Friday the Thirteenth?
Esther 3:5-7 (5) And when Haman saw that Mordecai bowed not, nor did him reverence, then was Haman full of wrath. (6) And he thought scorn to lay hands on Mordecai alone; for they had shewed him the people of Mordecai: wherefore Haman sought to destroy all the Jews that were throughout the whole kingdom of Ahasuerus, even the people of Mordecai. (7) In the first month, that is, the month Nisan, in the twelfth year of king Ahasuerus, they cast Pur, that is, the lot, before Haman from day to day, and from month to month, to the twelfth month, that is, the month Adar. Many people have an irrational fear of Friday the 13th. This is called Friggatriskaidekaphobia. Frigga was the name of a Norse “goddess” from whom the word Friday comes and this is combined with two words of Greek derivation which mean Thirteen and Fear. Superstition has long held that Friday the 13th is an unlucky day for various reasons, including an apparent blend of the idea of thirteen people being present at the Last Supper and the fallacy that it occurred on a Friday (Scripture, remember, points to a Wednesday crucifixion by virtue of measuring back three days and three nights from the resurrection, MAT 12:39-40). Another possible source of the unfounded fear of Friday the 13th is that it was evidently on that day when King Philip IV's sealed orders against the Knights Templar were opened which resulted in a Black Friday for them. Superstition abounded among the heathen nations. Its vestiges and variants endure, handed down in the lore of a family, religion or culture. Whether it be voodoo dolls, fear of black cats, saying “Gesundheit” when someone sneezes, throwing salt over a shoulder, expecting seven years' bad luck from a broken mirror, the talisman, kitchen witches or saying “Rabbits!” at the beginning of a month (a curiosity in my own upbringing) or a host of other speculations about the unseen forces that are deemed to affect human events, the apostle Paul's words to the idolaters on Mars Hill are relevant today after two millennia of Christianization: “...I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious” (ACT 17:22). In today's text, wicked Haman “...cast Pur, that is, the lot...” after the manner of the ancient heathen who looked to such vanities for divine direction and approval for a notable enterprise. The casting of lots was a method of entrusting certain decisions to a virtual roll of the dice, the results of which were deemed to be of divine origin, and therefore final. Scripture even speaks of the use of the lot in benign situations such as the dividing up of Canaan for Israel's inheritance (NUM 26:55; JOS 14:1-2; JOS 18:6-10; ACT 13:19), for determining the scapegoat (LEV 16:8-10) or the assignment of duties (JDG 20:9-10; NEH 10:34; NEH 11:1) or for settling lesser controversies (the weighty ones to be rather brought before the judges, PRO 18:18 ct/w DEUT 17:8-11). Solomon wrote, “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD” (PRO 16:33). Prior to the coming of the Holy Ghost to teach, comfort and empower it, the infant Jerusalem church cast lots to determine which of two men should replace Judas as an apostle (ACT 1:23-26). Notably, that is the last specific mention of the use of the lot in the church. Spiritual wisdom and understanding through growth in grace and the knowledge of Christ by the gospel (COL 1:9; 2PE 3:18) is a superior method of discernment. Mature, instructed believers thereby “...have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (HEB 5:13-14). The believer's love (especially of God and truth) factors strongly in this: (PHIL 1:9) And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; (PHIL 1:10) That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; Lots of love for God and His truth trumps love of lots to determine God and His truth in these last days (HEB 1:1-2). The aforementioned situations which had divine directives for their appointed purposes pertaining to the present, though, differ sharply from the perverse use of the lot as a tool of divination (the foretelling of future events or discovery of what is hidden or obscure by supernatural or magical means). God condemns that practice (DEUT 18:10; ACT 16:16-18), and especially when it is used in defiance of His other laws. The brutal king of Babylon, for example, used divination to determine his course of slaughter, “...he made his arrows bright, he consulted with images, he looked in the liver” (EZE 21:21-23), a reference to the practice of divining the spilled viscera of an animal in which were supposed omens of good or bad. Christians who rely upon impressions, feelings, curious coincidences or circumstances as prophetic messages or omens of good or bad, or as guideposts to determine God's will are frightfully close to the vanity that God abhorred (abhors!) in the heathen. Too often these false signals are relied on as an “easy out” from making informed decisions based upon a studied knowledge of the Scriptures which God has given to thoroughly furnish the believer to understand God's will and act accordingly (2TI 3:15-16 c/w EPH 5:17). God's spirit gives believers a “...sound mind” (2TI 1:7) to be exercised in the Scriptures which are the lamp unto our feet and the light for our path (PSA 119:105). Why crave superstitious substitutes? We ought not to be saying, “What saith the tea leaves?” or “What saith the lot?” but “...what saith the Scripture?” (ROM 4:3; GAL 4:30). Further, the believer has something at hand that actually can (through God) affect circumstances or events: not incantations or enchantments, but prayer: “...The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (JAM 5:16). Today's text was selected because it is an obvious example of the silly notion of lucky days and unlucky days. Haman “rolled the dice” in the first month of the year (EST 3:7) to divine the best time to initiate his genocidal plans against the Jews he despised. Albert Einstein is conjectured to have said, “God does not roll dice.” Whether Mr. Einstein actually said that or not, in this case God definitely did not roll the dice but He certainly manipulated the outcome. The next few verses show that Pur determined for Haman that the destruction of the Jews should begin on “...the thirteenth day of the twelfth month...” (EST 3:12-13) which was about as far away on a twelve-month calendar as possible. This gave Esther ample time to intervene on behalf of her people (the Jews) and gave the Jews time to prepare themselves and, by an ironic turn of events, “...to avenge themselves on their enemies” (EST 8:13). That God took sovereign control of Haman's casting of Pur to accomplish His own purposes is obvious and this provides an explanation for Jonah earlier being curiously “outed” by the heathen mariners' casting of lots (JON 1:5-10). For what it's worth, when the fateful day came and Haman's genocidal plan “...was turned to the contrary, that the Jews had rule over them that hated them” (EST 9:1), they did so “...On the thirteenth day of the month Adar; and on the fourteenth day of the same rested they, and made it a day of feasting and gladness” (EST 9:16-17). I suppose it is possible that somebody in history may have read this account and seen that a day of rest followed the “unlucky” thirteenth day. Then, assuming that day of rest was the weekly Saturday sabbath, it was concluded that the unlucky day was Friday the 13th. But if you think I am going to affirm that my speculation is fact, well, good luck with that one.