The Woman in the Bible Who Gets The Worst Rap

by | Jul 6, 2018 | Faith | 61 comments

Vashti has been called a disrespectful wife. But was she wrong to disobey her husband? Here's why one Christian marriage blogger sees Vashti as a champion for women's God-given value who should be celebrated, not put down!
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I love the Bible because it’s filled with stories–heroes and villains; kings and peasants; rulers and prophets.

And often the Bible leaves us with stories without giving any commentary on them. We’re supposed to read the stories and draw our own conclusions. Indeed, that’s why the Bible is filled with stories; because there are so many different nuances and different conclusions to be drawn, and they’re so rich that you can mine them afterwards for new things.
Because the Bible gives little commentary on specific aspects of stories, it’s all too easy to see them in a black and white way. And I’d like to stand up for a woman today who is often maligned. Recently I read another book where the author called her “The Disrespectful Wife”, and warned us against following her example.
On the contrary, I think we should all learn from her, and honour her in history.

Her name was Vashti, and here’s what happened:

Vashti was a queen, married to an absolute tyrant (Xerxes). The tyrant could order anyone killed on a whim. You weren’t allowed into his presence without an explicit invitation first–even if you were married to him! People were peons to him.
He decided to throw a huge banquet for all the military leaders and nobles in his kingdom. When our story opens, they had been eating and drinking for a week already. They were royally inebriated!
And in the middle of that, the king asks his wife, who is very beautiful, to come and parade herself before these drunken guys.
Here’s what the story says:

On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine, he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him—Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona,Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Karkas— 11 to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at. 12 But when the attendants delivered the king’s command, Queen Vashti refused to come. Then the king became furious and burned with anger. (Esther 1:10-12)

Some Hebrew scholars believe that “wearing her royal crown” is better translated “wearing ONLY her royal crown”. In other words, she was being ordered to parade naked before all the drunken nobles.
Even if that interpretation isn’t correct, she was still obviously being asked to parade in front of drunken men so they could leer at her.

And Vashti said no.

The Bible tells us enough of the story so that we understand the King’s request was unjust and would put Vashti in an awkward, objectifying situation at best, and a dangerous situation at worst. If the main point in the story was that wives should not disobey husbands, I believe this bit would have been left out.

The pagan leaders frame her refusal as “sowing discord”. That does not mean God saw it that way.

Later in the passage, the king seeks his nobles’ advice about what should be done about Vashti’s refusal. This is the advice he gets:

Then Memukan replied … “Queen Vashti has done wrong, not only against the king but also against all the nobles and the peoples of all the provinces of King Xerxes. 17 For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.’ 18 This very day the Persian and Median women of the nobility who have heard about the queen’s conduct will respond to all the king’s nobles in the same way. There will be no end of disrespect and discord.
19 “Therefore, if it pleases the king, let him issue a royal decree and let it be written in the laws of Persia and Media, which cannot be repealed, that Vashti is never again to enter the presence of King Xerxes. Also let the king give her royal position to someone else who is better than she. 20 Then when the king’s edict is proclaimed throughout all his vast realm, all the women will respect their husbands, from the least to the greatest.”

Just because the king and his nobles thought that encouraging discord among wives was evil does not mean that God thought encouraging discord among wives was evil--especially if it meant not obeying a sinful command. After all, the Bible tells us that Xerxes was a pagan king who had enslaved the Israelies. His nobles were enemies of God, too. So why would we take their concerns at face value?
Remember the New Testament story of Ananias and Sapphira? Sapphira was struck dead because she followed Ananias’ lead to hold back some money they had pledged to the early church (Acts 5). Remember the story of David and Abigail? Abigail went against her evil husband Nabal and in the end saved the lives of her servants (1 Samuel 25). Instead of listening to pagan nobles’ fears that wives may not respect their husbands, let’s listen to God’s design throughout Scripture that wives follow Him first, and never follow their husbands into sin.

I believe that the rush to demonize Vashti is rooted in an unhealthy view of marriage, where obedience to a husband is seen as the greatest good, and sowing discord among wives as the greatest evil.

No, the greatest evil is substituting something else in the place for God.
Jesus does not want us blindly obeying our husbands. Jesus wants us following Him, wherever it leads. And often what Jesus calls us to do is to take a stand when our culture–or even our marriage–is going off the rails.
This is why I often cringe at “Wives of the Bible” type studies and books.
Vashti has been called a disrespectful wife. But was she wrong to disobey her husband? Here's why one Christian marriage blogger sees Vashti as a champion for women's God-given value who should be celebrated, not put down!
Too often they hold up the examples of wives of the Bible as either “good” or “bad” depending upon the effect on their marriage–rather than their effect on the kingdom of God a a whole.
A better way to do it is to start from first principles: How is it that God wants us to live? That’s what I did in 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage. Let’s start with Micah 6:8:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.

