The king’s legal advisors have been put in a tight spot. The king has just asked, ″According to law, what must be done to Queen Vashti . . . She has not obeyed the command of King Xerxes that the eunuchs have taken to her″ (Esther 1:15). Memukan, one of the king’s advisors, doesn’t answer the question directly. Instead, he sidesteps the issue by giving an alarmist forecast of the consequences of the queen’s offence. He speculates that the queen’s disobedience will trigger widespread mini-rebellions-wives will now despise and disrespect their husbands throughout the Persian Empire. This will begin immediately in the households of the king’s nobles, and will lead to contempt and anger aplenty (vv. 16-18)!
To counter this ″dangerous″ threat to authority, Memukan then suggests drafting a new Persian law: Queen Vashti is to be barred from entering the presence of the king (Esther 1:19). Ironically, what she refused to do is now a written decree! She is removed as queen and her position will be given to another. The king issues an official royal edict that ″all the women will respect their husbands″ (v. 20) and that ″every man should be ruler over his own household″ (v. 22). Any husband who reads this edict must be smirking to himself. I’m picturing all of them strutting around like kings of their own little castles.
And so, the king’s decree is dispatched by royal mail to every far-flung corner of his kingdom (Esther 1:22). Ironically, most people in the kingdom would probably not have heard of the king’s red-faced moment. But they certainly will now!
As we reflect on the king’s edict, we realize how ridiculous it is. You can’t legislate for one person to respect another. You can’t demand that someone respect you. Sure, we can encourage it, but we know from the apostle Paul that this is only half of the equation in any marriage. Wives should respect their husbands, yes; but husbands also need to love their wives, ″just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her″ (Ephesians 5:25). I wonder whether King Xerxes loved his wife Vashti like this.
Husbands, do you love your wives self-sacrificially like Christ does? Wives, do you submit to your husbands as the church submits to Christ?
For those of us who are not married, do we submit to others in the family of God out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21)?