Feminism. It pervades every part of our society—our politics, our entertainment, even our education. Though the topic is uncomfortable to some, it is our responsibilities as Christian women to educated ourselves on what the Bible says about feminism. One of the greatest criticisms of Christianity and the Bible is the supposed lack of respect toward the female gender. Unfortunately, many women (young and old) have simply accepted this narrative as truth. However, God provides us with a much different picture of biblical feminism. To find a feminist icon in the Bible, look no further than the first chapter in the book of Esther.
Queen Vashti was a woman of morality. Unlike the heroine of the book, Vashti was not a woman of God. She was a woman of Persia and was raised in a sinful and crass society. At some point in her life, however, she developed a set of principles that she was not willing to compromise. The book begins with King Ahasuerus hosting an extravagant multi-day feast for all of his princes and servants throughout the land of Persia.
“On the seventh day, when the heart of the king was merry with wine, he commanded (the seven eunuchs)… to bring Queen Vashti before the king with her royal crown, in order to show the peoples and the princes her beauty, for she was lovely to look at.” Esther 1:10-11
We do not know exactly what the king asked Vashti to do. Some scholars have suggested he wanted her to come before them fully clothed but without her veil (which would have been an embarrassment) while others believe he asked her to come before them with no clothes other than her crown. Either way, the king asked Vashti to engage in a behavior that went against her morality and she refused his request.
The king looked at his legal options. King Ahasuerus was so moved with anger toward Queen Vashti, he began looking for ways to legally punish her. Vashti’s defiance was not just a slight against the king, but an illegal act that would carry consequences for her future. She would have known this very well and must have considered it when she made her decision to disobey the king. However, her conscience and bravery spurred her to refuse the king and his uncomfortable request.
Vashti was exiled for her morality. The king consulted his wise man for a suitable punishment for Vashti. One advisor named Memucan suggested that Vashti be thrown out of the country and that she be an example for all wives that they should give proper honor to their husbands. He also suggested Vashti be replaced with someone better. Maybe he was hoping for someone with looser morals and a more submissive attitude. How amusing is it that Vashti was replaced by Esther, a fearless woman of God?
Unlike the “feminism” that the world wants you to champion, biblical feminism is a blend of submissiveness and strength. 1 Peter 3 marries these two ideas perfectly. The chapter begins with focus on the submissiveness of our wifely duties, but concludes with an admonition to all.
“Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, then for doing evil.” 1 Peter 3:13-16