The king is having a feast. The queen is also having a feast. When the king sends orders for the queen to come he is disrespected by her. This will NOT stand!
The palace in Susa is overflowing with guests both men and women. The king is showing off his wealth to the nobles and governors. EVERYONE in Susa was invited! The queen is likewise having her own banquet for the women of Susa. Even in the Persian culture, men and women didn’t eat together.
The merriment has been going on for seven days already. There is one day left on the agenda. Wine is flowing as freely as water in the presence of the king and he has been partaking in it. He is not drunk but he is “merry with wine” (verse 10b). I have no doubt that there were several in his same state in the men’s banquet.
There is a shift in the conversation and it prompts the king to want to show off his queen. “She is beauty personified. Just wait until you see her. She will knock your socks off!” The king sends seven of his eunuchs to fetch her from her feast. I understand the eunuchs being the ones to carry out the job, but why SEVEN of them? Was the king expecting trouble? Were they her escort? Did she need protection moving about in this open festival?
The eunuchs go to Queen Vashti and tell her the king wants to see her. I don’t know what was going on in her party at the time but she flat out refused to leave. Was she trying to make a statement? Was she refusing because she figured the king was drunk? Was she afraid to go into the room with all the men? Was she drunk? Was she showing off for the women? Whatever her reason, she was making this move in front of EVERY woman in Susa. They all witnessed her sending the eunuchs back empty handed.
This has never happened before! The eunuchs walk back to the banquet area of the king. The king’s eyes take in the group and notice the queen’s absence. Slowly they approach him with their eyes downcast. They have to tell the king what happened. Obviously the king can see that the queen is not with them but they have to speak the words she spoke to them. They have to tell him that the queen flat out refused to come to him when summoned.
The king is at first curious then when he hears her response to his summons he is furious! “What do you mean she said she wouldn’t come? Is she indisposed at the moment? Is she ill? How DARE she refuse my command!”
Notice here that the king didn’t fly off the handle in anger. Instead he asked for advice as to how to proceed from those who were skilled in the law and judgement. He wasn’t her judge and jury. He turned to the seven princes of Persia. He didn’t have to go searching for them or wait while they gathered. They were sitting beside him and heard the whole thing. They would be the ones to help him come up with a lawful punishment for the queen’s actions.
I am in awe of the king’s restraint! He could have ordered her dragged from her banquet by her hair. He could have had her struck down where she sat. He could have had her thrown in prison. He could even have stormed in there himself. Instead he asked for advice.
Those he asked could tell from his face that he was struggling with control. They didn’t wave off his concern. In fact they put it in a different light. “What will other wives do if the queen gets away with this kind of behavior?” They saw this as SERIOUS business. They knew word of this would spread along with the fact that the queen performed her act of defiance in front of ALL the women of the city. The first recorded act of “women’s liberation” movement.
I’m surprised that the queen wasn’t killed. The law apparently didn’t have anything already written to deal with this kind of offense. And the advisors didn’t counsel him to put her to death. Instead, they advised the king to strip her of her title and rights. To never again allow her to look on his face. They also agreed it was time to write a decree that ALL wives were to honor their husbands so this never happened again.
The king thought this sounded like a good idea. The women would see what it cost Vashti for her refusal and there would be precedent set for any future such behavior. Vashti was essentially made a non-person. She was not divorced so that she would be free to find another husband. She was not killed. She was shut away, possibly back into the haram of concubines. The concubines were never touched by a man again unless the king specifically called for them by name. Vashti would never again be called for. A life of limbo.
The king made sure EVERYONE under Persian rule received a copy of the new law. He was not about to let the news of the queen’s behavior circulate without the news of his remedy right beside it. I imagine the women who were encouraged by her would think twice about trying it for themselves after hearing of her fate and the new law.
I wonder why there wasn’t something already written in the law. Had this never happened before? Were wives in that time conditioned from birth to obey their husbands? The New Testament tells wives to honor their husbands still. That honor looks a lot different today than it did in the days of Vashti. Vashti wasn’t allowed to say “no” to ANYTHING her husband demanded.
Paul, through the Holy Spirit, put conditions on the husband. He is to love his wife and not mistreat her. Her honor for him comes out of this instead of being demanded regardless of his behavior. Jesus expected honor from those He was over and He earned that honor instead of demanding it. He is out example. He didn’t fail to correct those He ruled when they needed it but it was ALWAYS done in love and resulted in growth, not humiliation.
These same concepts apply to our children. Love them and lead them in the way they should go. But also don’t be afraid to address their negative behavior. If you love them you will discipline them. That doesn’t mean to beat them into submission but it also doesn’t mean to ignore their bad behavior and hope it will go away. And the king modeled a GREAT example when he kept his temper and asked for advice. When in doubt, check it out.
Thank You Father for Your stories and the lessons that You give me along with them. Thank You for helping me with my husband and my children. I’ve had to seek help more than once. I’ve also had to check my temper and submit more than once. Keep my relationship healthy even though I have to be the one that is the head in our home. My husband’s illnesses don’t allow for anything else. Help me know where and when to let him still lead too. And thank You that things have changed since the days of Ester!