Emails to God – Advising Through Conflicts of Interest (Esther 1)

26 May

1 This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush: 2 At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa, 3 and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present.

4 For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty. 5 When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king’s palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest who were in the citadel of Susa. 6 The garden had hangings of white and blue linen, fastened with cords of white linen and purple material to silver rings on marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and other costly stones. 7 Wine was served in goblets of gold, each one different from the other, and the royal wine was abundant, in keeping with the king’s liberality. 8 By the king’s command each guest was allowed to drink with no restrictions, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished.

9 Queen Vashti also gave a banquet for the women in the royal palace of King Xerxes.

10 On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him—Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Karkas— 11 to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at. 12 But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger.

13 Since it was customary for the king to consult experts in matters of law and justice, he spoke with the wise men who understood the times 14 and were closest to the king—Karshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena and Memukan, the seven nobles of Persia and Media who had special access to the king and were highest in the kingdom.

15 “According to law, what must be done to Queen Vashti?” he asked. “She has not obeyed the command of King Xerxes that the eunuchs have taken to her.”

16 Then Memukan replied in the presence of the king and the nobles, “Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against all the nobles and the peoples of all the provinces of King Xerxes. 17 For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.’ 18 This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord.

19 “Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. 20 Then when the king’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.”

21 The king and his nobles were pleased with this advice, so the king did as Memukan proposed. 22 He sent dispatches to all parts of the kingdom, to each province in its own script and to each people in their own language, proclaiming that every man should be ruler over his own household, using his native tongue.

Dear God, I find the advisors’ advice interesting. They weren’t as concerned about the idea of the king’s authority as they were concerned about the authority of men over women in the entire society. Getting more personal, they were more concerned about their own lives and their own wives. They had a conflict of interest in giving this advice. Did they do the right thing?

I am reading a terrific book right now about the different Presidents of the United States and their relationships with each other behind the scenes (The Presidents’ Club). It is interesting to see the times when a former or current president will reach out to another under the guise of helping, but it really falls into the category of helping their own self-interests. The book is also clear that it is often easier for the person who isn’t the president at the time to make an aggressive decision than when they are president. They give an example of a president never taking the country into a war while he was president, but then encouraging his successor to take a harder, more aggressive line in using the military to advance foreign policy.

I guess my point is, Xerxes needed some sound counsel and got this instead. Perhaps it was cultural, but it would have been nice if he had just gone to his wife and asked her why she wasn’t coming. Perhaps she had a good reason.

Father, I know that marriage, especially between kings and queens of that era, are not what I think of as marriage now. I know that there is no comparison. My point is, this man needed some wise counsel. Perhaps he got it for that time. I, however, don’t think he did. Help me to seek wise counsel when I am in a quandary. Help me to know how best to tap into your wisdom in any given situation. Help me, also, to be your counsel to others. Give me your words and your voice. Help me to look beyond mine and others egos into the depths of what you might have me to do that might even be at my own expense so long as it is for your glory and your plan.


Posted by on May 26, 2012 in Esther


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2 responses to “Emails to God – Advising Through Conflicts of Interest (Esther 1)

  1. KM

    May 27, 2012 at 7:08 pm

    The prayer you prayed at the end is very beautiful. I totally agree with the sentiments. I would like to share what I’ve learned about Vashti. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough discussions about the implications of Vashti and Xerxes.

  2. KM

    May 27, 2012 at 7:10 pm

    In many Christian circles, Vashti has become the poster child that many folks use to encourage wives to submit to sin, foolishness, or destructive behavior. They place all of the responsibility to submit on the wife’s shoulders. Yet, they place little to no responsibility on the husband to
    (1) submit to God
    (2) love his wife like Christ loved the church and died for it.

    The idea of a wife submitting to her husband was not a new one. It had been taught from Genesis throughout the Bible. When Paul taught about a wife’s duty to submit to her husband, he was merely recapping an age old teaching. However, he had to spell it out for husbands. (Ephesians 5:25-32) This was a revolutionary concept for husbands. It had never been taught like that before. Some might say “love your neighbor as yourself” had been taught before (Luke 10:27). But that was the problem. Husbands were expressing love for their neighbors outside of the home, while regarding their wives as mere maids and sex objects.

    The king did this to Vashti. She refused to submit to his foolish and drunken request. Jewish tradition says that he instructed her to appear nude. We can’t be sure whether he requested her nude or not. Either way, flaunting your beauty in front of several drunk men couldn’t have been too safe for Vashti. I have had alcoholic men in my family, and when they were drunk their behavior was impulsive and destructive. Vashti simply did what she thought was right and safe for her at that particular time.

    She evidently valued modesty and would not promote lustfulness. (Matt 5:28, Ex 20:17, Deut 5:21) The king’s foolish and self serving friends were angered by her refusal and encouraged him to exile her, and he did.

    This is a prime example of how many husbands use their position of power to abuse defenseless wives. It’s also an example of how many husbands express love for their neighbors and friends outside the home, while treating their wives with utter cruelty. This is a perfect example of why Paul needed to spell out (Ephesians 5:25-32) for husbands.

    Bathsheba – another woman who had been the victim of a king’s abuse of power – gave Solomon this wise advice:

    It is not for kings, O Lemuel, to guzzle wine. Rulers should not crave alcohol. For if they drink, they may forget the law
    and not give justice to the oppressed (Pro 31:4-5). That’s exactly what happened between Vashti and the King. He got drunk and forgot his duty to love, honor, and protect his wife.

    As a result of Vashti’s refusal, she was banished. Sometimes, bad things happen when you take a stand. Vashti’s hardship is similar to that of Uriah. Uriah was a loyal military man. He refused to go home and sleep with his wife because of his commitment to his army. Uriah was actually more committed at that time than David because David took a day off to commit adultery. Although Uriah took an honorable stand, he was still killed. Although Uriah was killed, God still used the incident for his glory. Solomon became one of the wisest kings to ever live. This is no different from how the book of Esther unfolds. God uses an unfortunate tragedy to accomplish his plans.

    Like David, Ashasuerus had some redemptive qualities. That’s why God used him and gave him a second chance. He was remorseful for the way he had treated Vashti. He learned from his mistakes and treated Esther better than he treated Vashti. He also made a decree with Haman to kill the Jews. When he realized how egregious that decree was, he rectified it. He did in that situation what he had failed to do concerning Vashti. This is an admirable quality. Ashasuerus learned from his past mistakes.

    There are some many other relevant themes within this text that many commentators fail to deal with like alcoholism, substance abuse and/or sexual immorality within marriage. Unfortunately, far too many women are married to alcoholic, drug addicted or porn addicted husbands. What happened between Vashti and the King could easily be used to try to convince wives to enable, support and/or excuse their husband’s addiction. Far too many lives, families and marriages have been destroyed as a result of addiction.


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