Queen Vashti did no wrong by me

Queen Vashti by photographer James C. Lewis

To be really candid, I don’t know if the book of Esther is a christain story. I understand that it appears in the Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and read on the Jewish holiday of Purim, I also know that there is no mention of God or any Holy land in the book. I read that Martin Luther is said to have tossed the book into the river Elbe, saying that he wished it did not exist for “it has too much of Judaism and a great deal of heathenish imagination. So I cannot really say who Esther and her people fasted to, but they did a good thing; Esther’s perceived “boldness” saved her people (or something like that) and Vashti’s disobedience got her banished from the palace.

Let us look take the attention away from Esther for a minute, and consider this woman called Vashti. With a name which means “beautiful woman”, she was possibly one of the loveliest women in the persian kingdom, history records that she may have been a royalty born to Alyattes, King of Lydia, indicating that she was not an ordinary woman.

We all know the story, Vashti was married to the very pompous King Ahasuerus, who one day decided that he needed to show his male friends that he was not only king of the entire of province of Ethopia to India translating to over hundred and twenty seven provinces but also of his household and his queen. He had been feasting and drinking for seven days in this really impressive banquet held in the capital of Persia. Pause. As a young girl, I wondered why Queen Vashti was not dinning with him, I assumed that she may not have been his main queen, just another one of many women in his life. However, further research showed that it was the habit of a Persian king to have his queen beside him at a banquet, but when he wished to riot and drink, he sent his queen away and called in the wives of inferior rank—his concubines.

And so, the king called Queen Vashti to appear before him; “in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at”. Queen Vashti made a no show at that order. This has been mis-interpreted to say he was very “proud” of his beautiful wife and wanted to show her off but the truth is that the wine-soaked king wanted his intoxicated jubilant lords to feast their eyes on her. Could it be that Queen Vashti disobeyed the drunk king because she was obeying Persian custom that dictated that a queen must be secluded during the feasts where rare wines flowed freely?

It was not about him seeing her, he could have done that later, it was about his lustful intent to flaunt her at drunk people, having being born a princess and gone neck deep into self worth, admiration and respect, Queen Vashti stood her ground and did what was right in her mind and in the eyes of the law. This story links back to the issue of rape in today’s marriages, when a wife’s sexual rights and feminine modesty are being infringed upon by her husband, she has every right to revolt and stand her ground, especially when he’s drunk!

Is it not funny how the king’s anger could not amount to a firm and immediate decision, consulting advisors to save face and do that which “people” considered right at the expense of his queen’s dignity was a choice he made easily, a choice, also quite noticeable in today’s marriages. Queen Vashti was divorced and sent packing, the king knew she had known luxury and royalty all her life and so he found a good way to hit her.  So the advisors got thinking; they knew that Vashti’s bold stand might incite other Persian ladies to disobey their “liege” lords, and so the warrant, silly as it was royal, was enacted that “Every man be master in his own house, and that all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small!” That law, I believe needs to be called:The Fragility of Patriarchy.

Queen Vashti to me was a woman of self-respect and high character, whether she was a big or small deal of a queen in the palace, how she thought of herself meant more to her than her husband’s vast realm. Rather than cater to the vanity and sensuality of drunkards, she courageously sacrificed a kingdom. Rather than lower the white banner of womanly modesty, Vashti accepted disgrace and dismissal. The only true ruler in that drunken court was the woman who refused to exhibit herself, even at the king’s command.

Jennifer Uchendu

Jennifer Uchendu

Founder, SustyVibes
Nigerian Ecofeminist passionate about sustainable development. You would often find me talking about African women and how their development will save Africa.


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