So we’re to act justly (walk in TRUTH); love mercy (show LOVE); find the balance between the two by walking humbly before God.
That points us to doing God’s will and knowing God before anything else. So don’t limit the Bible passages about marriage to only a select few. That’s when we’re likely to read too much into things and draw the wrong conclusions. Instead,

  • Keep Jesus front and centre (Hebrews 12:1-3).
  • Always seek to obey God, not human beings (Acts 5:29).
  • And above all, put on love (Colossians 3:14).


Vashti has been dead for thousands of years now.

She likely spent the last few years of her life in misery. But she was a hero. She was one of the first recorded instances of a woman saying, “I refuse to be treated like a sex object, because that is not what I am.” She stood up for the dignity of women, something, by the way, that Jesus did, too. In that culture that despised women, she said, “no more!”
Today we honour heroines like that. Think of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by the Taliban for going to school and taking exams. After her recovery, she refused to back down, believing that she could be an example to other girls who wanted to be educated. She stood up for her God-given dignity.
Rosa Parks was an African-American woman who refused to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus for a white person. Coming home from work one day in 1955, she was tired. She wanted to sit down. And she refused an evil act that said that she was not as much a person as someone who was white. She stood up for her God-given dignity.
They didn’t set out to be heroes. They were just going about their normal business. But when someone tried to stop them from acting like they were fully human, they said no.
So did Vashti. Vashti did not succeed in her refusal. But maybe she was the impetus for many other women in the future saying, “I want to be treated with dignity, even if it costs me everything.” Maybe her sacrifice inspired others.
Yes, God used Vashti’s refusal to usher Esther into the palace and ultimately rescue His people. But I do not believe God despised Vashti for her actions. I believe that she did the right thing, and I believe that God left the details of why she refused the king in the story as a way to honour her. So I hope that we can stop maligning this woman as “the disrespectful wife”, and instead appreciate the immense sacrifice she made in defence of the dignity of all human beings.

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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Becky

    The women’s Bible study at my church did a study on the books of Esther and Ruth last fall. The takeaway we got from that section was not that Vashti was disrespectful, but that the society and especially Xerxes were horribly chauvinistic and afraid of losing their power over their wives! And also highlighting what a dangerous situation Esther was going into.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I feel very, very sorry for Esther. I hate movies and books that portray her and Xerxes’ relationship as a love story. She had to “audition” for a night to be chosen by him, and that’s pretty darn ugly, no matter how you slice it. We need to stop romanticizing it. She was taken into a harem. It’s basically sex trafficking.
      But the moral of the story, to me, is that God will use us even in our worst situations, and that God sees even in our worst situations, and sometimes allows things to happen for the greater good. But He always sees.
      We don’t need to “pretty” things up. Life can be awfully ugly. But God still sees!

      • Lydia purple

        It is interesting that Vashti stood up for herself and paid with her life.
        Then Esther stood up for her people putting her life at risk knowing what had happened to Vashti.
        What courage! Maybe Vashti paved the way for Esther in a much deeper sense. Maybe after he punished Vashti Xerxes realized how foolish it was…

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          That’s really interesting, Lydia. Yes, she could have influenced Esther, too. Women in history really had so few rights and were often treated so horribly. I’m so grateful to be born today–but still recognize that all over the world many women are in just as rough a state as women were back then.

      • Becky

        There’s some great, insightful comments here! But yeah, so many of the retellings of Esther get so sanitized. I was surprisingly impressed by a fictional account I read recently (I think it was one I picked up when I had more time to browse Kindle freebies) where it actually gave a much more realistic take on what life in a harem and being married to someone with such dangerous whims may have been like. Why can’t more Biblical/Christian fiction be like that?

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I’ve often wondered that! We sanitize everything so much!

    • Kay

      I agree with this! It was about control. “We can’t have women standing up for what is right and asserting themselves, now can we?!” I don’t think it is an inference that Xerxes’ request was sleazy. A bunch of drunk men invited to look at an exceptionally beautiful woman. Even fully clothed, how completely degrading.
      I think it is also important to note that the king did not have her killed when she “refused to obey.” She was merely banished. To me that says she probably was in the right to stand up for herself and Xerxes knew it! But for the sake of saving face and maintaining total control, it made so much sense to slander her as the disrespectful one. And readers today are falling for the same trick! Even the “solution” of sleeping with a bunch of virgins to me says “We will make sex objects out of you if we want to, and we will label YOU as disrespectful if you insist on being treated with respect, so don’t even try it.”

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        That’s really insightful, Kay. I had never thought of this before:

        I think it is also important to note that the king did not have her killed when she “refused to obey.” She was merely banished. To me that says she probably was in the right to stand up for herself and Xerxes knew it!

        But you may very well be right!

        • Kay

          Unless banishment as a woman could be considered worse than death because you have no where to go and no one to take you in now that your reputation is ruined? I suppose that could also be true. Still, as quick as he was to agree to annihilate an entire race of people, I find it curious he didn’t have her killed.

