Is Vashti the Victim in Esther's Story?
- Emma Danzey Contributing Writer
- 2021 15 Sep
Many of us have heard of Vashti from Esther’s story. When I was in middle school I had the privilege of singing a song called “Vashti’s Song” written by the church music director. I loved connecting with who she was through music. Many times there are obvious lessons that we learn from the character of Esther, but we cannot forget the woman who paved the way for Esther. Vashti was King Xerxes’ first wife. She was the queen of Persia. The question is, was Vashti actually the victim in Esther’s story?
Who Was Vashti in the Bible?
King Xerxes was a powerful man who ruled over 127 provinces from India to Ethiopia. He reigned in Susa (Esther 1:1-2). Kings Xerxes was a prideful man who showed off his wealth and greatness for 180 days. After the celebrations, he threw a feast for a week. There was glamour and a lot of drinking there (Esther 1:3-8). Vashti threw her own feast for the women.
On the last day of the feast, King Xerxes was drunk and sent Eunuchs to summon Queen Vashti. He desired to show off her beauty to all of the other men (Nasty right?). Vashti clearly had respect for herself and declined. However, in anger, the king sought his advisors and they said what she did will be modeled by other women in the city if there were no consequences. The advice went as follows, “If 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a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so that it may not be repealed, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus.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” (Esther 1:19).
You would think this counsel would have devastated the king. If it were me and that was happening to my husband, I would have done everything in my power not to let that happened because I love him. Sadly, we see the king’s heartless response, “This advice pleased the king” (Esther 1:21). King Xerxes' pride and humiliation caused him to act rashly and unkindly towards Vashti. He banished her and she was removed from the title of queen.
Bible Study Tools shares Esther 2:1-4, “Later Xerxes remembered Vashti (verse 1); he likely had begun to miss her. So his attendants proposed that a search be made for the most beautiful girls in the kingdom and that they be brought to the king’s harem; then Xerxes could choose the one he liked best and make her his queen in Vashti’s place. Xerxes agreed, and the search commenced.”
This is where the main character of the book of Esther steps into play when the King decides it is not so fun being without a wife.
Why Did She Refuse to Appear at the King's Banquet?
The mention of respecting her husband comes into play at the end of Esther 1 from the counselors. However, what Xerxes was requesting of Vashti was sinful. Her response was honorable. Women are called to submit to their husband’s leadership in the home, but when it comes down to obeying your husband or obeying the Lord, the answer is always the Lord. All people answer to God first. Vashti refused her husband’s request because he was a drunken mess and trying to show her body off like pornography. She was a queen who deserved respect and honor, not lust from every man in town and to be paraded like an object.
This teaches us in our marriage today. Crosswalk shares, “In all things the husband and wife should seek to honor Christ. This applies in decision-making, as couples work hard to avoid violating one another’s conscience and as they seek the good of the other person (see 1 Corinthians 10:23-33). Spouses should never entice one another to do wrong, but if that happens, each one’s first obligation is to obey Christ.”
Was it Wrong of Xerxes to Exile Her?
I believe that it was wrong of king Xerxes to exile Vashti. He should have owned up to his own poor decision and asked for her forgiveness. However, he was too worried about his own ego and the public’s view of him to make the right choice. Peer pressure from the counsel caused him to not only leave her as his queen but to exile her away. This poor woman had not done anything wrong, but because of the pride of man, she was punished. This reminds us that sin hurts more than just the person committing it.
Although there is devastation in this story, we can see the redemptive hand of God in it all. Even in the midst of sin and poor decisions on behalf of the king, the Lord still took care of His people. He ended up placing Esther in the position of queen. When she had the opportunity to stand up to this king in a bolder way than Vashti herself, we see the king respond quite differently.
Annette Griffin from Bible Study Tools shares “God had a different role in mind for the new Queen Esther. When the time came for her to make a stand against the king’s unjust decision, she like Vashti, chose to accept the mission and the consequences. However, Queen Esther had the benefit of Vashti’s example, and more importantly, she chose to go in God’s power and might—instead of her own will and strength. Just like Queen Vashti must have known the cost she’d pay when she refused to appear before the king, Queen Esther knew the penalty for appearing before the king uninvited. Both acts required courage. And God strategically used both, in different ways, to save His people from annihilation.”
Esther 5:4-5 says, “‘If it pleases the king,’ replied Esther, ‘let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.’ ‘Bring Haman at once,” the king said, “so that we may do what Esther asks.’ So the king and Haman went to the banquet Esther had prepared.”
The king responds with kindness and listening ears to Esther even when he could have done the same or worse to her than he did to Vashti. At the banquet with the King and Haman (The enemy of the Jews), Queen Esther told Xerxes about Haman’s evil plan. The King left and Haman tried to attack Esther, but Xerxes came in after her and they impaled Haman on the pole he intended for Esther’s noble uncle Mordechai (Esther 7).
What Can We Learn from Vashti's Story?
We can learn from Vashti to stand up for what is right, even if it comes with trials and difficulties. No matter what you are facing today, it is more important to honor the Lord with your life. We each have an opportunity at one point or another to stand against evil and do what pleases the Lord over man. It may not be in a kingdom, but our daily decisions make a difference in the kingdom of God. Just think about how King Xerxes learned from his situation with Vashti and listened to Esther eventually saving the people of God.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/max-kegfire
Emma Danzey’s mission in life is to inspire young women to embrace the extraordinary. One of her greatest joys is to journey with the Lord in His Scriptures. Emma is a North Carolina resident and green tea enthusiast! She is married to her husband Drew and they serve international college students. She enjoys singing, dancing, trying new recipes, and watching home makeover shows. During her ministry career, Emma recorded two worship EP albums, founded and led Polished Conference Ministries, ran the Refined Magazine, and served in music education for early childhood. Currently, she is in the editing stages of her first two writing projects: a Bible study on womanhood and a non-fiction book on singleness. You can visit her blog at emmadanzey.wordpress.com
This article is part of our People from the Bible Series featuring the most well-known historical names and figures from Scripture. We have compiled these articles to help you study those whom God chose to set before us as examples in His Word. May their lives and walks with God strengthen your faith and encourage your soul.
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