Was Vashti wrong for refusing her husband’s request?


Hi Jeff,

I have a question about Queen Vashti in Esther 1:12. Was she wrong for refusing to appear before the king and his guests? Are wives not commanded to be submissive to their husbands?

Please explain if her actions were right or wrong.


First, remember that we are talking about the Persian Empire's queen. People in the Persian Empire would not be familiar with God's laws. However, I assume you are asking this question as to how a Christian would look at the situation.

During his third year of reign, Ahasuerus held a great banquet lasting 180 days. It was held in Susa, one of the Persian capitals, and attended by all the elite of Persia. With his banquet, Ahasuerus wanted to emphasize his power and wealth.

After the 180-day banquet concluded, a second week-long banquet was conducted that included commoners. 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, Queen Vashti held a feast for the women. This could be 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 can 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, she likely saw herself being treated as just another thing for the king to show off. She was an asset in his eyes and not a wife. It might also have violated a 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 essential 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 other women would follow suit if he didn’t do something. Menucan advised 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 could not be master in his own home – and he announced it to the world.

Was Vashti wrong? That is hard to determine. If the king were telling her to do something morally wrong, then she would have the right to appeal to the higher standard of God. If he had asked her to do something culturally wrong, she would have a right to refuse to avoid embarrassing herself and her husband. We must note that she did nothing legally wrong from the Persian viewpoint. The problem remains that we don't know why she refused to come. We only know that her refusal embarrassed the king in front of his nobles.

Submission means a willingness to follow another person's lead. It does not mean blind obedience. God, the Father, is the only one with no one higher than Him (I Corinthians 11:3; 15:27-28). Thus, even kings find themselves in subjection to higher authorities, and that is especially true for every husband. If a husband demands something of his wife that violates something he is supposed to be obedient to, then his wife is expected to follow the higher authority. For example, if a husband tells his wife to steal food, she must obey God, who says stealing is wrong and abide by the government's laws that say stealing is wrong.


Thanks for the explanation.

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