  2. Nicole

    It’s so nice to see this presented in a different light. I feel like growing up in church Vashti is either quickly passed over or quickly dismissed for disobeying. I’ve always found it odd even as a little girl in church why it was odd for her to say “no” to letting drunken men leer at her. Nobody ever mentioned that the kings request was disrespectful to his wife – thank you for shedding a different light on a story that’s been either brushed over or misrepresented!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      You’re so welcome! I think in the push to sanitize Esther as this lovely woman involved in a real love story, whose love was what changed Xerxes, we have missed the whole point. It was never pretty. It was never a love story. Xerxes was never a good guy. And that’s okay. Esther is not “tainted” because she was part of a harem and was basically sex trafficked. On the contrary, it makes her story even more poignant. God can use even those who are horribly oppressed. God sees us. God cares. Isn’t that better than having to see her as this “pure” thing?
      I think the reason Vashti is maligned is because we have to see her in contrast to Esther. Esther is good, therefore Vashti must be bad. But why? Why can’t both women be just in impossible situations with an evil husband, and both women stood up to evil. God, however, had a bigger plan and role for Esther. But it doesn’t mean that one is good and one is bad.

      • Nicole

        Goosebumps! LOL and a huge AMEN from over here! You are the best!

  3. Hose_B

    Sheila, scripture hold one woman up as a model for wives. Sarah.
    1 Peter 3:5-6 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.
    Sarah submitted to her husbands leadership, even to the point where she lied to the Pharoah and became part of his harem. Then they repeated the same scenario. Using the logic above, Sarah should have stood up for herself and refused………….
    Which does the Bible tell
    Wives to emulate? Sarah or Vashti?
    You make assumptions in the above post that are just as dangerous as making Vashti out as the vilest woman ever. She may not be the vilest, but she cannot be scripturally upheld as anyone to emulate.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I don’t understand your reasoning here. So you’re saying that we should never emulate any other woman other than Sarah? So Deborah shouldn’t be emulated. Lydia shouldn’t be emulated. Priscilla shouldn’t be emulated. Hannah shouldn’t be emulated. So basically women should ignore EVERYTHING in the Bible except the specific passages on marriage? How about this instead: we use the entirety of Scripture to help us interpret Scripture, rather than cherry picking Bible verses?
      Take a look at all of the other things that Peter said about how we should act. He got upset at Sapphira, and told her she should not have agreed with Ananias to hide the money. In other words–Peter thought she should have DISOBEYED Ananias. Peter said we “must obey God, rather than men.” Perhaps when we’re interpreting the meaning of what Peter wrote, we should do so in light of Peter’s words and actions.
      And personally, I’m very grateful for the other women in the Bible, and I don’t think that God is happy that you think they all should be ignored except one. Elijah is not specifically mentioned in Hebrews 11, so I guess we shouldn’t think that he is a hero of the faith then?
      “ALL Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16). Note the ALL.

      • Hose_B

        Sheila, you seem to know that your response is disingenuous since I ne’er once said to ignore the whole of scripture.
        What I did say was that Sarah is the model given in scripture for a wife. I see no references to act like Deborah, Or David for that matter.
        Sarah is honored because of her willingness to submit to her husbands leadership (even if she may have judged it immoral), not for her “being right” when she refused.
        Husbands and wives are called to be one. He is to lead her well and will be responsible to God if he doesn’t. She is to follow well, and will be responsible to God if she doesn’t. One is NOT dependent on the other.
        You seem to instruct wives to judge their husbands leadership, then if she agrees, follow through.
        We can discuss this rationally and biblically, but not if you jump to conclusions of my intentions based on things I did not say.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          I truly don’t understand your take on Scripture. So women aren’t to emulate David? All the Scriptures about David have nothing to offer women? So women aren’t to be like Hannah? Like Deborah? Like Abigail, Priscilla, Lydia, anybody? So basically what you’re saying is that women would be better off if the Bible were only 5 verses long–and only those verses that seem to be saying that women should only ever do what men say?
          I believe that you are cherry picking Scriptures. No one is saying that we aren’t to emulate Sarah; what we’re saying is that if you look at the whole of Scripture, your interpretation of the meaning of 1 Peter 3 is simply off-base. God calls us to always follow Him first. That means that women are to use their brains. We also know that God’s desire for all of us is to look more and more like Christ. If a woman enables a husband’s sin, she is leading him to look LESS like Christ, not more like Christ.
          Abigail was a wife who did not obey her husband, and she was praised and she was exalted in Scripture, and David claimed that he learned from her and that she kept him from doing harm.
          Finally, if we are to be like Sarah, then let’s remember that God also told Abraham to obey his wife!
          I simply don’t find Scriptural support for a woman to EVER go against God.
          You seem to be saying that Vashti was wrong for not obeying her husband, so you therefore think a wife should strip in front of strangers because Sarah obeyed Abraham? And you think that this is a biblical position?
          I would challenge you that Bible has more to say to women than just five passages, and perhaps you should also look at what some of those other passages say before you presume to understand God’s will for women by looking at only one verse out of context (seriously, just look at all of Acts 5 for context of how we should act as Christians).
          My personal interpretation of the Sarah passage is that Sarah obeyed Abraham on two occasions when he asked her to say that she was his sister. She did not do this to submit to Abraham as master; she did this to save Abraham’s life, and thus was submitting and serving him and putting his interests first, exactly what I called for in my post on what submission means. However, she did not always do what Abraham said. In fact, she went against him when she wanted to get rid of Hagar and Ishmael, and on that occasion when she went against Abraham, God told Abraham to obey Sarah. So if we are to obey as Sarah did, then that means that we dedicate ourselves to our husband’s best interests, even if that means occasionally going against him and challenging him when he is wrong, exactly what I am praising Vashti for here.
          Yes, we are to serve our husbands and look out for their best; but in everything, as always, our guiding principle is not our husband’s will; it is our husband’s welfare in the kingdom of God. That’s because our first priority is ALWAYS found in Matthew 6:33 which, by the way, also applies to women: “Seek first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness.” If we ever put anything in front of the kingdom of God, including our husbands, then we have made marriage an idol.

