fast of Esther

Days of Purim (Lots)

feast of Purim

The book of Esther institutes the ceremonial observance of two days of
celebration and Esther 9:31 indicates some days of fasting.


The feast of Purim was instituted as a time of celebration. 

The feast was observed on the 14th and 15th of the 12th month. It was
to be celebrated with feasting and joy. It would be a time for sending
presents and considering the poor.

    Esth   9:21  to establish among them that they should celebrate
                 yearly the fourteenth and fifteenth days of the
                 month of Adar,
            :22  as the days on which the Jews had rest from their
                 enemies, as the month which was turned from sorrow
                 to joy for them, and from mourning to a holiday;
                 that they should make them days of feasting and joy,
                 of sending presents to one another and gifts to the


There are different opinions in respect to whether the fast of Esther
was to be commemorated, and if commemorated upon which days.

Recorded Fast of Esther

On the 13th of the first month Haman issued a decree for the annihilation
of the Jews which was to take effect later that year. Mordecai after
reading the decree proceeded to inform Esther and to encourage her to
promptly plead the cause of her people before her husband the king.

Esther being concerned about approaching the king requested that all Jews
present in the city fast for the following 3 days, and she and her maids
would also fast. 

This 3 day fast was observed by these Jews on the 14th, 15th and 16th of
the first month, ie the 3 days following the day of the issue of Haman's
decree on the 13th. These three fast days fell on Passover day, and the
first two days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread!

in addition there is another indication that Esther did indeed finish
her fast during the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

    Esth   5:1   Now it happened on the third day that Esther put
                 on her royal robes and stood in the inner court
                 of the king's palace.

This 'third day' was not the 3rd day of her fast, but the day which
followed! This 4th day was called the 'third day' because it represented
the third day of the 'Feast of Unleavened Bread'.

NB: The expression 'third day' is also commonly encountered in describing
    the day Christ rose from the dead. For a more detailed chronology of
    the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ refer to:

Other Fastings in Book of Esther

Those in the Provinces

While the fast of Esther, and those Jews living in Shushan, took place
over three days those living in the provinces fasted over various days
and wailed their fate from when Haman's decree reached them until news
of the death of Haman was received.

    Esth   4:3   And in every province where the king's command
                 and decree arrived, there was great mourning
                 among the Jews, with fasting, weeping, and
                 wailing: and many lay in sackcloth and ashes. 

Esther's Second Fast(?)

In addition to Esther's first fast, she and Mordecai (and others),
may have fasted a second time prior to the second occasion when Esther
risked her life in appearing uninvited before the king.

    Esth   8:3   Now Esther spoke again to the king, fell down
                 at his feet, and implored him with tears to
                 counteract the evil plot of Haman the Agagite,
                 and the scheme which he had devised against
                 the Jews.
            :4   And the king held out the golden scepter toward
                 Esther. So Esther arose and stood before the

Notice that Esther had again entered the inner court without having been
called, so unless the king once again held out the golden scepter to her
she was to be executed (Esth 4:11). 

Having obtained the king's favour the king's scribes were called and
Mordecai prepared a decree to protect the Jewish people.

The day Esther appeared before the king was the day the decree was
prepared. The decree was quickly distributed to the provinces and
following receipt in the provinces a feast and holiday was observed.

    Esth   8:8   "You yourselves write a decree for the Jews,
                 as you please, in the kings name, ..."
            :9   So the king's scribes were called at that
                 time , in the third month, which is the month
                 of Sivan, on the twenty-third day; and it was
                 written , according to all that Mordecai
                 commanded, ...
            :10  ... and sent by couriers on horseback, riding
                 on royal horses bred from swift steeds.
            :14  Then the couriers who rode on royal horses
                 went out, hastened and pressed on by the king's
                 command. ...
            :17  And in every province and city, wherever the
                 king's command and decree came, the Jews had
                 joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday. ...

The provided dating, 23rd of 3rd month, does not correlate with any of
the annual observances. 

However, the actual Hebrew for "on the twenty-third day" is,

                 "on three and twenty"

If one considers this to be a statement that this day was both 'three'
and 'twenty' then some interesting connections can be made.

1)  If 'three' refers to the actual day of the month then
    the day of the decree was only a few days before the
    "Feast of Weeks". 
    [NB: This would explain the need for speed in dispatch
         of the decree and the resulting feast and holiday
         reference. ]

2)  If this 3rd day of the 3rd month was also the 20th
    day since a significant event, then this would suggest
    that Esther and Mordecai had attended a 14th Passover
    observance at Jerusalem in the 2nd month.
    [NB: The captivity of the Jews ended 2-3 years after
         the Medo-Persian Empire overthrew the Babylonians. ]

Commemoration of Esther's Fast

The verse which is quoted to justify a commemoration of the fast of
Esther is:

    Esth   9:31  ... and as they had decreed for themselves and
                 their descendants concerning matters of their
                 fasting and lamenting.

The Hebrew word for 'fasting' is actually plural (which is unusual) and
so translations should render 'fastings and lamenting'.

When one reads most translations from Esther 9:18 through to Esther
9:32, the latter part of Esther 9:31 (which talks about 'fastings
and lamenting') seems entirely out of place. The text of Esther
9:18-32 seems to exclusively talk about the Feast of Purim and the
notions of 'fasting' and 'lamenting' at the end of Esther 9:31 appear
out of place in the narrative.

To resolve the apparent abrupt raising of these issues it has been 
suggested that the latter part of the Esther 9:31 text should be
understood to be saying that as they observed other fastings and
lamenting (those mentioned in Zechariah 7:3-5 & 8:19) they should
now celebrate with joy the days of the Feast of Purim.

While this view does neatly account for the plural nature of the word
'fastings' found in Esth 9:31 it is difficult to justify interpreting
the Hebrew text to support this view.

When one considers the text of Esther 9:18-32 it can be seen that we
first have a letter from Mordecai discussing commemorations (Esth 9:20-28)
and later a combined letter from both Esther and Mordecai confirming
such commemorations (Esth 9:29-32). The notion of fastings and lamenting
is only found in the second letter. However, if the second letter is
confirming the contents of the first letter, then the first letter should
also have discussed the commemoration of the fast of Esther.

A New Testament Verse

There is a verse in the Gospels which may be talking about the
commemoration of the fast of Esther.

    Luke  18:11  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus ...
            :12  I fast twice the week {not 'a week'}, ...


While the timing of the celebration of the Feast of Purim is apparent,
the existence and timing of any commemoration of the Fast(s) of Esther
is less certain.  


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