December 3, 2023 | Doug Sauder
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“’Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. Then when the king’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.’ The king and his nobles were pleased with this advice, so the king did as Memukan proposed. He sent dispatches to all parts of the kingdom, to each province in its own script and to each people in their own language, proclaiming that every man should be ruler over his own household, using his native tongue.”—Esther 1:19–22 (NIV)
Sometimes if we’re not careful, we can forget the Bible is not a bunch of one-dimensional characters, but real people with real emotions. Some of the most interesting characters in the Bible are not the main characters but supporting characters. I find Queen Vashti to be one of those characters. Although she is most remembered for her lack of submission to the king, there’s more to her story. Queen Vashti was a courageous woman who chose dignity over decadence. As did her predecessor, Queen Esther risked her life for what she knew was right.
Let’s put this story in context. King Xerxes is the great grandson of Cyrus the Great (the king responsible for allowing the temple to be rebuilt). At the time, Xerxes was the most powerful man on earth. He ruled over 127 countries and regions, from India to Ethiopia. He was known for his impulsiveness, cruelty, violence, and power. He did not take no for an answer. Standing up to this man could be fatal.
King Xerxes felt there was no better way to reveal his status as the world’s super-power than by throwing a six-month long party. His pride drove him to display his tremendous wealth, power, and decadence with a massive royal feast. Can you imagine the sheer cost of a six-month feast with unlimited food and drink? With the conclusion of this tremendous party, he decides to throw an additional week-long party for the commoners. All who attended were given permission to drink as much as they wanted, and they took full advantage of the king’s dime and the royal wine flowed freely.
After the kingdom was excessively drunk, Queen Vashti was told to appear “wearing her royal crown.” This seems harmless, right? Well, not really. Although the text doesn’t specify, one rabbinical tradition explains He was asking her to wear only her royal crown. Since it’s not in the text, we can’t really know for certain. However, whatever the case may be she found his command demeaning, degrading, and humiliating. It was driven by his ego and pride. She had no desire to be the object of lust, paraded around like a prized possession in front of a crowd of drunken men. Maybe she feared for her safety? Put yourself in her shoes.
Under Persian law, women were forbidden to unveil themselves to men other than their husbands. Queen Vashti had the right to refuse. But her refusal came at the greatest cost. It took immense courage to say no. She chose dignity over decadence of living as a wealthy and powerful queen. She placed more value on her reputation, virtue, and safety than her riches. Her saying no radically changed the course of history. Her refusal opened the throne to Esther whom God used to save His people from genocide. God strategically appointed these women each with a specific time, place, and role in history, as He has with us. We can ask ourselves if we’re brave enough to say no for the sake of what’s right, even when it comes with great risk.
Pause: Is there anything in your life that requires a courageous no?
Practice: Ephesians 5:22 (NIV) say, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. “As you do to the Lord” means if you’re a wife, you’re under no obligation to break the law or God’s Word for the sake of “submission” to your husband. If it doesn’t align with God, don’t do it.
Pray: Thank You Jesus for Your Word. Please allow me to grow in wisdom and discernment. I want to learn the valuable lessons You have for me this season of my life. I give praise and glory only to You King Jesus. Amen.
Deb Marsalisi is an author, public speaker, mentor and Fire Inspector. She began her writing journey to make peace with her challenging past. It has provided her with an outlet for creative self-expression, and a healthy new perspective on life.
Through God’s amazing grace, she has learned to rejoice in life’s ups and downs, struggles and victories understanding they’ve been given so she can help and inspire others on their own journey of restoration. Her passion is to support others in emotional and spiritual habits that are truly life-changing. She spends her free time loving, encouraging and mentoring young women to grow in their relationship with Jesus. And she also enjoys cooking amazing meals for her friends and family.