What makes a man or woman worthy? What gives a person their value? Is worth found in pleasing others? In conformity to cultural expectations? Or is there personal worth and dignity that transcends what this world values?
Queen Vashti refused to be exploited by her husband. She refused to show off her beauty for his drunken dinner guests. The result was a declaration from King Ahasuerus: “Her royal position is to be given to another woman who is more worthy than she” (Esther 1:19). The whole situation drips with irony. Faced with a queen who resists his indecent request, the all-powerful king of the Medes of Persians—who had just put the might and glory of his kingdom on display for his guests—is now forced to seek marriage advice from his political advisors. “What should be done to Queen Vashti,” he asks, “since she refused to obey King Ahasuerus’s command?” (v.15).
The king’s advisors saw the queen’s defiance as treason, an insult not only of her husband but one that included all the nobles and peoples of Persia. Memucan, in particular, feared the culture this one act might inspire: “The queen’s action will become public knowledge to all the women and cause them to despise their husbands… Before this day is over, the noble women of Persia and Media who hear about the queen’s act will say the same thing to all the king’s officials, resulting in more contempt and fury” (vv.17–18). You can just imagine their disgust: Well, we can’t have that, can we?
So the queen was banished and a decree issued that her position was to be given to a woman who was “more worthy” than she. King Ahasuerus was looking for a queen who would be subject to his whims and the politics of the time. But the king spoke better than he knew; his decree set the stage for all the other events in this story to take place.
The book of Esther tells of how God sent a woman into King Ahasuerus’s house, preemptively providing a means of rescue for His people. Esther’s worth wasn’t in the favorable judgment of a Persian king, nor was she without fear or sin. She was a woman, like Vashti, who was made in the image of her God, and it was through her that God chose to outwit powerful Persian men and their wicked plots, accomplishing His redemptive purposes for His people. As you read the book of Esther, remember the truth woven throughout her story: no matter how dire the schemes of man may be, no matter what judgment or standard they present, it is God alone who establishes the true standard of our value.
Written by Jared Kennedy