1 The following events occurred in Persia during the reign of King Ahasuerus, the same man who ruled 127 provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia. 2 In those days King Ahasuerus’ throne was in the citadel of Susa. 3 During the 3rd year of his reign, Ahasuerus gathered together all of Persia’s ruling authorities—nobles and officials, leaders of Persia and Media, and nobles of his provinces[a]—for a grand, state banquet. 4 For 180 days, King Ahasuerus continuously paraded his glorious kingdom’s riches and the splendor of his own notoriety in front of his nobles. Day after day the party continued with Persia’s grandeur on display.
Kings in general, and Persian kings in particular, enjoy throwing lavish feasts and banquets for honored guests. It is their best opportunity to show off their wealth and power. Occasions like this are useful for impressing and intimidating foreign agents, making treaties and deals, maintaining the illusion of greatness, making the powerless feel especially helpless, and even bullying would-be troublemakers. It is during these occasions that much of the business of ruling is accomplished. But only men are allowed at this party.
5 After these days of feasting were over, the king held another banquet for all who lived in the citadel of Susa. For seven days, wealthy and poor men alike danced, drank, and made merry together in the lush enclosed gardens of King Ahasuerus’ palace. 6 His gardens were lavishly dressed with white and blue linen draperies, which hung from large marble pillars and were tied to silver rings with cord made out of fine purple linen. Gold and silver couches were arranged on a grand patio—a mosaic beautifully crafted of crystalline burgundy porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl stone, and other beautiful[b] stones. 7 King Ahasuerus generously served his guests wine from the royal cellar in goblets made out of gold, each uniquely designed. 8 But no one was required to drink. The king merely ordered his servants to let his guests do as they wished. 9 Meanwhile, as the men enjoyed the goodwill of King Ahasuerus, Queen Vashti gathered all of the women together for a celebration in one of the banquet halls of the royal palace.
10 On the seventh and last day of the celebration, when the king was in a very good mood from the wine, he gave special orders to his eunuchs, who served as his personal assistants. (These seven men were Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar, and Carkas.)
King Ahasuerus: 11 Bring Queen Vashti to my party! Tell her to put on her royal crown and to wear her finest clothes. I want to show off her beauty in front of my distinguished guests.
He did this because Queen Vashti was very beautiful. 12 But when she heard the king’s order from his eunuchs, she refused to join him and his guests. King Ahasuerus was infuriated when he heard the news from his assistants. In fact, the more he thought of it, the more King Ahasuerus burned with anger.
13 Immediately, King Ahasuerus called a meeting with his wise counsel, men who understood the laws and customs that had made the Persian Empire great. 14 These seven nobles—the king’s most elite confidants—came from Persia and Media and were named Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan.
King Ahasuerus: 15 Queen Vashti has blatantly defied me and refused the order I gave her through my assistants! Tell me, good men, what do the laws of this land suggest should be done to a queen who has disobeyed her king?
Memucan (before the king and nobles): 16 Your queen has wronged you, my king. She has also offended every noble of the land and all the people who reside in your provinces. Something must be done! 17 If we don’t act quickly, every woman in this kingdom will hear about Queen Vashti’s disrespect for you and they will follow her example in dishonoring their husbands. I can hear the women now, talking among each other: “Why should we listen to our husbands when Queen Vashti doesn’t come when King Ahasuerus calls for her?” 18 This day the noble women of Persia and Media who hear what the queen has done will respond in kind to your nobles, and there will be chaos all across the land.
19 But my king, don’t worry; I have an idea! With your permission, of course, I recommend that a decree be issued among the Persians and the Medes, a law which cannot be repealed, that forbids Vashti from ever being allowed in your presence again. In fact, I would further suggest that you give her position to another woman, someone who is more honorable than she is. 20 As your subjects hear about your decree in the far reaches of your kingdom, all the women will stop and give their husbands the honor they deserve, those of royal blood as well as the commoners. Oh, this is a great idea!
21 Memucan’s advice was well received by the king and his advisors.
King Ahasuerus: That is a brilliant idea! I say we make Memucan’s counsel into law!
22 The king drafted letters and sent them to all of his provinces. His emissaries spread the news quickly at the king’s directive that each province receive the decree in their own script and language: “In Persia every man will be master of his own home and speak in the language of his own people—regardless of the language his wife speaks.”