for the Holy of Holies, which also represented the judgment seat. This is implied when Haman falls on the “couch” where Esther the queen was present. The consequences of his behavior meant Haman was hanged on the gallows prepared for Mordechai, a suggestion that first came from Haman’s wife.
A stark contrast exists between the exiles and the returnees. Vashti could be a picture of the Jewish exiles who refused to return to the land, and Esther a picture of the remnant who did. Esther was given permission to enter the inner sanctum of the “Temple,” like the High Priest, where she interceded on behalf of the Jews in Shushan who were being threatened with genocide. It was Passover (3:12, 5:1) when she “donned royalty” and stood (only kings descended from David could sit) in the inner courtyard of the Beit haMelekh (house of the king) “face to face” with her king. The banquet celebration, described as a wine feast, was likely the Feast of Unleavened bread at Passover where the cups of wine represented the promise of deliverance made by God to the children of Israel in exile in Egypt.
The chametz (leaven) of wickedness and evil found in Haman was exposed at Passover when Esther declared him an adversary and an enemy before the king. On Nisan 17, with the final defeat of the enemy of the Jews, King Ahasuerus gave the estate of Haman to Queen Esther. None of this would have occurred had it not been for fasting, weeping, and lamenting accompanied by great mourning among the Jewish people in preparation for the Passover offering. It was, after all, at Passover that our Pesach lamb, Yeshua the Messiah defeated the greatest enemy of all – death!
Mordecai’s response to Esther takes on special meaning for we who represent the remnant today, “Do not imagine in your soul that you will be able to escape in the king’s palace any more than the rest of the Jews. For if you persist in keeping silent at a time like this, relief and deliverance will come to the Jews from another place, while you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether it was just for such a time as this that you attained the royal position.”