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Esther 1:10-22

Context
Queen Vashti is Removed from Her Royal Position

1:10 On the seventh day, as King Ahasuerus was feeling the effects of the wine, 1  he ordered Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carcas, the seven eunuchs who attended him, 2  1:11 to bring Queen Vashti into the king’s presence wearing her royal high turban. He wanted to show the people and the officials her beauty, for she was very attractive. 3  1:12 But Queen Vashti refused 4  to come at the king’s bidding 5  conveyed through the eunuchs. Then the king became extremely angry, and his rage consumed 6  him.

1:13 The king then inquired of the wise men who were discerners of the times – for it was the royal custom to confer with all those who were proficient in laws and legalities. 7  1:14 Those who were closest to him were Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan. These men were the seven officials of Persia and Media who saw the king on a regular basis 8  and had the most prominent offices 9  in the kingdom. 1:15 The king asked, 10  “By law, 11  what should be done to Queen Vashti in light of the fact that she has not obeyed the instructions of King Ahasuerus conveyed through the eunuchs?”

1:16 Memucan then replied to the king and the officials, “The wrong of Queen Vashti is not against the king alone, but against all the officials and all the people who are throughout all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. 1:17 For the matter concerning the queen will spread to all the women, leading them to treat their husbands with contempt, saying, ‘When King Ahasuerus gave orders to bring Queen Vashti into his presence, she would not come.’ 1:18 And this very day the noble ladies of Persia and Media who have heard the matter concerning the queen will respond in the same way to all the royal officials, and there will be more than enough contempt and anger! 1:19 If the king is so inclined, 12  let a royal edict go forth from him, and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media that cannot be repealed, 13  that Vashti 14  may not come into the presence of King Ahasuerus, and let the king convey her royalty to another 15  who is more deserving than she. 16  1:20 And let the king’s decision which he will enact be disseminated 17  throughout all his kingdom, vast though it is. 18  Then all the women will give honor to their husbands, from the most prominent to the lowly.”

1:21 The matter seemed appropriate to the king and the officials. So the king acted on the advice of Memucan. 1:22 He sent letters throughout all the royal provinces, to each province according to its own script and to each people according to its own language, 19  that every man should be ruling his family 20  and should be speaking the language of his own people. 21 

1 tn Heb “as the heart of the king was good with the wine.” Here the proper name (King Ahasuerus) has been substituted for the title in the translation for stylistic reasons.

2 tn Heb “King Ahasuerus”; here the proper name has been replaced by the pronoun “him” in the translation for stylistic reasons. Cf. similarly NIV, NCV, CEV, NLT “King Xerxes.”

3 tn Heb “was good of appearance”; KJV “was fair to look on”; NAB “was lovely to behold.”

4 sn Refusal to obey the king was risky even for a queen in the ancient world. It is not clear why Vashti behaved so rashly and put herself in such danger. Apparently she anticipated humiliation of some kind and was unwilling to subject herself to it, in spite of the obvious dangers. There is no justification in the biblical text for an ancient Jewish targumic tradition that the king told her to appear before his guests dressed in nothing but her royal high turban, that is, essentially naked.

5 tn Heb “at the word of the king”; NASB “at the king’s command.”

6 tn Heb “burned in him” (so KJV).

7 tn Heb “judgment” (so KJV); NASB, NIV “justice”; NRSV “custom.”

8 tn Heb “seers of the face of the king”; NASB “who had access to the king’s presence.”

9 tn Heb “were sitting first”; NAB “held first rank in the realm.”

10 tn These words are not present in the Hebrew text, but have been supplied in the translation for clarity (cf. NIV, NCV, CEV, NLT, all of which supply similar phrases).

11 tc The location of the prepositional phrase “according to law” is somewhat unusual in the Hebrew text, but not so much so as to require emendation. Some scholars suggest deleting the phrase as an instance of dittography from the final part of the immediately preceding word in v. 14. Others suggest taking the phrase with the end of v. 14 rather than with v. 15. Both proposals, however, lack adequate justification.

12 sn Heb “If upon the king it is good”; KJV “If it please the king.” Deferential language was common in ancient Near Eastern court language addressing a despot; it occurs often in Esther.

13 sn Laws…that cannot be repealed. On the permanence of the laws of Media and Persia see also Esth 8:8 and Dan 6:8, 12, 15.

14 sn Previously in this chapter the word “queen” accompanies Vashti’s name (cf. vv. 9, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17). But here, in anticipation of her demotion, the title is dropped.

15 tn Heb “her neighbor”; NIV “someone else.”

16 tn Heb “who is better than she.” The reference is apparently to worthiness of the royal position as demonstrated by compliance with the king’s wishes, although the word טוֹב (tob, “good”) can also be used of physical beauty. Cf. NAB, NASB, NLT “more worthy than she.”

17 tn Heb “heard”; KJV, NAB, NLT “published”; NIV, NRSV “proclaimed.”

18 tc The phrase “vast though it is” is not included in the LXX, although it is retained by almost all English versions.

19 sn For purposes of diplomacy and governmental communication throughout the far-flung regions of the Persian empire the Aramaic language was normally used. Educated people throughout the kingdom could be expected to have competence in this language. But in the situation described in v. 22 a variety of local languages are to be used, and not just Aramaic, so as to make the king’s edict understandable to the largest possible number of people.

20 tn Heb “in his house”; NIV “over his own household.”

21 tc The final prepositional phrase is not included in the LXX, and this shorter reading is followed by a number of English versions (e.g., NAB, NRSV, NLT). Some scholars suggest the phrase may be the result of dittography from the earlier phrase “to each people according to its language,” but this is not a necessary conclusion. The edict was apparently intended to reassert male prerogative with regard to two things (and not just one): sovereign and unquestioned leadership within the family unit, and the right of deciding which language was to be used in the home when a bilingual situation existed.



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