          • Hose_B

            Sheila, your assumptions of ALWAYS and NEVER obfuscate the point.
            If a woman wants to see herself as the authority, accountable only to God, then she should not marry. If she marries, the Bible spells out how God wants that union.
            The biblical way is to follow her husbands leadership as unto God. And trust God will take care of her if she does.
            The way you explain it has an unlimited list of “unless’” so much that there is NO DIFFERENCE inside or outside of marriage. There is no unity. She is doing whatever she thinks is right and MAYBE her husband will agree.
            The scriptures are clear, from Genesis to Revelations. It takes great mental gymnastics to conjure the endless lists of “unless’”

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Yes, the Scriptures are clear that we should walk in the Spirit. You know, this whole thing is bizarre to me because I don’t understand why anyone thinks it’s necessary for someone to be in charge. My husband is a pediatrician; he’s very accomplished, and we’ve always been really involved in church and parenting together. And when something needs to be decided, we talk about it and pray about it, and then we come to a decision. It’s just not a big deal. We’re a team, and we love each other, and we serve each other, exactly as Jesus said. Your comment that there is no unity is truly strange. Do you think unity is when a woman follows her husband, or unity is when they both agree, together, under the Spirit? Isn’t unity of the Holy Spirit where both are following God more biblical than one person deciding what to do no matter what the other thinks? I don’t think your definition of unity is Jesus’ definition of unity.
            People who think that a couple can’t function unless one is in charge and one does not make any decisions really confuse me. Do you not know how to make decisions together and pray together? Are you always fighting so that you need him to make the final decision? Why? That seems bizarre to me. There have been times that Keith has firmly felt God telling us to do something, and we have done that. There have been other times that I have felt firmly that God wants us to do something, so we have done it. It’s really fine.
            I am not saying the woman is the authority. I am simply saying that Jesus is the authority. We serve Jesus together. It’s a really great life! (and it makes sex pretty great, too, which is the main thing I write about on this blog! Maybe men who are having trouble with sex should do more to serve Jesus together with their wife, rather than demanding that their wife obey them?)

    • Monica

      Hose, this is an illogical argument. Just because Sarah is an example of a submissive wife doesn’t mean everything she ever did was right. David was a “man after God’s own heart” yet there are numerous times when God openly punished him for sin. God called Abraham to leave his home without telling him where he was going. Sarah didn’t question Abraham in this; she trusted his spiritual leadership and followed him. Yet when they lied about being siblings, God openly rebuked the sin.

      • Savi

        They actually were half siblings, so it’s not a total lie, just the fact that they weren’t //only// siblings

    • KellyK

      I don’t think God expects wives to blindly submit to our husbands if what our husbands want us to do involves sin. Parading oneself around in front of the husbands friends could be seen as sin because we are to save that part of our body for our spouse.
      Isn’t that why Sapphira died because she followed her husband with sinning against the Lord?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      One other thing–the only reason that you put this comment here must be because you disagree with the post.
      Therefore, you think that Vashti was wrong to refuse to debase herself and be treated like a sex object. God wants her to be treated like a sex object, because God’s main concern is her husband’s happiness and her husband’s will.
      I, on the other hand, think that God’s main concern is God’s will.
      And you say that I’m the one leading people away from Jesus….Hmmmmmmm…
      I would hope, in Jesus’ name, that you would develop a deep and abiding relationship with Christ so that you understand his heart of love and freedom while living in the Spirit, rather than an ethos of hierarchy and rules and being a slave to sin.

    • Mary

      I don’t think it’s terribly safe to use those two instances of Abraham & Sarah lying about their relationship as examples to emulate! I’ve always seen those times as low points in their lives when their actions were governed by fear rather than the faith that usually marked their lives.
      Reading the Old Testament, I have been struck by just how human these people were! It is encouraging to me to read of their ups and downs and realise that God used them and commends them to us as examples IN SPITE of their failures! Sarah was commended not for a flawless life, but for the faith which marked it as a whole. Her submission to her husband, I believe, is in relation to the fact that she wasn’t present every time he received promises from God, but she accepted them via Abraham, took them as her own and allowed them to alter the course of her life completely. That’s faith in action!

