Royals. Love them or hate them-they’re an enigma. Tons of debate about their behavior, clothes, and marital problems have been present in the tabloids for years. The Bible also includes royal gossip–and its damages. Here are some of my thoughts about the decisions of the biblical queens Vashti and Esther.
As a girl, I would have to squint my eyes a lot.
I still do.
I found myself squinting when hearing people tell the story of Esther:
“It starts out with a wicked queen.”
Okay…so I looked it up. The Bible doesn’t refer to Queen Vashti as wicked. This is what happened…
There’s a party, and Queen Vashti doesn’t come before her husband when he orders her. His male guests have been drunk for “many days, even an hundred and fourscore days.” Plus some scholars think that the king just wanted her to come with nothing but her crown on.
So Vashti doesn’t come. A dangerous thing to do, but think about it. What perverted thing was likely to happen if she had come—appearing undressed—to a party full of drunk men?
Enter villains: The king (a quasi-villain and weak character) with his advisers—the( not-so) “wise men.”
According to them:
“Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all princes and to all the people that are in the provinces of the King Ahasuerus.
For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes…likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media say this day unto all the king’s princes, which have heard of the deed of the queen. Thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath.”
The men felt threatened by women. They felt that Vashti set an example for women—women could stand up to their husbands. Vashti was deposed as queen; Rabbi David Eldensohn believes she was killed.
It didn’t matter what Vashti did. I don’t mean for the following comment to be irreverent but whatever decision Vashti made, she was—in one way or another—going to get screwed.
Showing up (possibly with no clothes) in front of men who were drunk for months—something was bound to happen. No parent would want their child to go to a party like that.
( Please watch Pastor Mark Driscoll’s heartwarming take on Vashti’s decision. )
The advisers told the king to gather virgins throughout the land and add them to his harem. The king was “pleased” with this idea. (Perverted.)
So Esther now is chosen as Queen. When I first started noticing Vashti’s situation, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed with Esther. In the Old Testament, time and time again, they stress the importance of Israelites marrying in the Covenant. Esther did not. She married a man who didn’t even share her same standards.
I had a change of heart, however, when driving home one night. My mind wandered about the queens and princesses blog posts. I thought of how long I procrastinated bringing up Vashti and Esther. I thought of Catherine of Braganza and a comment by her biographer, Lillias Campbell Davidson, who said Catherine “lived in her husband’s court as Lot lived in Sodom.” I to thought myself, “No, Catherine lived in here husband’s court as Esther lived in her husband’s court.”
Two religious queens living in an immoral court for the sake of protecting their nations. It’s not totally right, but in a way it is noble.
The Jews were relying on Esther to stay queen so they could survive. But she had to find ways to survive if she was going to save their lives.
What would you do if your nation was in danger? If marriage was an option over bloodshed, would you marry even a fool?
Fortunately for Esther, she wasn’t ordered to appear in front of people indecent, and remembered her faith
The other woman in the story, Vashti, was asked to do something where her actions would most likely lead to death or sexual assault.
Examining their specific circumstances, we see both women were put in unfair situations. Their behavior was examined during their lifetimes and continues thousands of years later. Read the Book of Esther and see if you don’t agree with me. Keep in mind the queens’ specific situations and outcomes. Both queens were faced with decisions that no one should ever have to make. If you were in either of their place, what would you have done?
The Book of Esther
Queen Vashti Deposed by Ernest Normand
Vashti refuses the King’s Summons by Edwin Long
Queen Esther by Edwin Long
Catherine of Braganza by Jacob Huysman