Esther and Vashti — History rolls

Hildegard of Bingen once said, “Secrets make us sick.” For that reason, Vashti, a much over-looked Bible woman, intrigues me.

Her story, found in Chapter 1 of the Book of Esther, goes like this:

Vashti, the first wife of King Ahaserus of Persia, is suddenly outsted from her post as queen for not obeying the king’s orders to “show the peoples and the officials her beauty” during a celebration to commemorate “the great wealth of his kingdom.” Although we don’t know exactly why she objected, here are some good reasons:

  • She was tired of entertaining, as the party was at the end of 187 days of feasting;
  • The king’s eunuchs arrived to “collect” her, probably somewhat undiplomatically;
  • The king was drunk (the Bible says, “merry with wine”) and;
  • Ahasuerus’ order for her to wear her crown apparently  made her wonder if that was all she would be wearing.

Her refusal to answer Ahaserus’ command humiliates the king in front of his subordinates, causing him to send word throughout the country that such behavior will not be tolerated. “Every man should be master in his own house!” he swears. Vashti disappears, never to be heard from again. We don’t know what happened to her.

And that is where Esther comes into the picture. Plucked out of the countryside to join Ahasuerou’s harem, she so “pleased” him that she was named Queen of Persia, eventually saving the Jewish community from annihilation.

It is possible, although not documented, that Vashti was killed. We will never know. But we do know this: she stood up for herself, refusing to parade before dozens, if not hundreds, of drunken men. She had had enough.

Secrets make us sick. And that is why generation after generation of brave women have gone before us in Judeo-Christian history, telling their stories–and often putting themselves in harm’s way as a result.

We cannot control the outcome. But we can, like our spiritual grandmothers in the Bible, work toward the restoration of our souls–and that of our culture–with God’s grace.

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