16 April 2011

Vashti: The best person in the Bible

It's hard to find good people in the Bible.

There are lots of bad guys, though. Noah, Lot, Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Jephthah, Samson, Samuel, David, Elijah, Elisha, Jehu -- all are candidates for "The Worst Person in the Bible" award (or even "The Worst Person in the World," if existence isn't a criterion). Heck, even Jesus behaved badly as often as not.

But there are a few people in the Bible that can honestly be called good. And Vashti is one of them. Of course, whoever made up the story about her didn't see it that way, which just goes to show how messed up the Bible truly is.

The story takes place in the first chapter of Esther, where King Ahasuerus is getting ready to throw another party. This is a guy who liked to show off. He'd just finished displaying his riches in a 180-day feast.

In the third year of his reign, he made a feast unto all his princes and his servants; the power of Persia and Media, the nobles and princes of the provinces, being before him: When he shewed the riches of his glorious kingdom and the honour of his excellent majesty many days, even an hundred and fourscore days. Esther 1:3-4

Still, he wanted to party some more, so he invited all the men in the palace to come to a seven-day drink fest.

And when these days were expired, the king made a feast unto all the people that were present in Shushan the palace, both unto great and small, seven days, in the court of the garden of the king's palace ... And they gave them drink in vessels of gold ... and royal wine in abundance. Esther 1:5-7

On the seventh day, when he was good and drunk, the king ordered Queen Vashti to put on her crown and strut her stuff before him and his drunken male guests.

On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded ... Vashti the queen ... with the crown royal, to shew the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on. Esther 1:10-11

But she refused.

But the queen Vashti refused. Esther 1:12a

Which, of course, royally pissed off his drunken highness.

Therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him. Esther 1:12b

The king asked his wise me what to do about it.

The king said to the wise men ... What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to law, because she hath not performed the commandment of the king? Esther 1:13-15

The wise men told the king that Vashti's offense wasn't just against him, but against every man in the kingdom. For if the king can't force his own wife to do whatever disgusting thing he wants, how will regular guys be able to do it?

Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the people ... For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes, when it shall be reported, The king Ahasuerus commanded Vashti the queen to be brought in before him, but she came not. Esther 1:16-17

The solution, they said, was to banish (or refuse to have sex with, or imprison, or kill, or whatever) Vashti and give her crown to a woman "better [prettier] than she."

Let there go a royal commandment ... That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she. Esther 1:19

So all the fair young virgins throughout the kingdom were brought before the king, and the one that "pleaseth" the king the most replaced Vashti.

Let there be fair young virgins sought for the king ... that they may gather together all the fair young virgins ... And let the maiden which pleaseth the king be queen instead of Vashti. Esther 2:2-4

And the king sent out a royal decree to everyone throughout the kingdom commanding all wives to honor and obey their husbands, "both great and small" so that "every man should bear rule in his own house."

The king's decree [that] ... all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small ... that every man should bear rule in his own house. Esther 1:20-22

That's all the Bible says about Vashti.

Not much to go on, is it? A queen who had the courage to refuse to entertain her husband's drunken guests. But can you think of another Bible character that is more worthy of "The Best Person is the Bible" award?

8 comments:

Intrinsic said...

Here's a little animation I did about the tale of Queen Vashti, as told by Child Evangelism Fellowship. CEF uses Vashti's banishment from the Persian king's palace as a metaphor for God's intolerance of sin in his presence.

Dan said...

Other then the obvious issues of chauvinism, despotism, and general b.s. I am reminded in these stories what biblical free will looks like. It paints a vivid picture of a God that requires absolute obedience. Then it says choose to obey or suffer in hell for eternity. I can't understand how perfectly rational people view this as a legitimate choice. I use the example of my teenagers; I say to them "you have a choice, be home by midnight, if you are late I will have to stone you to death". Isn't that like a threat or ultimatum? A choice would sound something like this; "if you decide to obey me you will go to the blue heaven". If you decide not to you will go to the green heaven." Queen Vashti wasn't faced with a choice, she was faced with an ultimatum. Obey or die...It is the same one Jesus gives in the gospels, "accept me as the Christ, or burn in hell for eternity".

The Pathway Machine said...

I don't know. The case of Vashti seems more like a brief political aside to me than anything. The Hebrew word malkah is used, which is a queen consort or leading wife of a king of foreign power. She wasn't a ruling Queen, so she should have shown respect for the King seems to have been the attitude.

It sounds too much like, since the Queen was having her own banquet for the women it was more a political issue than anything else.

Even by those primitive standards the husband wasn't showing respect for the wife more than the wife not showing for the husband.

It was more of a political issue.

The Pathway Machine said...

Dan,

Hell is a pagan myth adopted by much later apostate Christianity.

Vashti didn't die because of her offense against the King she was deposed and replaced about 4 years later by Esther.

Tim said...

In all fairness to the Bible, I think this is intended as a simple historical tale, rather than a moral one. It doesn't seem to specifically praise or condemn either her actions or his, and the only real purpose of its inclusion seems to be setting the stage for Esther's appearance.

That being said, it's quite clear that this was the accepted view of the time, considering that the men's response was basically "Quick, get rid of her before the women start thinking they can make their own decisions!"

Worse, of course, is when we get to the letters of Saul of Tarsus, when this exact view is espoused as being examplary. Women are to submit to their husbands as men are to submit to their zombie saviour.

Hooray for Saul, making sure all that overt misogyny that Jesus forgot to encourage made it into Christinanity. Where would we be without him?

As for other good people in the Bible, the story that springs to mind is that of Korah and his friends performing a peaceful act of resistance in favour of a more democratic system than Moses' theocratic dictatorship (Numbers 16).

SPOILER ALERT:
God kills them.
And their families.
And their 250 followers.
The next day some people complain, so god sends a plague to kill 14700 of them.
What a guy.

Dan said...

Mr. "The" Pathway Machine,(I would think calling yourself something like this is taking on a huge responsibility). Thanks for your response. Even though you may be technically correct on the hell myth concept (I read your link) The vast majority of Protestant and Catholic faithful have firmly embraced it. It would be interesting to note what percentage of believers accept hell (the one where you burn forever) as a fact. 100% of the believers I have met do so. Maybe with the internet and sites like yours, word is getting out. Dan

The Pathway Machine said...

Dan, unfortunately people believe what they want to believe. A local preacher here was once informed of the pagan influenced apostate Christian doctrine of hell as unscriptural and he revealed that he was well aware of that. When asked if he taught it anyway to scare his congregation into attendance he laughed and said that he taught it because it was expected of him. If he didn't he would lose his job.

Its not only a question of the traditions of men being favored over the true teachings of God's word, the Bible, it is also a case of so called Christians putting themselves upon a false pedestal of moral superiority. Small minded people who want confirmation of the lie they live. The illusion they create.

At 2 Timothy 4:3-4 the apostle Paul forewarned of this, using the Greek word mythous (myth) later translated into the Latin (fabulas)Fables.

Examples of this are the teachings of the immortal soul from Socrates, the trinity from Plato, the cross from Constantine, hell from Dante and Milton, Easter from Astarte, and Christmas from the winter solstice celebrations.

Sarah said...

Samuel's also pretty great. The people ask him to ask God for a king, and he says, the king's going to tax you and take all your women and order you around. You don't want a king. But they persist, so like any good representative, he tells God they want a king.