With hindsight, I can see the subtle ways in which Vashti has been downtrodden in common readings of scripture. However, I have also read some shockingly ill-considered views from both men and women. What both the subtle and the blatant have in common is that they seek to pitch Vashti against Esther as if the point of the book is to correct all the women inside and outside the text. This kind of approach is hugely problematic (and sexist), but arguably its worst fruit is when it is repeated in the pulpit and propagated by preachers, continuing the diffusion of these errors into the wider consciousness. That’s why I have become less and less tolerant of such views.
Vashti’s refusal is the climax of her story. But is it an example of rebellion or assertiveness?
Some readings of Vashti are highly critical of her denial, suggesting that she was disobedient, rebellious or playing power games of her own.
More than 18 months ago, a friend asked what the deal is with Esther chapter 1. It is such a good question. So, having spent more than a year re-reading Esther, Vashti, the book of Esther and issues around these themes, I now feel ready to begin to address the question and share what I believe is going on in Esther 1. However, reading scripture is best done in community and hearing God works best in the community too, so please share your views below.