Esther 1:9 – 12 “Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace of King Xerxes. On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him – Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Carcas – to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at. But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger.”
Ahhh, the plot thickens. A new character is introduced, although we will never know her very well. Vashti was the queen. She was very beautiful. And she was her husband’s prize “possession”.
Let’s review the story a bit, shall we? King Xerxes has spent the last six months showing off his vast wealth to all his noblemen. He has spent the last week pulling out all the stops, in an endless display of food, drink, and finery. Everyone was drunk. He was drunk, too.
So now, in his drunken state, he decided that his beautiful queen would be the final jewel in his crown, to show off to his constituents. They knew he was rich. They knew he was powerful. But once they saw Vashti, they would know that he was the most manly in every way. They would surely acknowledge him as the most superior of all men, when they saw his queen.
So he called for her. She was off in the ladies’ quarters, playing hostess to all the wives. She knew that boys would be boys. She knew they were drunk. Xerxes had a sizable harem, and he had probably shown them off as well. But she was the queen. She was a lady. And she had no intention of going into a room full of drunk men, just so they could ogle her. It wouldn’t be proper. It was disrespectful of him to even suggest such a thing. So she refused.
Apparently, she had that right, for no one forced her. But her decision caused her husband to lose face. He had spent six months showing off his power. He had made a public announcement that his queen was coming, so they could all look at her. And now, this supposedly powerful man had been knocked down a notch or two . . . by a woman! You can imagine his embarrassment and humiliation. You can imagine his anger.
Now friends, I think Vashti was really given a bum rap. Given the circumstances, I might have done the same thing! But had she really thought things out, she might have avoided some real heartache. Had she thought about all her husband had at stake, she might have laid aside her pride for a few moments and done what he asked. He was wrong. But she didn’t have to humiliate him in front of everyone. One might argue that he was planning to humiliate her, and that is a valid argument. But in his (drunken) eyes, he was merely showing off his lovely queen.
Many people have suggested many lessons from this passage. But I still believe that we can’t read too much into the behavior of these people. They were pagans. They weren’t behaving properly. As I read about this marriage, it drives home all the more that God’s ways are best. One husband, who loves his wife as Christ loved the church, and laid his life down for her. One wife, who treats her husband with respect (Ephesians 5:22 – 33).
I’m so glad that God always knows best. Aren’t you?
Dear Father, Please help me to love my spouse, and all those around me, and treat them with respect.