She was born to be a queen. Regal and poised, her name means beautiful. Vashti is the great-granddaughter of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and the daughter of King Belshazzar. Coming from a long line of Babylonian royalty, her great-grandpa is best known as the one who destroyed Solomon’s temple. Her dad was murdered by the Persians, and she was kidnapped and given as a wife to Ahasuerus, (or Achashverosh, Artaxerxes or Xerses depending on the source and transliteration) the son of King Darius. Anyway, when Ahasuerus becomes king somewhere around 460 to 480 BC, Vashti becomes queen over the entire civilized world. Not a bad ending for a kidnap victim.
Story has it that her husband, the king, decides to throw a wild party for his royal buddies. They come from far and wide, drink wine, tell lies and carouse for days. On the seventh drunken day, he summons his lovely wife to appear wearing her crown so all the guyz can see what they’re missing. Now, I’m sure after seven days of drunkenness, that’s the last place any self-respecting woman would want to be, much less a queen.
And Vashti is disinclined to acquiesce to the king’s request.
Decline the king’s summons? Really?
Which is exactly what the king thought. Worried this might start a massive femi-Nazi movement among other royal wives, he counsels with his inner circle and they throw her out as queen.
Now, I was thinking Vashti did something really brave in not agreeing to be paraded in front of a bunch of drunken fools. She keeps her dignity and doesn’t compromise her principles. A great role model for all of us. She’s a heroine, right?
Maybe not so much.
Even though Vashti may possess these virtues, after looking into into her history a little further, she may not have the most altruistic reasons for her decision. It seems that Vashti has an extreme dislike towards Jewish women…especially the ones that work for her. After all, she is Babylonian at heart… and they spent much time and effort conquering the Jewish people. She trivializes, humiliates and belittles them every chance she gets…along with many others. Her Babylonian royal lineage causes her to be haughty and proud. AND her husband, the king, actually started out as a stable boy for her father! Can you feel her self-importance rising?
So, it appears her intent was not necessarily to preserve her integrity after all. Given her high self-esteem, I’m sure she would love nothing more than to show off herself in full regalia. Humiliating her husband in front of his friends may have been too much of a temptation for her to resist. Arrogance and pride are a vicious combination.
And God does not tolerate prideful people. When self-righteousness and pride rule our thoughts and actions, many times we get taken down at the knees by forces beyond our control. We’re put in our place and reminded we have no room to boast about our virtue. We are “dethroned.”
How many times have we had to “eat crow” about something we said or did?
How many times have we looked down on someone only to be humbled by a similar experience?
How many times have the tables been turned on our own haughtiness and we’ve ended up in exactly the same circumstance we so vocally criticized?
Humility, patience, composure and wisdom. All characteristics of one truly worthy of royalty.
The ones destined to be successful…
understand patience and a constructive, proactive plan is better than selfish, knee-jerk reactions;
temporarily set aside their own wants and desires for what’s best for others;
know they hold tremendous power, and yet are humble enough not to use it destructively.
Which is probably why when Vashti is dethroned, the king inadvertently (and unknown to him at the time), replaces her with a Jewish woman named Esther who displays all these traits and more. The rest, as they say, is history.
Divine poetic justice for sure.
The reality is that there’s a little bit of Vashti and Esther in all of us. The story is a reminder to us of the power we have, and how best we should use it.
Submitted for ABC Wednesday