We have been reading about the rebuilding of the temple of God in Jerusalem.
But over in the capital, big things are happening. Xerxes has defeated Egypt and Babylon, and had not yet set out to conquer Greece. The kingdom now went from India to Ethiopia. There was a pause in warfare, and to celebrate the new reaches of his kingdom, a 6 month party and display of power was instituted.
1 -3This is the story of something that happened in the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled from India to Ethiopia—127 provinces in all. King Xerxes ruled from his royal throne in the palace complex of Susa. In the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his officials and ministers. The military brass of Persia and Media were also there, along with the princes and governors of the provinces.
4 -7 For six months he put on exhibit the huge wealth of his empire and its stunningly beautiful royal splendors. At the conclusion of the exhibit, the king threw a weeklong party for everyone living in Susa, the capital—important and unimportant alike. The party was in the garden courtyard of the king's summer house. The courtyard was elaborately decorated with white and blue cotton curtains tied with linen and purple cords to silver rings on marble columns. Silver and gold couches were arranged on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl, and colored stones. Drinks were served in gold chalices, each chalice one-of-a-kind. The royal wine flowed freely—a generous king!
8 -9 The guests could drink as much as they liked—king's orders!—with waiters at their elbows to refill the drinks. Meanwhile, Queen Vashti was throwing a separate party for women inside King Xerxes' royal palace.
So the revelry is at its apex. King is lavishly entertaining. Queen is lavishly entertaining. King keeps wanting to up the ante. Do something more lavish, more outrageous, more entertaining, than anything he's done before.
Now old Xerxes likes beautiful, proud women with self respect. We see that throughout this story. But today he wants to display his "trophy wife", the most beautiful girl in the entire kingdom.
10 -11 On the seventh day of the party, the king, high on the wine, ordered the seven eunuchs who were his personal servants (Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas) to bring him Queen Vashti resplendent in her royal crown. He wanted to show off her beauty to the guests and officials. She was extremely good-looking.
12 -15 But Queen Vashti refused to come, refused the summons delivered by the eunuchs. "
Oops! This queen had self respect!
And the dead drunk king didn't like it!
"The king lost his temper. Seething with anger over her insolence, the king called in his counselors, all experts in legal matters. It was the king's practice to consult his expert advisors. Those closest to him were Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven highest-ranking princes of Persia and Media, the inner circle with access to the king's ear. He asked them what legal recourse they had against Queen Vashti for not obeying King Xerxes' summons delivered by the eunuchs.
16 -18 Memucan spoke up in the council of the king and princes: "It's not only the king Queen Vashti has insulted, it's all of us, leaders and people alike in every last one of King Xerxes' provinces. The word's going to get out: 'Did you hear the latest about Queen Vashti? King Xerxes ordered her to be brought before him and she wouldn't do it!' When the women hear it, they'll start treating their husbands with contempt. The day the wives of the Persian and Mede officials get wind of the queen's insolence, they'll be out of control. Is that what we want, a country of angry women who don't know their place?
19 -20 "So, if the king agrees, let him pronounce a royal ruling and have it recorded in the laws of the Persians and Medes so that it cannot be revoked, that Vashti is permanently banned from King Xerxes' presence. And then let the king give her royal position to a woman who knows her place. When the king's ruling becomes public knowledge throughout the kingdom, extensive as it is, every woman, regardless of her social position, will show proper respect to her husband."
21 -22 The king and the princes liked this. The king did what Memucan proposed. He sent bulletins to every part of the kingdom, to each province in its own script, to each people in their own language: "Every man is master of his own house; whatever he says, goes."
Women had started to rise up! This had to be quelled. The queen would never be able to see the king again, as long as she lived. (Oh no! Not THAT!)
She was to be deposed, and a more docile, beautiful woman, was to be substituted for her. There were lots of beautiful girls, but only one, "thinks-he-is-god" - king!
So the biggest beauty contest in the land begins...