—Biblical Data:

The first wife of Ahasuerus; her disobedience and subsequent punishment furnish the theme for the introduction to the story of Esther. The name is held to be that of an Elamite goddess.

  • Wildeboer, Esther, p. 173, Freiburg, 1897.
E. G. H.—In Rabbinical Literature:

Among the women who ruled were: Jezebel and Athaliah in Israel; and Shemiramot (Semiramis), wife of Nebuchadnezzar (see Lev. R. xix., end), and Vashti in Gentile kingdoms (Esther R. i. 9). Vashti prepared a feast for women in the "royal house," where she served them with sweetmeats and other delicacies palatable to women; and she selected as the place of the banquet the royal chamber of Ahasuerus, where she might exhibit the artistic paintings which, according to R. Abin, women prefer to see to eating fattened birds (Yalḳ., ii., § 1049). Ahasuerus ordered Vashti to appear nude before him and his guests at the banquet with the queen's crown as her only ornament. R. Abba b. Kahana says Vashti was no more modest than Ahasuerus. R. Papa quotes a popular proverb: "He between the old pumpkins, and she between the young ones"; i.e., a faithless husband makes a faithless wife. According to R. Jose b. Ḥanina, Vashti declined the invitation because she had become a leper (Meg. 12b; Yalḳ., l.c.). Ahasuerus was "very wroth, and his anger burned in him" (Esth. i. 12) as the result of the insulting message which Vashti sent him: "Thou art the son of my father's stableman. My grandfather [Belshazzar] could drink before the thousand [Dan. v. 1]; but that person [Ahasuerus] quickly becomes intoxicated" (Meg. l.c.). Vashti was justly punished for enslaving young Jewish women and compelling them to work nude on the Sabbath (ib.).

E. C. J. D. E.
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