Chapter 1:5-12 (ESV) - And when these days were completed, the king gave for all the people present in Susa the citadel, both great and small, a feast lasting for seven days in the court of the garden of the king's palace. There were white cotton curtains and violet hangings fastened with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rods and marble pillars, and also couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and precious stones. Drinks were served in golden vessels, vessels of different kinds, and the royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the king. And drinking was according to this edict: “There is no compulsion.” For the king had given orders to all the staff of his palace to do as each man desired. Queen Vashti also gave a feast for the women in the palace that belonged to King Ahasuerus.
On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha and Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who served in the presence of King Ahasuerus, to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at. But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king's command delivered by the eunuchs. At this the king became enraged, and his anger burned within him.
Question to consider: Why did the queen refuse the request of king Xerxes?
After a six month festival to show off the greatness of the Persian empire, king Xerxes held a seven-day feast in the palace garden. Traditionally, a seven day feast was done for weddings so it is quite possible that the showing off of the kingdom was all part of a political union which culminated in his marriage to queen Vashti. I call it a “political union” because if it were a marriage established in love, I would think that there would not be separate feasts for the men and the women like there was in this scenario.
While the author described the king being “merry with wine,” I think the phrase was being used euphemistically. Ordinarily, these feasts only allowed for people to take a drink of wine when the king did so. In this case, “there [was] no compulsion.” People were free to drink as often and as much as they pleased which created a scenario in which all the men were most likely on a seven-day drunken bender.
It is bad enough that Xerxes had such a garish display of opulence and power in the six months leading up to this event, but in his drunken state, Xerxes decided to call for his queen (and possibly new bride) to be displayed for the men in the same manner as he had the treasure. It is apparent in her refusal to entertain this request that she was disgusted by such a humiliating charge. To Xerxes, she was just another golden vessel or white cotton curtain to be on display. Even the name, Vashti, was Persian for “Beautiful One”.
Of course, in refusing the king, queen Vashti, humiliated him rather than allowing herself to be humiliated. The message this sent was that the king who controlled all of the beauty and wealth of the nations could not control his own wife. I would not want to have been one of the eunuchs who had to deliver the request of the king to queen Vashti, nor her refusal of this request to the king. Thankfully, there was nothing that led us to believe that the rage of the king was directed toward them.
Dear heavenly father, please help us to treat everyone with dignity and respect and never use people for our own gain. May we strive to pursue freedom for all people to be able to safely refuse an unjust request. Amen.