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Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Anger; Chamberlain; Divorce; Family; Husband; Modesty; Persia; Queen; Vashti; Wife; Women; Thompson Chain Reference - Family; Home; Modesty; Trouble; Virtues; Womanhood, Crowning Qualities of; Women;
Verse 12. Vashti refused to come — And much should she be commended for it. What woman, possessing even a common share of prudence and modesty, could consent to expose herself to the view of such a group of drunken Bacchanalians? Her courage was equal to her modesty: she would resist the royal mandate, rather than violate the rules of chaste decorum.
Her contempt of worldly grandeur, when brought in competition with what every modest woman holds dear and sacred, is worthy of observation. She well knew that this act of disobedience would cost her her crown, if not her life also: but she was regardless of both, as she conceived her virtue and honour were at stake.
Her humility was greatly evidenced in this refusal. She was beautiful; and might have shown herself to great advantage, and have had a fine opportunity of gratifying her vanity, if she had any: but she refused to come.
Hail, noble woman! be thou a pattern to all thy sex on every similar occasion! Surely, every thing considered, we have few women like Vashti; for some of the highest of the land will dress and deck themselves with the utmost splendour, even to the selvedge of their fortunes, to exhibit themselves at balls, plays, galas, operas, and public assemblies of all kinds, (nearly half naked,) that they may be seen and admired of men, and even, to the endless reproach and broad suspicion of their honour and chastity, figure away in masquerades! Vashti must be considered at the top of her sex: -
Rara avis in terris, nigroque simillima cygno.
A black swan is not half so rare a bird.
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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Esther 1:12". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/esther-1.html. 1832.
1:1-2:23 ESTHER BECOMES QUEEN
Officials and leading citizens from all over the Persian Empire had gathered in the winter capital for an exhibition designed to display the riches and magnificence of the royal court. The exhibition lasted six months and was brought to a fitting climax by a lavish seven-day banquet (1:1-9). The week of wine and merriment so excited the king that his sexual urges were in danger of getting out of control. Consequently, when he told his queen Vashti to display her beauty before the crowd of wine-soaked men at the banquet, Vashti refused (10-12). The queen had defied the king’s authority and his pride was hurt. In anger he removed her from being queen (13-22).
For some time the king made no attempt to replace Vashti. He still had plenty of concubines, but his advisers suggested that he appoint an official queen (2:1-4). The most beautiful young women in the land were therefore brought together in the palace, where they were further beautified and trained so that the king might choose one as his queen. Among them was an orphan Jew named Esther, who had been brought up by her cousin Mordecai. But she did not reveal to anyone in the palace that she was a Jew (5-11).
After a year of beauty preparation, all the young women were taken in turn to the king. In the end he chose Esther and crowned her queen (12-18). (This happened four years after he removed Vashti; cf. 1:3; 2:16.)
Mordecai apparently worked in or around the palace (see v. 11,19). When he heard that two of the palace guards were plotting to assassinate the king, he passed on the information to the king by way of Esther. The guards were executed, and Mordecai’s good deed was noted in the official records (19-23).
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Esther 1:12". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/esther-1.html. 2005.
Let us turn to the book of Esther for our study.
The book of Esther is not in a chronological order in these books of history. If the book of Esther were placed in a chronological order, it would have to actually come before the book of Nehemiah.
Ezra records the first return from the captivity. Some forty years later Esther came on the scene, and some forty years after that Nehemiah came on the scene. So the book of Esther fits about halfway between the rebuilding of the temple (the decree given by Cyrus) and the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem (the decree given by Artaxerxes to Nehemiah). About halfway between fits in the story of the book of Esther.
In the story of the book of Esther, though it doesn't mention the word God, yet God's overruling providence is seen throughout the entire book. The Jews hold this as one of the most important books in the Bible, and it is a very beautiful story of God's preservation of His people.
So, the book of Esther begins with an introduction to her husband who was the ruler of the Persian Empire, ruling over 127 nations of the ancient world. He is the Xerxes of secular history, called Artaxerxes, or called Ahasuerus, or Artaxerxes. But he is the Xerxes of secular history.
And he was having a great feast for the lords, the princes and all, that lasted for almost half of a year, about 180 days of feasting. And so you can imagine in that length of time you get pretty well glutted, to where, you know, what's new after that length of time. So, he decided that he would call his wife Vashti into the feasting area. Now in that culture, of course, the women and the men were kept publicly pretty well separated, and the king had his harem and he also had his wife the queen, but along with her was quite a harem. And he decided that he would send for
Vashti that she might come in [and probably without a veil], so that the men could behold her beauty: because she was a very beautiful woman ( Esther 1:11 ).