    • Kay

      A woman is NEVER called to follow her husband into sin. NEVER.
      The Bible also instructs us to live peaceably under our government, except for when the government commands you to sin, in which case we are told to obey God rather than man and rebel against the government. (See Daniel and his companions). We are called to do what is right, even when (ESPECIALLY when) someone entices or commands us to do something wrong. Submission to husband ought to NEVER trump submission to God when the two are in conflict. I find the fact that you would use Scripture to say the opposite extremely disturbing.
      So if my husband commanded me to wear a string bikini and stand on the 4th of July parade float, are you saying it is my duty to submit to his request in order to “be like Sarah”? Because that’s a big NOPE. That husband is not following the way of Christ. I will submit to Christ then, and reject my husbands sinful command. And I will confront him about his sin. And if he won’t listen I will have others confront him. And if he won’t listen to them, I will bring it before the church. This is how JESUS instructs us to react to sin, not to submit to it!!

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        AMEN, Kay!

  4. Sarah O

    I am not 100% sure of accuracy here, but I noticed something interesting about the proposed dates of the Vashti story. The whole “come and let us leer at you” request came within the same year Vashti had given birth – meaning she was either pregnant, or postpartum and caring for an infant. I thought that put a lot more coals on Xerxes head – not that there would have been a good time for such a request, but it just totally highlights the complete lack of consideration. And keep in mind, while all these jackwagons are out drinking, Vashti is having to entertain the wives. Nothing a pregnant or postpartum woman loves more than hosting an elaborate party!
    For lots and lots of reasons, I wish we spent as much time discussing husbands as we do wives. Is there even one book on “Husbands of the Bible”? If so please recommend. Blogs of Christian husbands devoted to the topic of marriage maybe?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Sarah, that’s a great question about husbands of the Bible! There are some blogs for husbands, but not a lot. I think men just don’t read the stuff as much as women do.
      And I didn’t know that about Vashti giving birth. Very interesting!

    • unmowngrass

      I hadn’t read all the comments before I commented basically the same thing. Of course it’s also possible she was actually in labour, so I am not the least surprised she told him to go whistle!

  5. Chris

    Sheila, I don’t see why a book titled “wives of the bible” couldn’t include the interpretation of the Vashti story that you just described. Or are you upset by the title because most or all of the don’t? On a seperate note. She refused to be treated like an object, which of course is wrong. What about all the men, (and a few women too) who are in sexless marriages? Is this not an affront to their human dignity as well?

    • Maddie

      This is a straw man argument, Chris. Sheila has numerous blogs about that subject. No need to to bring it up here. Unless you’re implying that a marriage is sexless because disobeying spouses refuse to parade themselves in front of a horde of drunken guests and strangers.

    • Madeline

      Chris, being treated like a sex object and having sex with your husband in a way that is loving are two really different things. Sheila has many, many articles on the topic of withholding sex, and she always encourages a healthy, active sex life.
      I’ve seen your comments on many posts and it seems like you have to jump in and ask a question that (to me) comes across as ‘but what about men who are mistreated??’ when the post isn’t about that. Not every article will be about the men who are wronged. Obviously I don’t know you in real life, so I don’t know your intentions. But I think its important to realize how your comments are coming across, and at least to me, you sound like you can’t just let there be articles discussing mostly women *for* women.

      • Chris

        Madeline, my apoligies if anything i have ever posted has offended you. I am sorry. I will be quiet now.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Chris, I’m not sure what sexless marriages have to do with the post. But what I’m upset about is not that she was included in a Wives of the Bible study, but that the emphasis was wrong. The study was all about how women could support their husbands, so then the husband must always be right, rather than how women can follow Jesus and advance the kingdom of God within their marriages. I believe that Vashti did that. But I would not have called her The Disrespectful Wife. I would have called her The Objectified Wife, and pointed women to the fact that Jesus wants them to uphold their dignity that He gave them.

  6. KellyK

    I know exactly which book you’re referring to. I happen to have that book. Only because it was included in one of the Homemaking Bundles I purchased from Ultimate Bundles that you promote as an affiliate 🙂 I always buy it because it is SUCH a good deal!
    I agree with you Sheila. If my husband wanted me to put on my crown and parade around his drunken friends, I’d be like heck no! It would be subjecting myself to leering, groping and who knows what else?
    So while King Xerxes wasn’t exactly asking her to sin, she chose to stand up for her dignity. I think God was ok with that 😉

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I think God was okay with it, too!
      Yeah, that was the book, too. 🙁 I really tend to like about 90% of what is in the bundles, but there are always some outliers. That’s okay, because there are so many resources that you don’t have to love every one (and I tend to just focus on 3 or 4 a year that bring huge dividends to me). But I may mention to the bundle people that they should look more closely for things like this!

