The story of Vashti
Growing up, I always heard the story of Vashti being portrayed as the disobedient wife that we as “good girls” shouldn’t be like. That story was used to show us the consequences of deviating from the culture of “submissiveness”. Now that I am older, I really doubt that the story of Vashti was recorded to show the consequences of “disobeying your husband”. Before I carry on let me reference the story below:
King Xerxes had a huge banquet, he had a lot of people over. There was a lot of wine and fancy things basically the party was lit. Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace of King Xerxes. On the seventh day, the king commanded his eunuchs to bring Queen Vashti in front of him, so he could show her off and she refused.
He became furious and sought counsel from the wise men at the time and they concluded that the king should send her off in the most embarrassing manner for a queen at that time because what she had done was against the kingdom and the king. Also, that this disobedience should be handled if not other women would follow in Vashti footsteps. So, the king did just that, he made a royal decree that Vashti wasn’t supposed to ever be in the presence of the king and that decree was proclaimed throughout the kingdom.
Let me start by saying that the Bible is also descriptive and not only instructive and I think this story is more of a description of the inequality between men and women at that time, than it is about “disobeying husbands”. This story to me is God’s way of showing us what it is like to practice authoritarianism in the home. Vashti didn’t do anything absurd; I wouldn’t want to be paraded like a trophy you get at the end of a competition in front of my drunk husband and friends. In reasonable climates, it wouldn’t be considered odd for Vashti to refuse.
This story also speaks to the danger of the fragility of men egos. Vashti made a choice and the men choose to embarrass her. She made a choice to not be made museum exhibit and the men decided to drag her by her edges. She made her choice and they created a system to dissuade women from making their own choices. A system was practically created where there was punishment for even attempting to question their husbands.
Constantly rubbing a man’s ego isn’t showing respect instead it’s living in fear. We are aware that King Xerxes didn’t have a good character but we have found ways to blame Vashti. Esther(the queen after Vashti) literally had to pray and fast to speak to her own husband when her people were in danger but somehow the current popular narrative is that Vashti is at fault?! It was a life or death situation to talk to her husband without being summoned but we choose to ignore the king ludicrous behaviour and focus on Vashti “disobedience”. The current narratives of women in the bible should be reexamined because we are generally looking at them through faulty lenses.
What do you think about the story of Vashti?
Do we need to reexamine the way we have portrayed women in the bible?
Would you have disobeyed if you were Vashti?