Read Esther 1
The Virtue of Vashti
King Ahasuerus liked to show off. He hosted a seven-day feast which deteriorated into a drunken display of debauchery. As the king and his cohorts imbibed “according to each man’s pleasure” (Esther 1:8), Queen Vashti hosted a feast for the women in the royal palace. On the seventh day, the king decided he wanted to show off one of his greatest treasures: his queen.
Ahasuerus commanded his eunuchs to bring the queen “wearing her royal crown, in order to show her beauty to the people and the officials, for she was beautiful to behold” (Esther 1:11). There is some controversy over exactly what was intended here; some believe the king wanted his wife to appear wearing nothing but the crown, while others argue that she was to appear unveiled but clothed. In either case, it was against the customs of the day for the queen to appear in such a manner, and she refused.
Vashti was unseated as queen, banished from the presence of the king, and Ahasuerus issued a decree that “all wives will honor their husbands, both great and small” (Esther 1:20). On the surface, the decree is a good one, but the motivation behind it showed the king’s derision toward acting responsibly.
The New Testament is clear that the husband is the head of the wife, and that wives should submit to their husbands. Paul compared the marriage relationship to the relationship between Christ and the church. But here is the difference between what Paul taught and what Ahasuerus decreed: the marriage relationship must be built upon trust and love. The wife does not serve every whim of her husband just because he says so, nor does the husband demand things of his wife that are immoral or unethical. If the relationship is not built upon the foundation of faith as revealed in Scripture, then situations similar to what occurred between Ahasuerus and Vashti will be repeated.
Vashti was a woman of virtue who refused to compromise her convictions even at the behest of her husband. Christian women today should likewise stand upon the faith revealed in the New Testament and live in such a way that honors their husbands within the boundaries of that revelation.