  7. Melissa

    I don’t really understand why Vashti would be used as an example in a Bible study that seems to have been designed to teach women how to be Godly wives. Xerxes and Vashti were not followers of God. So why…? Not saying we should ignore the story, just that the way it was used doesn’t make sense. I may or may not have face-palmed myself when you described that chapter in the study.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      It was used as an example of “do not be a wife like Vashti” kind of thing–because she was disrespectful. I just found it really difficult! They were criticizing her and saying that her disrespect led to all of these horrible consequences. But sometimes doing the right thing DOES lead to horrible consequences (Jesus and John the Baptist come to mind!)

  8. Madeline

    Sheila, I’ve never heard anyone uphold Vashti as a hero! I’ve never even thought about her that way, but I think you’re totally right. She was incredibly brave to stand up for herself.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I’m glad you found it helpful! 🙂

  9. Clairetta

    About Annanias and Saphira. They both were so afraid, they fell down from having a heart attack or stroke because they knew what they had done was against God.
    About Vashti. Thanks for writing about her. I don’t recall ever reading this record. It brings a new light to how wives can stand up for God and not do everything their husbands tell them, especially if it involves going against God and His Word.
    I, and my daughter, suffered the consequences, because of a ministry I was with, for doing just that. I didn’t know it at the time until a woman, from a church told me that. I learned, from that experience, to put Him first in all that I do.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s wonderful, Clairetta! We’re told to seek first the kingdom of God, AND his righteousness. That’s our prime focus. But there is never any guarantee that it will be easy, or that we won’t suffer from it. But it is a privilege to suffer for Christ. I’m still sorry, though, that you had to walk through pain. I’m glad that God used that pain to help you solidify your walk with Him!

  10. Christ's servant

    This is the exact reason you get the comments you were complaining about yesterday.
    Christian men sitting in church on Sunday are not asking their wives to go work the pole at the local t*tty bar, they just are not in 995 cases out of 100 (and I’m being generous to you here). You are openly teaching rebellion to God’s Word. It is repeated in scripture four times, and shown many more, “wives be subject to your husband in all things, as unto the Lord.”
    I will agree, wives are not to obey their husbands if they are asking them to sin but that is not the case the vast majority of the time. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church and there is no doubt there is a huge element of sacrifice there and wives are to submit to their husbands. Christ, the ultimate definition of love, still asks for and even demands obedience- therefore desiring to be both the head and obeyed is not sinful by christian husbands. It is a great responsibility and comes with great weight, but wanting that authority is not sinful, wrong or bad. Christ wants the same.
    So when you almost daily undermine, whisper to itching ears and shout from the rooftop open rebellion to God’s Word you will receive the emails you get as you show to yourself to be a false teacher and full of pride, it is about Sheila and not about Jesus Christ and the truth of His Word.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I really get tired of people cherry picking verses out of context.
      We all agree that the Bible says “wives be subject to your husband in all things.” The problem is that people like you see ONLY that verse, whereas I am looking at the whole of Scripture. Even you aren’t taking that verse at face value because you agree that wives shouldn’t sin, but if you take that verse literally, as it is written, then wives SHOULD be following their husbands into sin. If you acknowledge that they shouldn’t, then you’re already acknowledging that God meant something other than what we commonly think.
      And how do you know that? Because of the rest of Scripture. So let’s look at what else Scripture says:
      Here is what Scripture also says:
      1. Sapphira was told she should have not agreed with Ananias and was struck dead for going along with him. (aka women shouldn’t sin)
      2. Abigail was exalted for going against Nabal
      3. Women were created to be their husbands “help meet”, which literally means a helper than he needs who is strong. God Himself is called the same Hebrew word, and that word often has a military connotation.
      4. Zipporah reprimanded Moses, and many wives reprimanded their husbands when they did wrong.
      5. God told Abraham to obey Sarah
      6. God says that we should all seek first the kingdom of God
      7. We pray “Thy will be done”, aka God’s will be done. Yet you seem to be implying that women should only do a husband’s will
      8. We are told that our duty is to follow the Spirit and do what He says, yet you seem to believe that only men will hear the Spirit, and that if she hears God, but her husband doesn’t, the BEST outcome is if she follows her husband anyway rather than both of them praying and figuring out what the Spirit leads.
      The difference between you and me and others like you is that you believe that a woman’s main job is to do her husband’s will, and that is the only thing that will make God happy.
      On the contrary, I believe that women should be seeking first the kingdom of God, as Jesus clearly says. I understand that this upsets many men who want wives to follow them no matter what, and who, quite frankly, like being in charge. Personally, I believe that we are to follow the Spirit.
      The main point of Christianity is to serve one another and submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21), while following Jesus. No wife is ever lauded in Scripture for obeying her husband and going against God’s will; Sarah obeyed Abraham to save his life. Later she challenged him when he was wrong, and God told Abraham to obey his wife. The point is ALWAYS to do God’s will.

      Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28

      When we focus only on who is in charge and making sure we all follow after humans we miss God’s big picture.
      Instead, you are equating doing a husband’s will with doing God’s will, which puts a husband in the place of God. That is idolatry. And even though you call yourself “Christ’s servant”, what you’re really saying is that women should not be serving Christ–or at least they can only do so by serving their husbands. So the husband is then the mediator, even though we are clearly told that there is no mediator between God and humanity.
      True Christianity puts Christ at the centre for all believers. Anything else is idolatry.

