The Jewish ‘Doomsday Clock’

The Doomsday Clock (see doomsdayclock.org) has graced the cover of each issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago since the magazine’s inception in 1947. Midnight symbolizes total nuclear destruction, while the minute hand—initially placed at seven minutes to midnight—represents the severity of threats on civilization. Scientists have frequently moved the minute hand, placing it as close as two minutes to midnight in 1953 and as distant as 17 minutes in 1991. As of January 2008, the clock stands at five minutes to midnight.

If the Jewish people had a doomsday clock representing their history, the minute hand would have stood at one minute to midnight many times over. When King David battled Goliath it was one minute to midnight. When the Israelites were taken captive by the Assyrians and later the Babylonians, it was one minute to midnight. When the Nazis worked to exterminate European Jewry it was one minute to midnight. When five Arab nations attacked the reconstituted State of Israel on May 15, 1948, it was one minute to midnight.

On March 21 Jewish people will gather in synagogues to celebrate the annual feast of Purim. They will read the entire book of Esther, booing, hissing, and rattling their noisemakers each time the Bible mentions wicked Haman’s name. And they will remember again that they were one minute to midnight away from extinction.

The Persian Empire at the time ruled over all the Jewish people in the world.

Esther, the young queen who had kept her Jewish identity a secret, courageously interceded for her people when she discovered Haman’s plot. Haman had convinced King Ahasuerus to issue an immutable decree allowing the empire to kill all the Jews and seize their property. Esther went to her husband uninvited, an act punishable by death, and revealed her identity and exposed Haman. Enraged, the king hung Haman and his sons and issued another decree allowing the Jewish people to defend themselves. Noteworthy is that they did so without taking any Gentile property (Est. 9:15–16).

Not all the one-minute-to-midnight moments in Jewish history have ended as happily. In the book of Esther, God’s name is not even mentioned once. Yet for those who have eyes to see, Purim represents what believers know as reality in their lives: God was there all the time. And He will always be there for Israel, protecting them and keeping His promise that the Jewish people will never cease “from being a nation before Me forever” (Jer. 31:36).

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