Thursday, September 24, 2015

Responsibility of influence

Vashti's defiance - Alexandre Cabanel
"Vashti's Defiance" - Alexandre Cabanel
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Esther 1:1-22

TO CHEW ON: "But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command brought by his eunuchs therefore the king was furious and his anger burned within him." Esther 1:12

Do we blame Queen Vashti for refusing to come before the drunken King Ahasuerus and his male guests to show off her beauty? I can think of several reasons for her refusal. Maybe such a debauch had happened before and been uncomfortable for her. Maybe it was a bad time for her to leave her own party. Or perhaps she had an independent streak that simply resisted being ordered around.

Whatever it was, her refusal ended badly. The king wasn't too drunk to ask for the input of others. His coterie of male advisors told him to be decisive with her for fear her attitude would spread to other women in the realm—and that would never do in their male-dominant culture.

It's easy for us, looking at this event through our western civilization lenses, to sympathize with Queen Vashti. And yet the king and his advisors had a point. My Bible's notes contain this observation on Vashti's actions:

"Leadership involves both responsibilities and influence. In her rebellion Vashti ignores her responsibility to her authority King Ahasuerus" - A. Joy Dawson, notes on Esther, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 634.

We can take away at least two lessons from these opening scenes of Esther:
1. When we are in positions of leadership our actions have the potential to affect and influence others, and we need to carefully consider their effect.

2. If we feel civil disobedience is really warranted, we should be prepared for consequences.

PRAYER: Dear God, please give me the wisdom to know when defying civil authority is warranted. At all other times help me to have a compliant spirit that acknowledges Your will and design in placing over me the rulers of Your choice. Amen.

MORE: More about Esther, the book
We will be reading all of the book of Esther in the coming days so here are a few facts about this little book.
  • The author is unknown. But it was a Jew, familiar with Persian words and customs. Mordecai or Ezra may have been the author.
  • It was written shortly after 465 B.C. and the story takes place over four years starting with the third year of King Ahasuerus (also called Xerxes') reign.
  • A unique feature of the book is that the name of God is never mentioned.
 Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Bible Drive-Thru


  1. Vashti gets a bad rap. Unfortunately, she has become the poster child that many use to encourage wives to submit to sin, foolishness or destructive behavior. They place all of the responsibility to submit on the wife's shoulders. Yet, they place little to no responsibility on the husband to
    (1) submit to God
    (2) love his wife like Christ loved the church and died for it.

    The idea of a wife submitting to her husband was not a new one. It had been taught from Genesis throughout the Bible. When Paul taught about a wife’s duty to submit, he was merely recapping an age old teaching. However, he had to spell it out for husbands. (Ep 5:25-32) This was a revolutionary concept for husbands. It had never been taught like that before. Some might say “love your neighbor as yourself” had been taught before (Lu 10:27). But that was the problem. Husbands were expressing love for their neighbors outside of the home, while regarding their wives as mere maids and sex objects.

    The king did this to Vashti. She refused to submit to his drunken request. Jewish tradition says that he instructed her to appear nude. We can't be sure whether he requested her nude or not. Either way, asking her to flaunt her beauty in the presence of other drunken men was not modest (Matt 5:28, Ex 20:17, Deut 5:21). She didn't promote lustfulness. The king’s self serving friends were angered by her refusal and encouraged him to exile her.

    This is an example of how many husbands use their position of power to abuse defenseless wives. It’s also an example of how many husbands express love for their neighbors and friends outside the home, while treating their wives poorly. This mentality is why Paul needed to spell out (Ep 5:25-32) for husbands.

    It is not for kings, O Lemuel, to guzzle wine. Rulers should not crave alcohol. For if they drink, they may forget the law
    and not give justice to the oppressed (Pr 31:4-5).

    That's exactly what happened between Vashti and the King. He got drunk and forgot his duty to love, honor and protect his wife.

  2. As a result of her refusal, she was banished. Bad things can happen when you take a stand. Vashti's hardship is similar to that of Uriah. He refused to go home and sleep with his wife because of his commitment to his army. He was actually more committed at that time than David because David took time to commit adultery. Although he took an honorable stand, he was still killed. Although he was killed, God still used the incident for his glory. Solomon became one of the wisest kings to ever live. This is no different from how the book of Esther unfolds. God uses an unfortunate tragedy to accomplish his plans.

    Like David, Xerxes had some redemptive qualities. God gave him a second chance. He was remorseful for the way he had treated Vashti. He learned from his mistakes and treated Esther better than he treated Vashti. He had made a decree with Haman to kill the Jews. When he realized how wrong that decree was, he rectified it. He did in that situation what he had failed to do concerning Vashti. This is an admirable quality. He learned from his past mistakes.

    There are other relevant themes within this text that many commentators fail to deal with like substance abuse and sexual immorality within marriage. Unfortunately, far too many wives have substance and/or porn addicted husbands. What happened between Vashti and the King has been used to try to convince wives to enable, support and/or excuse their husband's addiction. Too many lives, families and marriages have been destroyed as a result of addiction.

    Another theme commentators fail to address is outward beauty. We live in a culture much like Vashti's and Esther's. Females are taught that their only valuable trait is how they look on the outside. While outward beauty is nice, the Bible tells us that it is fleeting (Pr 31:30-31) and that the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit is much more important (1 Pet 3:3-5). As Christians, we must teach females the importance of this type of beauty. We must teach males the importance of appreciating inward beauty and not just the outward beauty of their spouse. Else they will do as Xerxes did and choose another wife, when the wife they have is no longer pleasing to them.

  3. KM, thanks for your thoughtful, well-expressed comments. Personally I have always felt a great deal of sympathy for Vashti, and thought she was a woman of integrity and wisdom. I like the way you compare her to Uriah.

    You make many other excellent points as well on:
    - the abuse of power position and Scripture by some modern husbands.
    - how Xerxes grew from the Vashti incident.
    - outward versus inward beauty.

    Thanks for these excellent observations! You have obviously given this a lot of thought and study.

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