Esther 1:1-2:17 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
King Ahasuerus Deposes Queen Vashti
1 This happened in the days of Ahasuerus, the same Ahasuerus who ruled over one hundred twenty-seven provinces from India to Ethiopia.[a]2 In those days when King Ahasuerus sat on his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, 3 in the third year of his reign, he gave a banquet for all his officials and ministers. The army of Persia and Media and the nobles and governors of the provinces were present, 4 while he displayed the great wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and pomp of his majesty for many days, one hundred eighty days in all.
5 When these days were completed, the king gave for all the people present in the citadel of Susa, both great and small, a banquet lasting for seven days, in the court of the garden of the king’s palace. 6 There were white cotton curtains and blue hangings tied with cords of fine linen and purple to silver rings[b] and marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and colored stones. 7 Drinks were served in golden goblets, goblets of different kinds, and the royal wine was lavished according to the bounty of the king. 8 Drinking was by flagons, without restraint; for the king had given orders to all the officials of his palace to do as each one desired. 9 Furthermore, Queen Vashti gave a banquet for the women in the palace of King Ahasuerus.
10 On the seventh day, when the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha and Abagtha, Zethar and Carkas, the seven eunuchs who attended him, 11 to bring Queen Vashti before the king, wearing the royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the officials her beauty; for she was fair to behold. 12 But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command conveyed by the eunuchs. At this the king was enraged, and his anger burned within him.
13 Then the king consulted the sages who knew the laws[c] (for this was the king’s procedure toward all who were versed in law and custom, 14 and those next to him were Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven officials of Persia and Media, who had access to the king, and sat first in the kingdom): 15 “According to the law, what is to be done to Queen Vashti because she has not performed the command of King Ahasuerus conveyed by the eunuchs?” 16 Then Memucan said in the presence of the king and the officials, “Not only has Queen Vashti done wrong to the king, but also to all the officials and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. 17 For this deed of the queen will be made known to all women, causing them to look with contempt on their husbands, since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.’ 18 This very day the noble ladies of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s behavior will rebel against[d] the king’s officials, and there will be no end of contempt and wrath! 19 If it pleases the king, let a royal order go out from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes so that it may not be altered, that Vashti is never again to come before King Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal position to another who is better than she. 20 So when the decree made by the king is proclaimed throughout all his kingdom, vast as it is, all women will give honor to their husbands, high and low alike.”
21 This advice pleased the king and the officials, and the king did as Memucan proposed; 22 he sent letters to all the royal provinces, to every province in its own script and to every people in its own language, declaring that every man should be master in his own house.[e]
Esther Becomes Queen
2 After these things, when the anger of King Ahasuerus had abated, he remembered Vashti and what she had done and what had been decreed against her. 2 Then the king’s servants who attended him said, “Let beautiful young virgins be sought out for the king. 3 And let the king appoint commissioners in all the provinces of his kingdom to gather all the beautiful young virgins to the harem in the citadel of Susa under custody of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women; let their cosmetic treatments be given them. 4 And let the girl who pleases the king be queen instead of Vashti.” This pleased the king, and he did so.
Now there was a Jew in the citadel of Susa whose name was Mordecai son of Jair son of Shimei son of Kish, a Benjaminite. 6 Kish[a] had been carried away from Jerusalem among the captives carried away with King Jeconiah of Judah, whom King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon had carried away. 7 Mordecai[b] had brought up Hadassah, that is Esther, his cousin, for she had neither father nor mother; the girl was fair and beautiful, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai adopted her as his own daughter. 8 So when the king’s order and his edict were proclaimed, and when many young women were gathered in the citadel of Susa in custody of Hegai, Esther also was taken into the king’s palace and put in custody of Hegai, who had charge of the women. 9 The girl pleased him and won his favor, and he quickly provided her with her cosmetic treatments and her portion of food, and with seven chosen maids from the king’s palace, and advanced her and her maids to the best place in the harem. 10 Esther did not reveal her people or kindred, for Mordecai had charged her not to tell. 11 Every day Mordecai would walk around in front of the court of the harem, to learn how Esther was and how she fared.
12 The turn came for each girl to go in to King Ahasuerus, after being twelve months under the regulations for the women, since this was the regular period of their cosmetic treatment, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with perfumes and cosmetics for women. 13 When the girl went in to the king she was given whatever she asked for to take with her from the harem to the king’s palace. 14 In the evening she went in; then in the morning she came back to the second harem in custody of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch, who was in charge of the concubines; she did not go in to the king again, unless the king delighted in her and she was summoned by name.