And so, just sort of seeking, it would seem, to show off her beauty to these other men, he called for her to come on in to the feast.
But Vashti refused to come ( Esther 1:12 )
Which in that culture was just something unheard of. Women were actually considered just one step above a slave. They had very little rights, and when Vashti refused the king's commandment to come in, all of the rest of the fellows said, "Hey king, you're going to have to do something about this, because when we get home and our wives hear that your wife refused to come in at your command, we're not going to be able to handle the women. And so you've got to move dramatically and drastically in this case."
One of the astrologers suggested to him that as a punishment for her disobedience she be deposed from her position as queen, that she be placed out of that royal position and no longer be the queen. And this punishment was decided upon Vashti so that she was deposed from being the queen.
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Esther 1:12". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/esther-1.html. 2014.
2. The queen’s dismissal 1:10-22
The Persian kings castrated many of the men who served the king and his family (Esther 1:10) so they could not have sexual relations with the female members of the royal court and start dynasties of their own.
"Vashti" ("best," "the beloved," or "the desired one," Esther 1:11) was evidently the Persian name of the queen whom Herodotus referred to as Amestris (her Greek name). [Note: J. Stafford Wright, "The Historicity of Esther," in New Perspectives on the Old Testament, p. 40-42.] It is not possible to determine why Vashti refused to obey the king’s summons (Esther 1:12).
"The Rabbis added midrashic embellishments to the story of Vashti, holding that her refusal was the king’s order that she appear naked before his guests. . . . According to the Talmud the queen refused to come because Gabriel had smitten her with leprosy." [Note: Edwin M. Yamauchi, "The Archaeological Background of Esther," Bibliotheca Sacra 137:546 (April-June 1980):105.]
The important point for the writer was that she did not appear, not why she did not.
The counsel of seven (Esther 1:13-14) continued in existence for at least 25 years after this event (cf. Ezra 7:14). These men were cabinet-level officials in the government. The king’s advisers feared that Vashti’s rebellion would lead to a popular women’s liberation movement and to a revolution among the aristocratic wives particularly (Esther 1:17-18).
There is extra-biblical evidence that no one could revoke Persian laws once they were official (Esther 1:19; cf. Esther 8:8; Daniel 6:8). [Note: See Wright, pp. 39-40.]
Herodotus (ca. 484-426 B.C.) traveled in western Persia shortly after Ahasuerus’ reign. He wrote the following concerning the Persian postal service (the original Pony Express), to which the writer of Esther alluded several times (Esther 1:22; cf. Esther 8:10).
"Nothing mortal travels so fast as these Persian messengers. The entire plan is a Persian invention; and this is the method of it. Along the whole line of road there are men (they say) stationed with horses, in number equal to the number of days which the journey takes, allowing a man and horse to each day; and these men will not be hindered from accomplishing at their best speed the distance which they have to go, either by snow or rain, or heat, or by the darkness of night. The first rider delivers his dispatch to the second, and the second passes it to the third; and so it is born from hand to hand along the whole line." [Note: Herodotus, 8:98.]
The last phrase of Esther 1:22 evidently means that the husband’s authority in the home was evident by the fact that his family spoke only his native language. [Note: C. F. Keil, The Books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, p. 332.] The Persian Empire encompassed many different language groups.
"When a marriage took place between people of different ethnic backgrounds, the mother’s language would normally prevail in the home and tend to become the language of the children [cf. Nehemiah 13:23-24]." [Note: Gordis, p. 53.]
The first chapter, even the whole book, is highly satirical of the Persian nobility and empire.
"It is indeed a derisive eye that our narrator has cast upon the royal court he describes: A king who rules the whole known world spends his time giving lavish banquets! . . .
"From the satirical depiction of the grandiose and lavishly excessive lifestyle of the Persian court, our narrator turns to undisguised farce: the king who rules the whole world cannot bend his own wife to his will! . . .
"But its [the first chapter’s] mockery has also a sinister side. It reveals a society fraught with danger, for it is ruled by the pride and pomposity of buffoons whose tender egos can marshal the state’s legislative and administrative machinery for the furtherance of selfish and childish causes. Indeed, in such a setting, it will not seem incongruous to find this same machinery of state mobilized to effect the slaughter of one of its own minorities, or to find that this is an end that the king can both blissfully contemplate and cavalierly condone." [Note: Frederic W. Bush, Ruth, Esther, pp. 354, 355 Cf. Proverbs 12:16; 14:17.]
