I want to focus today on what Memucan says about the women of the nobility and of the kingdom hearing of Vashti’s disobedience and the consequences.
16 Memucan said in the presence of the king and his officials, “Queen Vashti has wronged not only the king, but all the officials and the peoples who are in every one of King Ahasuerus’s (Xerxes) provinces. 17 For the queen’s action will become public knowledge to all the women and cause them to despise their husbands and say, ‘King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) ordered Queen Vashti brought before him, but she did not come.’ 18 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….
20 The decree the king issues will be heard throughout his vast kingdom, so all women will honor their husbands, from the least to the greatest.” 21 The king and his counselors approved the proposal, and he followed Memucan’s advice. 22 He sent letters to all the royal provinces, to each province in its own script and to each ethnic group in its own language, that every man should be master of his own house and speak in the language of his own people. (HCSB)
Are these honest concerns that Memucan has? I believe so. He is asking Xerxes to make sure that harmony is maintained in the homes of the kingdom. It is the understanding that the family is the basis of the society and that if the family breaks down then so does all of society. He realizes that Xerxes’ home must change, but does not want to see that happen to the rest of the homes throughout the kingdom, especially the homes of the other nobles.
Memucan wanted to make sure that a possible revolution amongst the women was stopped before it had a real chance to take hold. It is hard to blame him for this. We have seen what the break down of the home has done to our own society. It hasn’t been a pretty sight and too many kids are growing up without fathers or the attention from both parents that is needed in a young life. Husbands and fathers are dismissed in our society as a fact of life that is no longer necessary. This is simply not the truth. A husband and father is necessary to a family and he needs to be respected by all within the family.
Memucan in wanting the women of the kingdom to respect their husbands. As we studied in Ephesians this is what the man in a family needs, it is a natural need put in him by God. We should not be alarmed that this was the major concern in this instance. Memucan, whose wife was probably sitting right there with Vashti when she disobeyed Xerxes, is concerned that his wife and the wives of the other nobles might come home with new ideas that would make the family life more difficult and even confusing. It had the potential of bringing great contempt and strife to the home, a lack of family harmony.
Peter in I Peter 3 puts it like this:
1 In the same way, wives submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, even if some disobey the Christian message, they may be won over without a message by the way their wives live 2 when they observe your pure, reverent lives. 3 Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes. 5 For in the past, the holy women who put their hope in God also beautified themselves in this way, submitting to their own husbands, 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. You have become her children when you do what is good and are not frightened by anything alarming.(HCSB)
This is a perfect description of Esther and who we will see that she is as we go through our study. She is one who with a quiet spirit, a spirit not in conflict with God or in inner turmoil, will bravely confront her husband in an alarming situation and even potentially deadly one for her. It will be her character and her confidence in God that will win the attention of her husband.
So in the book of Esther we see the decree of Xerxes going out to every part of his kingdom. It is important to note at this point that part of that kingdom was the land of Israel. The decree went out and stated that the husband was to be the master of his own home. In other words, to put it in Christian terms, that he was to be the head of his home.
The other issue in the decree is the idea of the native language of the man being the language of his home. This may seem like a foreign concept to us today, but back in Xerxes’ day it was a real issue. Speaking the language of the husband was another sign of respect for him and the heritage he would pass on to his children.
As for Xerxes, if you remember from his family tree, he was a Persian while Vashti was from the Median side of the family. Two different languages would have been at issue here even in the household of the king. In his decree Xerxes is making a stand for his heritage, his is the one that conquered Media, not the other way around. It makes me wonder if Vashti’s response to him came back in Median instead of Persian. Could she have been, in her own little way, claiming Median dominance over her Persian king?
This brings us to the end of chapter one in Esther. It is important to note that between chapters 1 and 2 the Persian Greek War occurs. When we resume in chapter 2 Xerxes has come home from a war he is losing, his men are still there.
Before we go to chapter 2, however, we will take a look at Zoroastrianism, the religion of the noble family.