Woman of today strive to be independent. We as woman have been striving for this independence for centuries, but it came to a head in 1848 when the first women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. The primary goal of the women’s rights movement at that time was to allow women the right to vote. The newest equality struggle women have felt as a need is the allowance of women to serve in combat in the military.
This power struggle women have felt goes back to the Garden when Eve took a bite from the forbidden fruit. Rather than defer to Adam, consult with Adam, or ask God what she should do she chose to eat the fruit. She chose to show her independence and it cost her and Adam their lives.
In the book of Esther, a similar situation takes place when Queen Vashti surrounded by the ladies of the kingdom refused to come before King Ahasuerus when she was asked. There are many theories as to the nature of this request by King Ahasuerus, and there is the same amount of speculation as to why Queen Vashti refused to come when beckoned by the King. Since the Biblical account does not share this bit of information then the assumption is that God did not think it was important to the story. It is important not to add into Scripture what is not there. The focus of the book of Esther is not Queen Vashti, rather the focus of the book of Esther is God’s preservation of His people using willing servants to carry out His plans.
King Ahasuerus was the fourth King in the Medo-Persian Empire. Cyrus the Great had taken over the Babylonian Empire from Belshazzer, the great grandson of Nebuchadnezzar. During this takeover by Cyrus the Great, one of his officials, Darius, who later became a King of the Medo-Persian Empire took the daughter of Belshazzar, Vashti, and gave her to his son, Ahasuerus, for his wife. The Medo-Persians also killed Belshazzer, Vashti’s father. This may have caused some animosity in their marriage.
During this time, the rulers of these lands often left home, trying to quell uprisings or conquer new lands. There were many lives lost during these frequent battles with seemingly no end in sight or no purpose to the fighting. One of the roles of the king was to promote trust within his armies, generals, officers, servants, and the people of his kingdom. King Ahasuerus held a grand party for all these people. For 180 days he held a party for all his officials, servants, nobles, and governors to show the splendor and pomp of his greatness. Once this feast was complete, he held a feast for “all the people present in Susa, both great and small.” (Esther 1:5).
During this feast, he made an edict that the people could drink wine according to their desires. The King did not want the people to feel they had to drink wine every time he drank a glass, as this was the custom in these times, rather he was trying to accommodate all people. Queen Vashti also gave a feast during this time for the women of the kingdom. It is unknown whether this was custom for the Medo-Persians. During this grand party, King Ahasuerus summoned Queen Vashti. Although the King had made provisions for the people to drink wine in the quantity they desired, he had not changed the ruling that when summoned by the King the one summoned can decide if they wanted to go.
Queen Vashti refused the summons and the court of high officials was abuzz. The fear of these men was that the wives in the kingdom would all decide that they were no longer subject to their husbands since Queen Vashti did not go when summoned by the King. After much discussion, the queen was banished from the kingdom as an example to all the wives of the land that this behavior was unacceptable. Letters went out to all the provinces of the kingdom in the appropriate language stating that “every man be the master of his own household.” (Esther 1:22).
- Who was Vashti’s father?
- Who did Vashti marry?
- With a new kingdom comes new leadership, how would the events of Vashti’s life affect her disposition?
- There is much speculation as to the summons by King Ahasuerus to Queen Vashti, is there a way she could have obeyed the order without degrading herself?
- Why is the role of the man as the leader of the home such an important concept, even in the realm of a pagan society who does not believe in the God of the Bible?
- What would have been the value of a 180 day feast and who was it for? (Esther 1:4).
- What was the benefit to a seven day feast and who was this feast for? (Esther 1:5)
- The furnishings for the party are described in Esther 1:6, 7, why is this important to the story?
- What do can be learned about the character of the King and the Queen from Esther 1?