One of the most ancient and persistent enemies of the Jewish people was the nation of Amalek, the first enemy to attack the Jews after the Exodus from Egypt. A descendant of the Amalekites, Haman, had ascended to the position of “prime minister” of the Persian Empire. This rabid anti-Semite planned an empire-wide pogrom to eliminate the Jewish people. He chose the date for this mass murder by casting lots. In Persian, the word for lot is pur. The plural form is Purim, hence the name of the holiday.
The heroine of the Purim story is Esther, a devout Jewish woman who was forcibly taken as a wife for Achashverosh. She and her uncle Mordechai, one of the religious leaders of that generation, were instrumental in saving the Jewish people from annihilation. After uniting the Jewish nation in repentance and prayer, they set about exposing Haman’s plot to the king. Haman and his equally wicked sons were executed when Achashverosh learned that he had planned to kill Queen Esther’s nation. The Jews were permitted to defend themselves against their enemies on the appointed day for annihilation and were totally victorious. Mordechai and Esther recorded the events of Purim in the prophetically inspired Megillat Esther (literally, Scroll of Esther). The Megillah is read publicly on the night and day of the Purim festival.
Three years after the events of Purim, King Darius, the son of Esther and Achashverosh, allowed the Jewish people to return to Israel and rebuild the Temple. The Temple was rebuilt exactly 70 years after its destruction, as predicted by Jeremiah.
Excerpted from Gateway to Judaism; Mesorah Publications Ltd.