DIG: What is the origin of the word Purim? What is the equivalent Hebrew word? Who controls the lot? In what three ways is it used in the TaNaKh? It’s one thing to be skeptical about the way Haman went about choosing the day for his slaughter of the Jews in Persia, but its quite another for the Jews to use the goral to determine the will of YHVH. How do you feel about the three usages of the goral? Are they legitimate? Why would God choose to use such a method to communicate His will? Did God direct both the purim and the goral? How can you tell?
REFLECT: How do you determine the will of YHWH in your life? How seriously do you take the Word of God? Do you desire to love ADONAI with all your heart and with all you soul and with all your strength (Deuteronomy 6:5)? Or do you hold back? Do you conveniently hold on to some of it? Your finances? Your relationships? Your sex life? Do you want all of the LORD? Well, I can tell you that He wants all of you!
In explaining the origin of the holiday, the author of Esther also explains the origin of its name, Purim. Therefore, meaning because of verse 24, these days were called Purim, which is the plural form of the word pur that means lot or die (singular of dice), from the word pur. Purim is a Hebrew pluralized form of an Akkadian word later also used by the Babylonians to refer to these cube-shaped objects of divination. Haman used them to determine the day of death for the Jewish race in Persia (see Av – The Lot Fell on the Twelfth Month, the Month of Adar, in the Presence of Haman).
But even though casting the purim is like throwing the dice, ADONAI was still controlling the outcome because Haman had to wait almost a year to carry out his wicked plan. The hand of God controlled even his dice so that the Jews would have eleven months to prepare for their defense. The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD (Proverbs 16:33).
The first time this foreign word pur is used (3:7), and again in 9:24, the author translates it into its Hebrew equivalent, goral, which the NIV translates (that is, the lot). This infers that when Esther was written, the author did not believe that his readers would be familiar with the origin or meaning of either pur or purim.
Even though the word pur and its plural form purim appear only in the book of Esther, the equivalent Hebrew word, goral, appears frequently throughout the TaNaKh. It is used in three ways. First, to determine the will of the LORD (see my commentary on Exodus Gb – The Urim and Thummim: The Means of Making Decisions). When Haman cast lots, he was seeking direction from “the gods.” Ancient Isra'el also used the goral to seek God’s will. For instance, Joshua used the lot to divide the Promised Land among the tribes, believing that the LORD would determine the allotment: After you have written descriptions of the seven parts of the Land, bring them here to me and I will cast lots for you in the presence of ADONAI our God (Joshua 18:6).
The second meaning refers to the thing allotted by the roll of the goral. The English word lot happens to have a wide semantic range. It can refer to either the means to make chance selections (as in the word lottery), or the result of a chance selection (as in the expression my lot in life). Continuing in Joshua, both the lots that were cast and the land allotted from the casting are referred to by the word goral: The lot [goral] came up for the tribe of Benjamin, clan by clan. Their allotted [goralam] territory lay between the tribes of Judah and Joseph (Joshua 18:11).
The third usage of the word goral refers to the circumstances of life that comes from God.David recognized that his lot came from ADONAI. He said: LORD, you have assigned me my portion, menoth, and my cup, you have made my lot [goral] secure. The boundary line have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance (Psalm 16:5-6). As king of Isra'el, David spoke not only of his own personal life, but as the representative of all the Israelites. He recognized that the destiny of Isra'el was secure only because God had secured it.
Therefore, the name of the feast, Purim is a play on words, signifying that the lot, or destiny, of God’s people would not be determined by Haman’s casting of lots before his gods. But only ADONAI can determine the roll of the goral, and only He determines the lot of His people.121
LORD, in the days of Mordecai and Esther, in Susa the capital, when the wicked Haman was against them when he sought to destroy, murder, and to eliminate all the Jews, from the young to the old, infants and women, in one day, on the thirteenth of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and their wealth to plunder; You in great mercy frustrated his counsel and ruined his scheme, and You made his mischief to return upon his own head, hanging him and his sons upon the tree. And for these blessings, may Your name be exalted, our King, forever and to all generations. Amen.122