Xerxes, drunk, commands his beautiful wife to present herself before him and the assembled nobles so that he can show her off like one of his gold couches or fine linens. She refuses.
We can only speculate as to why Vashti refused the King’s order. With a modern view, we might be tempted to put a feminist interpretation on the events, praising Vashti for standing up to this pompous man, but there is no such interpretation in the Bible.
We only know that she did not come, and that this was intolerable for a King whose sole purpose in summoning her was to show off how powerful he was. As is so often the case for those who are ruled by pride, the pain of this humiliation, the dent in his pride, was so strong that he took swift and terrible action. Vashti was removed. Her reign was Queen was over. We can only imagine what her fate was after that.
There is almost a tone of mockery in this opening chapter. We are not intended to have warm feelings towards this King. His shallow vanity is exposed for all to see. We can immediately see the danger of such enormous power being concentrated in the hands of a man who does not have the character to use it wisely.
Pride is a trap which many talented, influential, powerful and wealthy people can fall into, especially if they are surrounded by ‘yes men’ as Xerxes clearly was. In fact none of us are immune to prideful thoughts. When we have fierce pride, any challenge to us can cause such feelings of shame and humiliation that our response is to lash out.
All of us, from the highest to the least, would do well to remember Paul’s words in his letter to the Philippians: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility, value others above yourselves.” (Phil 2:3).May God teach us all to walk in humility and preserve us from pride.