Queen Vashti: a Falsely Represented Heroine

by - Sunday, June 29, 2014

‘‘Vashti is a proto-feminist who has been unfairly maligned by ‘mainstream media’ and Jews everywhere’’ says Isabel Kaplan in Purim’s other woman: Vashti, the queen who kept her clothes on.’…In the book of Esther, Vashti is a brave woman who risked her life for her beliefs’, she adds. The book of Esther is a very romantic Biblical story. I am presently on the study and I am doing some research. I have with me my favorite Adam Clarke's commentary. In addition, I have Barnes’ notes and Matthew Henry's commentary. It is true that there are some conflicts in their expositions but they converge on some issues. I do not know and cannot explain why some of the manuscripts are excluded: The Tegum and some of the original manuscripts and all those stuff but thank God for researchers who have painstakingly tried to recover and deeply explain therein what we might want to inquire of. The scriptures say that God's people perish for lack of knowledge. I have decided not to be ignorant, even though curiosity is one of the factors responsible for my thorough inquisitiveness. Let us go through some shocking revelations.
First: Read Esther 1
Most of the commentaries praised Vashti. They call her the most modest of women. She was to be praised for esteeming her modesty and placing it above obedience. That for one was her top most prized possession. Some manuscripts say she did not come because the King probably wanted her to come naked. 'Vashti' isn’t a name per say. It is a Persian word or so used to describe a very beautiful woman. They always saw the queen. What was so special about that day? The Tegum adds 'to come naked'. She was fair to look upon in the bedroom. All those fairness and beauty was covered publicly save for her face. So, the King wanted her publicly unclad that one time. Well, maybe not completely nude, with lace or see-through garments or so with her splendid crown on her head of course. High status women usually silently begged their husbands to permit them to go to galas, dances and co half naked. If the husband agrees, they show off their assets for they were corrupt women. For crying out loud, this guy who was supposed to protect his wife was drunk! He wasn't reasoning as a husband anymore, he had started to reason like a vile Persian. (Those men were damn handsome...just saying).  Drunkards are men of vanity! In T McCrie’s words-‘Whatever be the ruling passion of a man, whether it be pride, vanity, or anger, or lust, or impiety,  or even benevolence, it will display itself  when it is inflamed by strong drink’. Now, she knew she was either going to be dethroned or even killed. It was an odd predicament. She could choose to satisfy the king’s show of vanity (that would bring a mockery of the queen amongst the men when they all became sober) or disobey a higher authority-the king! Or let’s say her husband- the head of their ‘home’. Shakespeare wrote a poem as regards her bravery. Some manuscripts say after much persistence from the King she sent back her refusal to come even with anger. 
Another reason why she refused to come was that the women of Persia didn’t usually mix with the men in public. That was why she had to carry the women along by holding a banquet for them. Now, the King (who in his normal state wouldn't do so) was asking drunken ‘fetchers’ to bring the naked queen to parade in front of drunken men in a drunken party. Even if things were cool she found it of utmost humiliation to be asked to parade in front of men in public. She was going to be the only woman in the midst of hundreds of drunkards. Not that she would be hurt or something; no one would lay a finger or even say inappropriate words. She was the queen! But that act, that kinda parade (or dance as she might have to) was just so detestable in Persian customs. The women kept their pride by being discreet and always being sought after.
In short I believe all these were stage-managed to lift Esther up because none of what happened was entirely Vashti's fault-maybe she was a little proud. She could have as well persuaded her husband to reason. But hey there! A drunkard hardly listens. God made her husband (not her King now) so drunken that he could not honour his wife. And make no mistake; King Xerxes dearly loved Vashti, even though we know that the emotional attachment between the king and queen was almost invisible (as we see that Esther was not called in to see the king for a month!). Vashti was so loved that he couldn't but think about her even after dethroning her. Esther was soon to take that space in his heart.
 Don’t miss the Part II of this issue same time next week. Xoxo…

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