    • Keith Gregoire

      This is the kind of thing that concerns me about the really conservative side of this debate. “Christ …. demands obedience- therefore desiring to be …obeyed is not sinful by christian husbands….wanting that authority is not sinful, wrong or bad. Christ wants the same.”
      The point of the passage in Ephesians is that husbands are supposed to EMULATE what Christ did – to try to act like Him in giving selflessly. Bot too often people turn it into the husband IS Christ in the marriage, that the wife needs to obey her husband even as we all obey Christ. The set up seems to be that the husband obeys God and has a direct relationship with Him and the wife obeys her husband, approaching God through him. Totally in contradiction to 1 Timothy 2:5.
      If a husband asks his wife to do something demeaning or morally wrong, she is right to stand up to him. The fact is, though, that there are people out there teaching that wives should obey their husband even in these circumstances. All this article is saying is that you shouldn’t listen to those people, which to me is a far cry from “open rebellion to God’s Word”.

    • Mary

      Yes wives are to submit to their husband’s but husbands are to submit to Christ. In this example Ceres very clearly was not. Husbands are called to love their wives as Christ lives the church, which means sacrificing for her. I have yet to hear a man quoting submission for the wife then show how he loves his wife as Scripture calls him to do so.

    • Sarah O

      This is a related blog post by a male baptist pastor, Wade Burleson.
      The basic point is that Scripture does leave room for some discussion on gender roles. That being said, we can passionately disagree without throwing around words like “false teacher” and “heresy”. Jesus simply didn’t put as much emphasis on gender definitions as essentials of faith.
      We are spending too much time and energy on this.

  11. J. Parker

    I don’t actually recall studying this with a bent toward saying that Vashti was wrong. Guess that speaks well of my biblical education! It was always described that she was in a patriarchal culture with few choices being married to a narcissistic king, and she decided not to parade in front of his drunken friends at a party. I didn’t hear it held up as heroism or disrespect — more a backstory for how Esther came to be queen. It also spoke to how degenerate the culture was where the Israelites were living.
    But I agree with wholeheartedly that we often define a woman’s worth in the church based on her worth as a WIFE, not looking at her whole self as the standard. Yes, wife is a one role I play, but follower of Christ is more important. It’s only because of my devotion to God that I am able to love my spouse more fully. In fact, if I put my spouse ahead of that, I’ll lose the love I need to have the marriage God wants me to have.

  12. sarah

    Sheila, after you reviewed “The Keepers” documentary series, I watched it and I was profoundly disturbed, as I think any sentient human being would be. The thought that kept running through my mind was “If powerful, evil men can’t control you, they will kill you.”
    I get that same feeling reading your breakdown of the Queen Vashti story. The King didn’t end up killing her or Esther, but he easily could’ve killed either one of them with no consequence.
    It’s interesting to me that the people who want to make sure women obey their husbands are constantly warning women to be careful lest they stray at all towards disrespect, yet they almost never warn men to be careful lest they straw towards violence and domination.
    I often find myself thinking “People say the dumbest things about women” when I read or have conversations with people. I don’t think I’ve ever heard an adult man described as disrespectful. Rude, arrogant, or brash maybe, but never disrespectful. This seems to be a special epithet designed to undermine women. When women have been told that the most important trait they have is respectfulness, it becomes their Achilles’ heel. Calling a “well-trained” Christian woman disrespectful is the quickest way to put her into the defensive position, and therefore to gain control over her.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Very insightful, Sarah! (And I agree–wasn’t Keepers so disturbing? I pray that justice will one day be done. At least we know it will be done in the next life, but I pray for situations like that that are still ongoing).

  13. Kim M.

    Disclaimer: THESES ARE NOT MY WORDS. I read this somewhere along the way. The author chose to remain anonymous. The sentiment was so profound that I saved it.
    It’s my opinion that there are two heroines in Esther.
    It seems to me that the King came to regret how he had treated Vashti in his anger. That occasion to regret his actions probably had a lot to do with the positive way he responded to Esther’s brave but forbidden approach to his throne.
    Therefore, I infer that something of the way God protected and blessed Esther (and through her he protected His people) came through the human agency of the King’s memory of Vashti.
    I think sometimes we are ‘Vashti’ — we do the right thing, and are treated badly regardless.
    I think sometimes we are ‘Esther’ — we are able to work alongside a man who will treat us well, because he already learned a lesson about treating women badly.
    When we are ‘Esther’ — is with great dignity that we should thank the ‘Vashtis’ who went before us and made the way smoother for our gender.
    Author: Unknown

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, that’s beautiful, Kim. Really beautiful.

