Open Your Bible
Esther 1:1-22, 2 Peter 1:19-21, Proverbs 3:13-18
Everyone has a strong response to this passage. There are two main camps: Vashti the brave and Vashti the bad.
Vashti the brave: Some smart people think Ahasuerus (also called Xerxes) was a drunken voyeur who just wanted to show off his gorgeous queen to his party guests. Maybe when he insisted she wear her crown it implied she was to wear her crown and nothing else. She refused. I call this the “Vashti, you go girl” response. Don’t judge me.
Vashti the bad: On the other hand, some scholars argue Ahasuerus was calling his queen to perform a normal state function: show up at the party. But instead she shamed him by disobeying his authority in front of what seemed like the whole world. And at that time, he was pretty much the ruler of the whole eastern world.
The ruler of the whole eastern world needed her to show up. Ahasuerus was planning to go to war with Greece, and it was common in that time for generals to drink liberally while they strategized for battle. The next morning, if the drunken plans still looked solid, they were considered to be inspired. It’s one way to get over battle-planner’s block.
Ahasuerus needed Vashti to show up to underscore to all the visiting dignitaries that he was powerful and magnificent enough to be the guy who could defeat the Greeks. It was embarrassing when she refused him. Ahasuerus and his wise men make an example of her to keep other women from undercutting their husbands as well.
Vashti is a side note in the book of Esther. But God is the main character of every story. Whether we interpret Vashti’s actions as brave or bad, this story is about God and His providential care for His chosen people in exile.
The easy response to this passage is to fall into the same trap as Ahasuerus and think the story is about him… or Vashti, or even Esther. Our temptation is to just draw an easy moral here: if Vashti did right, it’s “stand up for your dignity,” and if she was wrong it’s “submit to authority.”
But let’s push past those easy responses and consider wisdom rather than moralism. It’s hard to decipher what the people in this story are up to, and Scripture doesn’t give us a final verdict on Vashti’s actions. Queen Vashti had to come and go so Queen Esther could take her place. God would use Esther to save Israel from genocide in the Babylonian exile.
“Peripety” is a cool word that means “reversal of circumstances.” It comes from the Greek word peripeteia, and it refers to a change of events not created by the characters in the story. That’s what’s happening here. The crazy story of Vashti and Esther includes some wild reversals. These reversals are orchestrated by God, but until you step back to see the big picture, it just looks like a bunch of amazing coincidences.
God doesn’t necessarily call us to understand everything that’s happening in Vashti’s story, or even in our own story! But He does call us to be faithful in the everyday things. He calls us to wisdom. When we look at Vashti and all her jewels, we aren’t going to find it. We have to look to the main character in every story: God.
Wisdom is a lamp shining in a dark place (2 Peter 1:19). It is looking to God for our guidance rather than to the ways or expectations of man. Wisdom isn’t knowing all the answers—it’s knowing what’s important, and walking in light of that.
We don’t get all the details about the stories we read, and we don’t even get all the details about the stories we’re in. We do, however, get the bullet points: do justice, love mercy, walk humbly (Micah 6:8).
Don’t be afraid of what you don’t know. God knows. Walk in His wisdom.