"The Bible doesn’t tell us what happened to Vashti. Many biblical scholars believe she was Amestris, the mother of Artaxerxes who ruled from 464 to 425 B.C. It’s likely that Esther was either out of favor or dead; for Amestris exercised great influence as the queen mother during her son’s reign.
"Artaxerxes was born in 483, the year of the great banquet described in Esther 1. It’s possible that Vashti was pregnant with her son at the time and therefore unwilling to appear before the men." [Note: Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary/History, p. 710.]
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Esther 1:12". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/esther-1.html. 2012.
But the queen refused to came at the king's commandment by his chamberlains,.... Even though he sent by them again, as the Targum; and so says Josephus o; which might not purely arise from pride in her, and contempt of him, but because she might conclude he was drunk, and knew not well what he did; and therefore had she come at his command, when he was himself and sober, he might blame her for coming, nay, use her ill for it, and especially if she was to come naked, as say the Jews p; and besides, it was contrary to the law of the Persians, as not only Josephus q, but Plutarch r observes, which suffered not women to be seen in public; and particularly did not allow their wives to be with them at feasts, only their concubines and harlots, with whom they could behave with more indecency; as for their wives, they were kept out of sight, at home s; and therefore Vashti might think it an indignity to be treated as an harlot or concubine:
therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him; which was the more fierce, as he was inflamed with wine.
o Antiqu. l. 11. c. 6. sect. 1. p Targum in loc. Midrash Esther, fol. 90. 1. q Antiqu. l. 11. c. 6. sect. 1. r In Themistoele. s Macrob. Saturnal. l. 7. c. 1.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Esther 1:12". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/esther-1.html. 1999.
|Vashti's Refusal to Appear; Vashti Divorced.||B. C. 519.|
10 On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, and Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven chamberlains that served in the presence of Ahasuerus the king, 11 To bring Vashti the queen before the king with the crown royal, to show the people and the princes her beauty: for she was fair to look on. 12 But the queen Vashti refused to come at the king's commandment by his chamberlains: therefore was the king very wroth, and his anger burned in him. 13 Then the king said to the wise men, which knew the times, (for so was the king's manner toward all that knew law and judgment: 14 And the next unto him was Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, which saw the king's face, and which sat the first in the kingdom;) 15 What shall we do unto the queen Vashti according to law, because she hath not performed the commandment of the king Ahasuerus by the chamberlains? 16 And Memucan answered before the king and the princes, Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all the princes, and to all the people that are in all the provinces of the king Ahasuerus. 17 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. 18 Likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media say this day unto all the king's princes, which have heard of the deed of the queen. Thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath. 19 If it please the king, let there go a royal commandment from him, and let it be written among the laws of the Persians and the Medes, that it be not altered, That Vashti come no more before king Ahasuerus; and let the king give her royal estate unto another that is better than she. 20 And when the king's decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small. 21 And the saying pleased the king and the princes; and the king did according to the word of Memucan: 22 For he sent letters into all the king's provinces, into every province according to the writing thereof, and to every people after their language, that every man should bear rule in his own house, and that it should be published according to the language of every people.
We have here a damp to all the mirth of Ahasuerus's feast; it ended in heaviness, not as Job's children's feast by a wind from the wilderness, not as Belshazzar's by a hand-writing on the wall, but by is own folly. An unhappy falling out there was, at the end of the feast, between the king and queen, which broke of the feast abruptly, and sent the guests away silent and ashamed.
I. It was certainly the king's weakness to send for Vashti into his presence when he was drunk, and in company with abundance of gentlemen, many of whom, it is likely, were in the same condition. When his heart was merry with wine nothing would serve him but Vashti must come, well dressed as she was, with the crown on her head, that the princes and people might see what a handsome woman she was, Esther 1:10; Esther 1:11. Hereby, 1. He dishonoured himself as a husband, who ought to protect, but by no means expose, the modesty of his wife, who ought to be to her a covering of the eyes (Genesis 20:16), not to uncover them. 2. He diminished himself as a king, in commanding that from his wife which she might refuse, much to the honour of her virtue. It was against the custom of the Persians for the women to appear in public, and he put a great hardship upon her when he did not court, but command her to do so uncouth a thing, and make her a show. If he had not been put out of the possession of himself by drinking to excess, he would not have done such a thing, but would have been angry at any one that should have mentioned it. When the wine is in the wit is out, and men's reason departs from them.
