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I know my audience is mainly women – so for you guys, I hope you take this ride with us. Because I truly believe that you will learn some interesting things along the way about what biblical womanhood (and therefore, manhood truly, looks like).
I’m going to preface this by saying I may come across in this post as a little bit more on the feminist side, but I am looking at this from a very objective lens from my study of Scripture as well as life experience. 🙂
We’re going to start our series on Defining Biblical Womanhood with Vashti – who, when we begin, is the wife of King Xerxes. To give you context of what was going on – read Esther 1:4-9
“For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty. 5 When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king’s palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest who were in the citadel of Susa. The garden had hangings of white and blue linen, fastened with cords of white linen and purple material to silver rings on marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and other costly stones. Wine was served in goblets of gold, each one different from the other, and the royal wine was abundant, in keeping with the king’s liberality. By the king’s command each guest was allowed to drink with no restrictions, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished.
Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace of King Xerxes. ” (Esther 1:4-9 NIV)
Essentially, the King was giving a seven day feast for all of the men that was focused solely on material things and indulgence and his wife was giving a separate banquet for the wives of the men at the banquet. After a week of heavy indulgence (food, alcohol, etc) the King decided that he wanted his wife to be brought before he and all the other men not only to show her off but as a “my wife is better than yours.” This was not only in a showing her as a trophy wife kind of way, but while it is not explicitly stated it seems to be that it was more of a showing her off in a rather sexual manner.
When Vashti refused to come, King Xerxes was furious that his wife did not obey him immediately and asked for advice from one of his highest nobles, or advisors. He advised him that if King Xerxes “allowed” this behavior from his wife, all other women would begin to despise and disrespect their husbands.
He instructed that he create a royal decree (v. 19) that Vashti could never again be in the presence of Xerxes. The King did as his advisor had instructed and proclaimed that ” every man should be ruler over his own household (Esther 1:22 NIV).
Excuse the long intro, guys, but I wanted to make sure you knew exactly what is going on in this one!
So the real question here is was Vashti wrong for completely disobeying her husband (and King)? (Assuming that her higher priority was to honor God? And even if it wasn’t – still simply to have a higher moral compass?
We truly are left without any of what Vashti thought, did, etc. We are only left with what I would call King Xerxes side of the story. And even with that, I truly do not believe it actually paints Vashti in a negative light.
Queen Vashti has been made to look like this disobedient woman — but was she? Or was she being obedient to what God had called her to rather than to what a man called her to? Because what the man had called her to was nakedness and shame. Where God had her (at that moment) was in relationship with others, feasting, clothed.
King Xerxes demonstrated to Queen Vashti in that moment exactly how little he valued her as a person when he asked her to be willing to be put on display for other men — solely for his ego. And when he told her to do something that she knew was against the will of God – she said NO. She didn’t care what he did – she might have been nervous about it but she knew what her priorities were – and they weren’t pleasing him.
I’m sorry – but this amazing woman of God needs just as much credit as Esther, Ruth, Mary Magdalene, Mary (Jesus’ mother), and Martha (and we can go on and on and on. )
*The giving of separate banquets was not a required custom – wives would simply accompany their husbands. So .. why the separate banquets?
**Vashti’s name was likely not Vashti – however that’s what she is commonly known as now. Vashti could have possibly been a title for the queen rather than a proper name. Xerxes’ queen at the time was a woman named Amestris, daughter of one Otanes.
¹”bring…Queen Vashti… in order to display her beauty Jewish tradition holds that Vashti had been ordered to appear naked before the king, but the tradition has no historical support. Some Greek sources imply that the Persian queen was normally sequestered away and eschewed any public appearance; but scholars have demonstrated that this notion is mainly mythical…. There was nothing shameful in simply appearing at the banquet. Rather, it seems that Vashti was being commanded to act in a fashion that she believed beneath her station. Public displays of beauty were usually expected of concubines, not queens. the fact that she was told to wear the royal crown (which, according to ancient depictions, was actually more like a turban) may only have added insult to injury; the royal crown was a sign of her high status, while the king’s summons seemed to have denied her that very status.
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