Too Much Partying
10On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha and Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, 11to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at. 12But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command delivered by the eunuchs. At this the king became enraged, and his anger burned within him. 13Then the king said to the wise men who knew the times (for this was the king’s procedure toward all who were versed in law and judgment, 14the men next to him being Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, who saw the king’s face, and sat first in the kingdom): 15“According to the law, what is to be done to Queen Vashti, because she has not performed the command of King Ahasuerus delivered by the eunuchs?” 16Then Memucan said in the presence of the king and the officials, “Not only against the king has Queen Vashti done wrong, but also against all the officials and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. 17For the queen’s behavior will be made known to all women, causing them to look at their husbands with contempt, since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.’ 18This very day the noble women of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s behavior will say the same to all the king’s officials, and there will be contempt and wrath in plenty. 19If it please the king, let a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so that it may not be repealed, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus. And let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. 20So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, for it is vast, all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.” 21This advice pleased the king and the princes, and the king did as Memucan proposed. 22He sent letters to all the royal provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, that every man be master in his own household and speak according to the language of his people.
Sometimes the Bible reads like a soap-opera and the drama is almost beyond belief. In the story of Xerxes (King Ahasuerus) and Queen Vashti, you have the richest man in the world making crazy demands and exercising his power in ridiculous ways. We are not given enough detail to draw any solid conclusions and this story is certainly not included in the text so that we might learn moral lessons. Instead I think we are to read this as we would a story in the newspaper. These are the events as they took place. What we know is that God uses the actions of a king to set in motion His plans to save His people from destruction.
Some have tried to make more out of Vashti’s actions than the information in the text warrants. We don’t know if she herself was too drunk to appear or if she was outraged at being treated as just another decoration on the arm of the king. Some commentators have even suggested that when she was ordered to appear in her crown that was all she was supposed to be wearing. That might be a bit extreme and we don’t know that to be case at all. Regardless of the reason for her refusal to appear, that is what she did and she paid a high price for that defiance. The actual cost of her defiance has also been the subject of discussion by historians and commentators ranging from simply being deposed and exiled to actually being executed. I land more in the category of her being deposed and exiled but I suppose that anything is possible when you defy the most powerful person in the world.
The reaction of the king’s advisors is what really brings the story to a climax. These guys are afraid that their own women will follow the pattern set by the queen and look down upon their husbands as well. Again, that seems like a leap to the ridiculous but the king foolishly follows their advice and deals with Vashti in a harsh way as discussed above. Again, we cannot create moral lessons here. This is merely a reporting of the facts, not a road map for life.
As a woman, this story is troubling but we will hold it in place because it sets up the situation for God to move with power for the protection of His people. What we will find is that while God did not cause Xerxes to be a drunken fool He does use the machinations of man to accomplish His good and perfect will. The story continues!