II. However, perhaps it was not her wisdom to deny him. She refused to come (Esther 1:12; Esther 1:12); though he sent his command by seven honourable messengers, and publicly, and Josephus says sent again and again, yet she persisted in her denial. Had she come, while it was evident that she did it in pure obedience, it would have been no reflection upon her modesty, nor a bad example. The thing was not in itself sinful, and therefore to obey would have been more her honour than to be so precise. Perhaps she refused in a haughty manner, and then it was certainly evil; she scorned to come at the king's commandment. What a mortification was this to him! While he was showing the glory of his kingdom he showed the reproach of his family, that he had a wife that would do as she pleased. Strifes between yoke-fellows are bad enough at any time, but before company they are very scandalous, and occasion blushing and uneasiness.
III. The king thereupon grew outrageous. He that had rule over 127 provinces had no rule over his own spirit, but his anger burned in him,Esther 1:12; Esther 1:12. He would have consulted his own comfort and credit more if he had stifled his resentment, had passed by the affront his wife gave him, and turned it off with a jest.
IV. Though he was very angry, he would not do any thing in this matter till he advised with his privy-counsellors; as he had seven chamberlains to execute his orders, who are named (Esther 1:10; Esther 1:10), so he had seven counsellors to direct his orders. The greater power a man has the greater need he has of advice, that he may not abuse his power. Of these counsellors it is said that they were learned men, for they knew law and judgment,that they were wise men, for they knew the times,and that the king put great confidence in them and honour upon them, for they saw the king's face and sat first in the kingdom,Esther 1:13; Esther 1:14. In the multitude of such counsellors there is safety. Now here is,
1. The question proposed to this cabinet-council (Esther 1:15; Esther 1:15): What shall we do to the queen Vashti according to the law? Observe, (1.) Though it was the queen that was guilty, the law must have its course. (2.) Though the king was very angry, yet he would do nothing but what he was advised was according to law.
2. The proposal which Memucan made, that Vashti should be divorced for her disobedience. Some suggest that he gave this severe advice, and the rest agreed to it, because they knew it would please the king, would gratify both his passion now and his appetite afterwards. But Josephus says that, on the contrary, he had a strong affection for Vashti, and would not have put her away for this offence if he could legally have passed it by; and then we must suppose Memucan, in his advice, to have had a sincere regard to justice and the public good. (1.) He shows what would be the bad consequences of the queen's disobedience to her husband, if it were passed by and not animadverted upon, that it would embolden other wives both to disobey their husbands and to domineer over them. Had this unhappy falling out between the king and his wife, wherein she was conqueror, been private, the error would have remained with themselves and the quarrel might have been settled privately between themselves; but it happening to be public, and perhaps the ladies that were now feasting with the queen having shown themselves pleased with her refusal, her bad example would be likely to have a bad influence upon all the families of the kingdom. If the queen must have her humour, and the king must submit to it (since the houses of private persons commonly take their measures from the courts of princes), the wives would be haughty and imperious and would scorn to obey their husbands, and the poor despised husbands might fret at it, but could not help themselves; for the contentions of a wife are a continual dropping,Proverbs 19:13; Proverbs 27:15; and see Proverbs 21:9; Proverbs 25:24. When wives despise their husbands, whom they ought to reverence (Ephesians 5:33), and contend for dominion over those to whom they ought to be in subjection (1 Peter 3:1), there cannot but be continual guilt and grief, confusion and every evil work. And great ones must take heed of setting copies of this kind, Esther 1:16-17.1.18; Esther 1:16-17.1.18. (2.) He shows what would be the good consequence of a decree against Vashti that she should be divorced. We may suppose that before they proceeded to this extremity they sent to Vashti to know if she would yet submit, cry Peccavi--I have done wrong, and ask the king's pardon, and that, if she had done so, the mischief of her example would have been effectually prevented, and process would have been stayed; but it is likely she continued obstinate, and insisted upon it as her prerogative to do as she pleased, whether it pleased the king or no, and therefore they gave this judgment against her, that she come no more before the king, and this judgment so ratified as never to be reversed, Esther 1:19; Esther 1:19. The consequence of this, it was hoped, would be that the wives would give to their husbands honour, even the wives of the great, notwithstanding their own greatness, and the wives of the small, notwithstanding the husband's meanness (Esther 1:20; Esther 1:20); and thus every man would bear rule in his own house, as he ought to do, and, the wives being subject, the children and servants would be so too. It is the interest of states and kingdoms to provide that good order be kept in private families.
3. The edict that passed according to this proposal, signifying that the queen was divorced for contumacy, according to the law, and that, if other wives were in like manner undutiful to their husbands, they must expect to be in like manner disgraced (Esther 1:21; Esther 1:22): were they better than the queen? Whether it was the passion or the policy of the king that was served by this edict, God's providence served its own purpose by it, which was to make way for Esther to the crown.
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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Esther 1:12". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/esther-1.html. 1706.
the Second Week after Epiphany