The Removal of Vashti

Text: Esther 1

Understanding What You Read

  1. What was the purpose of the 180-day banquet?
  2. What was served in plenty during the king’s week-long banquet?
  3. Who did the king order to appear and for what purpose?
  4. What concern did princes have regarding Queen Vashti’s refusal?
  5. What was decided to be done about the queen?
  6. What order was sent out to all the provinces?

Ahasuerus’ empire stretched from India to Ethiopia. During Cyrus’ reign, there were 120 satraps (Daniel 6:1), now there are 127 provinces. The only area he had trouble conquering was the Greek territories. Near the beginning of his reign, there was a rebellion in Egypt that Ahasuerus just recently squashed. The historian Herodotus records, “After the conquest of Egypt, purposing now to take in hand the expedition against Athens, Xerxes held an assembly of the noblest among the Persians, convened with special intent, that he might learn their opinions and himself declare his will before them all.” [Herodotus 7.8]. Apparently Ahasuerus wanted a celebration. Everything Ahasuerus did was big, including the parties he threw. During his third year of reigning, Ahasuerus gives a great banquet that lasts for 180 days. It was held in Susa, one of the Persian capitals and attended by all the elite of Persia. Persia has four capitals and the king would move depending on the season of the year. Ahasuerus wanted to emphasize his power and wealth with his banquet.

Afterward, a second week-long banquet was conducted. This shorter feast included the commoners. The description of the court where it was held shows that the Persians were very wealthy. Drinks of all kinds were served in abundance. By royal edict, there was to be no limit on the number of drinks served; but no one was coerced to drink more than he wanted.

At the same time, Vashti held a feast for the women. It is possible that this is a hint that all is not well between the royal couple. Or it could be the custom in Persia for the men and women to dine separately.

On the last day of the feast, a drunken Ahasuerus orders Vashti to present herself before his followers so he could show off her beauty. He sends seven eunuchs to fetch her. She was supposed to wear the royal crown when she came, but she refused to come. Given Ahasuerus’ other excesses, it is likely that she saw herself being treated as just another thing for the king to show off. She was an asset and not a wife. It might also have violated custom for the women and men to have separate feasts. There are numerous other theories as to why Vashti told her husband “no.” There is just too little in the text to make a firm determination. What is important to the story is that she turned down the king of the Persian Empire.

Ahasuerus asked for advice from those close to him on how to deal with her rebellion. Isn’t it ironic that the mighty king of a vast empire did not know how to deal with his own wife? He asked what law could be applied to the situation, but none was suggested. However, Memucan said that if he didn’t do something, other women would follow suit. Menucan’s advice was for the king to divorce her and find a better wife. He suggested that the punishment be published throughout the Persian Empire so that women would think twice before rebelling.

In addition, a proclamation was issued throughout the kingdom that every man should be the master of his home. Ironically, this proclamation was issued because Ahasuerus was not able to be master in his own home – and he announced it to the world.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email