  14. Kim M.

    There are 3 wives in the book of Esther: Vashti, Esther and Zeresh.
    Many use Esther as the symbol for the ultimate submissive, virtuous wife. Likewise, Vashti is usually used to symbolize the disrespectful wife. However, Zeresh, Haman’s wife, is usually forgotten.
    Zeresh definitely believed in
    submitting to and agreeing with her husband, even if his wishes were self destructive and dangerous. When Haman tells her about his hatred for Mordecai, she joined right in with his so-called friends and suggested that he has some gallows built and ask the king to hang Mordecai. Unlike Esther, Zaresh didn’t pray about the appropriate course to take. Unlike Esther, Zeresh didn’t have any words of wisdom and for her husband. Unlike Vashti, Zeresh didn’t say no.
    She just joined his bandwagon. After the king promoted Mordecai, Haman told Zeresh about it, and she tried to clean up her advice, but it was too late. Haman was killed on the same gallows Zeresh encouraged him to prepare for Mordecai. His sons were killed too.
    Although, Zeresh submitted to, supported and agreed with
    her husband, she failed to be the EZER – helper God designed her to be. Zeresh’s pitiful example teaches how important it is for wives to pray for their husbands and speak wisdom to them.
    Most commentaries tend to omit Zeresh’s example because it contradicts popular teachings that suggest that a “virtuous” wife must always submit to and support her husband’s every whim.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That’s very insightful, Kim! Thank you for that. I’ve never looked into that before, but you’re so right.

  15. Angela

    Thank you so much for posting this! Awhile back, I was having a discussion with a friend about this and we were talking about how Vashti did what was right…so AWESOME!!! Glad you took on this topic! 🙂 I think my friend knew someone who named a daughter Vashti.

  16. Akin

    I agree with the essence of this article; obeying anyone – a spouse, significant other, government, parents, at the expense of obeying God is a non-starter.
    I’m a husband who believes in gender equality, I’ve been married for three years with the Holy Spirit as the head of our family. My wife and I make decisions jointly most of the time, sometimes, we defer to one another depending on who has the expertise on the matter. We haven’t missed a thing from not having me as the head and her as the neck! Lol
    I couldn’t be happier to rid myself of the societal pressures and expectations with being a man and my wife couldn’t be happier with being an equal partner and allowed to function without the societal dogmas of what’s expected of her as a wife and woman.
    However, I’m careful about learning spiritual principles or virtues from pagan characters in the Bible. Here is why, whatever right Vashti did was not grounded in a godly image of self nor was she trying to glorify God by her actions, her heart was not right (being a pagan) but her action was right.
    As believers, our actions must flow from the right heart, anyway else will simply be behavioral modification which is bound to fail.
    I believe Abigail who disobeyed Nabal and saved lives may have been a more suitable central character for the virtue intended here.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Akin, I know what you’re saying that we shouldn’t necessarily draw conclusions from pagan characters. And normally I’d agree. But the issue with Vashti is that so many are calling her “disrespectful” and saying that she did the wrong thing. So it’s not so much that I want to learn from her as that I don’t want her maligned. I think what she did was right. Now, Abigail is definitely a better role model of the faith, but I do think that even people outside the faith can still make good decisions, and when they do so, it’s okay to say so!
      Your marriage sounds awesome, by the way. 🙂

  17. Chosen one

    So basically the article suggests married Christian wives should embrace the moral actions of pagans. They should adopt this line of pagan thinking in order to be more like Christ? Talk about disturbing.
    I don’t really see this as advice, unless you are pushing the same old outdated feminist doctrine to be honest.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Do you think anyone who is not a Christian has ever done any good in the world? That is all we are saying. Do you think that all people who do not know Christ have every single action as evil?
      What about Oskar Schindler, who saved hundreds of Jews during World War II. He was not a Christian. Should we not learn anything from him?
      What about Gandhi, who taught about love and peaceful resistance to oppression. Should we not learn anything from him?
      Remember that all people are created in the image of God, not only Christians. Yes, we are all born in original sin, but all also have the image of God. There is much to learn from others.
      To say that Vashti made a good choice does not invalidate the gospel or our need for God. It is saying that the good that we do comes from God Himself, and we must see good in creation. We still need God. But let’s not be so blinded by religious pride that we fail to see good, wherever it may be.

  18. Amy Robinson

    Great article. It’s interesting how Vashti and Esther are kind of a mirror image of each other in the story. Vashti risks her life to refuse to come into the king’s presence, and Esther risks her life to enter his presence without being summoned. Both of them went directly against the will of their husband in the matter of appearing in front of him.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Love that, Amy! Absolutely. You do the right thing. That’s what they teach us.

  19. unmowngrass

    When I did some reading around what was going on with Vashti, I came to the conclusion that this was around the time one of their sons was born. (Perhaps why Xerxes partied for a week?) Either heavily pregnant, nursing a newborn or — there’s no way to know for sure! — perhaps in the middle of actually having a baby?? And regardless of how very very submissive and meek a woman is in general, I cannot picture even one, EVER, who would put on a crown/make an effort to look fancy for her man and his mates, instead of telling him to go whistle, if she is actually in the middle of having a baby!!!


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