The Book of Esther highlights the story of Queen Esther, how she became a part of King Ahasuerus’s (Xerxes) harem, then eventually the Queen. Queen Esther is most remembered and revered for saving the lives of the Jews that lived in King Ahasuerus’s provinces. The heroic act of Queen Esther will always be admired and is celebrated each year during Purim, the Jewish holiday.
However, the forerunner of Queen Esther was Queen Vashti, the first wife of King Ahasuerus. Vashti is only mentioned briefly in the book of Esther ( Chapters 1, 2:1), where she was dethroned in disgrace. However, taking another look at Queen Vashti, I believe she was a queen that may have been misunderstood and wrongly judged. She was certainly a victim of the King’s improper behavior and poor choices executed while under the influence. Queen Vashti paid the ultimate price for being a modest and respectful woman, while trying to be obedient to the custom.
Queen Vashti was married to King Ahasuerus (Xerxes), who at that time reigned over 127 provinces in the Persian empire. In the third year of his reign, King Ahasuerus hosted a great banquet that lasted seven days. The guests included his princes and attendants, army officers of Persia and Media, nobles and anyone else of significance and importance. This was a first class affair, with the royal wine flowing freely to all who desired to partake.
It is important to note that Queen Vashti was hosting her own banquet for the women in the palace, which coincided with King Ahasuerus’s banquet. She had her own party going which I’m sure measured up to the same level of grandeur as the King’s banquet.
On the seventh day of the banquet, King Ahasuerus, heavily intoxicated, summoned Queen Vashti to his banquet. She was to wear her royal crown and strut her stuff, to show the king’s guest how beautiful she was. Scripture isn’t clear as to what exactly was Vashti expected to do at the banquet. Some commentaries believe the King expected her to appear or dance naked before the guests. At the very least, she was to be put on display as a prized possession. For some unknown reason, Queen Vashti refused the King’s request. She could have been occupied with her own guests and didn’t want to appear rude. I can think of many reasons why she wouldn’t drop everything and run to the King’s side. Since it was not proper for a queen to remain in the company of the King and his guests when drinking, the most common belief was that she found the request extremely insulting. What woman would want to be in the company of a group of men that had been drinking continuously for seven days? Can you imagine the condition of that room and how foul it must have smelled? Queen Vashti was having no parts of it! She was not going to be objectified and certainly not by hundreds of drunken men. She was a noble woman, accustomed to being treated with dignity and respect. Not even the King would be allowed to disrespect her.
Because of Queen Vashti’s disobedience to the King, she was punished severely. King Ahasuerus divorced Vashti, which meant she was deposed and was never mentioned again in Scripture. Her punishment served as lesson for women in the provinces to stay in their place. Husbands were the masters in the home and their wives were to obey them, no matter what the request.
By today’s standards, Vashti’s punishment was unwarranted as her behavior was completely justified. In fact, it would have been the King who was in trouble, and would have no doubt spent a few nights on the couch.
I admire Vashti for being the noble woman that she was. Her demand for respect and honor was not going to be compromised for anyone, not even the King. She took a tough stand, which cost her dearly. Queen Vashti was wrongly punished for doing the right thing. Unfortunately, she was a woman before her time.
Queens, hold yourselves in high regard and expect others to treat you accordingly. Like the Proverbs 31 woman, you are of noble character, deserving to be highly respected by all. Don’t compromise your values nor tolerate anyone who tries to make you think, act or be less than the beautiful creature God made you to be. Regardless of the circumstances, continue to hold your head high. Even if you get knocked down, like the phoenix, you will rise again!