15 When the turn came for Esther daughter of Abihail the uncle of Mordecai, who had adopted her as his own daughter, to go in to the king, she asked for nothing except what Hegai the king’s eunuch, who had charge of the women, advised. Now Esther was admired by all who saw her. 16 When Esther was taken to King Ahasuerus in his royal palace in the tenth month, which is the month of Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign, 17 the king loved Esther more than all the other women; of all the virgins she won his favor and devotion, so that he set the royal crown on her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.
Tell the story…
We have a heroine who has decided to refuse the king’s request. She is not going to present herself before all the men so that they can ogle her. The artist has depicted Queen Vashti as a ballerina who dances alone. Look at the colors, the blues, purples, greens, almost yellow and then the white spaces…
In this instance Queen Vashti has decided to go it alone. She knows that by refusing the King and his request to appear before the men of the court, she has basically refused her crown. There is no way that the king can allow this to go unpunished. The overarching story of Esther is one that helps us to understand this boldness.
The story was written to bring hope to the people who had been carried away from their homeland when the Persians known as Xerxes and his armies took over their homeland and spread the people from the land of Israel all over the Persian empire. It was the largest empire known to man at the time and would be that large until the Romans would come some 200 years later. Believe it or not this a historical novella. Most of the people named in this story are fictional. Yet the purpose of the story is to bring hope to the people of God. Even though God is never mentioned directly in this story either. It has an interesting place in our Bible. Not only is it not historically accurate and God is not mentioned, it bears the name of a woman, Esther.
The story of Esther also has significance for the Jewish people in the celebration of Purim. Each year it is celebrated in the spring a two-day festival with the four Mitzvahs. 1. Reading the scripture story of Esther
- Giving to the poor
- Giving gifts
Today, we focus specifically on Queen Vashti. It is very relevant to our society and the #MeToo movement. Some of you may be rolling your eyes and think that you are tired of hearing about it. My response to that is God calls us to be compassionate to our neighbor. Compassionate is defined as, feeling or showing sympathy and concern for others.
synonyms: sympathetic, empathetic, understanding, caring, solicitous, sensitive, warm, loving; merciful, lenient, tolerant, considerate, kind, humane, charitable, big-hearted. No where in this definition does it require us to be judge. Now where in this definition does it ask us to presume guilt or innocence. If someone is hurting, we are asked to be compassionate. Jesus showed compassion to many women in the Gospels.
Jesus speaks to women in public that was a huge no-no. He talked with the woman at the well who was a gentile. He healed a woman in the synagogue, and he healed the woman whose was suffering a bleeding disorder in the street. He saved a woman from being stoned to death who was supposedly caught in the act of adultery. Jesus had women disciples Mary and Martha. Throughout the Gospel stories we see Jesus sharing compassion with everyone he meets who is in need. Jesus’ actions not only as a healer but as the forgiver of sins, makes him the High Priest for us all. His sacrifice is the atonement for our sins. His love for his people brings us before the throne of God. We are not summoned to appear wearing only a crown. We are invited to share in the kingdom.
I believe the women who are part of the #MeToo movement would be loved compassionately by Jesus. For so many years they have had to dance alone as well. They have had to bear the burden of being abused. They have carried the weight of the event in their hearts for a very long time. If you are uncomfortable with this conversation that’s OK. The scriptures are meant to challenge us as we seek to serve God. It is not always a pleasant affair. As we go through the series we are forced to search our hearts and reckon ourselves with events in our past.
We are not forced to stay in the past. We are encouraged to move forward and love. We are encouraged to respect the people who dance alone. We are called to care for the least of God’s creation. It ain’t easy. It’s messy and dirty and clingy and tearful and gut wrenching. You may be ridiculed and called out as being too conservative or too liberal. You may be called worse names than that, and that is OK. Jesus said in the beatitudes, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:10)
It’s being compassionate to people who dance alone no matter the reason. Being a disciple of Jesus is not being a Democrat or a Republican. It is doing what our hearts lead us to do. That is the power of the Holy Spirit. That is God’s grace and love. That is ministering to our neighbor. May we seek to support all who dance alone. Amen.